740.00119 Control (Italy)/4–3045

Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State of a Telephone Conversation With the Secretary of War (Stimson)

Mr. Stimson telephoned me today and said he had just received my letters of April 26 and 2896 concerning Northern Italy. He said he was sending over to me immediately a reply and read to me the following excerpt from his letter:

“The policy in your letter raises the question as to whether you propose United States forces implement it by using force against Yugoslav forces in case they fail to cooperate. Since present plans indicate the United States will have little or no military interest in the areas considered in CCS 739/1 once the Germans are eliminated therefrom, the continued presence of United States forces in these areas and their operations become a political matter. The problem of just how much force will be used against the Yugoslavs and against the Russians, if they cooperate with the Yugoslavs, may quickly become pressing and it is requested that the State Department furnish clear-cut guidance at once.”

Mr. Stimson stated that the Staff is very much troubled about the whole matter. He said we had kept our people out of the Eastern Mediterranean and we were carefully limiting them from going into Italy except for certain purposes. On the other hand he said Churchill wanted to go around into the Eastern Mediterranean. Mr. Stimson said that he had talked this matter over with General Marshall,97 who is very worried about it. Mr. Stimson said he had told the Staff that at present they should follow the State Department policy on this matter and said he read my letter which gave the policy. He stated that this was a reasonable policy to follow but that it does bring up serious dangers and he thought the War Department was entitled to know what they should do in case things should begin to move quickly. Mr. Stimson said he made the policy against the views of the Staff. He said they think we are taking chances in following Alexander in what he is to do and are inclined to stay off completely. The Staff thought we are very likely to clash primarily with Tito and they feel also that the Russians are backing up Tito on [Page 1130] this matter. Mr. Stimson stated that our friends, the Russians, are very quick to make different decisions than what we make. He said that if it were done with British troops he wouldn’t care at all. He stated further that the War Department had kept our troops confined to the leg of the peninsula and said that when we started on the landing at Salerno the only American strategic policy as far as Italy was concerned was to get bases far enough up in Italy to bomb southern Germany. Mr. Stimson said it was all right as long as things went properly and if everybody understood that we were there simply for the time being and were waiting for the peace conference decision. He said that Woodrow Wilson’s hand was forced the last time in the same locality.

Joseph C. Grew
  1. The Department of Defense has supplied information to the effect that the two letters were received in the War Department on April 27 and 28, respectively. The one of April 26, not printed, referred to the plan of September 1944 that is summarized in the second and third paragraphs of Mr. Grew’s memorandum of May 4, 1945, to the President, p. 1136, and it also recommended that the United Kingdom and United states Governments “should, with Soviet concurrence if possible, ask Yugoslav forces to withdraw at the termination of hostilities from territory to be administered by Allied Military Government” (740.00119 Control (Italy)/4–2645).
  2. Gen. George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army.