740.00119 Control (Italy)/5–2645

Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to President Truman

The background of the dispute over the occupation and administration of Venezia Giulia will be of interest to you in connection with recent developments in that area:

It has been evident for some time that certain areas on Italy’s northern frontiers would be in dispute in the post hostilities period. In order that this government might be well prepared with a definite policy on these important problems the Department of State submitted to President Roosevelt in September 1944 during the second Quebec Conference10 a plan to prevent insofar as possible the final disposition of the disputed areas on Italy’s borders from becoming prejudiced by unilateral action by force. The Department suggested that “Allied Military Government be extended to all Italian metropolitan territory within its 1939 frontiers” including Venezia Tridentina (Bolzano and Trento) and Venezia Giulia (Fiume, Trieste, Pola [Page 1137] and Gorizia). Allied Military Government should be maintained “until the disputed areas are finally disposed of by peace treaty or peace settlement”. The State Department Memorandum to President Roosevelt ended by saying “On our part, it would mean keeping a certain number of American Military Government officers and soldiers in northern Italy”.

President Roosevelt, through Admiral Leahy, on September 19, 1944, informed the State Department that its suggestion “had been discussed with Mr. Churchill and is approved by the President”. (A copy of the State Department memorandum and of Admiral Leahy’s reply are attached.)11

The “Declaration on Liberated Europe”12 contained in the Yalta Agreement requires the three governments (U.S., U.K. and U.S.S.R.) to concert their policies “in assisting the peoples liberated from the domination of Nazi Germany and the peoples of the former axis satellite states of Europe to solve by democratic means their pressing political and economic problems”; it pledges the three governments “jointly” to assist the people of liberated areas or former axis satellite states where necessary “to establish conditions of internal peace” and to consult together on measures necessary to discharge the joint responsibilities set forth in the declaration.

The Combined Civil Affairs Committee has been working on the directive to the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean, since last autumn. A directive was finally approved and dispatched to Marshal Alexander on April 30 (Fan 536) which provided that Alexander should establish and maintain Allied Military Government in various areas along the Italian northern frontier likely to be in dispute, including Venezia Giulia. Local authorities of whatever nationality found in the area will function under Allied Military Government. The Yugoslav Government will be invited to withdraw its forces from the area and Soviet concurrence will be sought in this invitation. The United States and British Governments will jointly supply the forces necessary to support the plan and provide officers for Allied Military Government in Venezia Giulia.

In connection with Alexander’s military advance into northeast Italy he informed Tito on April 30 of his operational plans for Venezia Giulia which are to secure the port of Trieste and lines of communication from it to Italy and to Austria, to use the harbors of Pola and anchorages along the western coast of the peninsula, and to establish Allied Military Government in the wake of his military operations. Marshal Tito replied by defining his theater of operations as extending all the way west to the Isonzo River and thence north to Tarvis [Page 1138] and the Austrian border. This includes most of Venezia Giulia including Trieste and Gorizia, He said that within this area Yugoslav military and civil authorities will “naturally” continue to function. (Copies of Alexander’s message and Tito’s reply are attached.)13

In the light of Tito’s reply British Chiefs of Staff have instructed Alexander that he should go as far as he can with his operational plans and if he meets Yugoslav forces which refuse to cooperate he should halt, parley, and ask for instructions from the Combined Chiefs of Staff. He should not use force except in defense.

Meanwhile Allied forces (New Zealand troops) have taken Trieste. The garrison of 7,000 Germans has surrendered to them. (Caserta’s telegram 1906 of May 3, attached.)13

The Italian Foreign Minister told Ambassador Kirk on May 2 that the news of the occupation of Italian territory up to the Isonzo River had made a most profound and painful impression on the Italian Government and people and that he feared far-reaching disturbances throughout Italy, particularly in the north, at a time when all the Government’s energies were being absorbed in an effort to maintain law and order in recently liberated northern Italy. (A copy of Mr. Kirk’s telegram is attached.)13

If Tito’s forces are permitted to remain in occupation of Venezia Giulia we should be prepared for the possibility of having to use American troops to keep order in Italy, particularly the north, and possibly to use force against civilians or troops in the process.

Also we must be prepared for vehement protests against any acquiescence in Tito’s unilateral action from Italian-American groups in this country, some of whom have already gone on record against such a contingency.

Furthermore the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean, has a certain responsibility to the Italian Government which surrendered all Italian territory within the pre-war frontiers to him as the representative of the United Nations.

  1. Documentation on the Second Quebec Conference is scheduled for publication in a subsequent volume of Foreign Relations.
  2. Not printed.
  3. For text, see Conferences at Malta and Yalta, p. 971.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Not printed.
  6. Not printed.