740.00119 EW 1939/8–345: Telegram

Mr. Alexander C. Kirk, Political Adviser to the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theater, to the Secretary of State

3185. Re last paragraph our 3139 [3138], July 31, midnight. At SAC’s political meeting yesterday British co-paper on Italian peace [Page 1016] treaty was tabled together with comments thereon prepared for Alexander by Joint Planning Staff. Admiral Cunningham opened discussion with statement he did not agree there was difficulty in reconciling the objective of establishing Italy as a useful and prosperous European state not under Soviet influence with objective of forcing Italy to drop all pretense of being great power and proving to them it did not pay to make war. Air Marshal Garrod16 supported Cunningham’s position. Both British naval and air commanders felt that Sicily and Sardinia must be permanently demilitarized and under no circumstances should Italy ever again control territory on both sides of British communication line to Mediterranean (i.e. Italian mainland, Sicily and Tripolitania). Admiral Cunningham stated he was opposed to signing a peace treaty with Italy before signature of similar document with Germany because German treaty would be so severe we could point out to Italy how much better she had fared than the Germans.

When asked for our opinion we stated that quite aside from the military aspects involved we considered it essential for the moment that an interim modus vivendi was urgently required.

After much discussion of this subject Alexander stated that while he sympathized fully with position taken by Admiral Cunningham and Air Marshal Garrod and agreed with them that military requirements which they had pointed out must be provided for, he felt that there were political reasons why it might not be feasible to carry out their views. He added that he must warn them that if they insisted on being too harsh with the Italians Italy would become “Balkanized” rather than western European country. He considered that this would in long run be a greater disaster to British interests than danger of Italy being slightly too strong and being able to threaten British communications in the Mediterranean. He for one favored return of Tripolitania to Italy. Further discussion was postponed to next week.

From discussion which took place at yesterday’s meeting we are more convinced than ever of futility of attempting to negotiate the basis of a peace treaty here at this time and consider it all the more desirable to have a modus vivendi arrangement for Italy for however short or long period required before conclusion of a peace treaty.

  1. Guy Garrod of the British Royal Air Force.