740.00119 EW/8–645: Telegram

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

3218. For the Acting Secretary. Among other statements made by Admiral Cunningham in a discussion of proposed peace treaty with Italy he stated in strongest possible terms that Italian Navy is only one of three Italian services which has maintained a good esprit de corps and is a positive contributing factor to maintenance of stability in this country. He stated it is important, therefore, that while Italian Navy should be reduced it should be done in such a way as not to injure Italian prestige unnecessarily. He personally deplored decision apparently made at Tehran to effect transfer of battleships or other warships from Italian fleet to Russia17 and if such a transfer should take place effect would be most unfortunate. He stated that most thinking people in Italy realize that financial strain involved would in any case prevent Italy from keeping battleships in condition and it may not be difficult, therefore, to persuade Italians to do without battleships altogether and accept other ships instead but if worst came to worst he suggested that Italy be permitted to sink or scuttle such ships as are surplus to her requirements. From discussion we have had on this matter with Field Marshal Alexander we have good reason to believe that he shares views of Admiral Cunningham.

  1. For documentation on subject in connection with the Tehran Conference between President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and Marshal Stalin, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, 1943, index entries under Italy: Soviet Union, request for Italian naval and merchant shipping, p. 913.