C.F.M. Files: Lot M–88: Box 2063: US Delegation Minutes

United States Delegation Record, Council of Foreign Ministers, Second Session, Third Meeting, Paris, April 27, 1946, 4 p.m. 41


M. Molotov called upon the Chairman of the Deputies’ Meeting to present the Deputies’ report.

Report of the Deputies

Mr. Jebb stated that the Deputies proposed that the agenda of the present meeting of the Ministers consist of the following items:

Limitations to be imposed on the Italian Fleet.

Disposal of Surplus Units.

Franco-Italian Frontier.

He stated that the Deputies had also directed the Venezia Giulia Commission to submit its report with recommendations, whether there had been agreement or not, by Monday, April 29 at 1 p.m. The Deputies suggested that the Council should study this report at its meeting on Tuesday, April 30. The report of the Deputies was accepted.

Limitations on the Size of the Italian Fleet

Mr. Byrnes said he understood that there was a report of the Naval Experts on this matter and he suggested that the Council now discuss this report.42

M. Molotov referred to Article 35, paragraph 1 of the British Draft Heads of Treaty43 and said that various proposals had been submitted in regard to the figure for cruisers. The United Kingdom recommended 5 and the United States 5 or possibly 4. The French and Soviet representatives suggested 3, as suggested in the original British proposal.

Mr. Bevin said the 3 suggested in the original draft was due to a typing error. It was supposed to have been 5 and as soon as the error was discovered it was corrected. The British were agreeable to 5 but would compromise on 4 if the others were willing.

M. Molotov asked if there were any objection to fixing the figure at 4.

M. Bidault said this depended on which cruisers would be allotted. His Government held the view that the Italian fleet should not be larger than the French fleet, especially in the Mediterranean. He did not wish to hold to one cruiser more or less but it would be necessary [Page 129] for the Committee of Experts to agree on which 4 would be selected.

Mr. Molotov said that a question arose in regard to naval vessels not completed or damaged during the war. He asked if it would not be advisable to refer this question also to the Experts.

Mr. Byrnes thought the question before them was that of the size of the Navy which Italy would be entitled to have as a result of the Treaty. They could proceed to determine the size first and then there would follow the question of disposition of the other vessels which Italy now has.

Mr. Bevin asked if they could agree on the other categories and said it had been pointed out to him that the proposal for 4 destroyers, 16 torpedo boats and 20 corvettes was a better balanced fleet and he inquired if they could agree on that.

M. Molotov said he had no objection and said he had understood that this had already been agreed.

M. Bidault said he also had no objection but again pointed out that a choice of the actual units would have to be made by the Committee of Experts.

M. Molotov said he agreeed with M. Bidault and that for the time being they were agreeing to the figures only, bearing in mind that the selection of the actual vessels had not been settled.

He proposed that they proceed to consider the question of uncompleted or damaged ships.

Mr. Byrnes proposed that they first proceed with the Naval Committee’s report and pointed out that it contained a proposal to fix the complements of a certain category of ships. He then read the text of the clause proposed by the Naval Experts as sub-paragraph (b) limiting small craft to a total personnel of 2,500 officers and men. Mr. Bevin proposed that they also adopt sub-paragraph (c) and (d) as suggested by the Experts.

This was agreed.

Mr. Byrnes suggested that the Committee be asked to report on an over-all limit for personnel of the Italian Navy as this matter was not covered by the Naval Committee’s report.

This was agreed to.

M. Molotov reverted to the disposition of damaged or uncompleted ships.

Mr. Byrnes said he had a report listing the Italian ships and he thought the Experts were in agreement as to what condition these ships were in.

M. Molotov pointed out that the report contained no specific recommendation in regard to the disposition of such ships.

[Page 130]

Mr. Byrnes replied that this was something the Council would have to do. He thought the first question was that of what states were to share these ships if the ships were to be the subject of reparations. His recollection was that one of the South American Governments had a claim for reparations because an Italian submarine had sunk one of their ships. If the Italian ships were made the subject of reparations in the report which the Council would submit to the Peace Conference, then such countries would put forward their claims. He would want to know whether Yugoslavia and Greece, who had claims to reparations, would want to be reimbursed from these ships.

Mr. Bevin thought that there were two problems: 1. Ships in existence, and 2. those incomplete or damaged. The British view was that the latter category should be scrapped and that they might desire to sink or scrap others as well. If they could agree that damaged and incomplete ships be sunk they would aid the work of the Experts.

M. Molotov said the Soviet Government had already suggested in the Deputies Meetings that they proceed on the basis of paragraph 37 of the British Draft Heads. This paragraph stipulated that excess ships should be disposed of by the principal Naval powers and the Soviet Delegation had suggested that one-third of these go to the Soviet Union. In this connection there were several statements by France, Yugoslavia and Greece that had been submitted and they all contained claims to a share of the Italian Naval Fleet.

Mr. Byrnes said they must decide whether this property was subject to reparations. If so, it should be dealt with as reparations. If these ships were decided to be war booty then it was another question. He thought they should decide on which basis they were to treat them. He would be glad to take into consideration the claims of other nations.

M. Molotov said that up until now no-one had raised that question in the sense that Naval units should be the subject of reparations. He wished to remind the Council that a similar problem in the case of Germany had been settled independently of reparations.44 That had been a correct decision.

Mr. Bevin said the British took the view that this was war booty. He had taken this view at Berlin. The British could not, however, accept the view that one country should have one-third of these ships as other countries had claims. He wanted to be fair. He inquired what they were to do about the damaged and incompleted ships.

Mr. Byrnes said it was true that at Potsdam the British representative had asserted that the German ships were war booty. They had held the view that submarines should be destroyed and this was done. [Page 131] This was a question which the holder of war booty could decide. Those holding the ships could transfer some of them to France, for example, or Yugoslavia and Greece and satisfy some of the claims of these countries for reparations. If the ships were to be considered as reparations they would go into the reparations pot for distribution. If they were war booty the holder should divide them but he could not agree that one-third should go to the Soviet Union because in that event the holder would probably get less than one-third. He thought that the Experts should prepare a list as to how many should go to France, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States. He also thought in that case that Yugoslavia and Greece should be asked for their views. He held to the same attitude that he had expressed in regard to submarines. He suggested that it would be possible to agree that out of the share of ships allotted to the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia could be taken care of and that the United Kingdom and the United States could take care of Greece but he would prefer to examine those claims on their merits.

M. Molotov repeated he considered these ships as war booty. At Berlin both the British and Soviet Delegations had taken this view. It had been natural for the British to propose that the excess Italian Fleet should be divided by the principal Associated Powers, which included France. He thought the case of Germany was an important precedent and should be followed in the case of Italy. They had arrived at a common agreement in regard to the German fleet and should do the same for Italy. He thought the question of damaged and incomplete ships should be referred to the Experts. Perhaps some of them could be used to satisfy the claims that had been presented to the Council. The Soviet proposal for one-third had been based on the fact that neither the U.S.A. nor Great Britain had made known any claims to Italian ships. He wondered if they now wished to make such claims. It was important to be clear about this. Yugoslavia and Greece were not present and of course their claims should be given consideration.

Mr. Bevin pointed out that this was not quite the same as in the case of Germany. There they had divided the ships into thirds and then undertook to satisfy the claims of others. The British did not wish to undertake that again and he did not agree on division into thirds. He preferred that the Experts work out an exact plan.

He hoped that before they got to the division they could agree in regard to a point involving Greece. Mussolini had ordered a Greek ship sunk before the declaration of war. He believed that that ship should be replaced before the division was made but this matter could also be examined by the Experts. He could not agree to the rough and ready method of Berlin because other states were thereby put into an [Page 132] inferior position. France was at the meeting as an equal and her claim should be examined on the same basis as those of Britain. He therefore proposed that the matter be referred back to the Naval Committee for disposition, having regard for the needs of all the claimants.

M. Bidault observed that they were getting close to agreement and said that if all the Italian ships were in normal condition the matter would be simple but it would not be right to give to Italy ships in the hands of the Allies which were in perfect condition and then divide up damaged ships. He agreed that it was a question of war booty and not reparations. He thought the claims of various governments should be examined by the Experts and that they should fix concretely the actual units to be left to Italy.

Mr. Byrnes pointed out that they had agreed that the ships should be treated as war booty. He agreed with a remark made by M. Molotov that war booty should not be divided by any one of the Allied Powers but that this should be done by the Allies together. At Potsdam they had decided that the greater part of the submarines should be sunk. Could they not agree that the Italian submarines should be sunk?

As to ships under construction and damaged, he noticed from the report that many were beyond repair. He did not see how they could do anything with these hulls. Their purpose was to discourage Italy from building war ships. In considering reparations they had been thinking of finding some material in naval ship-yards that could be used for this purpose. He had no objection to the question being examined. With regard to ships afloat, if they agreed to sink the submarines how should they dispose of the other ships? He agreed with the British suggestion in regard to Greece because of the incident to which Mr. Bevin had referred. When that was done, could they not consider the Yugoslav claim, decide it, and then divide the rest among the four of them represented on the Council? He asked that his proposal in regard to submarines be put to the meeting.

Mr. Bevin said the British wished to sink the submarines and agreed that they should decide this question at once. They might all agree not to build any more submarines.

Mr. Byrnes observed that the British were allergic to submarines.

M. Bidault said that the question of submarines was an old one and he had never understood why they should be discredited more than surface ships but if there were agreement on this matter the French Government did not wish to raise any major difficulties in this connection, subject to the reservation that out of the 34 Italian submarines, French rights to restitution should be up-held.

[Page 133]

M. Molotov thought perhaps they should adopt the same decision as they had made last July and keep only those necessary for experimental purposes by the states that were interested in this matter.

Mr. Bevin said he thought they had gotten all they needed from the submarines taken from Germany. These should be sunk.

M. Molotov said that from Mr. Bevin’s remarks it appeared that Great Britain had no need of submarines. This fact could be taken into consideration.

Mr. Bevin said it was not a question of needs but that they had no affection for submarines.

M. Bidault asked if they could submit the matter to the Experts and let them express in concrete terms what had been said at the Council in regard to surface ships and the countries which should receive them. With regard to submarines as restricted distribution as possible should be made and the rest destroyed.

Mr. Byrnes said he would want a clear understanding. He did not think the Experts could decide whether the Soviet Union was to receive one-third. That was a political question and the Experts could only refer the question back to the Council. If they agreed with Bevin’s proposal and gave Greece one ship and heard any other Greek claim, heard Yugoslavia, then the ships that remained could be divided among the four Powers represented at the Council. The Experts could decide which ships could go to each Government. With respect to submarines, if they agreed that some few of them were worthy of study this would be all right but all others should be scrapped.

M. Molotov said the Soviet Delegation would submit a concrete proposal to the Experts with a view to facilitating the work of that Committee. At the present moment they could not adopt any concrete decision. All they knew was that Greece claimed one cruiser or two smaller vessels. They knew Yugoslavia claimed a large share of the Italian Navy but had not said which parts. He suggested they might decide that in regard to the submarine fleet a smaller portion should be kept for experimental purposes while the greater part would be sunk. He understood this was in harmony with what Mr. Bevin and Mr. Byrnes had suggested. This could be referred to the Experts for consideration.

Mr. Bevin proposed that a formal decision be taken that a Committee of Experts should consider in the light of the discussion the size of the Italian Fleet and what ships of each class should be left to Italy, and should also examine what ships should be given to each claimant, (bearing in mind that a few submarines might be kept for experimental purposes) and should report to the Council as soon as possible.

[Page 134]

Mr. Byrnes proposed the following resolution:

  • “1. After it is determined what specific ships within the limits set for each category shall be left to Italy, and
  • “2. After the claims of Greece and Yugoslavia have been taken into account,
  • “3. The balance of Italian war vessels (except submarines) shall be allocated equally among the U.K., U.S.A., Soviet Union and France, and the Italian submarines, except a few which may be reserved for experimental purposes, will de destroyed.”

Mr. Bevin said that it would be impossible to divide some of the categories of ships on the list equally. He suggested this word should be changed to “equitably”.

Mr. Byrnes agreed to this suggestion.

M. Bidault said he had intended proposing the word “equivalent” but he agreed to “equitably” since it gave the Committee more leeway.

Mr. Byrnes’ resolution, as amended, was agreed to.

Mr. Byrnes asked what disposition would be made of the hulls.

M. Molotov proposed that this be referred to the Experts.

Mr. Bevin pointed out that this question of damaged ships was independent of the proposal they had just adopted and constituted a separate subject.

M. Molotov proposed that the Experts examine this question additionally.

This was agreed to.

Franco-Italian Frontier

M. Bidault said that at the meeting of the Deputies on February 4 the French Delegation had presented a note on the rectification of the Franco-Italian Frontier.45 The area concerned was very small in depth, amounting to only 720 square kilometers and involving about 5,000 inhabitants who, according to the French information, were not hostile to this proposal. The press had at times reported that the French Government was claiming far more, but France did not insist on such claims. The proposal affected only unpopulated areas or those where the population was French or desired to be French. He thought that this was such a clear question that it required no further development.

Mr. Byrnes said the United States Delegation was prepared to agree to the first, second and third of the French proposals.

Mr. Bevin said he also agreed to these three.

M. Molotov stated that the three regions were those in (1) the Saint Bernard Pass, (2) the Mont Cenis plateau, and (3) Mt. Thabor region.

These three proposals were agreed to.

[Page 135]

M. Molotov said the fourth French proposal concerned Tenda and inquired what the motives of the French Delegation were in requesting this rectification.

M. Bidault said this region had voted for France in 1860 but had been left with Italy for dynastic reasons. France would not have raised this question if Italy had not declared war on her in circumstances known to all. The local population which found itself on the French slope of the Alps was French and should be included in France.

Mr. Byrnes said he had readily agreed to the three French proposals. His difficulty in regard to the fourth proposal was that his information was to the effect that in that part of the territory on the right, that is to the East, water powder was situated which furnished power to railroads and to cities in Italy a great distance from that territory. He wondered whether his friend would be satisfied if they agreed to everything in the fourth proposal except the extreme eastern part known as the Upper Roya Valley, where the water power is situated. If that were done they could put into the treaty a provision that water power should not be used to the detriment of the French population on the other side of the line and set up a commission to work out that decision.

M. Bidault said that in regard to the proposals made by Mr. Byrnes he could accept the western part of the line but he could not accept in regard to Tenda and Briga as here there was a French population. The United States Delegation would not have forgotten certain people who wanted to come under French rule but in the interests of all France had not insisted. In this case where these people wanted to be French he must insist that they be allowed to do so. He said that in this region there were three power stations. These were:

Messer—10 million kilowatt hours capacity.
San Dolmazzo—90 million kilowatt hours.
Confine—35 million kilowatt hours.

This made a total of 135 million kilowatt hours. The total electric capacity of Italy was 19 billion kilowatt hours and these three plants therefore supplied only .07 percent of the electric power of Italy. The French Government was ready to reach an appropriate agreement with the Italian Government in order that Italy might dispose of some or even all of this power. They must not, however, hide behind turbines. This was a simple question which they could decide here although, of course, they would have occasion to revert to the matter at the Paris Conference.

Mr. Bevin asked if the people were now French speaking.

M. Bidault said they spoke a patois which is the same as that of Nice. He pointed out that Alsatians also spoke a patois. Their [Page 136] definition of a Frenchman was that he was a man who felt that he was French and wished to be such.

M. Molotov inquired if the line of the frontier on the map before them was in harmony with the definition which M. Bidault had made, that is, did the population wish to be French or had economic and strategic considerations played a role. He also wondered if any attempts had beeen made by France to learn the views of the Italian Government. Perhaps some form of compromise could be arrived at which would be acceptable to both parties.

M. Bidault said it was not a question of the power stations nor of strategic considerations. All this area is on the French slope of the Alps. It is quite small and was left to Italy because it had contained the hunting fields of the King of Italy. Because of the attitude taken towards France by Italy in 1940 they now raised this question. It was their right and their duty. He would remind them that it was only a question of 5,000 people. All of that region was completely cut off from Italy during the winter. If the French had taken advantage of the manifestations in favor of France made by the population all along the Italian frontier the French would have presented quite a different map to the Council. They had wanted to be reasonable.

Mr. Byrnes said that when he had made his suggestion his impression was that the population spoke Italian and not French. He shared the view of his Soviet colleague that if the Deputies had not inquired into the matter it would be useful to know more about the population of that area and also it would be useful to give an Italian official an opportunity to express the views of that Government on this question.

M. Bidault said he could only repeat in regard to the language that it was a patois, which is an intermediary language, which was the same all through the region of Nice. It was neither French nor Italian. He might say the same thing was true of Corsica and that in spite of the vocabulary and the construction of that language the last thing you would say to a Corsican was that he was an Italian. It was what the population wanted that determined the matter. If, in spite of French wishes, they left this region to Italy and if the Italian administration took measures against those who favored France there would, of course, be difficulties. He had no objection, however, to the population being consulted if this were done in a manner to insure their absolute freedom of choice.

M. Molotov said the Soviet Delegation was in full sympathy with the view of the French Government that Frenchmen who reside in the territories in question should be in French territory. This was in harmony with the Soviet view on questions of nationality. The [Page 137] difficulty for the Soviet Delegation was that they did not have enough factual data on this question.

Mr. Bevin said that the British Delegation held similar views to those of the Soviet and United States Delegations. In these matters there was always a conflict between ethnic and economic questions. They agreed to the line proposed by Mr. Byrnes and if an inquiry were made he took it that it would concern only Tenda and Briga. He thought that in this case an inquiry should be made into the economic protection to be given. He understood that this had long been a bone of contention and that there had been cases in the French countries over water disputes. He supported an inquiry limited to Tenda and Briga.

Mr. Byrnes said that if an inquiry was to be made he wondered if his colleagues thought a representative of Italy should be invited to express views before they took a decision. In the case of Yugoslavia last September the Council had given them an opportunity to be heard. He thought they might give a little time, such as a half hour, for Italy to be heard on this.

M. Molotov suggested that they might name the Commission now which would examine the information at the disposal of the French Government and the Commission could then decide whether an Italian representative should be invited or not. In the case of Yugoslavia, which involved a question of major importance, they had sent a Commission to the spot but this was a minor question.

Mr. Byrnes inquired about the possibility of having the Commission instructed to invite an Italian representative. The Italians would have to be heard at some time. The Deputies had already heard the French case and he figured that the Commission would have nothing new to examine.

M. Bidault said that he had no objection to hearing an Italian representative at a later stage in their negotiations. He pointed to the historic fact that this area had been occupied by French partisans. To avoid difficulty they had left the region at the request of the Inter-Allied Command. There were now no Allied troops in this territory. This created a situation which had consequences. If they now heard Italy on this high international plane, Italy, which although a conquered state is a powerful one, being in occupation could influence these 5,000 people. He had no objection to a later hearing but it was now necessary to find the wishes of the people which could be done without calling in anyone for consultation.

Mr. Bevin said he suggested that a Commission go off at once before difficulties arise. He had sympathy with the French Delegation’s view.

Mr. Byrnes said he agreed.

[Page 138]

M. Bidault said he could accept this but that in order to insure the liberty of the population it was indispensable that the press, which was well informed with regard to the Council’s meeting, should make no mention of the discussion which had taken place, as this might have great consequences.

Mr. Byrnes said he had no objection but pointed out that if they sent people to this area they would have to ask the Italian Government. It had been mentioned that this area had been a hunting ground. Perhaps they might send their representatives on a hunting trip.

M. Bidault said he thought the Deputies could be entrusted with organizing the hunting party. This was on a French slope. The following representatives were appointed:

  • United Kingdom: Marjoribanks
  • United States: Reinhardt
  • U.S.S.R.: To be named later.

The Council adjourned until 4 p.m. Monday.

  1. For a list of persons present at this meeting, see the Record of Decisions, infra.
  2. For text of the Report of the Committee of Naval Experts, C.F.M.(D) (46)66, April 15, see p. 58.
  3. C.F.M.(45) 3, September 12, 1945, Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. ii, p. 135.
  4. For the decision on the disposal of the German navy reached at the Conference of Berlin of July–August 1945, see Section IV of the Protocol of the Proceedings of that conference, Foreign Relations, The Conference of Berlin (The Potsdam Conference), 1945, vol. ii, p. 1487.
  5. Document C.F.M.(D) (46) 15, February 4, 1946, p. 10.