740.0011 EW(Peace)/8–1246: Telegram

Colonel Charles H. Bonesteel, Military Adviser, United States Delegation, to the War Department


OCD 83. For Norstad personal from Bonesteel. 1. Mr. Cohen on basis of idea put in by General Smith20 is working on question as to whether there should not be definite evidence in Italian Peace Treaty that restrictions therein can not apply indefinitely. This believed desirable primarily to help Italian morale and combat Communist influence in Italy. Secretary Byrnes is sympathetic to idea.

2. While U. S. is committed to supporting present draft treaty, Cohen is suggesting possibility, if Italians make strong plea before Conference, of discussing informally with Big Four to obtain agreement to an amendment to Article 39, Military Clause in Treaty. At present, Article reads as follows:

“Each of the military, naval and air clauses of the present treaty will remain in force until modified in whole or in part by agreement between the Allied and Associated Powers and Italy or, after Italy becomes member of United Nations, by agreement between the Security Council and Italy.”

3. As written this Article permits Russian or French veto to keep Italian armament under strict regulation indefinitely. Question is, are there any War Dept objections to (a) setting definite time limit (about 5 years) on application of regulatory restrictions on Italian armed forces (Sections III, IV and V of Part IV of draft treaty; State Dept has copies of draft treaty); (b) setting definite time limit on restrictions on armed forces and on the demilitarizations of frontiers, islands, etc.; or (c) setting definite time limit as in (a) above after which restrictions will be lifted unless Allied powers (CFM) or Security Council by affirmative action decide restrictions should be extended. Note that (c) twists the veto around. Present feeling here is that (c) is desirable, (a) and (b) should not be given serious consideration.

4. There appear to be a number of implications pro and con. My feeling is that overall idea is sound and that its specific application to [Page 835] military clauses may be good or bad depending on political rather than military evaluation of implications. I think alternative (c) on balance is good idea.

5. Some obvious implications are:

Help to Italian morale and counteractive to Communist propaganda.
Would remove feeling of indefinite hopelessness and possible ultimate surrender in face of protracted Jugoslav and Albanian war of nerves.
Under western democratic government Italy unlikely to try to raise armed forces to size which will be serious drain on national economy.
Amendment of Italian treaty is likely, if accepted by Russians, to set precedent for similar amendment Balkan treaties. This would be undesirable from standpoint preservation of legalistic controls on Balkan armaments but not apt to make much difference realistically. However the special situation of Bulgaria as neighbor of Greece and Turkey requires consideration.
Lifting restrictions on Italy would remove legalistic controls in event Italy becomes Communist. Here again value legal controls must be based on their political rather than military usefulness. Lifting restrictions might also permit Italians to build navy vessels for Russians, although this may not be so likely five to ten years from now.
No particular effect on United Nations regulation of armament since if it has got anywhere it should be easy to apply to Italy. There might be some criticism that by supporting this change U.S. is showing lack of faith in Security Council’s ability to act objectively on this matter in future.
Not seen here are any implications regarding Japanese or German peace treaties, particularly since Italy and ex-satellites are generally recognized as being in different category than main Axis aggressors.

6. If it is decided by U.S. Delegation to support amendment regarding time limit, it is still not sure it could be carried through since French have all along been prime opponents to easing up on Italian military and Russians on behalf Jugoslavs and Albanians may well oppose.

7. Request War Dept views on above.21 If War opposes, let me know [Page 836] soonest. Balmer and Gerhardt agree with above. Adm. Conolly sending message Navy Dept same subject.22

  1. See telegram 2254, July 23, from Moscow, vol. iii, p. 8.
  2. The War Department’s reply, War 97488 of August 15, included the following: “Proposal outlined in your OCD83 appears to be substantial abandonment of restrictions which were to lead toward reduction of armaments which are on one hand a burden and the other a threat … If such proposal were put forward by U.S., would it not cut some ground from under Mr. Byrnes’ proposal for long-term disarmament of Germany and Japan? … However, there is no overriding military objection, if State Department considers it a valuable political move to propose such relaxation within reasonable limits for minor Axis partners.” (CFM Files)
  3. In an August 12 memorandum to Mr. Cohen, Admiral Conolly advised against the proposed change, doubting that it would be effective in creating favorable sentiment in Italy. He quoted the views of the Chief of Naval Operations:

    “A primary factor in the future strength of Italy and hence her possible value in support of our interests is the existence of a healthy, stable and substantial economy able to resist infiltration of adverse political elements into her government. Attainment of this condition would be jeopardized by attempting to support extravagant military and naval establishments. Even with serious prejudice to the establishment of a suitable economy it is doubtful if the military strength Italy could attain within foreseeable future would be of significant value to the United States. Italy’s record in two world wars is also pertinent. A basic question is: Can Italy’s future loyalty be considered sufficiently certain to make it advisable to decide now what ceiling limitations on her armed forces will be automatically removed in five years. I do not believe that a categorical affirmative answer is possible.” (740.0011 EW Peace/8–1246)

    At the 19th Meeting of the Military Commission, September 17, the United States supported Article 39 as drafted by the Council of Foreign Ministers; for the United States Delegation Journal summary of the proceedings of that meeting, see vol. iii, p. 470.