740.00119 Council/9–1146: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the United States Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference


4808. Secdel 893. Only direct cable communications between US and Italy are via American cable to Horta and thence by Italian cable to Italy. Since operation of Italian cable by British company Cable & Wireless of traffic from Italy for US via cable has been diverted to London. Furthermore, Cable & Wireless has been most uncooperative in matters of traffic and tariff. Permanent diversion of Italian cable through Gibraltar will give British stranglehold on Italian cable, will make it possible to slow up traffic, redirect it to England instead of Horta, and will allow them to read contents of messages, censor them and in other ways control direct means of communications by cable between Italy and the US, a situation which Govt and industry telecommunication interests in the US consider intolerable. Even if treaties of peace confirmed diversion of existing Italian cables to Gibraltar it would be entirely possible for both US and Italian interests to establish a new direct cable communications between Italy and US not touching at British points thus completely circumventing security grounds alleged by British. This could be done either by building new cable or by using present cable and establishing relay point other than Gibraltar.

As you point out in paragraph three b connections at Gibraltar (not Horta as erroneously stated your telegram 4594, Sept. 1157) run only to British Isles and western hemisphere countries. In past wars [Page 861] British have always been able to cut cable connections which adversely affected their security. Therefore, no particular security advantage in maintaining Italian cable at Gibraltar except for purely British commercial interests. In addition, security element is overcome by fact that Italians can always communicate with rest of world by radio. Finally it is perfectly clear that this is a further attempt by Cable & Wireless to control as many cable communications as possible. All interested Govt agencies urge therefore that under no circumstances should we agree to the maintenance of Italian cable relay at Gibraltar or any other British point.

This all sums up to the fact that the ownership of cable is of little importance compared with who controls relay points, and whoever owns the cable must determine its relay points.

No documentary evidence this end to confirm that cable diversion was effected under orders Combined Chiefs.58

  1. Ante, p. 856.
  2. Telegram 5295 (Secdel 1046), October 4, 1946, to Paris, stated that the War Department had information indicating that the British first cut the Rome–Malaga–Horta cable in June 1940. The Malaga–Horta section was diverted to Gibraltar in July 1940 and the Rome–Malaga section was diverted to Gibraltar in May or June 1941. These diversions were accomplished before the United States became a belligerent and before the establishment of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. (740.00119 Council/10–446)