124.75/11–1846: Telegram

The Acting Representative to Albania (Henderson) to the Secretary of State

secret   us urgent

813. From Henderson. Reference Department’s telegram 251, November 16.73 Systematic account principal incidents in connection withdrawal Mission follows:

(1) November 5. On Department’s instructions deliver letter immediately to Hoxha if necessary to his residence I managed bring French text of letter to Hoxha’s attention at his residence at about 1 p.m. despite his refusal to receive me (my telegram 549, November 5).73

(2) November 6. Received an Albanian text Hoxha’s reply which was simultaneously translated from Albanian to French to English with help French Legation translator and telegraphed urgently to Department.74

(3) November 7 Bashkimi dramatically prepares public for opening of saboteur trial November 8.

(4) November 8 Trial of alleged saboteurs began for purpose discrediting Mission and preparing for Albanian consumption false justification Mission’s departure.

Department press release announces instructions for Mission’s withdrawal.

(5) November 9 simultaneous notes 10 a.m. to Foreign Office requesting exit visa entire staff, clearance for Navy ships to enter Albanian waters and use of cargo lighter for transferring freight from dock to cruiser outside port.

2 p.m. Receive note verbale in which Foreign Office informs American Mission that its Mr. Fultz considered undesirable by Albanian authorities and Mission requested take measures his departure Albania briefest delay possible.

2:30 p.m. Send note verbale stating Fultz will depart November 14 as already indicated in Mission’s prior note requesting exit visas for entire staff.

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(6) November 10 Bashkimi carries passing reference to impending departure of Mission America. Receive note verbale refusing “with astonishment” request for ships clearance.

Send second note verbale explaining sole reasons for original request and requesting reconsideration in light thereof.

P.M. Oral refusal exit permit for Marinschak; oral insistence that I will not depart without him.

(7) November 11 second note verbale in a.m. refusing reconsider ships clearance. Another Foreign Office note verbale transmitting passports with exit visas for all.

(8) November 12 at noon see Konomi (Foreign Office Secretary General) who agrees orally to grant my request for lighter and tug to transport personnel and effects from dock to destroyers at 3-mile limit. Express to him my fears re alien personnel; he replies they have nothing to fear providing they support Albania’s “new democracy” but that if they have opposed or criticized government they will of course be imprisoned.

P.M. Send note verbale confirming oral request which I am assured will be approved in writing immediately. My staff waits until midnight to transmit approval to Navy through Caserta but reply not forthcoming.

Radio operator reports intensified Albanian jamming has reached point where contact with Caserta impossible, spends until 1 a.m. trying transmit message informing Caserta that no reply yet received from Foreign Office.

(9) November 13 in a.m. finally receive note verbale approving lighter request, etc., and stating Albanian pilot will show ships where to anchor 10 kms off shore.

Noon UNRRA Chief Floud finally constrained adopt firm stand re false charges against UNRRA officer Woodward and delivers ultimatum to Hoxha (my telegram 572, November 13, point 3).75

P.M. Protest to Konomi by phone that Albanian station within five mile radius our transmitter jamming our radio channels so thoroughly we cannot relay to Navy Albania’s instructions re ships; Konomi pretends not understand but then promises look into it. Jamming stops soon afterward.

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4 p.m. French Minister76 finally gets word from Paris to assume custody United States premises; none of Department’s instructions on this point could be complied with prior to this date and hour.

6 p.m. Epstein (UNRRA port officer at Durazzo) phones me Albanian authorities there have no word re our ships. Only person I can raise at Palace is Prifti Secretary General of Prime Ministry who knows nothing about matter but promises contact Konomi when I point out dangers inherent in situation where Foreign Office gives me assurances re ships (which I pass on to ships) but fails advise port officials Durazzo. Three minutes later Konomi phones me to state he will look into matter. Five minutes after this Konomi calls again to state instructions have now been given at Durazzo and asks what time I will leave Tirana because Chief of Protocol will represent Foreign Office and escort me to Durazzo. When I call Konomi back 10 minutes later to point out we have no passes to get by road blocks en route Durazzo he assures me Albanian Government will see that absolutely no difficulties or obstacles are put in my path in departing from Tirana via Durazzo.

(10) November 14 staff works through previous night in effort comply Department’s administrative instructions, etc.; am in Durazzo when ships arrive off limit Albanian territorial waters, no pilot in evidence to assist ships find proper anchorage in narrow mine-swept channel so they anchor nearly 10 miles off Durazzo. UNRRA owned but Albanian operated tug approaches ships after they are anchored but no one aboard speaks English; tug therefore returns to port. Long-boat from USS Noa enters port to contact Epstein re cargo loading details then returns to destroyer.

Am in Tirana burn codes and confidential records; prepare inventory transfer documents for French to sign also receipts and accounts for cash as well as credits for gas, oil, etc., sold to French. Write notes to Foreign Office re French assumption custody our premises, re list of United States citizens and passport data left with French in case exit visas should be authorized for such persons, etc.; notes to other Legations informing departure Mission and French custody of premises; letters to post office re future mail and to newspapers re delivery unused subscriptions to French Legation.

P.M. Three minute flag lowering ceremony attended by French Minister, painful farewells native staff.

Drive to Durazzo in convoy of three Jeeps and Hudson carrying United States and Albanian flags. No stops at any of road blocks en route (as Konomi had predicted). Flat tire on Hudson 3 miles from Durazzo; half hour delay. One hour delay in Durazzo for passport [Page 44] and visa inspection attended by usual inquiries into family history each person.

While Security Police checking passports Protocol Chief Zoto (whose office had issued note requesting expulsion of Fultz and who had confirmed “official” condemnation of Fultz same day of note by pointedly refusing recognize me at formal Soviet Legation reception) to our amazement included Fultz personally in ceremonious greetings of Foreign Office on occasion Mission’s departure.

Another hour delay to drive Jeeps onto lighter on precarious beams in lieu of ramp. Epstein having informed me on arrival Durazzo that Albanians insisted all cargo and personnel go out on single trip of lighter and two tugs we were obliged to begin trip to Noa at 7 p.m. in storm which had sprung up after our arrival Durazzo. All personnel with few bags removed from Hudson on dock obliged to board one tug with assurance second tug towing lighter with all cargo and effects would follow first tug out to Noa. (Just before boarding tug at dock Zoto again extended to Fultz as well as myself ceremonious farewell and good wishes of Foreign Office, immediately after which I handed him letter to Hoxha re Fultz; see Caserta’s 810, November 16.77)

Fifteen minutes out of port I inquired from tug captain why other tug with lighter not following; was informed to my amazement that tug and lighter would not come out until seas calmer. Too late to turn back and perhaps leave women on shore; I had to go on out anyway at least to request destroyers remain till morrow.

Two hour tug ride to ships 10 miles out completed in heavy seas which had even Albanian crew concerned over danger capsizing. Most of men, all women, violently sick (my wife in seventh month pregnancy).

Heavy seas where ships anchored rendered impossible making tug fast to Noa. I relayed Captain Whitehurst’s orders through megaphone to tug captain via Albanian sailor in Italian which he translated into Albanian. Ten foot waves frightened tug captain to point where he wanted return without transferring passengers. However we managed secure single hawser from ship to bow capstan of tug, each time Albanians tried to throw it off destroyer winch tightened up to foil such attempts. Then with tug bouncing like cork on destroyer’s beam we transferred staff to Noa. Each person stood on one foot deck of tug (secured by Marinschak and myself against being washed overboard), donned life jacket with safety rope attached and held by men on destroyer, waited for precise second when tug deck about level with destroyer deck and not more than 3 feet of water between hulls at [Page 45] which point we threw person toward waiting hands of destroyer crew who grabbed outstretched arms and pulled person to safety. Each detail directed by Whitehurst without whose specific orders I refused allow anyone be lifted from tug. Unknown to me one woman was passed over to destroyer by anxious to depart Albanians toward stern of tug without benefit of life jacket, rope or Naval officers calm instructions; all staff rescued safely however.

(11) November 15. Ships waited ‘till noon following day in fairly heavy seas with one mine sighted 200 yards off beam one ship and with anchors dragging in late forenoon. No signs of any craft from shore. In view peril of ships in such conditions no prospects improved weather in p.m. and need for ships return Naples soonest I reluctantly told Whitehurst at 12:20 he could weigh anchors since nothing on shore was worth risking men and ships any longer. We accordingly departed at once leaving everything, including hand luggage, at Durazzo and without any means advising Epstein our decision. Sent wire from Noa to Caserta asking UNRRA and French Embassy Rome contact their Missions Tirana to explain situation and arrange for things to be shipped out soonest by plane and UNRRA boats.

(12) November 16 arrived Naples 1400 hours.

Ironic sidelight: Epstein informed me at Durazzo that Albanian Government would charge nearly $1,000 for “loan” of UNRRA owned tug and lighter.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed
  3. For the text of Hoxha’s reply, see telegram 551, November 7, from Tirana, p. 36.
  4. Telegram 572 was an omnibus message reporting on the week’s events in Albania. Point 3 of the telegram reported on the efforts of Peter Floud, Chief of the UNRRA Mission in Albania, to have the Albanian Government withdraw its demand for the expulsion from Albania of UNRRA employee Frank Woodward and to obtain an official Albanian Government statement exonerating UNRRA of any complicity in alleged sabotage at Lake Maliq. (124.75/11–1346) The crisis between the Albanian Government and UNRRA at the end of 1946 over the allegations made against UNRRA employees during the trial in November 1946 of alleged Albanian saboteurs is described in George Woodbridge, UNRRA: The History of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (New York: Columbia University Press, 1950), vol. ii, pp. 175–177.
  5. Guy Menant.
  6. Not printed.