Memorandum of Conversation, by the Appointed Ambassador to Italy (Dunn)1

Participants: Secretary Byrnes
Mr. Alcide de Gasperi, Prime Minister
Ambassador Tarchiani
Mr. James Clement Dunn

The Secretary received the Prime Minister of Italy, Mr. de Gasperi, today at 12 noon. Also present were the Italian Ambassador, Mr. Tarchiani, and Mr. Dunn. The Prime Minister expressed the grateful appreciation of the Government and people of Italy to the Government of the United States for an invitation for the Prime Minister to come to this country. He said it was a source of great encouragement to the Italian people to see the friendly attitude displayed by the American Government toward Italy. He said he hoped his visit would result in assistance to Italy as that country was now in the throes of an economic as well as a political crisis. He said the recent disturbances in southern Italy were partly political and partly based upon economic difficulties, [Page 839] and that the greatest political pressure was being brought at this time by the Communist Party to bring Italy within the orbit of Russian influence. Mr. de Gasperi said that of course his entire effort was to combat this movement as he was of an entirely different opinion.

The Prime Minister then spoke of the need for an increase of 150,000 tons of wheat in the allocations to be granted Italy from now until June, when the new crop in Italy would pick up the slack. He said this would mean an increase in the allocation from 1,450,000 tons to 1,600,000 tons. The food situation in Italy was most precarious; they had no stocks and no reserves, and the delay of one ship in arriving in Italy meant that they were faced with semirevolutionary riots and disturbances in the country.

The Prime Minister also spoke of the need for an increase in the coal shipments from 600,000 tons per month to 700,000 tons per month. He said that formerly coal was obtained from British and German sources but that since the war it had not been possible to obtain them from these sources. There were, he said, about 30,000 tons a month coming from Poland but the deliveries were so tardy that this coal never arrived on time. The Secretary said with reference to both the wheat and coal shipments that of course one of the difficulties was connected with transportation, inland transportation within the United States in the case of wheat as well as ocean transportation, and in the case of coal, ocean transportation and of course strikes we had had in this country. Mr. Byrnes asked Mr. Dunn to call the attention of Mr. Clayton to these matters, and asked that the Prime Minister take these questions up with Mr. Clayton when he saw him; that he was sure this Government would do all it could to assist, but the difficulties were in some respects not entirely subject to our own control.

The Secretary then said that it would be possible to assure Mr. de Gasperi while he was here that Italy would be granted $50,000,000 more of the sum held in suspense account by the Treasury for the payment of supplies and requisitions for the U.S. Army in Italy and that there would possibly be some more on this account which would be made available later but could not be granted at this time. Mr. de Gasperi received this news with satisfaction and gratitude.

The Prime Minister then said that they would like to arrange to secure about 50 more Liberty ships. The Secretary said that Mr. de Gasperi and the Ambassador appreciated the situation regarding the sale of our ships as controlled by U.S. law. He said this was a matter which was subject to the existing conditions, whereupon Mr. de Gasperi [Page 840] said that the Italian Government would be prepared to subscribe to the same conditions under which they made the previous arrangements for ships last autumn. Mr. Byrnes said that in that case that if they were prepared to comply with the same conditions he would see that this matter was gone into with a view to facilitating the arrival at such arrangements as could be worked out for this purpose. He also asked Mr. Dunn to have this matter looked into and a report made to him upon it.2

Mr. de Gasperi then spoke of the gold which was captured by the U.S. and British Armies in northern Italy.3 He said this was Italian gold which he thought should be returned to Italy in much the same manner as Hungarian gold had been returned to Hungary. Mr. Dunn explained that the situation was rather different in the two cases as the United States had no right to retain the Hungarian gold which was found in Germany because any rights to this gold had been waived under the arrangements made at Potsdam. With regard to the Italian gold captured in northern Italy, however, while this Government was very anxious to see this gold returned to the Italian Government, it was understood that there were certain claims against this gold which had to be taken into consideration. Mr. Dunn said that he knew this matter was being looked into and that we would be able to inform the Prime Minister while he was here with respect to the status of this gold.4

Mr. de Gasperi then spoke of the post-UNRRA relief program. The Secretary said that a request was being presented to Congress for the allocation of certain funds for the direct relief of countries which were in need of such relief, among which Italy was included. He said that of course no man could say [anything?] now with respect to this request. The present situation was that we had a Republican Congress with a Democratic Administration, and that while there had been full and complete cooperation between the two Parties with respect to foreign affairs, it was not possible at the present time to tell how economic and other matters would be dealt with in the new Congress. He said, however, that it was his hope that this relief would be granted to take the place of the UNRRA program which was expiring and that he would continue to hope so until he found reason to the contrary.

The Secretary had to leave for the White House at this moment because of a request by the President to the Cabinet to assemble at [Page 841] the White House preparatory to proceeding to the Capitol for the delivery of the presidential message to the new Congress.5

  1. Throughout 1946 Mr. Dunn had served as Deputy in the meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers and in the meetings of the Deputies in the negotiations of the treaties of peace with Italy, Rumania, Hungary and Bulgaria. Although he had been designated Ambassador to Italy on July 25, 1946, he did not present his credentials in Rome until February 6, 1947.
  2. See p. 841.
  3. Discovery and seizure of the gold at Fortezza was reported by Ambassador Kirk in despatch 1885, July 11, 1945, from Rome, not printed (865.515/7–1145).
  4. See telegram 5466, p. 987.
  5. In Ambassador Tarchiani’s account of this meeting he states that Secretary Byrnes was cordial but preoccupied, and kept turning to Dunn for confirmation or information. The Italian Prime Minister and the Ambassador remained quite puzzled regarding Byrnes’ attitude until they learned on the next day, January 7, of Byrnes’ resignation and the designation of General Marshall to succeed him. (Alberto Tarchiani, America-Italia: Le dieci giornate di De Gasperi negli Stati Uniti (Milan, Rizzoli, 1947), pp. 36–37, 55.)