865.20/12–747: Telegram

The Ambassador in Italy ( Dunn ) to the Secretary of State

top secret
us urgent

3957. The military representative sent me by De Gasperi to acquaint me in detail with situation of Italian armed forces including Carabinieri and police has after a secret study prepared a list of materiel needed to meet the possibility of an organized Communist attempt to take over the government by force. This list has been transmitted to Secretary of Defense by our Military Attaché in message MAR 345.1

In connection with my estimate of the situation here, reported in my 3851, November 28 (repeated London as 273 and Paris 4632) and the Prime Minister’s concern that the Italian forces responsible for internal order should receive a strengthening of arms and equipment, reported in my 3918, December 5, 11 a. m. (repeated London as 281) the military estimate presented me by the Prime Minister’s representative is as follows:

[Page 739]

The Communists have been steadily losing ground politically throughout Italy and if free elections were to be held under present circumstances or those foreseeable by March it will result in their defeat at the polls. It is the belief of the Italian intelligence services that as a result of this trend the Communists have abandoned hope of a legitimate electoral victory and are now preparing for action by force. The series of strategically planned strikes and civil disturbances which they have already carried out and are expected to continue are the preliminary skirmishes leading to an attempt to overthrow the government. Any Communist coup d’état must take place prior to and not after the election. If Communists do not succeed in the postponement of the March elections the attempt at general revolt will probably occur any time between now and March. It was military opinion however, that the revolt would not be attempted prior to the end of December in order that the workers may collect their thirteenth month pay, i.e. their Christmas bonus. Steps have already been taken to rearrange the Italian Army groups and Carabinieri into as favorable geographical position as possible to cope with an armed uprising organized throughout Italy. There is, however, grave doubt on the part of the experts who have studied the situation whether present military and police equipment is adequate even if there is a determined stand on the part of the government to put down force by force. According to their studies which do not envisage open armed intervention from the east it is necessary to bring the armed forces and Carabinieri fully up to the treaty limits, as well as to make naval preparations to protect the Adriatic coast from clandestine attempts at landing arms and Communist partisans from Yugoslavia. There does not exist, according to this survey, adequate military equipment in Italy to meet the last two objectives or to provide a marginal reserve for emergency, and the list of arms presented to us indicates what they consider essential to maintain order in the event of any organized revolt.

Above military estimate appears to confirm my own concern over Italian police and army reported in my 3851. I urge that an extraordinary effort be made on our part to supply as soon as possible the military equipment which has been so urgently requested by the government in this emergency. May I also again submit for the Department’s consideration the proposal contained in my 3891, December 2, that US troops be transferred to Libya.3

It is important to the situation here that the foregoing be handled in strict secrecy as requested by the Prime Minister.

Repeated to London for the Secretary.

  1. December 7, 1947, not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See footnote 1, p. 734.