SWNCC Files, Lot 52M45, SANACC390


Report by the State–Army–Navy–Air Force Coordinating Subcommittee

top secret

SANACC 390/12

Provision of U.S. Equipment to the Italian Armed Forces

the problem

1. To prepare a report to the National Security Council on the possibility of furnishing U.S. equipment to the Italian armed forces, including an indication of what measures, such as legislation and appropriations, are necessary to accomplish the desired end.

Note: This is an interim report based largely upon requirements of Italian armed forces as expressed in Appendix “B”. This report will be followed at an early date by a final and complete report in accordance with the directive from the National Security Council dated 18 December 1947 (SANACC 390).

facts bearing on the problem

2. In NSC 1/13 the principle is accepted that the United States has security interests of primary importance in Italy and that the measures to implement our current policies to safeguard those interests should be strengthened without delay. While that study concludes that [Page 758] further assistance should be extended to the Italian armed forces in the form of technical advice to increase their capacity to deal with threats to Italian internal security and territorial integrity, no recommendation is made with respect to the furnishing of munitions.

3. The report by the U.S. Army Survey Group to Italy (reproduced as enclosure to SANACC 390) concludes that the Italian armed forces are not presently equipped so as to be capable of performing their missions within peace treaty limitations.

4. Ambassador Dunn has advised the Department of State that Prime Minister De Gasperi has expressed to him his grave concern that the military equipment available to the Italian security forces may be inadequate and that that factor would seriously handicap the Government in its efforts to combat an anticipated Communist-led insurrection (Ambassador Dunn’s telegram 3957,4 Dec 7 – Appendix “A”). A list of equipment most urgently required by the Italian armed forces for the purpose of maintaining internal security and guarding the frontiers and coast against clandestine aggression from Yugoslavia has been forwarded to the Secretary of Defense by the Military Attaché at Rome (Military Attaché’s telegram MAR 345 Dec 75 – Appendix “B”).

5. The Departments of the Army and of the Navy have examined the Italian Government’s list and have prepared a comprehensive list of those items considered most urgently required and which can be procured or made available from existing stocks (Appendix “C”). Certain of the items are surplus to present U.S. requirements and can be transferred to the Italians without reimbursement under the Surplus Property Act provided the Department of State will establish that the transfer is in the national interest and that substantial benefit would thereby be received. The Department of State is prepared to give such assurances. The great bulk of the equipment, however, cannot be made available without reimbursement. The cost of this equipment including charges for inspection, packing, handling and shipment would amount to a total of approximately $16,000,000 to be paid by Italy.

6. The Department of the Army has advised that 50,000 rifles, 5,000 pistols and 20,000 submachine guns can be made available immediately from surplus and that certain urgently required ammunition can also be provided. The cost of the ammunition, plus handling charges for both weapons and ammunitions, amounts to approximately $3,750,000. On instructions from the Department of State, Ambassador Dunn has proposed to the Italian Government that the above equipment be [Page 759] shipped immediately to Italy upon that Government’s agreement to reimburse the United States Government for the above-stated cost. On December 27 Ambassador Dunn advised that during discussions Italian military authorities have indicated that the critical shortage of funds and foreign exchange will operate to reduce seriously the amount of equipment and ammunition for which the Government can obligate itself to pay. The Italians have suggested that as an alternative to payment the munitions most urgently required might be deposited by us in Italy for acceptance and payment by them only in the eventuality of the expected emergency. Mr. Dunn has suggested that such a procedure would probably be entirely impracticable and has recommended as an alternative that the critical items of equipment might be transported to an area in Europe under U.S. occupation to be readily available for rapid shipment to Italy in the event of a Communist coup.

7. In connection with the Greek and Turkey aid programs the War Department evolved a policy for pricing supplies and services to be furnished Greece and Turkey.6 This policy was accepted by the other interested executive departments of the U.S. Government as a governmental policy. It provides for equitable pricing of supplies and services furnished the recipient governments without financial profit to the Services.


8. On the basis of the report of the U.S. Army Survey Group to Italy and of other military and diplomatic reports on the situation, it is apparent that the Italian armed forces are not adequately equipped to enable them to maintain internal security and the security of the Italian frontiers. While the problem of the establishment of armed forces capable of defending Italian territory from aggression by any but a major power is certainly of considerable importance to the overall strategic security of the United States and the successful prosecution of its foreign policies, it is a matter which can be properly considered only in direct relation to over-all strategic plans and requirements and the required assistance program could be implemented only after a request by the Italian Government for such assistance and the passage of the necessary legislation and appropriations by Congress.

On the other hand, the equipment of the internal security forces of Italy to ensure that the Italian Government wall be as fully as possible prepared to meet the threat of Communist-inspired armed insurrection, is a matter of immediate and paramount importance to the security interests of the United States. Therefore, it is the purpose of the present report to deal only with the problem of internal security [Page 760] of Italy with a view to further separate consideration of the more general problem of the equipment and maintenance of Italian armed forces capable of repelling foreign aggression.

9. In view of the inadequacy of the present equipment of the internal security forces of Italy; the request of the Italian Government for assistance through the transfer to Italy of a specified list of urgently required equipment and supplies in order to ensure the fullest effectiveness of those forces; the very reliable indications that the Communists in Italy may attempt the seizure of power by force at some time prior to or immediately following the scheduled national elections next April; and the primary importance to the security interests of the United States of the prevention of Communist domination of Italy, it is considered essential to the national interest of the United States that the Italian Government be provided immediately with at least its minimum requirements for effective military and police forces necessary to preserve internal security.

10. In view of the apparent inability of the Italian Government, for internal political as well as for budgetary reasons, to undertake the financial obligations entailed in the acquisition of even the relatively limited amount of equipment urgently required, fullest consideration has been given to the possibility of transferring the equipment without cost to the Italian Government.

Consideration has been given to existing legislative authorization and, as conclusively expressed in reference b, the only known legislative authorizations for transferring federally-owned munitions to foreign nations are the Surplus Property Act and special legislation covering certain countries but not applicable to Italy.
An examination has been made of all known surplus stocks and only the equipment mentioned in paragraph 6 above has been found available in the categories and amounts required.
An examination has been made of the possibility of transferring equipment “on loan” without transferring title; such procedure is considered to be precluded by lack of authorization as well as unavailability of supplies which would not require immediate replacement and consequent expenditure of funds.
. . . .
Consideration has been given to the recommendation to the President by the National Security Council that he exercise his executive authority or special powers as Commander-in-Chief to direct the Secretaries of the Army and the Navy to transfer and deliver without cost to Italy the required equipment and supplies. Although the Committee is convinced that the immediate provision to Italy of certain military equipment and supplies is essential if the Italian Government is to be adequately prepared to meet the threat of a Communist-inspired insurrection; and the Committee is of the opinion that the prevention of the seizure of power in Italy or in any appreciable part of the territory thereof by the Communists or their adherents is of [Page 761] paramount importance to the security interests of the United States, there appears to be no explicit legal justification for such action.
The question as to the ability of the Italian Government to pay the costs has been carefully considered and it has been agreed that the decision must rest with the Italians and be determined in the light of constantly changing national and international political conditions as well as by budgetary factors. The use of Italy’s monetary gold, dollar credits in the United States, and other assets is conditioned by the same considerations which would govern the decision by the Italian Government to allocate general funds for the purpose of the purchase of arms.

11. Consideration has also been given to the advisability of recommending the request to Congress for special legislation and appropriations, either for the specific purpose of extending military aid to Italy or for the more general purpose of extending such assistance to unspecified countries. Such action is considered inadvisable and impracticable for the following reasons:

The presentation of a request to Congress for authorization of a military assistance program for Italy could be undertaken only upon request by and in agreement with the Italian Government. Not only has Italy not made such a request but the present Government is exceedingly anxious that nothing be done which might in any further way associate our assistance to Italy with our program of military assistance to Greece and Turkey. The Italian Prime Minister desires most positively to avoid any action at this critical time which would support the Communist accusations that his Government is militarily and politically subservient to the interests of the United States as well as any implication that his Government could continue in power only with foreign military assistance. If, under changed conditions the Italian Government should request the establishment of a program of military assistance for Italy, our position should be reviewed in the light of the new circumstances.
Although the passage of legislation and authorization for a general program of military assistance to unspecified countries would be a complete solution to the present problem, it is considered that even were it to be presented to the Congress immediately with the request for the earliest possible action, the necessary authorization and appropriations could not conceivably be approved in time to permit the shipment of supplies to Italy for the purpose of assisting the Italian security forces to suppress the disorders anticipated in the next few months.

12. The U.S. governmental pricing policy established in connection with the Greek and Turkey aid programs is considered to be applicable to possible provision of military assistance to Italy. The policy includes the following basic provisions:

Adequate financial support of the NME in implementing a program of military assistance without material detriment to other NME activities.
A basis for equitable charges against possible appropriations made or funds furnished for materials furnished and services rendered to a foreign government.


13. It is concluded that:

There is no specific legislative authority which would permit the transfer to Italy of the required quantities of U.S. equipment to the Italian armed forces.
The present political situation in Italy makes it undesirable to request specific legislation for the program of U.S. military assistance to Italy.
In any event the request for legislative authorization would not resolve the immediate problem of furnishing additional equipment for the purpose of providing assistance to the Italian security forces during a crucial period between January and April.
The Department of State should, in its discretion, continue to explore with the Italian Government the possibility of payment by the Italian Government of the cost and handling charges for the transfer of all or a part of the requested equipment and supplies.
The National Security Council should recommend to the President, despite the lack of specific legislative authority, that he, acting within his plenary powers as Commander-in-Chief and as head of the State in its relations with foreign countries and for the purpose of protecting primary security interests of the United States and of United States Armed Forces in Europe, direct the transfer, to Italy from stocks now held or to be procured by United States Armed Forces, subject to reimbursement to the forces concerned, of all or any portion of certain limited quantities of military equipment and supplies requested by the Italian Government and considered by the U.S. Secretary of Defense to be essential in order to increase insofar as practicable the potential ability of Italian security forces to maintain the internal security of Italy and to suppress anticipated attempts by subversive elements to seize power by force.
That the pricing policy established in connection with the Greek and Turkey aid programs should be used in the event that the Services are authorized to implement a program of military assistance to Italy.
That no transfers of Armed Forces equipment to Italy should take place until a feasible method of reimbursement to the appropriations of the services concerned is established.


14. It is recommended that:

SANACC approve the above conclusions.
Copies of this paper be transmitted to the National Security Council.

  1. Master set of numbered SWNCC (State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee) and SANACC (State-Army-Navy-Air Force Coordinating Committee) papers and related documentation maintained in the Department of State for the years 1945–1948.
  2. With minor changes of wording SANACC 390/1 was approved by informal action on January 27, 1948.
  3. Dated November 14, p. 724.
  4. Ante, p. 738. None of these appendices is printed.
  5. Not printed.
  6. See volume iv , section entitled, “United States Economic and Military Aid to Greece and Turkey: The Truman Doctrine.”