865.014/2–1948: Telegram

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


736. The Minister of Foreign Affairs1 asked me to see him this morning and made following two requests:

He referred to a message he had conveyed to me through Count Zoppi2 as reported in mytel 707, February 17, 8 p. m.,3 on subject of Italian colonies. He said this question had become of major political importance in Italy because of the widespread interest in former colonies and had been brought to the fore by the incident at [Mogadiscio] [Page 897] in which the lives of some sixty Italians were lost.4 He also pointed out the manner in which the Soviet Government had taken advantage of the feeling here toward the colonies through the announcement by Moscow that the Soviets were favorable to restoring the former colonies to the “protection” of Italy. He said this expression of attitude combined with the previously announced favorable policy by France was being made the most of by the Italian Communists in their campaign against the government and against the Americans and British. He said he hoped very sincerely the United States would be able to make some expression which would put us in the position of favoring Italy and would also help toward inducing Great Britain to adopt a similar attitude in general even if there had to be some qualification in their attitude covering the question of Cyrenaica. Upon my return to the Embassy after luncheon I received a note from him saying that the Italian Ambassador5 has presented this case in a conversation with Mr. Armour,6 but he asked, in view of the importance of the matter, that I also convey his request to the Department.
Count Sforza also asked that consideration be given to an announcement by our government that the unused quotas for Italy for the war years be made available for immigrant visas now. He said that this was a matter of particular importance to the Italians of southern Italy and Sicily, regions where the Communists have been making substantial gains recently. He said it might be possible to consider this matter on same basis as the manner in which the Italians in United States were by governmental decision not declared enemy aliens during the war. He said that on that basis the Italians who were not able to avail themselves of these quota numbers during the war might now be granted the right to immigration visas.

I heartily endorse both of these requests in view of their importance in the electoral campaign now proceeding.7 Whatever we can do to help the prestige of present government it is to our interest to do and that well before the date of the elections, April 18 next. All the reports coming to us indicate that the Communist propaganda is making headway in the south, largely because of the difficult economic conditions there, as those regions are predominantly agricultural and the agricultural markets abroad having been almost entirely dried up. A statement of a favorable position on the colonies could be used by the [Page 898] government greatly to its advantage in proving its solicitude for Italian interests and would at least help to nullify the favorable position taken by the Kremlin on that subject, which, as we know, is entirely a matter of words for electoral purposes.

I do not know technicalities of the immigration matter but if an announcement could be made of the availability of the war year quotas with an intimation at the same time that, of course, the existing regulations would not permit Communists to avail themselves of these numbers it would create a general feeling of hope in the south for the alleviation of their economic situation and would I am sure prevent a great many people from going over to Communist side.

  1. Count Carlo Sforza.
  2. Count Vittorio Zoppi, Secretary-General in the Italian Foreign Ministry.
  3. Not printed: it reported that Zoppi had given Dunn a copy of the Soviet note of February 17, which stated that the Soviet Government favored the return of the former Italian Colonies to the protection of the Italian Government. Zoppi had also warned of the effect of this note on the Italian elections unless the United States made some statement to counteract it. (865.014/2–1748)
  4. The incident under reference occurred January 11, 1948, during the Field Investigation Commission’s examination of conditions in Italian Somaliland. It stemmed from a clash between pro-Italian and native demonstrations which resulted in sixty-five deaths, fifty-one of which were Italian.
  5. Alberto Tarchiani, Italian Ambassador in the United States.
  6. Mr. Norman Armour, Assistant Secretary of State.
  7. For documentation on the U.S. interest in the Italian elections see pp. 816 ff.