Editorial Note

Wartime and Treaty Arrangements Regarding the Italian Fleet and the Loan of British and American Warships to the Soviet Union

Along with the short terms of armistice, signed September 3, and proclaimed September 8, 1943, and the long terms of armistice signed at Malta on September 29, which governed Italy’s surrender, there was a memorandum drawn up on September 23, 1943 by Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham, Allied Commander in Chief, Mediterranean, and the Italian Minister of Marine, Raffaele de Courten, which regulated the employment and disposition of the Italian fleet and mercantile marine. The memorandum was not signed but was a “gentlemen’s agreement.” The amendments agreed upon at Brindisi on November 17, 1943, were, however, signed. For texts of these instruments see Armistice with Italy, Treaties and Other International Acts Series 1604, or Charles I. Bevans, ed., Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776–1949, volume 3, pages 769 ff. In general the memorandum provided that the Italian flag would still fly; Italian crews would remain aboard; and parts of the fleet would be used in the service of the Allies.

At the Moscow Conference of October 1943, Foreign Commissar Molotov urged on Secretary of State Hull and Foreign Secretary Eden that the Soviet Union be granted a share of the Italian ships: one battleship, one cruiser, eight destroyers, four submarines, and 40,000 tons [Page 970] of merchant shipping. For this proposal and its subsequent acceptance by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at the Eureka conference (Tehran, November–December 1943), see Foreign Relations, 1943, volume I, pages 612 ff., and Foreign Relations: The Conferences at Cairo and Tehran, 1943, pages 112 ff.

After the conference, instead of the transfer of Italian ships to the Soviet Union, Churchill and Roosevelt proposed to Marshal Stalin that British and American warships be temporarily transferred to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. For these negotiations see Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War, volume V, Closing the Ring (Boston, 1951) passim, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Correspondence between the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. and the Presidents of the U.S.A. and the Prime Ministers of Great Britain during the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1957) volume I, passim. Great Britain sent the battleship Royal Sovereign and eight destroyers whose arrival on August 24, 1944 was acknowledged by Stalin. Britain also sent four modern submarines.

Meanwhile, by an exchange of letters dated March 30 and April 1, 1944, Ambassador Harriman and People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Molotov arranged for the delivery and reception of the cruiser Milwaukee at a port in the Soviet Union. It was stipulated that the vessel “will be temporarily loaned to the Naval Command, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, until a replacement from the Italian fleet can be placed at the disposal of the Soviet Union.” It was further stipulated: “It is understood that upon termination of the use of the U.S.S. Milwaukee in accordance with the foregoing arrangements, the Soviet Government will deliver her, complete with original equipment, to the United States authorities at a United States port, or some other port acceptable to the United States.” The ship was transferred at Murmansk during the first part of April. A bilateral document signed by both parties acknowledged the receipt of the cruiser. (Harriman to Molotov, March 30, 1944; Molotov to Harriman, April 1, 1944; Harriman to Vyshinsky, March 31, 1944, in folder marked “Amemb. Moscow—Top Secret 1941–1947” of the Moscow Embassy Files, Lot F–96, Box 43.)

The general arrangements for the Italian Navy were provided in Articles 56, 57, and 58 of the Treaty of Peace. Annex XII, Part A listed the naval vessels (two battleships, four cruisers and lesser craft) to be retained by Italy. Part B listed the vessels to be placed at the disposal of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and France (three battleships, five cruisers, seven destroyers, [Page 971] six torpedo boats, eight submarines and a number of minor war vessels). (Treaties and Other International Acts Series 1648.)

At Paris on February 10, 1947 there was signed by the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and France a Protocol on the Establishment of a Four Power Naval Commission, the Disposal of Excess Units of the Italian Fleet, and the Return by the Soviet Union of Warships on Loan. (For text see TIAS 1733, or Bevans, ed., Treaties, volume 4, page 306.) The Four Power Naval Commission was to meet in Paris immediately after signature of the Treaty and of the Protocol, and move to Rome upon the coming into force of the Treaty. The Annex to the Protocol giving the allocation of the excess units of the Italian fleet among the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom, United States of America, France, Greece, Yugoslavia and Albania was not to be published until a later date.