865.30/7–2448: Telegram

The Chargé in Italy ( Byington ) to the Secretary of State

top secret

3146. See mytel 3013 July 14.1 Immediately after four power naval commission’s note verbale 2 was delivered to Italian Govt Soviet Ambassador here addressed top secret letter to Italian Govt which was shown to us by FonOff. Soviet letter contained proposals for bilateral agreements within terms of commission’s decisions which would serve to set in motion such details of transfer as dates of sailing for Odessa and responsibilities for voyage supplies repatriation of Italian crews etc.

Today Guidotti Director of Political Affairs strongly reiterated arguments reported our 2934 July 9 and gave me a copy of FonOff reply to Soviet Ambassador’s letter. In this long reply FonOff points out that out of consideration for cobelligerency of Italy in late war US and UK govts decline to accept any of naval ships allocated to them in treaty of peace; France has recently agreed decline over 15,000 tons of ships allocated to her and to accept remainder of her allocation as restitution for war losses inflicted by Italy particularly during occupation of Toulon. Note points out that while considerable [Page 983] naval losses on part of above three govts could be attributed directly to Italian navy no such losses were sustained by USSR at hands of Italian navy.

Reply also recalls that early in 1948 through its Embassy in Moscow Italian Govt made proposal to Soviet Govt to effect that latter might diminish her claims under article 57. It also pointed out then that such action on part of Soviet Govt would have a very beneficial reaction in restoring and improving relations between two govts.

Soviet Govt could not see its way clear to accept Italian proposals at that time. Letter ends by stating that since Soviet Govt now proposes bilateral discussions in regard to article 57 Italian Govt has no objection to entering into such discussion but asks that Soviet Ambassador here will first make representations to his govt that they may reconsider Italian approaches which were made through Italian Embassy in Moscow earlier in year.

Above FonOff action obviously represents a stall for time while Italian Govt can be thinking of other alternatives. One alternative which Guidotti mentioned to me this morning was possibility that govts of Great Britain and United States might agree to permit Russia to retain ships on loan in lieu of receiving Italian ships which would be scrapped, proceeds of scrapping to go to UK and US. We were not asked to obtain our Govt’s reaction to such proposal if it should be made and did not express any views but pointed out that Milwaukee probably could not be disposed of in this fashion without Congressional authority. We had previously been informed that soundings on this subject were made by Italian representative in recent Franco-Italian naval discussions in connection only with battleships Cesare and Royal Sovereign. This sounding was passed to US and UK members of naval commission but no opinion as to their govt’s reaction to such a proposal was given.

Captain Pryce requests that this be passed to Navy (London for Admiral Conolly).

Repeated London 203, Paris 474.

  1. In this telegram, not printed, Byington reported that the four Ambassadors had each received identical acknowledgements of the Four Power Naval Commission’s note verbale. In the acknowledgement Sforza explained that the substance had been referred to the competent technical groups to provide a basis for reply; but he suggested that because of the limited time it might not be possible to observe some terms of the note verbale. (865.30/7–1448)
  2. This note verbale to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the Four Power Naval Commission, acting in the name of the four Ambassadors, July 3, 1948, recapitulated the various concessions made to Italy resulting in the reduction of the number of vessels to be transferred to 107. It stated that if Italy had taken appropriate measures after being informed on November 19, 1947, of the names of such ships, over 80 would already have been transferred, but only two units had actually been transferred. It stated further:

    “The refit of certain units listed in Annex XII–B to be transferred has been renounced by France and Yugoslavia (French Delegate’s request dated February 17th. 1948, and Yugoslav Representative’s request dated March 17th, 1948); now the Soviet Union renounces the refit of 33 units and France the refit of all units allocated to her. The Commission thinks that no valid reason can be set forth for delaying the transfer of these ships, and, using the powers conferred on it by Article 57, Clauses 1(c) and 2, sets the following last time limit for their delivery:

    for the Yugoslav request 20th July, 1948
    for the 33 ships of Soviet share and the whole French share 15th August, 1948.”

    The note proposed further for the remaining ships to be transferred that the Italian Government: (a) grant visas for Observers and Specialists to be sent by the recipient powers to determine the technical conditions; (b) after such examination to send ships to their respective ports of final transfer within 15 days after the naming of the ships; (c) that such ships as would not be named under “(b)” be placed immediately into refit and prepared for transfer in accordance with the guidance already given by the Commission. (4 Amb. (4 P.N.C.) Doc. 71/M, Serial 00447, 865.30/4–748)