860H.001 Peter II/5–2848: Airgram

The Secretary of State to the Legation in Switzerland 1


A–143. Reference Legation’s telegram no. 690 May 28, 19482 requesting information concerning the visit to the United States of ex-King Peter of Yugoslavia.

King Peter was preceded to the US by his ADC General Orlovic and his private secretary B. V. Popovic, who arrived early in April. King Peter, accompanied by Queen Alexandra and their son, arrived in New York on April 27 and a day or so later was joined by Vladeta Milicevic, ex-Royal Yugoslav Minister of the Home Office and now understood to be chief of the Immigration Office for King Peter, who flew over specially from London. King Peter is reported to have been dissatisfied with Orlovic, and to have removed him from his post.

The King announced at a press conference soon after his arrival that he was on a private visit to the US of some two months duration. While still in New York King Peter indicated that he would like to call on the President and intimated that he also wished to see the Secretary. He and his party arrived in Washington on May 16 for a week’s visit and an appointment with the President was arranged for May 21. He then asked to see the Under Secretary, but Mr. Lovett’s scheduled engagements did not permit him to receive King Peter during the few days he was in Washington.3 King Peter gave a reception on May 17, and during his stay was entertained at a luncheon at the Senate by Mr. Biffle,4 at another luncheon at the House of Representatives by Congressman Cooley of North Carolina, at a dinner by the Greek Ambassador, and at several private affairs.

Queried by reporters on leaving the White House on May 21, King [Page 417] Peter, according to the press, said that nothing political was discussed and that he had formed the impression that President Truman was “not pessimistic about world events or the future”. The Department understands that during his conversation with President Truman King Peter referred to the Communist domination of his country and the necessity in his opinion of assistance from the US in order to liberate Yugoslavia from the Communist regime. The President is reported to have replied to the effect that the Yugoslavs should in the first instance endeavor to work for their own salvation.5 King Peter left with the President a letter6 praising the European Recovery Program as a means of combatting Communism in Western Europe and urging that ERP benefits be extended to DP’s from oppressed countries, particularly the 70,000 Yugoslavs, mostly in Germany, who could furnish many skilled persons whose services would be useful in carrying out the program. This letter also suggested that consideration be given to educating the approximately two thousand students among the Yugoslav DP’s whose education had been interrupted by the war. An acknowledgment6 of this letter has been sent by the Department to Ambassador Fotich with a statement that the King’s views have been brought to the attention of officials in the Department concerned with such matters.

The Department is not informed of the substance of any conversations which King Peter may have had with Yugoslav exiles or other political refugees in this country. General Orlovic while here did not approach the Department, and King Peter’s only contact with the Department was through his former Ambassador, Constantin Fotich, who also accompanied him when he called on the President.

The Department has been informed by Mr. George Radin, a naturalized American citizen of Yugoslav origin who is acting as King Peter’s attorney in respect to the latter’s possible claims to part of the Yugoslav frozen assets in the US, that the documents which General Orlovic brought to the US in an attempt to establish these claims were not satisfactory. Mr. Radin is now on his way to spend several months at his law office in Zurich and has stated that while in Europe he intends to obtain if possible from former members of King Peter’s household satisfactory evidence to support King Peter’s claims to some of the Yugoslav funds now blocked in this country. Mr. Radin referred to King Peter’s interest in assisting in any way possible the thousands of Yugoslav DP’s in Germany, Austria, and Italy, and added that he (Mr. Radin) intended to see what could be done to establish the claims of these Yugoslav refugees to compensation under the [Page 418] Geneva Convention for services performed while they were prisoners of war in Axis hands.

The Department’s attitude toward King Peter is that he is now a private citizen. Except for his courtesy call on the President, it is believed that his contacts with US Government officials were purely social.7 The Department does not know of any agreements or understandings reached with him while he was in Washington. King Peter returned to New York on May 23, and his plans for the remainder of his stay in this country are unknown. His visit has received relatively little publicity in the American press, but press comment which has appeared has been favorable.

  1. Copies of this airgram were also transmitted to the Embassies in London, Paris, and Belgrade.
  2. Not printed.
  3. On a memorandum to the Under Secretary from John Hickerson, May 17, 1948, not printed, regarding the request for an appointment by King Peter, Lovett made the following marginal notation: “I would prefer not to see Peter as it may raise problems which are better avoided.” (860H.001 Peter 11/5–1748)
  4. Leslie Biffle, Secretary of the United States Senate.
  5. The President’s conversation with King Peter on May 21 was described in a memorandum prepared by Bernard C. Connelly, May 21, not printed (860H.001 Peter II/5–2148).
  6. Not printed.
  7. Not printed.
  8. According to a memorandum of July 6, 1948, from John D. Hickerson to Under Secretary Lovett, not printed, former King Peter asked, through former Yugoslav Ambassador Fotitch, for an appointment to see the Secretary of State. Fotitch was informed that aside from considerations of the pressure of other business, the Department of State felt that a meeting between Peter and Secretary Marshall would give rise to speculation which the Soviets could exploit to their advantage in attempting to heal the current rift between the U.S.S.R. and Yugoslavia (860H.001 Peter II/7–648).