765.5 MAP/7–2550

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

top secret

No. 22

Sir: I have received a letter from the Secretary of Defense1 pointing out that during General Collins’ recent trip to Italy he noted a marked deficiency in the permanent non-commissioned officer corps of the Italian Army.2 He is convinced that a large part of our MDAP funds will be wasted unless a stable group of non-commissioned officers of high morale is developed. Naturally MDAP funds cannot secure adequate defense unless the Army is an effective fighting force and this in turn depends largely upon the corps of non-commissioned officers.

The letter points out that the backbone of any army is its corps of non-commissioned officers. The Italian Army is made up, for the most part, of conscripts who do not receive sufficient training during their service to produce adequate non-commissioned officers. Furthermore, the low pay scales do not attract good men who choose the Army as a career. For example, the Italian Army of some 250,000 one-year conscripts has only about four thousand regular non-commissioned officers and many of these are too old to be efficient. The incentives of adequate pay and promotional opportunity must be provided in order [Page 1496] that the necessary corps of non-commissioned officers may be established. In the opinion of the Department of Defense the Italian Army needs between 25,000 and 30,000 professional non-commissioned officers, including a proper complement of trained technicians.

The Department concurs in the view expressed by the Secretary of Defense that the executive branch of the Government, in exercising its responsibilities under the Mutual Defense Assistance Act, should take appropriate steps “to insure that, as far as possible, such noncommissioned officer corps are developed, in order that funds expended under MDAP will effect appropriate returns, and the resulting defense organizations will be able to fill their roles in the defense of Western Europe.”

I am, therefore, requesting you to discuss this problem with the appropriate officials of the Italian Government and, in your discretion, to use your influence to bring about such changes as may be necessary to develop an adequate corps of non-commissioned technicians in the Italian Army. In your discussions you should not in any way imply the threat of withholding MDAP assistance. As General Collins raised the subject with the Italian Defense authorities during his recent trip, they should, in general, already be informed of our views. The purpose of your discussions, therefore, should be primarily that of emphasizing the importance which the United States Government as a whole attaches to this problem.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
George W. Perkins
  1. Louis Johnson.
  2. Gen. J. Lawton Collins, Army Chief of Staff, visited Rome on March 22–23 just before he began his inspection tour of the Middle East. His recommendations regarding Italy were that a single coordinated plan for the defense of Northern Italy had to be developed and that the MDAP Mission in Italy must be kept informed as to the equipment and training requirements needed to meet such a plan. Collins also suggested that the State Department apply pressure on the Italian government through diplomatic channels to replace the Present Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces with a younger and abler man.

    Collins’ report on his inspection tour of the Middle East, including visits to the Azores, Rome, and Trieste, can be found in file 780.5/4–1750.