740.5/1–1951: Telegram

The Minister in Luxembourg ( Mesta ) to the Secretary of State 1


72. For Perkins from MacArthur. January 18 General Eisenhower and General Gruenther met alone with De Gasperi and then were joined by Foreign Minister Sforza, Defense Minister Pacciardi and Finance Minister Pella. This was followed by meeting with Pacciardi and Italian military chiefs.2 Following résumé of talks:

1. De Gasperi met [meeting?]. De Gasperi opened by congratulating General Eisenhower on statement he made upon arrival Ciampino. He said General stressed exactly right points, and he was confident it would make most favorable impression on Italian people. He made it clear Italian Government and people grateful to Eisenhower for accepting arduous task of supreme commander and they determined give him every assistance in tremendous task which lies ahead. He then said he would like outline some of factors in present situation as he understands them.

In first place, Italy is poor country. Income per individual one-half that of France, one-fourth of UK, about one-seventh of US. In other words there is annual gross income of approximately $260 per individual. With such low standard living, problem of Italy is especially difficult because there is so little margin with which to work. Italy devoid of almost all raw materials. Specter of inflation hangs over everybody’s head especially because this evil has befallen Italy three times in past generation.

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The Italians spending now approximately 32 percent of entire budget for defense and intend to spend more. They will need help and have been assured they will get help from US, but are resolved to go ahead with defense expenditures without waiting.

De Gasperi said generally speaking Italian Communists are in hand.3 Italians are naturally undisciplined people. Moreover, they taught to flaunt authority of Facist Government during war, and developed habit flaunting authority. With low standard living and disturbed conditions in Italy, Communism has had certain success, but De Gasperi stated its influence is on wane and he certain that effort to reduce it will be successful. He cautioned this not an accomplishment which will come to pass in matter of weeks.

He then said it planned to have conference between French and Italy fairly soon.4 There considerable speculation in press about this meeting being one between two “neutralist” governments. He wanted make it clear that neutralism will have no place in discussions. Among problems which might be on agenda (although none yet agreed) are immigration, customs union, and Schuman Plan. It possible French will also care discuss European army. Italians favor in principle organization such an army, but believe it should follow rather than precede integration on political level. They believe main emphasis in defense field now should be confined to NATO effort, and that organ of Europe army now would probably complicate rather than simplify SHAPE problem.

Prime Minister next invited attention to psychological factor in international relations. He stated he believed announcements by international bodies should be thoroughly coordinated with member governments with respect to time and he said, “you may rely on our loyalty to acquiesce to international decision, but we do request that we be consulted re form in which such announcements should be made in our own country”. He believed other countries have same problem. He made vague reference to Council Deputies but it not clear what he had in mind. When pressed this point for illustration he said he had no specific case in mind. General Eisenhower told him he agreed with principle enunciated by De Gasperi and said he would keep it in mind in SHAPE organization.

Prime Minister expressed some concern over German problem and provocation it might cause USSR. He said it important that NATO [Page 440] powers gain time develop their defenses. He favors negotiations with Soviets on various subjects of importance but made it clear that he is not in favor any appeasement measures.

Prime Minister said one of main problems facing west, as he saw it, is question acquiring moral conviction as to righteousness of our cause and determination to make it succeed.

General Eisenhower explained the object of his visit in very much same terms that he has used previously.

De Gasperi spoke of land reform problems in Italy. He told General Eisenhower it began three months ago and will continue for next ten years. It most important project and Italian Government would be reluctant abandon it.

He also outlined some problems in economic field, and said government must move carefully in adopting controls because they tend to alarm Italian people.

DeGasperi gave impression of being sincere individual of ability and character; and of being firmly convinced that increased tempo in defense measures is necessary.

2. Meeting with De Gasperi and three other Ministers.

De Gasperi opened by saying he already expressed General Eisenhower thanks of Italian people for taking up heavy burden. Meeting should be general policy rather than details and Italian views would be expressed and Eisenhower could ask any questions he wished. He asked Sforza to speak first. Sforza said one most precious things Eisenhower had done, and would continue to do, was creation of proper atmosphere. He wanted General go back to US with impression that immense majority of Italians will support Italian Government. If Italians can so convince Eisenhower it will be great accomplishment.

There was one little point he would like to draw Eisenhower’s attention and in which his Treasury colleague was most interested. It was awkward to make definite commitments but General Eisenhower would be absolutely certain that Italians will fully meet all their engagements without direct commitments. Italy could be strong only if there is moral unanimity. Use of Italian industry would alleviate unemployment and increase Italy’s capability to produce both for herself and her allies. Use this industry would give better life to hundreds of thousands and this type of economic stability was a necessity for military force.

Eisenhower explained purpose of his trip along same lines as set forth previous meetings. He hoped Italians would take up question their capacity to produce, and unemployment, with Spofford Committee and also with Defense Production Board. He said he would also talk to Spofford concerning this and that speedy action in production field would be of profit to all. We in US might have our hands full and if certain equipment could be effectively produced here so [Page 441] much the better. He said that in course of his trip he was seeking in all countries evidence of Europe’s will to unite in achieving solution for problem of building adequate defenses. We not only desired solution of this problem but also wished to see some new evidence indicating Europe’s understanding of the urgency of situation. He realized Italy could not be expected to produce like US because it lacked raw materials and great productive capacity of US. Nevertheless each NAT countries could strive to be out in front in its contribution to over-all morale.

Pella then said that in last few weeks Italian Treasury had sought pursue its efforts in three directions:

Direct rearmament effort;
Defense internal front by development of civil investments;
Need to go ahead within over-all scope European cooperation and NATO.

Additional rearmament program of 250 billion lire (400 million dollars) has been undertaken by Italy. This was in addition to regular budget 323 billion lire so that in 12 months the Italians will spend 573 billion lire (950 million dollars). This would be done even though internal procedural requirements might make them spread the formal coverage this over a three year period. This amount represented 8 percent of Italian national income and 32 percent Italian Government expenditures. This in country where individual income after payment taxes amounted to $180 year ($160 before taxes). He asked that when Italians effort be compared, the 8 percent be borne in mind like individual income of $180.

Pella continued that Italians were ready implement this plan without waiting for definite US aid. US help is badly needed but Italians fell compulsion go ahead without awaiting formal assurances. Conversations now in progress and some figures have been established. Italians not entirely happy about financial stability of lire but have had assurance from ECA Mission that help to brake inflation will be given if stability of currency is in danger. Along with this rearmament program Italians will go ahead with their civil investments. They will do this for technical and also for social and political reasons. They feel Communism will be defeated if unemployment defeated. ECA Mission has promised help and Italian Government is asking Italian people for special sacrifices. It has asked Parliament for full powers in economic field. This is political act of first importance and prelude to many things such as restriction on consumption, further taxed [taxes?] and mobilization of Italians of all classes to support his [this?] effort in civil and military field.5

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Pacciardi then said General Eisenhower had asked if will existed in Italy and Europe. For Italy answer was yes. In struggle against Communism considerable has already been done within Italy. Italy has some factors of safety, not present in other countries, such as stability of government which has large parliamentary majority made of up men ready and willing to fight communism. In addition to defense budget, there other expenses which went towards national security. Expenses for public security and civil defense which were charged to Interior Ministry, stockpiling for defense which charged to Ministry of Industry. All these things put him in continuous struggle with Treasury. Defense expenditures actually much greater than appeared at first glance. Rebirth of Italian armed forces was little short miraculous. Italy had emerged from civil war with new regime burdened by peace treaty which gave no comfort to armed forces. A great effort had been made in Army, Navy and was being made in Air Force to put armed forces in shape to defend themselves. As to morale, he would be happy when Eisenhower takes over command Italian troops in integrated forces so he could see for himself this no longer army of threat but small army ready to fight. He then touched quickly on fact that one-third Italian Army consisted of regular army officers, NCO’s and 30,000 specialists. They were aiming for 60,000 specialists. Italy was ready to offer General Eisenhower three divisions and by 30 June of this year five divisions. These were minimum figures. Much remained to be done and there were many shortages but no shortage of good will or will to rebuild armed forces from zero.

There was one set figure he would like give Eisenhower before going to military meeting since if these figures became known to Italian officers they would be extremely discouraged. He had obtained from General Scott following official figures on US military aid to Europe: 478,000 tons of MDAP aid had been delivered to Europe of which Italy got 17,870. 1,600 tanks, of which Italy got 79. 750 pieces heavy artillery, of which Italy got 87. 6,000 vehicles, of which Italy got 13. 600 aircraft, of which Italy got 159. 50 ships, of which Italy got 3.

Deliveries which had been received were not in proportion to Italian effort. He was glad General Eisenhower would soon take command as General would realize true value of Italian Army when he did so. Italians felt worthy to be entrusted with more equipment and hoped direct aid would be increased proportionately as they proved themselves.

Eisenhower replied this was first he heard these figures and he would take matter up. He then said there was very large Mediterranean population all hostile to Stalin and mentioned Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia even though its morals may be repugnant and also Spain. From purely military view all this could have great influence on [Page 443] defense of Mediterranean where allied naval and air force could assist in defense. He wondered if it possible for Italians to think in friendly terms about Yugoslavia and whether some aid might be given Yugoslavs to help protect southern flank. This could not be done if there were great political influences to work against it. He would like snap judgment from Italian Ministers whether they thought this could be worked out by diplomats.

De Gasperi asked Sforza to reply. Sforza said he would like give General Eisenhower a few facts. Italy always friendly with Turkey and supported latter’s request for inclusion in NAT. In [case of?] Greece, despite stupid and criminal Fascist invasion [by] Italy, had succeeded in creating warm feeling between Greece and Italy required to deliver cruiser to Greeks and Sforza had received personal letter from Greek Premier6 saying he would like make delivery of cruiser occasion for friendly Italo-Greek celebration. Italians are in basic agreement with Yugoslavs although no love is lost on them. Trieste has left additional scars.7 In 1944 Yugoslavs unfortunately given authority to garrison Italian towns and killed everyone stating they were Fascists. This left bitter memories but unfortunately [fortunately?] bitter memories do not last long. At present, only choice if Tito falls is communism and Italy would rather have Tito as neighbor than Kremlin. It was sad fact that in Europe nations were usually friendly with other nations which were not their neighbors. Italy had been very friendly with Great Britain because France was in between. France had been friendly with Poland because Germany was in between, and so forth. A few days ago Italians signed economic treaties solving all problems left over from war, including reparations with Yugoslavs. There had been some fear in Trieste that Italians might be renouncing some territory but Sforza had explained this matter to the Triestinos in private and they satisfied. Yugoslavs had told him they understood need for an agreement but time not yet ripe. In addition there are psychological problems. He would like support what Pacciardi said re importance assisting Italian Army to fight well if that day ever came. Speaking among friends he said there is additional advantage in insuring that Italians fight well. There was sort of secret competition between French and Italians to match what other does. If Italians fought well French would likewise do so because it unbearable for them to have Italians fight better than they. He then said he disappointed in NAT Council Deputies. Italians hoped that Deputies would become alter ego of Foreign Ministers. Instead Deputies had become involved in red tape and not producing [Page 444] as he had hoped. Sforza said Spofford fully understood situation and doing best to rectify.8

General Eisenhower replied in his talk to Deputies in London9 he spoke of great opportunity they had to bring us all together and to eliminate red tape in passing matters from committee to committee. They were representative leaders and had authority deal with some matters that Defense Minister brought up. Count Sforza said: “Yes, but not the responsibility.”

3. Meeting with Pacciardi and Italian military consisted of detailed presentation Italian military program during which General Eisenhower again stressed urgency of taking effective steps now.

[ MacArthur ]
  1. This telegram was repeated to Paris for General Schuyler, to London for Spofford, and to Rome for Dunn. Department of State was asked to pass this message to the Defense Department.
  2. General Eisenhower and his party arrived in Rome from Lisbon on the afternoon of January 17 and departed from Rome for Luxembourg on the morning of January 19.
  3. Telegram 3131, January 19, from Rome, reported on the general ineffectiveness of Communist-sponsored demonstrations against General Eisenhower during his visit. Judging by the mildness of the Communist protests, the Embassy thought it might be said that the Italian Communist Party continued to act primarily as a party devoted to promoting military defeatism by propaganda rather than a party of action aimed at creating serious civil disturbances. (740.5/1–1951)
  4. French and Italian leaders met at Santa Margherita, Italy, February 12–14, for general political conversations. For documentation regarding this conference, see volume iv .
  5. For additional documentation regarding the interest of the United States in the rearmament of Italy, see volume iv .
  6. Sophocles Venizelos, Greek Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.
  7. For documentation on the interest of the United States in the dispute regarding the Free Territory of Trieste, see volume iv .
  8. Telegram 3223, January 26, from Rome, reported that Sforza told Dunn on January 21 that the question of Spain had come up during the Eisenhower visit. Sforza said he expressed the view that he was in favor of including Spain in NATO on some basis if the Western Allies were convinced that some real military advantage would be gained thereby. Sforza cautioned, however, that Spain’s acceptance ought first to be made certain, because he suspected that Franco was seeking an invitation in order to turn it down. Sforza felt that Spain’s decision would be based on a hard-boiled calculation of Spanish interests taking into account the exigencies of maintaining a dictatorship. (740.5/1–2651)
  9. For a report of Eisenhower’s statement before the Council Deputies in its meeting of January 16, see telegram Depto 417, from London, p. 426.