No. 245


Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State1


Subject: Italian Defense Effort

Participants: Ambassador Tarchiani
The Secretary of State
Mr. Homer M. Byington, Jr., WE

The Italian Ambassador said that on his recent return to Italy he found the Italian Government even more determined to go ahead with its defense plans within the NATO than he had expected. He had had a four-hour conversation with Prime Minister de Gasperi who saw the whole issue very clearly indeed. There was no doubt in the Prime Minister’s mind where Italy should stand and we could count on Italy to do her utmost in the defense effort. The Ambassador said that he had also talked with certain other members of the Christian Democratic Party whom he had regarded as not very strong. They had surprised him by the firmness of their views. He added that the Christian Democratic Party had made a survey of public opinion throughout Italy and had found that the Italian people fully realized the need for extraordinary Italian defense measures and that there was no question but that the Italian people were fully behind the Government. He said that the Vatican, while always for peace, also realized the need for urgent defense and were squarely behind the Government and the NATO. He had received these views from two such opposite Catholic leaders as Don Sturzo, who could be said to be somewhat Leftist in his approach, and Monsignor Montini, who certainly represented the Right Wing element of the Vatican. He pointed out the great success that Prime Minister de Gasperi had in the recent Senate debate where he had obtained an overwhelming majority and clearly stated Italy’s position as not being between conflicting forces but completely on one side. He said that the Italian Government did not want to be, and were not going to be, a bridge between the east and the west, but on the contrary, were determined to do their utmost to move ahead with Italy’s share in the common defense.

The Ambassador then made a strong appeal to me that the United States should speed up its consideration of the present Italian plans and the decision as to what U.S. assistance could be granted. He emphasized that Italy was not in any sense making its [Page 551] effort contingent upon U.S. assistance. In fact, the Government was going ahead full speed now with active defense measures. There would naturally be a limit, however, to what Italy could do without U.S. aid in the form of raw materials and food and the sooner this question could be clarified the more Italy could accomplish. The Ambassador was informed that we expected to have an answer very shortly. I expressed approval of what the Ambassador had told me and said that it was exactly to help translate plans into action that General Eisenhower was now visiting the respective NATO countries. The Ambassador said that General Eisenhower’s visit to Italy would be very beneficial and that he was sure the General would be impressed by the Italian determination to go ahead.

When the Ambassador mentioned the magnitude of the recent Italian decision to spend lire equivalent of $400 million additional for defense, I said that some confusion had arisen whether this money was to be spent in the current calendar year or during the next three years. The Ambassador replied categorically that the money was to be spent before December 31, 1951. He said that the reason for the language was budgetary and in accordance with the requirements of the Italian constitution with regard to Italian Government expenditures. He said there was no question but that the Parliament had already agreed to Italy’s foreign policy and would appropriate this sum. The Government was so certain of this that Minister Pacciardi was already going ahead spending the money. He also said that the government was going to obtain from the Italian Parliament full powers for the economic mobilization of the country and the exercise of controls. I again emphasized the need for all of us to translate the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into action now.

In conclusion Ambassador Tarchiani handed me the attached copy of a message2 to me from Count Sforza concerning recent decisions of the Council of Ministers with regard to Italian defense. I inquired about the three divisions mentioned as being placed at the disposal of the integrated Atlantic Force. The Ambassador said that he assumed these three specific divisions had been mentioned because the French had placed three divisions at the disposal of Eisenhower. He went on to say that Minister Pacciardi in a later speech had made it clear that all Italy’s armed forces were regarded as coming under the NATO and its Supreme Commander.

  1. Drafted by Byington.
  2. Not printed; it briefly summarized the decisions of the Italian Council of Ministers in its sessions of January 5 and 9 to contribute an equivalent of three divisions to an integrated Atlantic Force and to introduce into Parliament a bill authorizing 200 billion lire to integrate the 50 billion already approved by Parliament.