No. 121
Editorial Note

The wording of the draft instructions to Belgrade and Rome underwent further revision at the request of the British Government. Following receipt of a telegram from Ambassador Mallet in Belgrade. Foreign Secretary Eden, in a message to the British Embassy in Washington, dated October 3, made the following remarks:

“No one would wish to underestimate the importance of the points raised by Sir Ivo Mallet. It is because we have been very much aware of them that we have proposed certain amendments to the original American plan. As now amended it seems to us to represent the best available balance between mutually incompatible Italian and Yugoslav requirements. It is no doubt true that the phrase “the predominantly Italian character of Zone A” will [Page 290] enrage Tito, and we are not enamoured of it. But it seems necessary to keep it not only to satisfy the Italians but as our only openly stated excuse for arbitrarily handing over Zone A to the Italians.

I feel bound, however, to say that I am impressed by one point raised in Sir Ivo Mallet’s telegram. As you know, importance has hitherto been attached to securing a satisfactory assurance from Tito. The best thing, of course, would be if we could induce him to volunteer such an assurance by implying that we assume that he will not do anything so foolish as to resort to military action. But even if this did not elicit the necessary assurance or merely led him to reserve liberty of action, are we really prepared to allow him to hold up the whole operation? Should we not look very foolish if it became known, as it undoubtedly would, from the Italian side that Tito had been successful in frustrating the combined intention of Her Majesty’s Government and the United States Government? The more I think about it, the more I am coming to feel that once we have embarked on our démarches in Rome and Belgrade, our only possible course is to make it clear to all concerned that we intend to go through with it.
This leads to a further point. If we place ourselves in a position of having to wait for an assurance from Tito, there is practically bound to be a leak, deliberate or otherwise, in one of the capitals. It would surely be undesirable for the news to be put out by either side before we had prepared world opinion for the solution. The only way we can prevent this would be to put out our public announcement a few hours after the démarches had been made. Should we not, by giving the two protagonists and the world the impression that we were determined to go through with the operation, have the best chance of forestalling undesirable repercussions both in Rome and Belgrade?”

A copy of this message is in the Italian Desk files, lot 58 D 357, “Trieste October 1953.”

Although Eden’s message was dated October 3, it apparently was not sent to the British Embassy until the evening of Monday, October 5, the day on which Eden officially resumed his duties as Foreign Secretary. In his memoirs, Eden stated that he discussed the proposal for a United States–United Kingdom public declaration regarding Trieste with Lord Salisbury on the morning of October 5, when he returned to the Foreign Office, and also later in the day with the Cabinet. (Full Circle, pages 204–205)

On October 6, Captain George Anderson of the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff telephoned the Counselor of the Department of State, Douglas MacArthur II, and said that the Joint Chiefs, from the military point of view, had no objection to accepting Eden’s suggestion regarding the approach to Tito on Trieste. He added that the Joint Chiefs could see certain advantages in the British proposal since it would avoid having the affair drag out and leaks occur which might complicate matters. On the other [Page 291] hand, according to Anderson, General Matthew B. Ridgway had pointed out that if Tito made trouble, there might be a very rapid evolution of events and the whole affair “might go like gun powder.” (Memorandum of conversation by MacArthur, October 6, Italian Desk files, lot 58 D 357, “Trieste October 1953”)

The British-United States Working Group in Washington also met on October 6 to discuss the British Foreign Office recommendation received the previous evening that the tactics be changed to require implementation of the plan regardless of Yugoslav or Italian initial reaction. Byington proposed that, in view of the Secretary’s wholehearted concurrence, the draft instructions should be amended along the lines the British had recommended. He also said that they would know by 3 p.m. that day whether the approach had received United States Government clearance. (Memorandum of conversation, October 6; 750G.00/10–653)