Luce files, lot 64 F 26, “Correspondence & Miscellaneous 1953”

No. 143
The Ambassador in Italy (Luce) to the Secretary of State
eyes only

Dear Foster: For your information, and for the record, may I respectfully call your attention to the following extraordinary situation.

This morning, Mr. Williamson, my Acting Minister Counselor, told me that Mr. Ross, Minister of the British Embassy had called on him to ask our reactions to the new Tripartite proposals for a solution to the Trieste impasse, the text of which his Ambassador, Sir Victor Mallet, had received on October 23, from the Foreign Office in London, with their full comments and the request for his.

Mr. Williamson was forced to reply that while we were well aware that proposals were being studied, we had as yet received no information about their substance from our own government. The British Minister expressed—naturally enough—considerable surprise, in view of the fact (he said) that you had originated these proposals on October 22nd in Washington,1 and that the UK Embassy there had at once forwarded them to the Foreign Office, which in turn had informed all their interested embassies.

This afternoon an Italian official of the Foreign Office called on me, and also inquired my views on the Tripartite proposals. I countered by asking him Pella’s views. He replied that while the Italian Government did not know the actual details of the proposals, they had received sufficient information via their Embassy in Washington to prepare a position paper on which “they had already been working night and day for 3 days,” and that Signor Del Balzo had taken the paper to Paris the night before so it might be presented at the conference with Byington.2 He said that the general substance of the proposals was in fact common knowledge to French, British and Italian diplomats in the 5 capitals; that 2 days ago Sir Victor Mallet had told him “on the golf links” that the proposals “were on the way”; and that the French Ambassador here had already called at the Italian Foreign Office several times to take soundings on the Italian reaction to them. He “wondered why no officials of the American Embassy had been around” in view of British and French activity.

[Page 330]

In the absence of any direct information from State, I can comment only on the outline of the proposal given verbally to Mr. Williamson by the British Minister: it is a proposal that should not be made because it will not be accepted either by Mr. Pella or Tito. The essence of it is an ambiguous attempt to by-pass the implementation of the October 8 decision, in order to save Tito’s face. I cannot believe that the U.S. seriously intends to back-track, weasel, welch, renege or—since the Department prefers the euphemism—to “finesse” its decision to proceed with the transfer (however slowly) of Zone A in order to give Italy parity with Yugoslavia as a basis of negotiation. Merely to make the attempt will have a most lamentable effect here and, I believe, throughout Europe. What price Tito’s face if America loses face in the eyes of all Europe? However, I realize that this comment may be unwarranted, and I will reserve further reflections until the Department chooses to grant the U.S. Embassy in Rome parity with the British and French Embassies in the discussion.

I am unavoidably reminded by the above situation of another fact: that the actual text of the October 8 decision was in the hands of the British Ambassador here on October 6, twenty-four hours before it was released to us, thus allowing them time for comment. Indeed I first got the text from them, and by the time the Department sent it to me, on the morning of the 7th of October, it was too late for our Embassy to make any comments or protest. Nevertheless, I wired you that afternoon, for the record, that the actual text and instructions “demolished our carefully prepared plan.”3 I recall in this connection that the plan I proposed allowed time—which was obviously prudent—for both Tito’s and Pella’s reactions, and suggested thereafter certain steps to secure their acceptance, including a five-power conference—a necessity that was clearly foreseeable.

In the matter of the October 8 decision, at the time I believed that the failure of the Department to give this Embassy any opportunity to comment on the final plan was owing to unavoidable bureaucratic delays in coordinating between London and Washington.

But in the present situation it is perfectly clear that there has been ample opportunity for the Department to inform us, proven by the fact that the French and British Embassies here have been au courant for several days.

I know you realize that inevitably our Embassy will be held in part responsible—indeed I am already being held responsible—by public opinion for the decisions taken in the Trieste affair, and for their consequences. Therefore I think it only just to keep the [Page 331] record quite clear between the Department and the Rome Embassy:

While I constantly and forcefully urged action and decision on the Trieste question, I was not informed in time to comment on the text or the actual modality of the decision finally taken. And we are not now being simultaneously informed with the British and French Embassies on the text or modalities of the new proposals which, I gather (from the British) I may be expected to present shortly to the Italian government.

Let me add that the members of my staff concerned with the Trieste question share my astonishment and concern about this procedure. And they are as hopeful as I am that you will soon instruct us as to the reasons for it.4


  1. See Document 140.
  2. Byington was in London as the head of the U.S. Delegation meeting with the British to discuss the possibility of turning over the administration of Zone A to Italy. For the report of this Working Party, see Document 145.
  3. Reference is to Document 126.
  4. In a letter of reply, Nov. 13, Dulles noted that Luce had approved the revised proposals on Trieste so that he did not need to answer that part of her letter. He also explained that the draft proposals shown to the British on Oct. 22 were based on a preliminary working paper and it was made clear that they had not been formally approved by Dulles. Yet the British Embassy had sent the preliminary draft to Rome, while Department of State officials were still seeking further consideration and approval of the draft within the Department. Dulles apologized for the misunderstanding and for the embarrassment it had caused Luce and promised that, in the future, significant preliminary working papers would be sent to her. (Luce files, lot 64 F 26, “Letters 1954”)
  5. The source text is not signed.