In the June 7 national elections in Italy, the Center Coalition, which included the Christian Democratic Party, won a majority of the seats in both the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate. The Center parties, however, failed to gain the necessary majority in the vote for the Chamber which, under the new electoral law, would have given them 65 percent of the seats.
Ambassador Luce’s views on the elections were transmitted in telegram 5112 from Rome, June 12; in telegram 5210 from Rome, June 21, eyes only for President Eisenhower and Secretary Dulles, which reported on a conversation Luce had the previous day with Prime Minister De Gasperi regarding the election results; and in a 17–page paper she sent to Eisenhower and Dulles on June 19. For these telegrams, a summary of Luce’s 17–page paper prepared by the Executive Secretariat of the Department of State, and President Eisenhower’s message of June 25 to Luce, see volume VI, Part 2, pages 1609, 1614, 1618, and 1617, respectively. In her analyses, Luce stated that United States failure to honor the 1948 Tripartite Declaration on Trieste and United States support of Tito for strategic reasons had been used by both the Communists and the Right to reduce the Center parties margin of victory.
In the wake of its setback in the June 7 national elections, the De Gasperi government resigned on June 29. De Gasperi managed to form a new government on July 16, but it collapsed on July 28 following a vote of no confidence in the Chamber of Deputies. At the National Security Council meeting on July 30, Director of Central Intelligence Dulles briefly discussed the reasons for the fall of De Gasperi. President Eisenhower commented on how important the Trieste issue was to Italy and said that it would have “helped greatly in the Italian elections if we could have made a firm commitment on Trieste, but this was impossible because of Yugoslavia.” [Page 242] For an extract from the memorandum of the discussion at this meeting which dealt with Italy and Trieste, see volume VI, Part 2, page 1623. For additional documentation regarding the fall of De Gasperi, see ibid., pages 1565 ff.
Following an unsuccessful attempt by Attilio Piccioni to form a government, Giuseppe Pella, the Minister of the Budget in De Gasperi’s cabinet, formed a government on August 15. The Pella government was sworn in on August 17 and received votes of confidence in the Senate on August 23 and in the Chamber on August 24. Pella stated publicly that he considered his government a transitional one and that he would resign by the end of October following Parliamentary approval of the budget. In presenting his program to the Parliament, Pella also said, among other things, that his government would demand that France, the United Kingdom, and the United States carry out the 1948 Tripartite Declaration on Trieste.
During the government crisis, on August 12, Federico Sensi of the Italian Embassy in Washington called on William E. Knight of the Office of Western European Affairs and inquired about the United States attitude toward the possible transfer of the administration of Zone A to Italy. Knight replied that, although such an idea had never been proposed, the United States viewed it with grave misgivings and felt that such an arrangement would in fact become permanent, that Tito would retaliate by annexing Zone B, and that it would not open the way to Italo-Yugoslav collaboration for defense. Sensi said that he knew that this was the United States attitude and expressed his belief that it was perhaps because the Italian Foreign Office was unsure whether the United States would approve such a settlement that it had not made such a proposal. Sensi emphasized that he was speaking of Italy’s taking over administration of Zone A, not of Italy’s annexation of the Zone. The transfer of administration, he said, would leave the juridical status of the Zone and the entire Free Territory of Trieste unchanged for possible future settlement by direct bilateral negotiations. In answer to a question from Knight, Sensi mentioned that the Foreign Office had considered the possibility that such a solution might well become permanent. Sensi concluded by saying that nothing could be accomplished regarding Trieste until Italy had a new government, but that it might be well to consider what could be done subsequently, since the Trieste question was almost the only means for influencing favorably any future Italian elections. Knight’s memorandum of this conversation is in file 750G.00/8–1253.
Toward the end of August, a crisis developed over Trieste that raised the possibility of a direct military confrontation between [Page 243] Italy and Yugoslavia. On August 28 the Yugoslav newspaper Politika called a recent speech by Prime Minister Pella “fresh proof of Italy’s unchanged, negative attitude” toward a solution of the Trieste question. As a result, “many Belgrade personalities” had become convinced that Yugoslavia’s attitude on the question should be “seriously re-examined.” A translation of the comments in Politika was provided in telegram 240 from Belgrade, August 29. (750G.00/8–2953)
On August 29, Prime Minister Pella called in Chargé Elbridge Durbrow and protested the Yugoslav press comments as evidence of Yugoslavia’s intention to annex Zone B of Trieste. If that happened, Pella said Italy would attempt to occupy Zone A. If the United States and the United Kingdom did not acquiesce in such a move, the Pella government would resign and Italy’s position in NATO would be jeopardized. Pella also informed Durbrow that Italy was taking certain precautionary military moves in the area around Trieste. (Telegram 699 from Rome, August 29; 750G.00/8–2953) The following day the Yugoslav Government publicly denied that it was contemplating a change in its policy toward Zone B.
On August 31 the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France made parallel démarches through their representatives in Belgrade and Rome urging moderation on both sides. The Italian Government was informed that the three powers found it impossible to conceive that Italy even considered moving troops to annex Zone A and found it difficult to believe that the Trieste issue might jeopardize Italy’s support of NATO. The Yugoslav Government was informed of the three powers’ hopes that a speech by Tito at Okroglica on September 6 would not be such as to worsen the Trieste situation. The Yugoslav Government responded the following day by asking the three powers to attempt to bring about a cancellation by Italy of its troop movements in the Trieste area. The Yugoslav Government indicated it would take similar measures if Italy persisted. Although the British Government favored intervening with the Italian Government, the United States demurred, for fear of appearing to side with Yugoslavia. However, when the Yugoslav Government on September 3 made public its request to the three powers to intervene with Italy, they agreed that the disclosure precluded any action of the type Yugoslavia had requested. This series of exchanges was summarized in a memorandum from Merchant to the Secretary of State, September 4. (750G.00/9–553)