Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

No. 98
The Supreme Commander, Allied Powers Europe (Gruenther), to the President 1

Dear Mr. President: Last night I returned from Rome following my first official visit there as Supreme Commander. The attitude of all officials whom I saw was most cordial. There was, however, an air of uneasiness caused by the current Trieste flap.

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I saw President Pella on the evening of September 3rd. He alluded to the Trieste situation several times during our meeting, stating in each instance that a solution must be found, and that he felt that the time was about right for the Italian people to accept one. At no time did he become specific as to the type of solution he felt would solve this complex problem. On the following day President Pella saw Major General Bertoni, the Italian National Military Representative at SHAPE, who accompanied me to Rome, and he asked Bertoni to request me to send a private message from President Pella to you. Bertoni transmitted that word to me orally on the plane enroute back to Paris. This is the message substantially as Bertoni gave it to me.

  • “1. President Pella considers that the solution to the Trieste problem would be greatly facilitated if a provisional solution were adopted whereby Italian troops would occupy Zone A in the not too distant future. This would not be a definitive solution, but would put the Italians on an equal basis with the Yugoslavs who now occupy Zone B. Once this provisional measure is taken the Italians would be able to negotiate points of difference with respect to Zone B directly with the Yugoslav Government, but with no sense of urgency attached. The provisional status would calm Italian emotions, and would enable cooperation to take place between Italy and Yugoslavia in the economic and military fields. President Pella feels that the Italian Government cannot make this suggestion, because if he did it would surely be rejected by Tito, and secondly the opposition parties in Italy would accuse Pella of a sellout. Pella’s idea is that the suggestion should come from the American and British Governments. He hopes that President Eisenhower will give favorable consideration to this suggestion.
  • “2. President Pella is highly pleased with Ambassador Luce’s work in Italy. He hopes that she will be able to remain on this assignment for a long period.”

As you might well surmise, I have no desire to be a channel of communication between the head of any government and the President of the United States. If President Pella had made this suggestion to me personally, or if Bertoni had told me about it while I was still in Rome, I would have requested that I be excused from acting in the role of a message bearer. Since, however, the request did not reach me until I was halfway to Paris, I decided that the lesser of the evils would be to transmit the message to you, sending a copy of this letter to Ambassador Luce and also to Doug MacArthur in Washington.

I should like to give you some of my own observations on the Trieste question. I have been discussing this problem with Italian friends for several years, but I have never before found them to be in a compromising mood. This time I found several of the high [Page 256] ranking military officers and also Minister of Defense Taviani2 (a very good man, I think) advocating the solution contained in Pella’s message to you. I told some of them that in my opinion it was pipe dream for the Italians to think that there would be any further solution possible if they moved into Zone A, and that realism demanded that if that so-called “provisional” solution were adopted it would probably be the final one. In every instance the reply given was somewhat along this line: “Certainly it would be final, but we wouldn’t have to say that openly. In fact, it would be a grave mistake to say it openly because Italian public opinion would never buy that solution now. However, after they have lived with the provisional solution for a certain period the Italians would lose considerable of their zest for the Zone B crusade, especially if the Italian Government were able to transact any negotiations with the Jugs in the economic and military fields.” I should add that one of the individuals [who] gave me the impression that he would buy a Zone A–Zone B solution if the so-called provisional arrangement were put into effect now was Minister Taviani.

While I came away from Rome with the definite impression that the Italians are more willing to compromise than ever before, I also formed the conclusions that all Italians in responsible position feel that a solution must be found as a matter of urgency. It was clear to me that negotiations for such items as facilities in Italy, and Italy’s relationships with respect to NATO would be in considerable danger of deterioration if some action is not taken to solve the problem soon. Incidentally, the four military chiefs have softened considerably with respect to the idea of engaging in combined military planning with Yugoslavia. They now consider that this action is necessary, whereas a year ago they felt that the very suggestion was an outrage to Italian prestige.

I would not have bothered you with the Trieste problem if it had not been for the Pella request. I am sure you have been kept adequately [Page 257] informed by Secretary Dulles. I would suggest that if any reply to Pella is called for that it not be sent through me.3


Alfred M. Gruenther
General, United States Army
  1. A copy of the letter was sent to MacArthur.
  2. A memorandum of a dinner conversation on Sept. 3 among Gruenther, Durbrow, and Taviani, at which time the Trieste situation was discussed, was transmitted to the Department of State as an attachment to despatch 598 from Rome, Sept. 7. (750G.00/9–753)
  3. In a letter to Ann Whitman on Sept. 15, MacArthur noted that he was returning to her the original of Gruenther’s letter of Sept. 5 to the President. MacArthur stated that the President handed the letter to Secretary Dulles on the morning of Sept. 10 “when there was some discussion of the subject.” MacArthur also said that he had written a short note to Gruenther thanking him for sending a copy of the letter and indicating that the President had discussed it with the Secretary of State and that the Department of State was working very hard on the Trieste question. (Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file)