ADSS 1.268 Luigi Maglione, Sec State, notes.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
ADSS 1.268 Maglione, notes: Sumner Welles in Rome
Reference: AES 2494/40
Location and date: Vatican, 18.03.1940
Summary statement: Sumner Welles in Rome. Meeting at Vatican – Allies want a sound peace; imminent offensive expected; Papal peace initiative likely to fail; Italian neutrality.
Mr Sumner Welles, United States Foreign Under Secretary, came to see me after the audience granted to him by the Holy Father (1)
He expressed his satisfaction, indeed his joy, at having been able to confer with His Holiness.
He spoke then about the talks he had had in Italy, Germany, Britain and France with Government people. In Berlin he was able to note that Hitler and his Government are convinced that the Allies (France and Britain) want the destruction of Germany (2) while he knows – and he was able to see this clearly in London and in Paris – that the allies want to reach a sound peace with a lasting settlement of all matters and want to be sure than other war will not start in twenty years’ time.
He asked me then if I thought that the Germans, although they declared themselves certain of an overwhelming victory within a year, have not manifested some intention of talking peace. Mussolini confirmed that the Germans are preparing a vigorous offensive within the next few days of weeks. The fact that this is impossible to avoid is heart rending. He asked me what I thought about a new attempt in favour of peace.
I replied that at the present time neither of the two parties in conflict believe in the possibility of, nor are they willing to help in the success of any such attempt: both declare they are certain of complete victory and will fight: both energetically refuse any proposal of peace., Any effort in this direction would, in the present circumstances, be doomed to failure and would compromise any future move which could be resumed at a more opportune moment.
Mr Welles told me that he agreed with me fully and added that he had already telephoned the President accordingly.
He then asked my opinion about the Italian situation and said that he thought that during the meeting between Hitler and Mussolini fixed for this morning at the Brenner Pass the relations between Italy and Russia would be discussed to see if there was any possibility of improving them as Hitler desired.
I replied that the Italian people are against the war but Mussolini’s mind is not clear. He leans towards Germany but there is hope that he would take the nation’s mood into account and in consequence restrain himself, being a realist, from throwing Italy into an adventure in which it could run mortal risks.
The Allies, who would gain by Italian non-belligerency, should do their utmost not to antagonise Mussolini, etc.
In the margin: It should be noted that Italian and German interests in the Balkans are opposed to a Russian thrust in the Balkans.
Welles told me that those were exactly his own thoughts. Although until a short while ago relations between the United States and Italy were not very cordial, President Roosevelt has already suggested that the Allies be cautious and friendly towards Italy, and try not to upset them with measures and policies which are unacceptable. Recently, regarding the coal question, he said “In Washington we took the same line as followed by Your Eminence here”. (Welles knew that I had approached the French Ambassador and the British Minister on this subject) (3).
I did not fail to remind Welles that the Unites States can do a lot and that all here have great confidence in President Roosevelt’s good offices.
Welles told me very courteously, but with obvious sincerity, that the United States in turn have great confidence in the influence of the most high and august moral power which the Pope can have in the present circumstances and that the President will be most pleased to unite his efforts to those of the Holy Father.
(1) FRUS 1940 Volume 1, pp 106-08 for Sumner Welles report. The audience began at 10.00 and lasted 50 minutes. The conversation he later had with Maglione in French, is also reported in FRUS, pp 108-10.
(2) FRUS 1940 Volume 1, p49 for Sumner Welles meeting with Hitler.
(3) ADSS 1.250