Archduke Otto to President Roosevelt 7

Dear Mr. President: I regret very much to have again to impose upon your kindness, but I do hope that you will understand that only the absolute necessity forces me again to turn to you.

The first reports of my brother Charles, as well as personal conversations with resistance leaders of inside Austria have given me the impression—I do not yet use the word certitude only because I try to be as cautious as possible—that it will be possible to prepare active guerilla-actions in the mountains as soon as the snow has disappeared and as soon as the conditions for such an action are fulfilled. For that purpose we shall need small arms, that can be dropped in certain areas by parachute. We will need furthermore men, to instruct our people in the use of these arms and in the latest progress of guerilla tactics. For that purpose we will need people of our own, who can talk with their nationals in their language, who know the customs of the place. These men should not be intelligence service people but clearly instructors and later on be able to act within the resistance forces.

It became clear to me, that with very few exceptions emigres could not be used, because they have been away too long.

In a night-long conference on the problem—after having eliminated the possibility to send people out from Austria for the reason that we need everyone in the country—we decided that we should try to get the permission to use reliable prisoners of war for that purpose. The idea was sustained by the fact, that the Russians have already parachuted several hundred communist-trained Austrian prisoners [Page 561] of war into the country in order to organize and lead the Austrian Communist Party, which operates under the name of Freedom Front.8 It was also decided, that these prisoners, if obtainable, should receive their training if possible here in France. A request made by me to the French is under favorable consideration and I am certain that they will give us as trainers officers from their own Forces of the Interior, who have done already the same thing before.

Now I know of several Austrian prisoners of war in American camps in Arkansas, Mississippi and Kentucky, who are considered to be reliable and who have expressed their willingness to serve the cause of Austria. If therefore you should decide to fulfill our request and to give orders accordingly to the military authorities, may I suggest the following procedure: As soon as the decision is made in a favorable sense, my brother Felix, who has the names of the reliable prisoners should be authorised to proceed at once in great secrecy to these camps in order to speak with the soldiers and officers whose names he has. During that talk, other names can be added to the list by the reliable prisoners of war. If they volunteer for the duty, they should leave camp without delay and be brought to the Eastern Seaboard. If possible I would be most grateful, if the first batch could be sent by plane to France, so that their training could start at once. I would be also very grateful if I could be informed of their arrival in advance, so that I could be at hand when they come in. As soon as they are trained, which is estimated at three weeks, we could have them proceed to Austria through channels which we have.

I am in such a great hurry—and make this request before even being able to submit any concrete plans for further action—because the snow will be melting towards the third week of March, at which time we would need the first trained people. I want also to insist once again, that the Russians are doing these things in a great way, which no doubt entitles our side to do at least the same. I suggest for the job in America my brother Felix, because I am sure of his absolute discretion and his experience of the mentality of our people. I add also a note for him, in which I give him detailed instructions. As to the number of men needed I feel that even a few—we have the names of roughly twenty absolutely reliable men—would help, but that these men with their camp-experience shall be able to give us more people. As to the Agency to handle the matter, may I respectfully suggest that it could be the Army and not the OSS. Our people have had a rather unpleasant experience with the OSS in Switzerland and have found that representatives of that agency are sometimes lacking the necessary caution. In this connection I would be most grateful if on these matters an American Officer from the Headquarters here could establish liaison with me already now, so that [Page 562] everything should be ready once the men arrive. They know at the American Embassy always were [where?] to reach me. Finally, and I regret to have to raise the question, comes the fact that we have not the funds to provide for these people while they are here. The French give us the officers, some of my collaborators and myself will give them the necessary knowledge of necessities of our special work in the mountains, I hope that the U.S. Army will find it possible to spare somebody to train them in small arms, so that this side is provided for. What I would ask is whether it be possible that their equipment and living be provided by the U.S. Army.

May I ask also, whether it would be possible for you to let me know by cable through your Embassy here, naturally without any details, whether you can accede to my request or not.9

I am now working on a preliminary report on military, political and economic matters of Austria today, which I shall send you as soon as possible.

As to the general plan and to the suggestions which will derive from it, I must wait till my brother Charles will have returned. Then only do I hope to have all the necessary information and to see exactly how and on what conditions we can act.

Once again I want to tell you, dear Mr. President, my warmest thanks for all your kindness and interest in the cause of my country. I certainly am sorry to have to impose upon you so often and I hope, that your kindness and friendship will understand the great necessity under which I act.

With my warmest regards and all my best wishes to you, I am, dear Mr. President,

Yours very sincerely

Otto of Austria
  1. Copy obtained from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y. Archduke Otto of Habsburg was the claimant to the Austrian throne.
  2. Oesterreichische Freiheitsfront.
  3. In telegram 1310, April 3, the Secretary of State instructed the Ambassador in France as follows: “By direction of the White House please inform the Archduke Otto that his proposal for the use of Austrian prisoners is hardly practicable along the lines as presented in the Archduke’s letter of February 19 to the President.” (863.01/4–345)