740.0011 EW/5–645: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France ( Caffery )

2220. In my conversation with M. Bidault on Saturday30 morning I brought up the problem of French penetration in the Val d’Aosta. I said that we were much disturbed over the situation prevailing along Italy’s northwest frontiers as a result of French troops and occupation there, and reviewed briefly the background of this situation including Eisenhower’s order for their withdrawal and de Gaulle’s assurances to you (your 2417 May 6, 7 p.m.). I emphasized our anxiety over these developments, particularly coming at the time of the Venezia Giulia dispute,31 and referred to our position as set forth in my public statement of May 12.32 The French Government should instruct French forces in northwest Italy to withdraw into France, I said, and should endeavor to terminate the activities of any irresponsible French annexationists.

Bidault replied that France was invaded through these valleys in 1940 and that the question was one largely of “amour propre”. He [Page 732] was in entire agreement with de Gaulle that France should have no annexationist claims to the area with the exception of a minor rectification affecting two villages but not the Val d’Aosta, itself. Normal channels would be used to adjust any claims the French may have since it is French policy to establish friendly relations with Italy. In an attempt to make light of the present situation he Spoke of the habits of intelligence officers of all nationalities who circulated all kinds of rumors. He implied that such reports should not be exaggerated. When I repeated that all that was needed to solve this tense situation was an order from the French Government for its troops to withdraw into France, he promised to look into this question right away.

Bidault and the French Ambassador saw the President this morning.33 After Bidault had thanked him for the press statement made after their last conversation, the President said that he wished to speak candidly to the French Foreign Minister on the unfortunate effect on French-American relations being created by the continued occupation of northwest Italy by French forces contrary to General Eisenhower’s orders. The President drew a parallel between French occupation of northwest Italy and Yugoslav occupation of northeast Italy and said that such action gave ammunition to those in our country who like to cause trouble between our two countries. If the Foreign Minister would take steps to overcome this situation, the President said he would be very happy, and referred to other incidents of a similar nature, particularly the French occupation of Stuttgart.

Bidault listened attentively to the President’s remarks and replied that he himself knew nothing about the situation except from press reports; that immediately upon his return to France he would take the matter up.

Bidault plans to return to Paris within the next two days. Suggest you pursue this question with him immediately upon his return.

Sent to Paris; repeated to Caserta.34

  1. May 19. For memorandum of conversation, see p. 691.
  2. For documentation relating to the dispute, see pp. 1103 ff.
  3. For text of statement, see Department of State Bulletin, May 13, 1945, p. 902.
  4. See memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State, May 21, p. 698.
  5. As telegram 506.