740.0011 European War 1939/2691-3/7
The Ambassador in Italy (Phillips) to the Secretary of State
ROME, May 27, 1940--1 p.m.
[Received May 27--9:55 a.m.]
420. This morning I was received by Ciano at eleven‑thirty. I said to him that I had a message of great importance from President Roosevelt, that I had been ordered to deliver it orally to the Duce, but that I would be glad for Ciano to read it for his own information. He answered that the Duce could not receive me but that he, Ciano, would take the message and would make, with my permission, a few notes of
its text. He thereupon did so with care and attention and I did not feel able to press any further the request that I have an interview with Mussolini. After he had finished I asked him if he could let me have some idea of the general nature of the reply. He answered definitely "It would be a no" and proceeded to explain that the position of the Duce was more than the question of realizing the legitimate aspirations of Italy, that Mussolini was resolved to fulfill his obligations under the alliance with Germany. He said that the Duce was not in at that particular moment but would come back later in the day and Ciano promised that as soon as he was in a position to give me the reply he would send for me.
I asked the Foreign Minister if he had full realization of the seriousness and importance of the message of President Roosevelt. He said that he did but that there was nothing that could now change the situation. In addition he said that he could not give me the exact time of Italy's entrance into the war; it would be impossible for a few days and it might not take place for a few weeks but he did say "it will happen soon".
Finally he asked me about the position of the United States. I called his attention to the program of President Roosevelt for a great defensive armament. Ciano only answered that it was his assumption that the United States sympathized with the Allies in the same manner that Italy sympathized with Germany.
The Foreign Minister called for me at one o'clock and informed me that the statements which he had made to me earlier in the day had been confirmed by Mussolini. Ciano declared that it was the desire of Mussolini to keep his "freedom of action" and that the Duce was not disposed to engage in any negotiations which indeed would not be in accordance with the spirit of Fascism. He laid emphasis on the idea that the Duce was responsible for the "fulfillment of an engagement--of words given" and he said in addition "any attempt to prevent Italy from fulfilling her engagements, is not well regarded".
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