Oral History Interview with
Italian politician. Served as Chief of the Italian delegation to the treaty negotiations with the U.S.A., 1947; member of the National Assembly, 1948-53; minister of Foreign Trade, 1950-51; and chief of the Italian delegation to the E.D.C. Conference, Paris, 1951-54.
Ivan M. Lombardo
Theodore A. Wilson
See also May 8, 1964 interview
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
Ivan M. Lombardo
by Theodore A. Wilson
WILSON: Perhaps the way to begin would be to express to you the regards of Dr. Brooks who remembers his visit here.
LOMBARDO: Thank you. Will you reciprocate as much as possible and as cordially as possible?
WILSON: I certainly will. Not that I would plan to go down the list, but perhaps you might be interested in beginning by talking about your mission to the United States, a very important mission.
LOMBARDO: Yes. Let's see. I will concentrate as much as possible. What would you like to know, incidentally?
WILSON: Well, how did it happen that you were appointed, and what expectations did you have when you left for the United States about American aid?
LOMBARDO: In a way, I have to say that my mission was merely concerned in discussing various financial and economic questions which were related to the peace treaty. As you know, the peace treaty imposed some obligations which were very hard for us in our situation, the Italian financial and economic situation. Therefore, we discussed matters at length with an American delegation, which was headed by Under Secretary of State Professor Willard Thorp. He had an excellent staff. There was a Mr. Rubin, a Dr. Sterling, a Dr. Surienta, and a few others who were absolutely extremely helpful. Nevertheless, negotiations took four months. The document, the memoranda of understanding, was signed on the 14th of August.
The discussions resulted in certain conclusions. We signed with Mr. [Robert A.] Lovett, who was Acting Secretary of State at that time, two memoranda of
understanding, and quite a number of supplementary notes. I had a very small delegation, and that was a great advantage because seven men could do much more than if there had been one of those numerous groups which eventually impede the good cause of negotiations.
The results which were contained in the memoranda were practically alleviating a considerable number of burdens to our economy and to our financial status. And it has been, practically, a substantial assistance to the Italian economy.
In a way, I would even say it has been fundamentally political, because some of the topics which were discussed and then carried in the memoranda, have practically come to be a revision of the peace treaty in some of its clauses. The United States Government, or the American delegation, proved to be extremely generous with plenty of understanding about the Italian plight. So, I was able to obtain the waiver by the United States of some governmental claims which aggregated an amount of one billion dollars at that time. Of that total, 523 million
dollars were the Italian portion for civilian supplies furnished under military relief programs, and 305 million dollars represented claims for certain types of occupation costs. These were under the proviso of Article 79 of the peace treaty.
Then, we were able to obtain the return to Italy of a block of properties belonging to Italian nationals. These were in the aggregate amount of 60 million dollars. Also, we were able to obtain the transfer of eight Italian ships which had been seized during the war. Some of them had been eventually transferred to the belligerent nations. Moreover, 15 Liberty ships were transferred to Italy in order to replace those which had been lost during the war.
They had been seized by the United States Government, used for war necessities, and some of them had been lost. Incidentally, among those returned were two of our important passenger ships. There also were two other passenger ships, but for those two we had agreed that the American Line would, for a certain time to come, practically manage them until they were replaced by their own. Then came The
Independence and The Constitution, and then they gave them back.
Then we have one of the great achievements, incidentally. We received a very definite promise that as many Victory ships and Liberty ships as we would eventually need to purchase would be offered at a very special price in order to rebuild our merchant fleet. Our requests would be welcome. As a matter of fact, we did that. The Italian Government, in the subsequent two or three or four years, applied to that facility.
There was another element of great importance, concerning Italian credit. Credit, in the sense of prestige and credit in the financial quarters of the United States, was practically achieved because we arranged a settlement of Italian prewar bonds. Between the principal and the arrears, because we have been in default on account of the payments of interest, they aggregated around 136 million dollars. The settlement was that we declared we would start again to service such bonds, with an interest rate of 1 percent for the years 1947, '48, '49; 2 percent for
1950 and '51; and 3 percent from '52 on, plus starting from 1952 a sinking fund of 1 percent for the years 1952-56, and 2 percent from 1957 on. This has been practically putting back Italy on its feet again, in the financial markets in the United States.
Another advantage we have obtained has been the waiver of the salaries and the cost of the prisoners of war. Incidentally, there was an agreement by which the Italian agreed to pay in Italian lira such amounts, and the United States Government practically covered it with dollars. The total amount I wouldn't be able to indicate because it started with 20 million dollars which had been practically handed by Ambassador [James C.] Dunn, a few months later. But then, in the long run, other new lists of such salaries and costs came on and every time they were practically paid in dollars, while we paid in lira.
According to the clause of the peace treaty, we should have had to pay for that. Of course, there was also, for the benefit of the American nationals, the provision that Italy would return to the American owners any property which had been seized by the
Fascist regime. Then we agreed to pay five million dollars as a settlement of further claims which could not have been listed because it would have taken quite a few years to do that investigation. So, a general amount of five million dollars was arranged as being the amount we would put at the disposal of the United States Government and they would do what they would deem necessary to settle the claims existing.
That was the start of a moral engagement on the side of the Italian people. We have offered, and the offer was gladly accepted, to maintain in good order into perpetuity the United States military cemeteries, of the boys who had fallen here in Italy.
In the notes covering various topics, some of them refer in detail to the procedures of war, such agreements that we had reached in the memoranda of understanding. Besides that, as I told you, there were some notes added. One of them dealt with the problem of a draft for a treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation, which was subsequently discussed and negotiated and signed. I was, incidentally, the chief of the Italian delegation here in Rome. That
treaty, as a matter of fact, seems to have been practically the outline of other treaties of friendship, commerce, and navigation, which the United States arranged subsequently with other countries.
Then I signed an agreement by which Italy agreed to participate in the discussions for the proposed charter of the International Trade organization, and further discussions were started about the problem which subsequently had been settled by other people for the double tax convention.
Finally, I would like to point out that one important thing we had been doing there was to sketch the balance of payments of Italy, because nothing of that kind had been done. We worked with the American experts, and with my people, in order to outline it and have it as a basis for future reference.
WILSON: If I may interrupt for a moment, you did this with what expectations? As you said, just for future reference, or were you given any idea that there would be the kind of massive engagement of aid by the United States, when you were discussing these problems?
LOMBARDO: No, not at that time. We had the feeling that we were treated in an extremely generous way. I was very interested in being able to obtain the settlement of the war bonds, because I anticipated that we would need to refer to the United States for future loans. That is, incidentally, why the problem of the balance of payments came in. But we did not have the least idea about a special effort which would have been practical to provide for the fundamental necessities. You see, some negotiations took most of four months. We had information about General Marshall's speech, but we could not anticipate all that would ensue from that.
WILSON: At least at the beginning of the negotiations, did you have the feeling that on the American side, that people such as Thorp and Acting Secretary Lovett were not prepared, were not aware of what they themselves were going to be doing in the next couple of months?
LOMBARDO: No. Mr. Lovett -- I met him like two or three times at official meetings, that took place when we had to sign all the papers. Willard Thorp was very
active, or was most of the time present, or was giving directives, and we were exchanging opinions about our common work. But I did not get the impression that Willard Thorp either knew or wished eventually to share with somebody else, the information about something that was on the way of being planned. No.
WILSON: Very good. Very interesting.
What you've described was most important, obviously, and it did in effect involve a revision of the treaty of peace. What was the response in Italy to your endeavors?
LOMBARDO: Oh, it has been rather interesting, because when I came back I understood that-a tremendous fuss had been made in Italy about the results of our negotiations. Most of the people hailed such results, and eventually even anticipated--probably in the way of wishful thinking--future advantages. So the general response was extremely gratifying. But right away there was opposition, too. Mr. [Palmiro] Togliatti, for the Communist Party, started a campaign pretending that this was practically a cover to some special
understanding in the political and military field, and that in a way I had sold Italy down the river. So a polemic has come out of that. There is something I wish to tell you that in a way explains the nature of the bitter reaction by Mr. Togliatti.
The first weeks I was in Washington for negotiations, we learned that in answering an editorial written by Sumner Welles, Mr. Togliatti answered with an editorial in the Communist paper with the title "American Cretini." In English, "cretini" could be translated "morons or idiots," but they don't have the same nasty expression that the Italian language gives to that word "cretini." And it was an article attacking the Government of the United States, and the American people, and so forth and so on. of course, it caused a wide reaction in the United States. After all, here was a delegation of Italians, who more or less, on account of their Fascist government, had been at war with the United States. Here was a situation in which it was evident that the American Government was trying to find a way to help, a little bit, the Italian people. And here comes that
man with that editorial, trying evidently to play havoc on the negotiations. Well, there had been a certain coolness between the two delegations and I sent a telegram to [Alcide] de Gasperi. At that time, Premier de Gasperi was heading a coalition government, including many Socialists and some Communists. My telegrams were very harsh, and I understand that de Gasperi called Togliatti and [Pietro] Nenni, and showed them my telegrams. He asked for an immediate -- if not atonement -- at least a more civil way of political discussion. Togliatti did not want to yield. Many who were practically in his shadow, in a way, tried to do some tightrope walking. De Gasperi lost his patience and decided to resign. And this was how it happened that the Communists and the Socialists were practically booted out of the government in 1947. In a way, this is connected with the telegrams, which incidentally, for your files, I will send you. They are extra.
WILSON: Yes, very good. That's fascinating.
LOMBARDO: This is a bit of history, which from time to
time has been referred to, but not exactly. It is worthwhile seeing the telegrams.
WILSON: Yes, very good.
I see that my first question got you well into your responses; perhaps you would like to suggest how we go.
LOMBARDO: Oh, no, it's up to you, Mr. Wilson. I've tried here and there to put down some notes about the values and problems, but it's up to you which one you prefer.
WILSON: Why don't you go ahead with what you have at the beginning there.
LOMBARDO: Well, the first question: What was the political, economic and social climate into which the United States aid has been introduced? Well, politically, we had unrest, disorder, instability, and a feeling of utter insecurity. That describes the social and political situation.
Under the economic point of view, we were undergoing periods of strikes, low produc