No. 296  NAI DFA Secretary's Files P12/8

Letter from Michael MacWhite to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(Personal and Confidential)

ROME, 15 July 1943

The invasion of Sicily has, at last, obliged the mass of the Italian public to realise the seriousness of their military situation. Up till now they appeared indifferent and the enemy was so far away. Besides, the German army was invincible. To-day things have somewhat changed. The Allies have planted their feet solidly on Italian soil. The patriotism of the people has been stirred. The morale has improved, too late however to be of any particular service.

Three weeks ago the Duce assured the Fascist leaders that any enemy soldier who polluted the sacred soil of Italy would not live to tell the tale. This was but a repetition of the cry from the other side of the Alps that the European fortress was unassailable.
[matter omitted]

Some of the best informed military attachés here are of the opinion that the campaign in Sicily will be over within five or six weeks, in which case the invaders will have several alternatives. The most likely is that of the Balkans. Any attack on this peninsula presupposes, however, the invasion of Calabria and Crete in order to have the flanks well protected. Should the invasion of France precede that of the Balkans then it is expected that Sardinia and Corsica will be the first objectives.

Roosevelt's assurance to the Pope that the neutrality of the Vatican City will be respected has caused considerable embarrassment in Vatican circles where, it is rumoured, opinion is divided as to whether a reply should be sent. Some of the Monsignori feel that it was a move to get the Holy Father to make a pronouncement which would provoke Axis resentment. In any case, if a reply is to be sent it is doubtful that it will be as effusive as the Allies might have expected.

[initialled] M. M.

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