No. 291  NAI DFA Secretary's Files P15 (ii)

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

ROME, 2 July 1943

At the moment, the Italian authorities appear to be convinced that the Allied invasion of Sicily and Sardinia is not far distant and that combined with it will be an attempt at landing in Northern Greece and Southern France. What remains of the Italian fleet is blockaded in the Tyrrhenian Sea by the Anglo-American squadrons and some doubt that it will try to force its way out unless in a desperate attempt to thwart invasion. The Naval bases now at its disposal are subject to frequent Air Raids which makes its anchorage in any of them rather insecure.

It would appear as if the Germans fear an invasion of the Italian peninsula as they have transferred some of their troops here from France where they have been replaced by Italians. The Swedish military Attaché here estimates the number of Germans in Italy to be about half a million at present while his Swiss colleague who is more conservative says 300,000 would be nearer the mark. From an Italian Naval source I gather that the British have an invasion fleet of about 500 ships in North African ports and that supplies of men and material are pouring in daily through the Suez Canal and the Straits of Gibraltar. Due to the Allied blockade the Axis fleet is powerless to stop this inflow and the destruction of the Sicilian and Sardinian air ports has effectively limited the Luftwaffe's sphere of operations.

My Swiss colleague who has just returned from Berne tells of a conversation he has had with a Representative of the French National Committee who assured him that there are, at the moment, over 400,000 Frenchmen possessing rifles and machine guns who only await the signal of an Allied landing in France to begin operations. Half an hour after the signal is received, this man asserted, every important railway and road bridge in the country would be blown up in order to impede the transport of the occupying forces to the invasion sectors. These assertions may be exaggerated but there is little doubt of the existence of a well organised underground military force that could render invaluable assistance to the invaders. The National Committee man also said: We need to cultivate the friendship of the British now more than ever as we want them to save us from some of the indignities showered on us by those 'cochons'1 of Americans.

From the same source I have also learned that the destruction caused by the Allied air raids on the Ruhr has surpassed anything they could have hoped for. According to him there is not a single munitions factory functioning in Essen to-day and the conditions in neighbouring cities are almost as bad. Over a million persons in the Ruhr district have been rendered homeless. As a result, the German general public are said to be very depressed but the morale of the army is, on the other hand, believed to be very high. They have recovered from the miseries they experienced in last winter's Russian campaign and they are the only people in Germany who are well fed. All hopes of a spring or summer offensive have evaporated as the reserves of airplanes, munitions and men are insufficient for such an undertaking. It is true that half of the two million men caught in the comb out, six months ago, are on the Eastern front in anticipation of a Russian offensive but the remaining million have been distributed throughout the Balkans, Italy, France, etc. to help ward off the expected invasion. It is to be remarked that Germany has no longer any strategical reserve of man power on which to draw in order to maintain her Armies at full war strength. Hitherto, she was in a position to reform and re-equip her battered Divisions but from this forward it will not be possible for her to do so.

[initialled] M. M.

1 Literally 'swine'.


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