No. 309  NAI DFA Secretary's Files P12/8

Handwritten letter from Michael MacWhite to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)

ROME, 14 August 1943

Dear Joe,
We are having a hectic time here of late. With the Italo-German invasion on one side and the Allied Air attacks on the other we get little time for sleep or relaxation. Last Wednesday we had three alerts between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., on Thursday one at 11 a.m. and another at 10 p.m. both lasting for a couple of hours. Then, at 10.30 a.m. yesterday, five minutes after the Siren sounded, the bombs began to fall and on looking towards the Station I could see columns of smoke spurting up. A quarter of an hour after the first wave came a second and then a third, fourth, fifth, etc. As the station is dangerously near the Grand Hotel, the planes pass directly overhead. There were many dive bombers this time as perhaps they wanted to be more precise about their targets.

The Pope visited the bombed district immediately the 'all clear' was sounded and the poor people gathered round him calling for 'peace' and 'send us back Mussolini for two minutes'. All the Railway stations leading out of Rome were damaged. In some directions the people must go 18 kilometres to the Station. On the main line to the North one must go to Sette Bagni, 15 kilo- metres out on the Via Salaria. One of the viaducts bringing water to Rome was badly damaged. But Rome is still a paradise compared to Naples and Milan where there is neither water, gas nor electricity and very little food. Now that Rome is more or less isolated the food situation which has been deteriorating since the previous bombardment must inevitably grow worse.

Badoglio is like a man who has a bear by the tail. He can't let go without the animal turning round and mauling him. He is at the mercy of the Germans who want to keep the fighting away from German soil as long as possible. Besides, with the fine Air fields of Lombardy and Venezia in Allied hands, no part of the Reich or its satellites would be free from Air attack. An Italian Senator told me a few days ago that an Allied landing in Tuscany would permit Badoglio to capitulate. He can neither fight nor withdraw from the conflict without disaster and then there is the growing danger of Communism if the war continues.

In my telegrams I referred to a Cabinet Minister. He was the Minister of Foreign Affairs but he begged me not to mention his name as he said the Germans have a very expert decoding service who are working overtime. Our Code must be very well known to them now.

Two years ago I calculated the war could not last beyond October 1943 and I don't think I was far wrong. Germany is on the point of cracking. Hitler has according to high officials here been sending peace proposals to Stalin who will only laugh in return as his armies are now rolling westward towards the Dneiper. Discipline in Germany is breaking down. Only last Sunday night the Swedish courier told me the flying crowds smashed the windows of the Sleeping Wagon at Kassel Station after sweeping aside the police and the Gestapo. In Hamburg he says there were 75,000 killed during the Air Raids of a couple of weeks ago and over half a million fled the city hysterical, half crazy, half-naked, bootless, crying, laughing, screaming 'Stop the war ', 'We want peace' etc.

Marshall von Brauchitsch1 is believed to be organising the Army officers with the object of ousting Hitler. His consultation with the Army Chiefs at Berchtesgaden a week ago was said to have been boisterous. His intuition does not seem to be working so well lately. It seems to me that he will soon be obliged to withdraw his troops from many of the occupied countries to prevent a Russian invasion of the Reich just as the Romans were obliged to withdraw their Legions from Britain and Gaul in an effort to stem another invasion fifteen hundred years ago.

If the war ends with 1943 the world economic situation despite the destruction may be able to be restored but another year's fighting will ruin it irreparably. Even the United States with all its resources will find its post war economic difficulties increased a hundred fold.

The efforts of the Pope to have Rome declared an open city are making progress. If successful the King and Government must go elsewhere and the Chiefs of Missions may have to accompany them. It would be a change perhaps to being cooped up here with a temperature of from 75 to 95 with little water, and windows closed at night because of the 'black out' and 'curfew'. The wife of the Turkish Counsellor was shot dead because her husband did not pull up the car immediately on being challenged. It is now 11.10 a.m. Saturday and the Siren has begun again. They are probably coming over to see the damage they did yesterday.

With kindest regards
MICHAEL

1 Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch (1881-1948), Commander in Chief of the Wehrmacht Heer the land forces component of the Wehrmacht.


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