No. 257  NAI DFA Secretary's Files P12/8

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

ROME, 2 January 1943

It does not look as if there will be much happiness in store for us Italians in the New Year said a retired Minister Plenipotentiary to me yesterday. On every side dark clouds meet our gaze. Affairs in North Africa have gone bad enough for the Axis but it appears as if the situation in the Middle Don is developing into a major disaster. It may be, he continued, that the Germans will eventually retire to the Polish frontier where they have already prepared defences which they believe to be impregnable and from which they cannot be dislodged. North Africa will probably be lost but it will be impossible for the Anglo-Americans to obtain a foothold on the European continent because of its formidable line of fortifications. The only weakness in this line is in the Balkans where Turkey could play a preponderating role.

If the foregoing are the views prevailing in official quarters it would appear as if the Axis are already abandoning all hope of winning the war. To retire behind a ring of defences would, at best, be but a temporary expedient. How would they be able to secure the indispensable food and petrol that was promised from the Ukraine and the Caucasus? Where are the precious metals to be had for carrying on their war industries? How can they compensate their losses in man power and above all, how are they to combat the physical and mental fatigue of their overstrained and undernourished population? They prepared for war in order to procure vital space beyond their old frontiers. To be forced to live in a compound would be but a poor substitute. Even if the English and the Americans were not hammering on their walls from without they would be likely to succumb to the hundred million French, Belgians, Dutch, Czechs and other subjugated peoples gnawing from within.

Glancing back over the events of the past year and taking into consideration the destruction of the American Fleet at Pearl Harbour, the defeat of the British forces in the Western Desert, the overwhelming successes of the Japanese in the Pacific and of the Axis in South East Russia any impartial observer might reasonably conclude that the situation of the Allies was bordering on desperation. Then, compare these world resounding events with the happenings of the last two months when we find a notable change in the situation. The British have routed the Axis forces in North Africa, the Americans have frustrated all Japanese attempts to invade Australia and inflicted considerable losses on the Japanese Navy. The Allies have taken the initiative in the Atlantic and the Pacific, on land, sea and in the air. America has furnished Airplanes and war material to every country bordering the seven seas, and has secured a foothold in North Africa where she is preparing for an attack on the European Continent. The Russians have routed the Germans from their Winter quarters along a thousand mile front and have made it quite impossible for them to prepare for another Spring offensive this year. Their reverses in the region of the Don cannot be calculated in material and manpower alone.

It was the 'blitz krieg' that permitted Germany to achieve the brilliant successes of 1939-1941. That has always been the speciality of her military chiefs since the days of the great Frederick. On all fronts this process has been now reduced to one of slow motion, of wear and tear, which the German High Command has made every effort to avoid as being contrary to the genius of the German people. A famous German General said they could only win their wars by hitting out violently and never by delaying actions. They realise that once the initiative is lost their courage wavers and hope evaporates. There are many other phases of the conflict including submarine warfare which could be elaborated upon but that is scarcely necessary. Peace is still some distance away and, in the coming months, the Axis may be able to demonstrate its ability to hit back, notwithstanding, the writing on the wall is becoming from day to day more easy to decipher.

[matter omitted]

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