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Letter to Committee Chairmen on the Need for Continuing Aid to Italy.

June 24, 1952

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I have been advised that a centerless grinding machine was shipped from Italy to Rumania after the effective date of the Mutual Defense Assistance Control Act of 1951 (the Battle Act). This grinding machine is an item listed by the Administrator, pursuant to Title I of the Battle Act, as one embargoed in order to effectuate the purposes of the Act. Any shipment of any such items listed automatically results in all military, economic and financial assistance to Italy being cut off, unless I determine, in accordance with the powers granted to me by Section 103(b) of the Act, that "cessation of aid would clearly be detrimental to the security of the United States". The Administrator of the Act has advised me that aid to Italy should be continued. He made this recommendation after consultation with representatives of the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce; the Office of Defense Mobilization, the Mutual Security Agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, the Central Intelligence Agency, Export-Import Bank, and the National Security Resources Board.

For your information, I am attaching a report of the Administrator of the Battle Act to me. This report sets forth the facts in this case, together with his recommendation thereon.

After studying the report of the Administrator, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 103(b) of the Battle Act, I have directed that assistance by the United States to Italy be continued. In reaching this determination, I have taken into account "the contribution of such country to the mutual security of the free world, the importance of such assistance to the security of the United States, the strategic importance of imports received from countries of the Soviet bloc, and the adequacy of such country's controls over the export to the Soviet bloc of items of strategic importance."

Very sincerely yours,


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Kenneth McKellar, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Honorable Richard B. Russell, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Honorable Tom Connally, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Honorable Clarence Cannon, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the Honorable Carl Vinson, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and the Honorable James P. Richards, Chairman of the House foreign Affairs Committee.

The attached report of Averell Harriman, Director for Mutual Security and administrator of the Battle Act, was also released. The report concluded that although the grinding machine in question could be used in connection with the manufacture of war materials, one such machine would not add significantly to the overall Soviet war potential. The report also found that the original contract for the machine was entered into before passage of the Battle Act and that by the time the United States took steps to persuade the Italian Government to cancel the order, the payment for the grinder had been 75 percent completed. Nevertheless, the Italian Government agreed to a temporary delay in shipment which, when it expired, was followed by an agreement with the United States on a further delay. The Italian Government issued a staying order which reached the customs control at the frontier too late to prevent export.

The report cited the considerations taken into account in the decision that cessation of aid would be detrimental to the security of the United States:

1. Italy, a key member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, required U.S. aid to increase its production and build up its defense forces within the structure of NATO.

2. United States assistance had contributed substantially to the stability of the present anti-Communist Government in Italy, and the withdrawal of defense support would be reflected in a weakening of the Democratic forces in the country.

3. Italian exports to the Communist bloc made up only 4 percent of the total export trade, and imports from the bloc were of the type which would be difficult to secure from other sources.

4. The Italian export controls were limiting shipments to the bloc of imports from the West, with particular emphasis on items of a strategic nature.

Harry S. Truman, Letter to Committee Chairmen on the Need for Continuing Aid to Italy. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231050

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