Allied Occupation of Fiume




Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, Staunton, Virginia


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Memorandum to accompany extracts from reports received from Rear Admiral Bullard, Commander, US Naval Forces Eastern Mediterranean.

The enclosed report from Rear Admiral Bullard, it will be noted, is his personal opinion formed from the evidence given before the commission of four Admirals by the various prominent officers on duty in and about Fiume, regarding conditions at that place. Rear Admiral Bullard states that he thinks that the final report of the Commission will be practically along the lines of his personal opinion.

In addition to this report I am sending extracts from other official reports from Rear Admiral Bullard, which indicate the conditions existing in that area, as well as his views concerning the reasons for such conditions.

I think it only right to state that Rear Admiral Bullard is an officer of excellent judgment and very conservative, both in forming and expressing his views on important matters. When he first assumed duty in the Adriatic, he was decidedly pro-Italian, so that his conclusions, or change of mind, must be due to actual facts and conditions and not to any preconcieved prejudices.

The Commission appointed to hold an inquiry and make report to the Allied Governments showing clearly what is the existing situation and what measures it is necessary to take to safeguard against disagreement or trouble in any territories of the Adriatic occupied or to be occupied by Allied forces outside of those mentioned in Article III of the Austrian Armistice terms, has finished its labors as far as the City of Fiume and the surrounding district is concerned.

Existing situations.

1. The existing situation depends on previous conditions and acts which are set forth in the various statements.

2. The only military grounds for the occupying of Fiume is found in Clause IV of the Military Terms of the Armistice which reads in part:

“The Armies of the Associated Powers shall occupy such stragtegic points in Austria-Hungary at such times as they may deem necessary to enable them to conduct military operations or to maintain order.”

There were no statements to the effect that Fiume was occupied by the Allies and the United States for any strategical reasons to enable them to conduct military operations; therefore the occupation, if justified at all, must rest on the proposition of maintaining order.

3. The Austro-Hungarian Government abandoned Fiume on Ocotober 29, 1918, and a Jugo-Slav Government was then formed under directions received from the National Council of Zagabria with a Jugo-Slav Governor.

4. In the inverval between November 15, 1918, and the 17th of November, there was a Serbian battalion in Fiume.

5. Fiume was occupied by the Italians on November 17, 1918, and later by troops of American and British Nationality. There are now no Serbian troops in Fiume.

6. The presence of other troops than the Italians lends an air of Allied occupancy, but the great preponderance of Italians troops, ships, and sailors, and the way they are utilized nullifies the Allied character.

7. There are at present in Fiume or the surrounding district 9,582 Italian troops, 1,100 American troops and 650 English troops.

8. There are about 3,124 French troops, but they do not form part of the Allied force in operation under the orders of the Superior Allied Commander.

9. There is no disorder in Fiume worthy of that name and there was not sufficient disorder before the first occupation by the Italians which warranted the occupation then or since of such a large force of troops or which could not have been quieted by the local police force with the aid of Serbian troops at that time in Fiume, and the Committee therefore decides that the occupation was for political reasons.

10. After the Italian occupation, the former Jugo-Slav Governor was removed, a new Italian National Council was formed and the functions of the civil government are now carried on by these in connection with an Italian Municipal Government.

11. All the functions of civil government including operation of railways, the post, telegraph, dock and harbor facilities, police, etc., are carried on by the present civil government which is composed entirely of Italian sympathisers and in which the Jugo-Slavs have no representation. In addition to the civil police, there is a military police, guarding certain sections of the city and buildings, composed of soldiers of Italian, English, French and American nationalities. While it is claimed that the Italian National Council and the Municipal Government is administered entirely separate from the Military sources, there are statements to show that the military authorities are represented in the Railway Commission, the administration of the harbor and water activities, there is a Secret Military Police under the Military, and the Military authorities exercise a post and press censorship.

12. The French have no troops in Fiume as part of the so-called Allied Occupation, but in connection with the establishment of a base for the movement of personnel, stores and supplies.

13. The American troops are operating as part of the Italian Army and not as an independent allied command.

14. The Committee does not believe that the occupation of Fiume and surroundihng district is an Allied occupation in the correct sense of the term, and was not, and is not, justified by any terms of the armistice.

15. Complete order reigns in the town and the food supplies seem satisfactory. The labor conditions are difficult; labor is scarce and laborers are asking 20-25 shillings a day. The streets are filled with soldiers and idle civilians, and the population will probably not settle down until the fate of Fiume is decided. The Italian and Jugo-Slavs do not fraternize at all, and intense hatred exists between the two nationalities.

Measures recommended to safeguard against disagreement of trouble.If the occupation was not justified by any terms of the Armistice, and was solely for political reasons, the only logical thing to do would be to return to conditions before the occupation.

For the best interests of all concerned however, the Committee finds it best to recommend, that:

1. The niumber of Italian troops be at once reduced to a number approximating those of other Nations, that is to say, to 1200-1500 men.

2. Reduction in the number of Italian ships and crews to more nearly conincide with those of other Nations, say, a cruiser and two destroyers.

3. The French be requested to furnish a battalion approximately equal in number to that of the other Nations to form part of the Allied Occupation. These to be independent of any troops in trqansit.

4. The American troops to be detached as part of the Italian Army and given an independent status.

5. A battalion of Serbian troops should serve as part of the Allied Occupation.

6. The Allied troops be placed under the command of an Allied General othoer than Italian.

7. Every obstacle should be removed that stands in the way of the establishment of a base for the French.

8. The Italian National Council be abolished, and the Municipal Government should be a coalition government with proper representation in it by the Jugo-Slavs, and the Military factions entirely separated from the Municipal Government.

9. A civilian Governor be appointed from one of the A,llied Powers, preferably either English or American.

10. The removal of all unnecessary Italian flags, all placards and sky-signs forming propaganda, restriction of Italian demonstrations, and control of the press to avoid exciting the people. Regulation of labor conditions and encouragement of industries. Removal of all restrictions discriminating against Jugo-Slavs, and a general policy of conciliation recommended./s/



Chief of Naval Operations.

Subject: Report Conditions Eastern Adriatic.

Enclosures: (2) My report on Committee of Inquiry.

Minutes of meetings of Committee of Inquiry.

1. There was a meeting of the Naval Committee this morning, but it developed little but talk. It was the expectation that the Committee might commence its deliberation on what they had found as existing conditions at Fiume and submit recommendations, but the French Admiral Ratye stated that he had received a much garbled telegram from his government which indicated that he should insist on a thorough examination into certain events which occurred just prior to the occupation by the Italians. The suspected character of this evidence was not relished by the Italian Admiral who strenuously objected, but I associated myself with Admiral Ratye and supported his wish. I know the character of the evidence and it has already been forwarded in reports, but I welcomed a chance to get it on this record, and Admiral Kiddle, though wishing to hurry to get on to deliberations, withdrew any objections and requested a certain officer to appear. It was at this point that Admiral Mola said he could not participate without further instructions from Rome. A postponement was agreed to allow him to communicate, but if, as I suspect, he will not be allowed to take part in further meetings where this officer will testify, the remainder of the Committee will proceed without him, making note that he abstained from any participation.

2. The rest of the sitting was taken up in discussion as to the method of procedure to be followed in arriving at conclusions and proposals, and it was finally agreed that each member should draw up his own conclusions and recommendations, and there should then be an interchange for purpose of comparison, I shall insist that when this occurs that the meeting shall continue until finally finished, as I do not care to give my own views except for purposes of the record and certainly not to have them sent to Rome in advance of the Committee’s report.

3. I have prepared my own report and send a copy in this by special courier. I may mention that there has already been an unofficial exhange of views both with the French and English, and I am pleased to report they are generally in accord. The French Admiral stated it generally met his views, but that it needed a little oil. This I interpret to mean that ist is perhaps too direct and brusque but it contains my honest thoughts based on statements before the Committee. The English language is far more suitable for expressing one’s thought in a positive, direct manner than any of the latin languages which sometimes consume four or five minutes of talk to say “Yes” or “No.”

4. I regret thqat I am unable as yet to send you a complete official copy of the minutes of the meetings, but it is slow work getting it together and there is so much translation to do. I thought I had found a good translator, when as a matter of fact, he is terrible, but I trust the sense may be made. I enclose with this the minutes, unofficial but complete, up to the last day, and we are rather proud of the fact we have done so well. The French, English and myself simply had to get together and furnish our own stenographers and then by comparison put the puzzle together, and I presume at some future date we will all have an official Italian copy.

5. Captain Boyd arrived today in the GREGORY from Venice and will remain here until the arrival of the OLYMPIA. He gave me your memorandum which I shall faithfully follow.

6. As I reported in my daily despatch, Adriatic 54, the French, English and American Admirals are watching closely the developments at Spalato and about which I have previously reported. The Italians still insist on keeping destroyerrs there but as yet I believe they do not go ashore and so no complications arise, but it would add to my peace of mind if they would go away altogether.

7. I am sending the requisitioned ship the BUON PADRE to Spalato tomorrow with stores for the two ex-Austro-Hungarian ships. The GREGORY will take special courier to Venice on Tuesday and then return to her station at Pola. The LUCE returns to her station at Cattaro tomorrow carrying stores for our troops there and also as passengers several persons of the Food Commission, including Colonel Atwood. All ship movements were suspended today on account of extremely boisterous weather.

8. In hunting around for better means of telegraphic communication, I find that the French radio station at Toulon can easily be reached by the BIRMINGHAM, and we have several tims called and received reply, but that station will never take a message from us. If you could arrange in Paris so that we could have a schedule with that station both for outgoing and incoming messages, I believe our line of communication would be much improved, as then it would only mean a short land wire transmission and probably go direct from Toulon to Paris, and particularly it would escape Italian operators which I do not at all trust, not to speak of the Hungarian ones on this end of the land line./s/


Copies to: Force Commander (1)Files (2)



Bullard, William Hannum Grubb, 1866-1927, “Allied Occupation of Fiume,” 1919 January 9, WWP15602, Cary T. Grayson Papers, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.