Fascists ask U.S. to close 2 consulates (2-15-41)

Reading Eagle (February 16, 1941)

Posts at Palermo and Naples, designated as war zones, affected
Rail traffic suspended in area where British ‘chutists landed
Rome, Feb. 15 (AP) –
The only two United States consulates south of Rome are closing their doors at the request of Italian authorities, it was learned in reliable quarters tonight.

The consulates are at Naples, the west coast port, and at Palermo, on the Sicilian shore. The office at Naples is a Consulate General.

This was understood to be a sequel to the expulsion of foreign residents of the zones, which have been designed as war areas. Already, all foreigners, including diplomats, are forbidden to travel without special permission outside of those places where they are in residence.

Closing is ‘probable’

The United States Embassy declined to comment (the State Department in Washington said it was “probable” the consulates would be closed, but that definite action had not yet been taken).

Earlier (although there was no apparent connection) freight traffic was suspended in southern Italy along several lines in the area where posses of Black Shirts have rounded up British parachute-dynamiters who, authorities said, were intent on disrupting communications.

The ‘chutist roundup took place early this week, according to official accounts, and there have been no subsequent reports of troops having been dropped.

All Fascist Black Shirt formations in the zione southeast of Naples took part in rounding up and capturing these parachute troops, it was announced officially.

Acceptance of freight was suspended on all lines connecting Brindisi, Bari, Taranto (the naval base), Foggia and Lecce as well as on all stations in Naples because of the “present transportation situation and forwarding difficulties.”

The High Command yesterday said that an undisclosed number of parachutists had been dropped in the Calabria-Lucania region of southern Italy on the night of February 10, equipped with machine guns, hand grenades and explosives.

All these, it was stated, were captured before they could do any damage (the Rome radio mentioned, specifically, 19 captures).

They were described as “nuclei of parachutists.”

Military sources said, however, that the regular military uniforms which the men wore would save them from the fate of spies. They will be treated as regular prisoners of war, it was said.

The newspaper Il Tevere reassured Italians that “dropping a few clusters” of parachutists did not constitute a real military danger.