Operation Exodus: Trieste, 1947

Only ten years ago, Trieste seemed likely to become the Sarajevo of a Third World War. Here J. Garston, a military eye-witness, describes how, thanks to a combination of tact and firmness, an apparently impossible problem was for the time being solved.

It is hard to believe that only a decade ago the problem of Trieste’s future seemed insoluble. Yet today the Italian flag flies over the Piazza Unità and the charming Triestini go about their daily affairs more concerned with earning their living than with politics.

It is an astonishing transformation for those of us who served through the dangerous days when the Jugoslav armies stood outside the city, the Communists and nationalists rioted within it, and when the short-lived Free Territory of Trieste was being painfully born. It seemed to us then that Trieste might well be the Sarajevo of World War III; and it very nearly was.

When President Roosevelt turned down Churchill’s proposal that the' Allies should launch an amphibious operation to seize Trieste and open the way to Vienna via the Lubljana Gap, he laid up much trouble for the future. It was not the Allies who entered Trieste first but Tito’s troops, elated with victory and determined to incorporate the city in Jugoslavia. Two days later, on May 2nd, 1945, Freyberg’s 2nd New Zealand Division entered Trieste at the end of a long trek which had started at El Alamein.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email digital@historytoday.com if you have any problems.