Myron Taylor and the bombing of Rome : the limits of law and diplomacy
Matthew Anthony Evangelista
Host item entries:
Diplomacy & Statecraft, Vol. 31, no 2, 2020, p. 278-305
Myron Taylor, President Franklin Roosevelt’s personal representative to Pope Pius XII, carried out a difficult and ultimately futile mission during the Second World War: to persuade the Allies to spare Rome and the Vatican from aerial bombardment. Taylor was a Cornell law graduate and prominent industrial leader, enjoying Roosevelt’s confidence and well respected by Vatican officials, including Eugenio Pacelli, whom he had met before the latter assumed his position as pope. Yet Taylor’s attempts to prevent the bombing of Rome ran counter to prevailing military strategy and ideas about the legality, morality, and efficacy of targeting civilians. Taylor nevertheless pressed his ideas on American and British leaders, offering alternatives like declaring Rome an ‘open city’ and targeting hydroelectric plants instead of cities to disrupt the Italian war effort. He conveyed the pope’s entreaties, often including thinly veiled threats to rouse worldwide Catholic opinion against the Allies were Rome harmed. This analysis tells the story of a failed but historically important effort to preserve Rome and its citizens from aerial destruction.