Chapter VI
Hemisphere Defense Problems

The Ogdensburg Declaration directed the Permanent Joint Board on Defense to make studies of the military problems involved in "the defense of the north half of the Western Hemisphere," As has been pointed out, a strict interpretation of this phrase would have resulted in planning embracing Central America, the Caribbean area, and South America to approximately the Amazon River. But in practice the Permanent Joint Board declined to take cognizance of the defense problems of any of Latin America and of much of the United States. Its studies were in fact limited to about that part of North America, excluding Greenland, north of a line through New York City and Portland, Oregon. Common military problems in other parts of the Western Hemisphere were discussed and acted upon in other forums and through other channels.

In the U.S.-Canadian diplomatic discussions soon after the fall of France but long before the United States entered the war as a formal belligerent, Prime Minister King took up with U.S. Minister Moffat the need to prevent Germany from establishing bases in Greenland, Iceland, and the West Indies and the possibility that U.S. action might be desirable. Canada had already, as a consequence of the disastrous events of May 1940, sent forces to Iceland and an infantry battalion, the Winnipeg Grenadiers, to Jamaica. At the time of these discussions the United Kingdom was pressing for more Canadian troops to reinforce Iceland and to replace the British troops that had been sent to the Dutch oil-refining island of Aruba, off the coast of Venezuela. King was dubious about the latter action and proceeded to clear it with Washington, but he was even more concerned about the idea of sending so much of Canada's military strength out of Canada. Nevertheless, in accordance with the United Kingdom request, King was at first prepared to send troops to Aruba by transferring the Canadian battalion from Jamaica.1

On 5 July Moffat, who had just returned from Washington, reported to King on the Aruba matter. The United States, he said, was developing a method for establishing trusteeships over territories in the Western Hemisphere that might be threatened with transfer from one non-American state


to another. The trusteeship plan was to be considered by the conference of foreign ministers of the American states which was to be held later in July at Havana to consider the needs of the new situation in Europe. King welcomed the trusteeship plan, for it promised to relieve Canada of the need to provide garrisons such as that for Aruba.2 Canada thus looked with interest to the proceedings at Havana, and after the conference it limited Canadian garrisons in the Caribbean to those in British possessions.

The Twenty-second Chair

At the beginning of World War II, the Pan American Union included twenty Latin American republics and the United States. Traditionally, the Pan American Union had long anticipated the possibility of Canadian membership and, for the reason, had maintained in storage a twenty-second chair, identical with the other twenty-one chairs, to seat the Canadian representative. In addition, when the Pan American Union Building in Washington was constructed in 1910, a frieze bordering the patio was installed that included the coat of arms of Canada with those of the twenty-one member states.

Proposals for Canadian membership in the Pan American Union made before World War II were unsuccessful at least in part because of U.S. opposition. The U.S. delegation to the 1928 international conference of American states had been instructed to oppose membership for Canada or any European dependency or colony on the ground that it would inject the influence and policies of a European state into a forum devoted to problems of the Western Hemisphere.3 At the 1933 conference, Canadian membership had been proposed and approved in subcommittee, but the proposal was dropped after the U.S. delegation asked for a reconsideration.4 For the same reasons advanced in 1928, the United States continued to oppose Canadian membership up until, and after, the beginning of World War II.5 Canadian interest in membership, which persisted until the eve of World War II, appears to have been based largely on geographical grounds and on the increasing importance of Canadian-Latin American trade relations.


With the outbreak of war the inter-American organization became vitally concerned with defense measures. In September 1939 the foreign ministers of the American republics met at Panama and acted on measures relating to defense and neutrality. After the fall of France a second similar conference was scheduled at Havana.

Announcement of the Havana Conference aroused anew discussions in Canada of proposals for Canadian membership in the Pan American Union. Despite Canada's desire to attend the meeting, the United States discouraged Canadian participation in the Havana Conference. When questioned about it in the House of Commons, Prime Minister King frankly stated his belief that official Canadian participation "would be embarrassing to the United States and to the South American republics" and would be construed as a sign of Canadian weakness.6 Canada sent Professor Percy Corbett to the Havana meetings as an unofficial observer, and he discussed the possibility of Canadian membership with many of the officials present. Corbett found a sympathetic attitude among those officials but no feeling that formal Canadian participation in inter-American proceedings was important. On the other hand, he encountered considerable comment on Canada's status as a belligerent and a member of the British Commonwealth.7

Although the United States had opposed Canadian membership in the Pan American Union, President Roosevelt and State Department officers during 1941 urged Canada to play a greater role in Latin America. They encouraged Canada to co-operate in the war effort by extending Canadian diplomatic representation in that area and by taking other measures. Between September 1941 and January 1942 Canada exchanged diplomatic missions with Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, and it also signed trade agreements with those countries in the interest of expanding trade relations in the postwar period.8

When a third meeting of the foreign ministers of the American states to be held at Rio de Janeiro in January 1942 was announced, considerable Canadian press comment in favor of formal Canadian participation appeared.9


The Canadian Government clearly indicated to the United States on several occasions during December and January its desire to participate or, alternately, to become a member of the Pan American Union. Several of the other American republics had offered to propose that Canada be invited to participate, but the Canadian Government first wished to be assured of U.S. support. Despite his recent encouragement of closer Canadian-Latin American relations, President Roosevelt told Mr. King that he felt bringing in a member of the Commonwealth would be a mistake. The Prime Minister, who had hoped that the United States would welcome Canadian participation, accepted Roosevelt's decision.10

As to the attitude of other American states, Sumner Welles reported as the consensus of his discussions with all of the key delegates at Rio de Janeiro the conclusion that nothing official should be done until the end of the war.11 Yet two months later Canada again raised the question of closer Canadian collaboration with the inter-American machinery, on the ground that it was continuing to receive expressions of interest, particularly from the larger Latin. American countries, in seeing such collaboration. United States officials could only explain the contradictory reports by suggesting that the Latin American countries were talking differently to Canada and to the United States.12

It was at their January 1942 meeting that the foreign ministers established the Inter-American Defense Board, to comprise service representatives of the twenty-one member countries. This board was to have its seat in Washington and was to study and make recommendations concerning necessary defense measures.13 In military as well as in other collective measures in the prosecution of the war effort, the hemisphere machinery was to continue to lack the cog representing one of the most important American states.

Sections of the Canadian press took the government to task for what they concluded was Canadian reluctance or outright refusal to accept membership


in the Pan American Union.14 The Prime Minister hinted at the truth when he informed the House of Commons: "There have been times quite recently when we might have expected invitations but were given reasons why it would not be advisable to have an invitation extended. That position still exists to a certain extent, for reasons which I cannot publicly explain."15

United States policy both before and after the Rio de Janeiro meeting apparently was based on concern over the possible intrusion of the United Kingdom into Pan American affairs through a Canada subservient in foreign policy matters. The Department of State could cite a number of incidents that appeared to support such a possibility. In one instance, after the establishment of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, a senior Canadian Army officer had suggested that British representatives should participate in the Board, since the Canadian Government had no secrets from the British Government.16 In another, the St. Pierre-Miquelon affair, Canada more or less openly agreed that the suggested United Kingdom solution would be acceptable.17 United States concern over United Kingdom intrusion into Pan American affairs may have also been strengthened by the offer, made by British Ambassador Halifax to Sumner Welles, of assistance through the British diplomatic missions in South America in helping the United States to realize its objectives at the Rio meeting. Welles received the offer coolly, stating that he would notify Lord Halifax if British assistance appeared useful.18 Whatever the intended purpose of the approach to Welles, it appears likely that it did not encourage a favorable U.S. attitude on the question of Canadian participation.

After the Rio de Janeiro Conference the question of Canadian participation in inter-American affairs remained dormant for over a year, until the latter half of 1943. At that time several speeches by Canadian officials suggested that the Canadian people would like to see Canada in the Pan American Union and pointed out that Canada's position in the Commonwealth should not be a barrier since her policy was no longer determined in Downing Street.19 In analyzing the speeches, the U.S. chargé, d'affaires agreed that Canadian policy was not determined by the British where questions affected vital Canadian interests, but he felt that, when this was not the case, Canada still tended to follow British guidance.20


In view of the speeches by Canadian Government officials and of the increasing press interest in Canadian membership in the Pan American Union, especially in Quebec, newly accredited Ambassador Ray Atherton initiated a redefinition of the U.S. position at the beginning of 1944.21 On the advice of Secretary of State Hull, the new ambassador outlined to Prime Minister King the U.S. Government's doubt as to the feasibility of bringing up the question in the light of wartime conditions and its conclusion that the question could be discussed fully after the war. King confirmed these views as exactly his own, since it appeared to him to be a time for considering global rather than regional problems.22 The flurry of speeches by Canadian Government officials had nevertheless indicated a real interest in Latin America, for during 1944 Canada resumed the expansion of Canadian diplomatic representation in that area.23

During the last year of the war the Department of State seemed somewhat more sympathetic toward Canadian membership in the inter-American system. Also, the necessary support from the Latin American countries appeared assured.24 But during the inter-American conference held at Mexico City in February-March 1945, when Chile sponsored a resolution calling for Canadian admission to the Pan American Union, it was transformed, at U.S. instance, into a resolution (XXII of the Final Act) that paid tribute to the Canadian war effort and expressed the wish that Canadian collaboration with the Pan American system should become ever closer.25

By that time the tide of Canada's Pan American aspirations was ebbing. A public opinion poll taken in Canada in January 1944 had indicated that only 28 percent of those polled knew what the Pan American Union was, although the great majority of them favored Canadian membership. As


official Canadian interest cooled, King was able to cite the need for wider general appreciation in Canada of the purposes and responsibilities of the Pan American Union as a condition precedent to active Canadian interest in membership.26

The adoption of the Act of Chapultepec at Mexico City in March 1945 may have helped produce a further change in the Canadian attitude. In the light of the new obligations that Canada would assume under the United Nations charter, the additional obligations entailed under the Act of Chapultepec received careful study. Opinions in government and other informed circles in Canada were widely divided on the question of Canadian participation in the inter-American system. Press comment on the question diminished considerably after March 1945, and it ceased to be a political issue.27

The question of Canadian admission to the Pan American Union during World War II seems to have been considered by both countries primarily in terms of considerations other than military. The U.S. War and Navy Departments never urged Canadian participation as advantageous in dealing with hemisphere defense problems, and the Permanent Joint Board on Defense recorded no discussions on the subject. As for Canada, a 1949 official publication cited the growth of Canadian interest in Latin America as one of the significant developments in the expansion of Canada's international relations. This publication described the wartime growth of direct Canadian diplomatic representation replacing the earlier representation through United Kingdom representatives. It pointed out the very considerable increase in the volume of trade and the emphasis that had been placed upon cultural relations. Insofar as security problems were concerned, it made no comment on Canadian interest in the over-all defense requirements of the hemisphere. In the postwar period, the article stated, Canada should keep under review the defense requirements of the northern part of the hemisphere through the Permanent Joint Board on Defense and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Through the United Nations, Canada could keep in close contact and regularly exchange views with Latin American delegations on problems affecting their security.28


Although the available evidence is far from complete, it suggests that Canadian interest in participating in the inter-American system during World War II was based on economic and political motives, rather than on the possibility of a greater or more effective Canadian contribution to over-all hemisphere security. Partly because it had discouraged a greater Canadian defense contribution in Latin America before Pearl Harbor, the United States found it necessary to supply most of the defense needs that could not be met by the Latin American countries themselves.29

Securing Greenland

In May 1939, when the U.S. Senate considered a resolution calling for initiation of negotiations with Denmark for the purchase of Greenland, the War Department in commenting on the proposal stated that any "strategic advantage as would accrue . . . would be negligible, and in any event unnecessary." It also held that Greenland was so undeveloped and so far on the flank of sea and air routes that its possession by a hostile power would not constitute a significant threat.30 Events were not to support the War Department's appraisal, and before long both Canada and the United States became actively interested in Greenland on three counts:

  1. Protection of the cryolite mines at Ivigtut. These mines represented the only important natural source of cryolite, which was essential in the production of aluminum.

  2. Use of air-base and weather and communications stations there in connection with ferrying aircraft across the North Atlantic.

  3. Denial of its use, for weather and communications purposes, to the Germans.

The German occupation of Denmark on 8-9 April 1940, after the many months of lull in the "phony war," focused attention on the fate of Greenland. Secretary of State Hull, on 13 April, informed Canadian Minister Loring Christie (and the British Embassy as well) that the United States did not recognize the right of any third government, even Canada or the United


Kingdom, to occupy or otherwise interfere in Greenland. A few days later the Canadian Government, which had been requested to do so by the United Kingdom, advised the United States that it was concerned over the security of the cryolite mines, the danger that Germany might establish bases in Greenland, and the relief needs of the Greenland inhabitants, who had been deprived of their export markets. Canada, Ottawa told Washington, was therefore considering dispatch of a small defense force for the duration of the war, during which time Canada would act "as a trustee for a restored and independent Danish Government." Canada gave assurance that it would not send the force without notifying, or before receiving the views of, the United States. But it would not commit itself not to send the force if such action appeared necessary.31

The U.S. Government was extremely anxious that no action of this kind be taken by Canada since it might offer an excuse to other large countries for taking over colonial territories of occupied European countries. Canada accepted the U.S. view on the condition that the United States would assume the responsibility of meeting the threats that might arise. The American Red Cross at the same time began a study of the relief problem in Greenland.32

Concurrently, the Danish Minister in Washington, Henrik de Kauffmann, was suggesting to Secretary Hull that a U.S. protectorate be established over the island. Hull opposed the action on the same grounds he had voiced to Canada. The local governments in Greenland, the Greenland Councils, were likewise concerned over the security of the island and, on 3 May 1940, also sought U.S. protection. The United States declined to furnish it but instead arranged for the installation of a consul and vice consul at Godthaab.33

The worsening military situation in Europe, together with conflicting U.S. views on the defense responsibility for Greenland, impelled the Canadians to act. Whereas Department of State representatives had stated that the United States would take any action needed in Greenland, President Roosevelt had told Prime Minister King that he expected the British Navy to repel a German attack.34 Still confused as to U.S. policy after a further inquiry, Canada


on 19 May informed the United States of the dispatch of a Hudson's Bay Company ship, the RMS Nascopie, to call in Greenland and land a Canadian consul there.

The Nascopie had arrived at Ivigtut when, on 3 June, the Governments of North and South Greenland, already disturbed by this event, learned of the approach of the Danish vessel Julius Thomsen under control of a British prize crew and formally requested the United States to establish a garrison at Ivigtut to protect the cryolite mines. In discussions with the United States, Canada, too, indicated its concern over the vulnerability of the mines to attack by raiding parties and offered assistance in defending them.35

To some U.S. officials, the Canadian interest in Greenland seemed to be related, at least in part, to a desire to expand the Canadian economic position in Greenland and to oust U.S. commercial interests at Ivigtut in favor of the Aluminium Company of Canada. Meetings for the purpose of working out an equitable arrangement for disposition of the output of cryolite had already been held in New York City by representatives of the Departments of State and External Affairs, the Greenland Governments, the Aluminium Company of Canada, and the Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Company, the American processor of the cryolite. It was the conduct of these meetings that had served to arouse U.S. suspicions.36

In any event and in response to the Greenland request, the USS Campbell was dispatched to Greenland. Its arrival on 7 June apparently served to allay the concern of the authorities in Greenland, where no change in the status quo took place. A few months later Secretary of State Hull nevertheless considered it necessary, because of British operations designed to eliminate and insure against German activities on the east coast of Greenland and in adjacent waters, to reaffirm to Canada and the United Kingdom the position he had stated on 13 April.37

By the summer of 1940, interest was developing in air-base sites in Greenland for use' in transatlantic flight operations. Definite proposals were initially made in August 1940. During that month, Capt. J. K. Lacey of the U.S. Army Air Corps made a survey seeking suitable sites. On 27 August the Canadian Government informed the United States of a British desire to establish an air base for use in ferrying short-range aircraft and asked if there


was any objection to an approach to the Greenland authorities for approval of a survey by Canada. Although the War Department had no objections, the Department of State suggested that the Canadian survey be delayed until the U.S. Army survey report was completed. This had the practical effect of delaying a Canadian survey until the following spring.38 During October 1940, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Northland made an additional survey of potential air-base sites.

In January 1941 the Canadian Government renewed the British and Canadian proposal, stating that it was prepared to construct the desired facilities, to have the United State construct them, or to have the Greenland authorities construct them with U.S. assistance.39 In presenting the problem to the President and the Secretary of State, Assistant Secretary of State Adolf A. Berle, Jr., expressed the conviction that Canada would seize the Greenland sites unless the United States acted. His recommendation that the Greenland authorities be asked to establish the facilities needed with U.S. assistance was approved.40 The United States advised Canadian authorities of this decision and of its relation to the Monroe Doctrine, to the neutral status of Greenland, and to inter-American defense. Since Canada was a nation of the Western Hemisphere and provided a vital part of the hemisphere's defenses, facilities that would be built could be used by that country under the usual neutrality rules. The Canadian officials, when informed also that the problem was already under discussion with the Greenland authorities, expressed their satisfaction with the solution.41

While the necessary arrangements were being negotiated with the Danish and Greenland authorities, U.S. interdepartmental committees studied the problem. They concluded that, because of the complexity of considerations of defense, jurisdiction, and operation and maintenance of the facilities, construction by the Greenland authorities was impracticable and should be undertaken by the United States.42 The Department of State presented to and discussed with Greenland authorities a draft agreement based on that approach. It was signed in Washington on 9 April 1941 by Secretary of State Hull and Minister Kauffmann, who, although he had been repudiated



by the new Danish Government after the German occupation of Denmark, was still recognized by the United States as the representative of the King of Denmark. In the agreement, the United States related its acceptance of responsibility for the status of Greenland to the Act of Havana of 30 July 1940. Declaration XX of the Act of Havana had authorized emergency action by any of the American republics to forestall threatened transfer of territory in the Western Hemisphere.43 The agreement also provided for use of the facilities to be constructed by "airplanes and vessels of all the American Nations for purposes connected with the common defense of the Western Hemisphere." The use of the term "American Nations," rather than the usual Pan American Union usage of "American Republics," brought Canada within the scope of this provision.44


In announcing the agreement, the Department of State revealed that German bomber reconnaissance aircraft had flown over the east coast of Greenland on several occasions not two weeks before the signing. German activity on the island had on the whole diminished after the British seized the German-controlled but Norwegian-manned weather stations in the summer of 1940. Nevertheless, sporadic air reconnaissance thereafter had indicated continued German interest.45

In anticipation of the signing of the agreement a South Greenland Survey Expedition had left Boston on 17 March to make the detailed surveys. The Secretary of War had received an allocation of $5 million from the President's emergency fund to permit work to be started at the beginning of the short construction season.46 As a result of the work of the South Greenland Survey Expedition, the U.S. Army dispatched a force of 473 officers and men, mostly Engineer construction troops, which arrived on 8 July 1941. By the end of 1941 the garrison totaled approximately 700, and the airfield at Narsarssuak was usable by all types of aircraft. Eventually, military development included five installations on Greenland's east coast and eight on its west coast.47

Prompted by the Bismarck affair and other enemy activity in the Greenland area, Canada made one more approach to the United States, in May 1941, requesting immediate consideration of the need for reinforcement of the defenses at the cryolite mines. The Canadians indicated that, as before, they were ready to provide a Canadian garrison immediately and in other ways to co-operate in strengthening the defenses. The United States declined the Canadian offer of assistance with appreciation and made arrangements to disclose the military measures planned by the United States to Canadian officials through military channels.48

The arrival in Greenland of the initial U.S. garrison and its subsequent reinforcement apparently allayed Canadian concern. Other developments served to reduce the security requirements for Greenland. The strengthened Allied military position in the North Atlantic, at least insofar as German


surface operations were concerned, reduced the German threat. By mid-1942 the U.S. domestic output of synthetic cryolite had reached the rate of 35,000 tons annually, which about equaled the U.S. share of the annual cryolite output in Greenland. Although increasing needs fully absorbed the additional amounts, at least total Allied dependence on the sole natural source was ended.49

The Defense of Iceland

German occupation of Denmark after the 8-9 April 1940 invasion raised the question of what action Germany might take vis-á-vis Iceland, which under the Act of Union of I December 1918 was a sovereign kingdom joined with Denmark through their common sovereign, His Majesty the King of Iceland and Denmark. The Department of State, in studying courses of action possible if Germany were to lay claim to Iceland and/or Greenland, examined the applicability of the Monroe Doctrine to these and other European territories. A study by one of the State Department's experts concluded that the doctrine could be considered applicable, since it had referred to "this Hemisphere" and since it was "held by authoritative geographers" that the part of the island west of the 20° west meridian was "definitely in the Western Hemisphere."50 The United States did not find it necessary to take any military steps, for in May 1940 the United Kingdom occupied Iceland and established a garrison of several thousand troops there. This garrison was steadily increased until a year later it exceeded 25,000.

The British garrison had been in Iceland only two months when the Icelandic Government, which had established direct relations with the United States in April 1940, asked on 12 July "whether the United States would include Iceland in the Western Hemisphere and put it under the protection of the Monroe Doctrine." This request received no encouragement, nor did a similar request made in September.51

When the Permanent Joint Board on Defense initiated its studies of the "north half of the Western Hemisphere," it either excluded Iceland from its purview or found no need, in the light of the British garrisons already established there, to consider the defense of Iceland. Whatever the case, the records of the Permanent Joint Board do not mention Iceland. The agreements reached by the U.S.-United Kingdom planners during January-March 1941, in


which the defense of Iceland was assigned to the United Kingdom, further moved Iceland from the area of Western Hemisphere problems that might be solved jointly by the United States and Canada.

Although the initial garrison was British and the defense of Iceland was a United Kingdom responsibility, there was some indirect U.S.-Canadian collaboration in meeting the security requirements of Iceland during World War II. On 10 May 1940, when the defenses of France were crumbling, Canada invited British suggestions as to action it might take to be of assistance. As a result of the British reply, Canada offered an infantry brigade of the 2d Canadian Division as part of the garrison for Iceland. Designated Z Force, the initial Canadian elements reached Iceland on 16 June. By 17 July three Canadian battalions, the Royal Regiment of Canada, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal, and the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, formed part of the British garrison.52 The Canadian garrison reached a peak strength of about 2,700. Around the first of November two battalions left for England, leaving in Iceland the third battalion and a small detachment of special troops.

By the spring of 1941 the United Kingdom was encouraging the United States to provide forces for the defense of Iceland in order to release the substantial British forces there. On 25 March Hitler declared Iceland to be in the war zone, and U.S. interest in that island began to increase. Its usefulness for air bases and convoy protection was pointed out to President Roosevelt, who authorized a reconnaissance of the island. An initial survey was completed in early April. Further surveys were planned but were delayed, and no further action took place until early June.53

On 2 June 1941 Harry Hopkins, the Secretaries of War and the Navy, and General Marshall and Admiral Stark met to discuss recommendations of Ambassador John G. Winant brought from London as to ways and means of relieving the pressures on the United Kingdom. They considered a proposal, among others, for U.S. replacement of the garrison in Iceland. In interdepartmental discussions during the next few days the proposal received general support. On 5 June the President decided to send a force to Iceland as soon


as the government there requested U.S. protection, and he ordered a Marine force made ready within fifteen days.54

The British Government suggested that for military and tactical reasons Iceland be given no advance notice of the dispatch of U.S. troops, and that the United States instead present the Icelandic Government with a fait accompli. President Roosevelt rejected this suggestion as inconsistent with the basic U.S. hemisphere nonagression policy and insisted that a request from the Icelandic authorities would be necessary.55 Despite efforts of the British Minister in Reykjavik, who had been virtually instructed to see to it that a request was made, the Icelandic Government refused explicitly to request of invite U.S. protection because a majority of the Parliament had recently opposed such a request. In the solution worked out, the Icelandic Government admitted that the introduction of U.S. troops was in the interest of Iceland and therefore entrusted the protection of that country to the United States.56

In inticipation of a satisfactory arrangement President Roosevelt, on 16 June, had ordered the Chief of Naval Operations to carry out Operation INDIGO for the relief of the British garrison. On 7 July about 4,000 troops of the 1st Marine Brigade (Provisional) landed in Iceland and joined British forces in the Iceland garrison. No Canadian troops were present at that time since their transfer to the British Isles had just been completed. At the end of 1941, approximately 10,000 U.S. Army and Marine troops were in Iceland. During early 1942 the U.S. Marines and most of the British forces were withdrawn and replaced by U.S. Army troops. Command of the island garrison passed in April 1942 from the British to Maj. Gen. Charles H. Bonesteel, U.S. Army, who had arrived the preceding September.57


St. Pierre and Miquelon

One of the most widely publicized international tempests during World War II involved St. Pierre and Miquelon, two small islands just off the southern coast of Newfoundland. Subsequent to the fall of France, control of the two islands had remained with the Vichy Government. The existence on St. Pierre of a high-powered radio transmitter capable of transmitting meteorological and other information that could be of great value to Germany constituted a serious danger to Allied operations in the Atlantic.

As early as July 1940, the Newfoundland Government had requested Canada to occupy the islands or take other action. Canada discussed the matter with the United States and indicated that it would consult the United States before taking any action.58 Nothing was done, and the problem remained quiescent until the spring of 1941, when the convoy loss rate in the northwest Atlantic began to climb sharply.

During May 1941 Prime Minister King told Pierrepont Moffat, the U.S. Minister in Ottawa, that Newfoundland had renewed its request on several occasions and that President Roosevelt himself had also asked King what he intended to do. The Canadian Government concluded that the only action needed was to send a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer to confer with the island's authorities and render a report. Canada also reaffirmed its promise not to act without consulting the United States. The State Department was particularly sensitive to the situation because of its bearing on U.S. policy with respect to administration of European colonies in the Western Hemisphere. In addition, the State Department did not wish to jeopardize the arrangement under which Vichy French fleet units, notably the aircraft carrier Bearn], remained neutralized at Martinique. Moffat was accordingly instructed to make clear in Ottawa the need for Canadian co-operation in the matter.59

Beginning in July 1941 the United Kingdom made repeated suggestions to Canada that Free French forces be allowed to proceed to St. Pierre and Miquelon to induce them to align themselves with the Free French movement and General Charles de Gaulle. London did not approach the State Department with these proposals, which the Canadian Government had discouraged.60

At its 10-11 November 1941 meeting the Permanent Joint Board on Defense reviewed the problem of St. Pierre and Miquelon and agreed that "the


existence on the Islands of an uncontrolled and high-powered wireless transmitting station constituted a potential danger to the interests of Canada and the United States."61 The problem was also being discussed through diplomatic channels, and the Canadians suggested joint U.S.-Canadian sponsorship of a team of civilian technicians that would proceed to St. Pierre to monitor the radio station operations. Canada solicited the views of both Washington and London. King's query to the British Prime Minister remained unanswered by Churchill, who advanced an alternate plan. General de Gaulle himself, heading the French Committee of National Liberation, had by now also proposed to Churchill that the Free French seize the islands. Churchill saw no objection but asked the Canadian Government to ascertain the attitude of the United States. Roosevelt strongly disapproved the proposed Free French action and asked instead that the proposal to send a small group of civilian technicians be carried out by Canada alone. On learning of the U.S. objections, the United Kingdom asked the French Committee not to take action.62

De Gaulle nevertheless ordered his commander of the Free French naval force at Halifax to act without informing the Allies. Ostensibly sailing for St. John's, the force of three corvettes and the giant submarine Surcouf instead proceeded to St. Pierre, where it established control on 25 December 1941. The same day a plebiscite produced a 98 percent vote in favor of rallying to the Free French in preference to collaboration with the Axis.63

The U.S. Army Newfoundland base commander recommended on 28 December that the islands be left in Free French control. But on the day of the seizure Secretary of State Hull had issued a statement condemning as aribtrary, contrary to the agreement of the parties concerned, and without prior knowledge or consent of the United States, the action of the "so-called Free French" ships.64 Hull took up with Canada the feasibility of restoring the status quo ante through establishment of a commission of Canadian experts to supervise the radio traffic and the withdrawal of the Free French. Canada was unwilling to challenge the Free French action and suggested that the United States and United Kingdom agree on a solution. Canada would be willing to co-operate in the execution of any agreement reached


by them.65 Churchill, then in Washington, said he would be agreeable to any arrangement that would be acceptable to General de Gaulle. But Churchill's attitude, as exemplified by his speech in Ottawa on 30 December extolling de Gaulle's followers, did not appear to be designed to induce cooperative concessions from de Gaulle. After President Roosevelt let it be known that he would not back up State Department demands that the Free French be evicted and the status quo ante be restored, a solution acceptable to Churchill, Hull, and de Gaulle appeared impossible.66

Secretary Hull's attitude and his reference to the "so-called" Free French came under heavy public attack, even in the United States. In Canada it evoked considerable unfavorable publicity. In part, this was due to an accumulation of resentment over the U.S. attitude on a number of questions, including U.S. failure to discuss Pacific problems with the Canadian Government before the Pearl Harbor attack and U.S. opposition to Canadian participation at the Rio de Janeiro inter-American meeting.67

Although the Canadian Government was embarrassed by the Free French action, for the contrary assurances given by the Free French commander in Ottawa had been relayed to Washington through the Department of External Affairs, it took no positive position. To State Department officers, the Canadian attitude appeared to be casual and unconcerned. As for King, he had had nothing to do with the matter and only wanted it settled. By the end of January Hull had decided that the wisest course was to let the matter rest.68


Despite the hope of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Mackenzie King, as expressed in the Ogdensburg Declaration, that defense problems could be jointly examined on a hemisphere basis, such joint examination was faced with complications in regard to the defense needs of the two countries themselves, let alone the contiguous areas of North and South America. There were several reasons for these complications. One was the simple fact that before Pearl Harbor Canada was a belligerent while the United States was a neutral. A second was Canada's membership in the British Commonwealth, which would not permit an unqualified allegiance, to a hemisphere standard.


Before Pearl Harbor the United States' front line of defense was the coast line of the Americas and their offshore waters. With Canadian troops deployed overseas, Canada considered its front line to be in Europe. From the military point of view, the United States saw merit in efforts designed to increase the military strength and programs of the Latin American countries. In considering the wishes of the United States that Canada join in encouraging these efforts, Canada was inclined to view expenditures of military resources in Latin America as diversions of critical means to a secondary area. Only from a political and longer-range economic point of view could the development of Canada's relations with the Latin American states make sense to Canada.

The neutral United States also considered Canadian and Commonwealth defensive measures in the Western Hemisphere in terms of their impact on the U.S. policy of neutrality, whereas British and Canadian plans vis-á-vis areas such as Greenland, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and other European possessions in the Western Hemisphere were based on the needs of their belligerent status. Because of this fundamental pre-Pearl Harbor split, it was impossible for the two countries to unite in the establishment of a common policy that would motivate jointly desired actions throughout the hemisphere.

After Pearl Harbor the encouragement of closer Canadian relations with Latin America ceased to be useful to the United States, which could either offer to. Latin America the material support needed to carry out the desired military measures or take them itself. Under these circumstances, and from the longer-range point of view, the growth of Canadian and Commonwealth interest in Latin America would not accord with U.S. political and economic objectives, and it was therefore not encouraged.


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1. Memo/Conv, Moffat and King, 27 Jun 40, Moffat Diary; Cdn Leg aide-mémoire, 28 Jun 40, D/S 856B.01/43.

2. Memo/Conv, Moffat and King, 5 Jul 40, Moffat Diary. Secretary of State Hull had been disturbed by the earlier British action in occupying Curaçao and Aruba after the invasion of the Netherlands. (Hull, Memoirs, I, 814.) He feared such actions would encourage similar steps in the Pacific by an aggressive-minded Japan, which could cite the actions as precedents.

3. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1928 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1942), I, 583.

4. Policy Recommendation, to Norman Armour, 2 Oct 44, D/S 710.001/10-244.

5. Ltr, Welles to Armour, 24 Feb 36, and Ltr, Clark to Hickerson, 6 Dec 43, both in D/S 710.001/1068-1/2.

6. H. C. Debates, 31 Jul 40, p. 2195, and 6 Aug 40, pp. 2540-41. For an excellent account of wartime Canadian press and political party attitudes on the Pan American Union, and of the political, military, geographic, and economic aspects of proposals for Canadian participation, see Eugene H. Miller, "Canada and the Pan American Union", International Journal, III (Winter 1947-48), 24-39.

7. Memo/Conv, Moffat and Corbett, 7 Aug 40, Moffat Diary. Corbett's appraisal of the situation is presumably set forth in his article "Canada in the Western Hemisphere", Foreign Affairs, XIX (July 1941), 778-89.

8. Memo/Conv, King and Moffat, 23 Jun 41, Moffat Diary; H. C. Debates, 27 Feb 42, pp. 893-95.

9. Miller, op. cit., pp. 31-32.

10. U.S. Leg Ott Telg 4, 7 Jan 42, D/S 851A.01/40; Ltr, Moffat to Duggan, 6 Jan 42, D/S 710.001/953; D/S Telg, to Welles, 13 Jan 42, D/S 710 Consultation (3)/312B; Memo/Conv, Moffat and King, 16 Dec 41, Moffat Diary; Memo/Conv, Welles and Wrong, 18 Dec 41, Roosevelt Papers, Secy's File, Box 75.

11. Memo, Welles for Duggan, 17 Feb 42, D/S 710.001/957-1/2.

12. Memo, Duggan for Welles, 3 Apr 42, reporting on inquiry of Hume Wrong, D/S 710.001/ 971; Memo, Moffat visit to Washington 4-11 Apr 41, Moffat Diary. Welles, who was apparently opposed to Canadian entry, makes only guarded reference to the question of Canadian participation in the Pan American system in his lectures printed as Co-operation Between Canada and the United States in the Search for World Peace (Winnipeg: J. W. Dafoe Foundation, 1946), p. 16.

13. "Final Act of the Third Meeting of Foreign Ministers", Department of State Bulletin, February 7, 1942, VI, 137.

14. Miller, op. cit., p. 32.

15. H. C. Debates, 1 Aug 42, p. 5146.

16. Memo/Conv, Moffat and Lt Gen H. D. G. Crerar, 12 Oct 40, D/S 842.20 Def/42.

17. Ltr, Clark to J. G. Parsons, 3 Sep 43, D/S 710.001/1054-1/2.

18. Memo/Conv, 27 Dec 41, D/S 710 Consultation (3)/368.

19. Miller, op. cit., p. 33.

20. Ltr, Clark to Parsons, 3 Sep 43, D/S 710.001/1054-1/2.

21. Ltr, Atherton to Hull, 12 Jan 44, D/S 710.001/1106. For a study on Pan American sentiment, see Iris S. Podea, "Pan American Sentiment in French Canada", International Journal, III (Autumn 1948), 334-49.

22. Ltr, Atherton to Hull, 28 Jan 44, D/S 710.001/1102. Hull in his Memoirs, II, 1481, states that the Pan American Union question was not much discussed or specially urged by either government, since both had in mind that Canada got into war if the United Kingdom did. He felt that the co-operation that existed was to every practical extent the same that would have occurred had Canada been a member.

23. Canada, Department of External Affairs, "Canada and Latin America", External Affairs, I (May 1949), 26.

24. A lengthy study resulted in a "Policy Recommendation," dated 2 October 1944, that the United States should assist in bringing about Canadian membership, but the recommendation was apparently not approved. (D/S 710.001/10-244.) A subsequent survey of the United States diplomatic missions in ten American republics confirmed that a broad basis of support existed, subject to assurances as to Canada's position in the British Commonwealth. (Memo, by L. J. Halle, Jr., 23 Nov 45, D/S 710.001/11-2345.)

25. Ltr, Under Secy State Joseph C. Grew to President, 8 Mar 45, Roosevelt Papers, Secy's File, Box 150; Report of the U.S. Delegation (Department of State Publication No. 2497 {Washington: Government Printing Office, 1946}), p. 95.

26. Public Opinion Quarterly, VIII (Spring 1944), 146; H. C. Debates, 4 Aug 44, p. 5912. Months later, in February 1945, a government publication was to refute the importance of the poll results as a reason why Canada should not be a member. (Department of External Affairs, Information Division, Reference Paper 34, p. 16.)

27. U.S. Emb Ott Desp 2884, 1 Aug 45, D/S 710.001/8-145; U.S. Emb Ott Desp 2886, 7 Aug 45, D/S 710.001/8-745.

28. Canada, Department of External Affairs, "Canada and Latin America", External Affairs, I (May 1949), 25-34.

29. Apart from forces in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Canadian Army deployments at the end of the war included a battalion (786 strong) in Jamaica, 163 troops in the Bahamas, and 181 in Bermula. In addition, a detachment of the Veterans Guard of Canada had served in British Guiana, protecting bauxite shipments. (Stacey, The Canadian Army, 1939-1945, p. 43 n.) Of interest is the fact that the U.S. deployments included forces sent just after Pearl Harbor to Aruba, the Dutch possession that had been the subject of proposed similar action by Canada in June 1940. The U.S. deployments to Aruba and neighboring Curaçao had been arranged with the United Kingdom in March 1941 as part of the ABC-1 report arrangements.

30. Ltr, Harry H. Woodring, SW, to Bureau of Budget, 16 May 39, WPD 4173-7, Sec. 1. The above comments, prepared at staff level, were reviewed and approved by the head of War Plans Division and by Chief of Staff Malin Craig, as well as by Woodring.

31. Memo/Conv, Hull and Christie, 13 Apr 40, D/S 859B.01/140; Memo/Conv and aide-mémoire, 16 Apr 40, D/S 859B.01/155; Memo/Conv, Hickerson and Escott Reid, 17 Apr 40, D/S 859B.01/147. Repeated requests from London reportedly pressed Canada to take prompt action to prevent Greenland from falling into German hands. (Memo/Conv, J. K. Penfield and Dunbar, 27 Dec 41, D/S 859B.00/64.) See also Langer and Gleason, The Challenge to Isolation, pp. 429-33, 683-87, for an account of discussions concerning Greenland.

32. Memo, J. C. Dunn to Secy State, 19 Apr 40, D/S 859B.01/152.

33. Memo/Conv, 19 Apr 40, D/S 859B.01/154; Hull, Memoirs, I, 756; Ltr, Secy State to Minister Kauffmann, 7 Apr 41, EAS, 204; Department of State Bulletin, May 4, 1940, II, 473.

34. Memo/Conv, Christie and Berle, 1 May 40, D/S 859B.01/193.

35. U.S. Consulate Godthaab Telg 22, 3 Jun 40, D/S 859B.01/199; Cdn Leg Note, to State Department, 27 May 40, D/S 859B.20/49.

36. Memo/Conv, Berle and Mahoney, 3 Jun 40, D/S 859B.01/210. Months later, a Canadian official stated that the Aluminium Company of Canada had originally proposed and practically organized "the unfortunate Nascopie expedition." (Memo/Conv, 27 Dec 41, D/S 859B.00/ 64.) Memo for Record, 21 May 1940 meetings in New York City, D/S 859B.01/206.

37. Ltrs, Hull to Christie and Lothian, 23 Sep 40, D/S 859B.01/293A.

38. Memo, H. Cumming for Berle, 27 Aug 40, D/S 859B.7962/2; Memo, G. C. Marshall for Secy Navy, 28 Aug 40, WPD 4330-3.

39. Memo/Conv, Cumming and Reid, 6 Jan 41, and Cumming and F. R. Hoyer Millar, 13 Jan 41, D/S 859B.7962/3.

40. Memo, 7 Feb 41, D/S 859B.7962/18.

41. Memo/Conv, Berle and Mahoney, 13 Feb D/S 859B.796/13.

42. Summary of Points Respecting the Establishment of Landing Fields in Greenland Agreed Upon at a Meeting Held on March 5, 1941, WPD 4173-11.

43. EAS, 199. Mr. Hull's note of 7 April also made reference to the Monroe Doctrine and "the traditional policies of this Government respecting the Western Hemisphere," but the agreement signed made no mention of them. It is also of interest to note that the ABC-1 report on the British-U.S. military staff meetings, signed 27 March, had made the defense of Greenland east of 30° west longitude a responsibility of the United Kingdom.

44. The agreement and notes exchanged before its signing are in EAS, 204. For an examination of the unusual circumstances attending the conclusion of this agreement, see Herbert W. Briggs, "The validity of the Greenland Agreement", American Journal of International Law, XXXV (1941), 506-13.

45. Department of State Bulletin, April 12, 1941, IV, 444. For an account of the continuing German activities in Greenland throughout the war and of U.S. countermeasures, see U.S. Coast Guard, The Coast Guard at War: Greenland Patrol (Washington: 1945).

46. Memo, Acting CofS for SW, 10 Apr 41, WPD 4173-25.

47. The east coast facilities were given the code designations of BLUIE EAST (or BE) 1 to 5; those on the west coast, BLUIE WEST (or BW) 1 to 8. BW-1 and BW-8, the airfields at Narsarssuak and Søndre Strømfjord, became the major bases. See Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic, pp. 60-62; Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations, pp. 486-90.

48. Cdn Leg aide-mémoire, 27 May 41, WPD 4173-72. A proposal to provide the information in the PJBD was rejected since the Canadian Section had "been given to understand that the defense of Greenland . . . {was} not a matter for consideration by that Board." (Memo, WPD for G-2, 17 Jul 41, WPD 4173-99.)

49. Although aluminum production is feasible using only synthetic cryolite, the process is more efficient and economical if a certain proportion of natural cryolite is used.

50. Study by H. Notter, Applicability of the Monroe Doctrine if Germany Should Lay Claim to the Possessions of Denmark in the Western Hemisphere, 9 Apr 40, D/S 859.01/43.

51. Memo/Conv, Berle and Consul General V. Thor, 12 Jul 40, D/S 710.11/2551; Memo/ Conv, Hull and Thor, 5 Sep 40, D/S 859A.014/9.

52. Stacey, The Canadian Army, 1939-1945, pp. 24-25. Colonel Stacey states that the British War Office wanted the entire 2d Canadian Division in Iceland, although the Canadian Government would have preferred to keep the bulk of the division in Canada. Churchill had still another plan and was surprised to learn from Lt. Gen. A. G. L. McNaughton that the whole 2d Canadian Division was destined for Iceland. "No one was told anything about this. We require two Canadian divisions in England to work as a corps as soon as possible." (Memo, 7 Jul 40, quoted in Churchill, Their Finest Hour, p. 268.) Canada, too, preferred to have the entire division concentrated in the United Kingdom, rather than split between Iceland and some other place, and the Churchill plan was carried out. General McNaughton became the Canadian Corps commander.

53. Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic, p. 57.

54. Memo, Halifax for Secy State, 16 Jun 41, D/S 859A.20.17; Memo/Conv, Welles and N. M. Butler, 18 Jun 41, D/S 859A.20.20-1/12. Although the President indicated that he was willing to provide a garrison because of American determination to defend the Western Hemisphere, he was not convinced, despite the counsel of some of his advisers, that Iceland should be considered in that hemisphere. Dr. Isaiah Bowman had examined the point for him and concluded it should be excluded since only a doubtful case could be made. A few years later Roosevelt stated, in toasting the President of Iceland, that he had steered clear of a proposition to put Iceland in the Western Hemisphere. (Memo, Bowman for President, 19 Mar 41, Roosevelt Papers, Secy's File, Box 77; Rosenman (compiler), The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, XIII, 236-37.

55. Memo/Convs, Welles and Halifax, 26 and 28 Jun 41, D/S 859A.20/20-3/12 and /204/12.

56. Message, Prime Minister to. President Roosevelt, 1 Jul 41, EAS, 232.

57. Accounts of the garrisoning of Iceland are to be found in Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic, pp. 74-78, and Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations, pp. 487-90. The most detailed account including the reasons for the inability of the United Kingdom to reduce its garrison during 1941, is given in Stetson Conn, Rose C. Engelman, and Byron Fairchild, "Guarding the United States and Its Outposts", a volume in preparation for the series UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II.

58. Memo/Conv, Moffat and King, 5 Jul 40, Moffat Diary.

59. Memo/Convs, Moffat and Robertson, 12 and 28 May 41, 15 and 31 Jul 41, Moffat Diary; Ott Leg Telg 188, 17 May 41, D/S 851A.01/10; Ott Leg Desp 1731, 16 Jul 41, D/S 851A.014/8.

60. Memo/Convs, Moffat and Robertson, 15 and 31 Jul 41, 3 Nov 41, Moffat Diary.

61. Journal, PDB 124.

62. Ott Leg Telg 282, 3 Nov 41, D/S 851A.74/4; Memo/Conv, Moffat and Keenleyside, 14 Nov 41, Moffat Diary; Memo, Wrong for Secy State, 5 Dec 41, D/S 851A.74/12-541; Memo/ Conv, Moffat and Robertson, 16 Dec 41, Moffat Diary; Churchill, The Grand Alliance, p. 667.

63. The U.S. consul estimated that even a more neutrally worded choice would have given the Free French a 75 percent majority. (Desp 79, 26 Dec 41, D/S 851A/00/48.)

64. Informal Rpt, NBC, 28 Dec 41, PDB 104-5; Department of State Bulletin, December 27, 1941, V, 580.

65. Memo/Conv, Moffat and Dunn, 25 Dec 41, Moffat Diary; Memo/Conv, Hull and King, 27 Dec 41, D/S 581A.00/50.

66. See Conn and Fairchild, The Framework of Hemisphere Defense, Ch. VII.

67. Ott Leg Telg 4, 7 Jan 42, D/S 851A.01/13.

68. Ott Leg Telg 313, 25 Dec 41, D/S 851A.01/17; Memo/Conv, Berle and McCarthy, 3 Jan 42, D/S 851A.01/65; Hull, Memoirs, II, 1137. A number of accounts of this problem are available. See Hull, Memoirs, II, 1127-38; Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, Ch. XXI; Langer and Gleason, The Challenge to Isolation, pp. 212-26; Churchill, The Grand Alliance, pp. 666-67.

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