Military Relations between the United States and Canada, 1939-1945

By Stanley W. Dziuban | Go to book overview
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Partnership Versus Triangle

During the months after the establishment of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense and the initiation at about the same time of informal staff collaboration with the United Kingdom, the U.S. public continued to remain cool to the idea of involvement in the European war. Nevertheless, preparatory measures for continental security were considered legitimate actions in self-defense and had widespread public support. In this setting, the special military relationship between Canada and the United States developed harmoniously without undue involvement resulting from Canada's membership in the British Commonwealth and its participation in the European war.

The Roosevelt-Churchill Axis

The initial development of U.S.-British collaboration may have given some impetus to Canada's desire to join with the United States in a mutual defense scheme. The further development of that collaboration suggested the possibility of even greater impact on the U.S.-Canadian relationship and was therefore watched with interest from Ottawa.

The liaison established between the British services in London and the visiting U.S. staff group in August 1940 became closer during the ensuing months. With utmost secrecy and on an informal basis, the staffs explored the actions the United States would have to take if it entered the war. These were the first real steps in the direction of combined planning.

In the meantime, British Ambassador Lothian had presented to Secretary of State Hull, on 5 October 1940, a proposal for the conduct of formal military staff talks on the Japanese threat in the Pacific. His proposal, which was repeated later in October and again in November after the presidential election, and which contemplated multilateral participation, was not found acceptable in Washington. Yet it was probably this proposal that inspired the broader U.S.-British staff talks that took place in January 1941.1

For a discussion of these proposals and some interesting material on their relationship to the elections, see Herbert Feis, The Road to Pearl Harbor ( Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950), pp. 126-27. As a matter of fact, after this rejection the Chief of Naval Operations instructed his representatives in London and Manila secretly to explore the problem with the British naval staffs in London and Singapore.


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