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

By Stanley W. Dziuban | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
Operations in the Eastern Areas

In the pre-Pearl Harbor period the primary focus of military co-operation between the United States and Canada was on Newfoundland and adjacent northeastern North America. Although the Japanese threat was not disregarded, the operational requirements of the European war and the Battle of the Atlantic after the fall of France were immediate and absorbed most of the modest ground and air forces available to the two countries. For Canada this meant that forces had to be deployed to coastal areas, Iceland, and Great Britain. For the United States it meant that mobile reserves had to be held in readiness to meet and repel the first signs of aggression anywhere in the Western Hemisphere.

The defense needs of the British territory of Newfoundland, the North American outpost on the sea and air approaches to eastern Canada and the adjacent United States, were a matter of great concern to Canada. On the eve of Canadian entry into the European war Prime Minister King told the House of Commons that the integrity of Newfoundland and Laborador was essential to the security of Canada and that he had already obtained British agreement to Canadian participation in the defense of Newfoundland. Not long after the Canadian declaration of war on 10 September 1939, Canada took initial steps to aid in Newfoundland's defense.1

Although U.S. joint war plans had earlier recognized the need for offshore bases in the Caribbean and other Atlantic areas, U.S. interest in the Newfoundland area developed only after the fall of France. During the summer and fall of 1940 the British American destroyer-bases negotiations resulted in the interjection of the United States into the Newfoundland defense scheme.2 The fall of France also gave considerable impetus to the scope of Canadian participation in the defense of Newfoundland.


The Lease and Construction of Newfoundland Bases

While the French and British armies on the Continent were crumbling before the German blitzkrieg and the British defensive situation was deteriorating rapidly, Prime Minister Churchill on 15 May began his efforts to

____________________
1
H. C. Debates, 8 Sep 39, p. 35. See Ch. IV, above.
2
See Ch. I, above.

-162-

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