125.422 H/9a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Minister in Denmark (Atherton)

192. The Minister of Denmark in Washington has informed us that some question has arisen in the Danish Foreign Office regarding the action of this Government in sending American consular officers to Greenland without beforehand obtaining exequatur for them from the Government of Denmark.7 We assume, however, that as the American Consulate at Godthaab was established on a provisional basis only, the Foreign Office has in mind the question of “provisional recognition” of the American consular officers sent to Greenland and not the question of formal exequatur for them.

This Government has of course taken no action which would impair the validity of the Declaration made by the Secretary of State on August 4, 19168 to the effect that no objection would be made to the extension by the Danish Government of its political and economic interests to the whole of Greenland. The occupation of Denmark during April 1940 by the armed forces of a belligerent nation, which forces are still in military control of the Continental territories of the Kingdom including the seat of the Royal Government, did, however, create a new situation with respect to Greenland requiring consideration by the Government of the United States. A full appraisal of all the facts upon which such consideration could be based was handicapped by the disruption, and for a time the severance, of direct communication between this Government and its representatives in Copenhagen as a result of the military occupation of Denmark by foreign troops.

During this period the authorities in Greenland on their own initiative, expressing their concern over the effect upon Greenland of the course of events in Denmark by which Greenland had been deprived of free communication with Copenhagen, of the possibility of obtaining food and other supplies for the Greenland population, and of facilities for placing Greenland exports on the Danish market, approached the Government of the United States.

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In response to this approach the United States Government, in agreement with the Greenland authorities, concluded that the numerous questions arising with respect to the welfare and needs of the inhabitants of Greenland and of Greenland’s exports to the United States could, from a practical standpoint, best be met through the provisional establishment of an American Consulate in Greenland. The establishment of this office Will not operate to the injury of any legitimate interests.

In your discretion and when a suitable occasion arises you should orally bring the foregoing to the attention of the appropriate official of the Foreign Office.

  1. Mr. J. K. Penfield, instructed by the Department of State on May 7, 1940, to proceed to Godthaab to establish an American Consulate, arrived there May 22. On May 27 and July 1 the Governors of North Greenland and South Greenland, respectively, authorized Penfield, Consul, and George L. West, Vice Consul, to perform consular services in these regions.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1917, p. 700.