The Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs to the American Legation in Iceland

Aide-Mémoire 7

On the 24th of June, 1941, His Britannic Majesty’s Minister in Reykjavik informed the Icelandic Government that the British Forces in Iceland were required elsewhere, but these forces had been in Iceland since May 10th, 1940, when they occupied many strategically vital points in this country. At the same time the British Minister informed the Government that the President of the United States of America was prepared to send immediately United States troops to supplement and eventually to replace the British Forces here provided an invitation came from the Icelandic Government.

On this basis an agreement was reached whereby the protection of Iceland was entrusted to the United States, ref. cablegrams exchanged [Page 308] between the Prime Minister of Iceland and the President of the United States in June–July 1941, this agreement being a little later sanctioned by the Althing and ratified by the Regent.8

Among other reasons governing the attitude of the Icelandic Government and the Althing in this matter was the one that it was considered of great advantage that instead of British occupation against the will of the nation there came a free agreement with the United States on the protection of the country.

Quite naturally as also intelligible to the Icelanders it was unavoidable that a transportation of forces from the United States to replace the British troops should take some time. On the other hand, His Britannic Majesty’s Minister made a declaration to the effect that “Great Britain promises to withdraw from this country all her armed forces as soon as the transport of the United States forces is so far advanced that their military strength is sufficient for the defence of the country”.

Now more than two years have elapsed since the first United States forces arrived in this country according to the above mentioned agreement, and in this country there are still stationed British forces, mainly in the air and navy services, and even forces from another country originally coming here in connection with the British occupation.

These conditions which are different from what the Icelanders had in mind when the agreement with the President of the United States was made more than two years ago, give the Government of Iceland occasion to request the United States Government kindly to give information and confirm as to the following points, without, of course, asking for information about any military secrets not concerning Iceland.

I. Could not some date be decided in the near future when “the transport of the United States forces is so far advanced that their military strength is sufficient for the defence of the country”.

II. Has anything happened after the 1st of July 1941, to change the circumstances that the United States alone can exercise the protection of the country according to the made agreement. No such changes have been notified to the Icelandic Government hitherto.

Provided however that such was the case, could the Icelandic Government be given as accurate information as possible about such changed circumstances.

III. In the protection agreement it is provided that the United States will “withdraw with all their military forces, land, air and sea, from Iceland immediately on the conclusion of the present war.”

[Page 309]

If, by any chance, cessation of hostilities should come before other nations’ military forces, land, air and sea, have withdrawn from here, the Icelandic Government expect that the Government of the United States see to it that such forces withdraw from this country all at the same time as the United States forces. The Government would appreciate to receive confirmation to this effect.

In order to prevent any misunderstanding the Icelandic Government wish to point out that relations between Icelanders and Icelandic authorities and forces from other nations stationed here have been such that dissatisfaction in that respect has not in any way been the cause of this communication.

The Government would appreciate to receive the above-mentioned information as soon as possible, and in any case not later than some time before the Althing will be summoned to a session latest on the 1st of September 1943.

At the same time, the Government will notify His Britannic Majesty’s Minister of the above inquiry, which for the time being, the Government wish should be considered informal and confidential.

  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the Minister in Iceland in his despatch No. 178, August 11; received August 19.
  2. For correspondence concerning the agreement with the Icelandic Government for sending of American troops to assume protection of Iceland, see Foreign Relations, 1941, vol. ii, pp. 776 ff.