842.20 Defense/10–2646

Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to President Truman

top secret

Subject: Joint Defense Measures with Canada

When Prime Minister Mackenzie King of Canada calls on you on October 28 at 2:30 p.m. it is hoped that you will emphasize that you consider that the time has now come for the basic decisions in this field to be made by yourself and the Prime Minister. The Permanent Joint Board on Defense and the planning authorities in our respective Armed Services have defined the problem and made recommendations but it is now up to the statesmen of both countries to direct the carrying out of joint defense measures with minimum disturbance to the two peoples and maximum advancement of world security through the United Nations.

The foregoing is suggested as the highlight of your conversation because Mr. King is reluctant to reach any decision until events have made it imperative to do so. We understand, moreover, that some in authority in Canada think that our military sometimes proposes more extensive plans than are necessary. It will be doubly helpful, therefore, to assure Mr. King that our non-military authorities are convinced that the program is necessary and also that you and they are watching to prevent any over-extension of military plans.

The former Canadian Ambassador, Mr. Pearson, with whom you talked recently, has remarked to Ambassador Atherton in Ottawa that it would also be helpful if you wished to provide Mr. King with some written document on this problem. Accordingly, there is attached a memorandum which you may wish to hand to him. …

These problems which we now ask Mr. King himself to decide are the most important problems currently before the Canadian Government. The following quotation from my memorandum to you of October 1 suggests why this is so:

“In view of Canada’s traditional close association with the United Kingdom, the shift to an even closer association with the United States armed forces is a matter of great moment in Canada and one which involves considerable political risk for the present Government. Some Canadians fear we would encroach on their sovereignty and some fear that Canada might ultimately have to withdraw from the British Commonwealth.”

Now that General Eisenhower6 and Field Marshal Montgomery7 have discussed standardization and the United States and British [Page 58]Navies have agreed to continue to make their facilities reciprocally available, it should be somewhat easier for Mr. King to approve similar steps proposed in the 35th Recommendation of the Joint Defense Board.

Outside the joint defense field we do not have any particular questions to raise. We do not know if Mr. King has any. Our relations with Canada continue excellent. We have, however, been disappointed by the Anglo-Canadian wheat agreement, a long-term bulk purchase deal, which we consider to be somewhat at variance with our proposals for liberalizing trade. On the other hand, the Canadians are troubled about our customs administration which they consider to be unduly restrictive in its effect on Canadian exports.

Mr. King’s Government has lost three by-elections over the past few weeks but, while his majority in Parliament is narrow, the opposition groups are split. One of the by-elections was fought and lost on the issue of the Anglo-Canadian wheat deal.

Dean Acheson

Memorandum by President Truman to the Canadian Prime Minister (Mackenzie King)

Oral Message

The Government of the United States is grateful to the Government of Canada for the favorable consideration which the latter has given to proposals relating to joint defense. In no case has any military project which this Government considered urgent been delayed by any lack of cooperation on the part of Canada.

Because of the extreme importance in an unsettled world of continuing and reinforcing measures of joint defense it is believed that the consideration of these matters, hitherto primarily in military hands, should also now be taken up directly by the governments. In suggesting this course, the Government of the United States is determined that the actions taken shall in no way be inconsistent with commitments under the Charter of the United Nations,8 full support of which is the cardinal point of United States policy. The decisions which the governments take and the further advancement of North American security through the recommendations of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense must always accord with the framework of the United Nations.

[Page 59]

Early in 1946, pursuant to views expressed by the Joint Board, the two Governments decided to collaborate as partners in drawing up a basic security plan for the United States and Canada. A Joint Appreciation9 of the situation was prepared and planning has progressed satisfactorily. It may, however, not be practicable to proceed much further without assurances of support from the highest authorities of both Governments. Such assurances could take the form of concurrence in the Appreciation. Meanwhile, events at Paris10 and in the international field generally have not lessened the anxiety of those charged with assuring the security of the United States. Moreover, in the opinion of this Government, those events have demonstrated that decisions in the field of home defense should be taken now and implemented as rapidly as practicable. Only by being secure at home can Canada and the United States strengthen the United Nations and discharge their responsibility for contributing to world order and security.

Under these circumstances, it appears to the Government of the United States that close collaboration in defense matters with the Government of Canada must be carried forward actively. It believes this for the following reasons:

Two world wars have demonstrated that an aggressor must destroy the power of North America or be defeated.

Due to post-1945 technological advances, North America is no longer adequately protected by geography.

Canadian and United States military advisors agree that in five years North America must be prepared to meet major enemy capabilities.

While the peaceful foreign policies and intentions of Canada and the United States are clearly defined, there can be no guarantee that the governing officials of the U.S.S.R. will make decisions on the basis of a correct appraisal of the world beyond Soviet borders, or that the long term policy of the U.S.S.R. is not one of unlimited aggrandizement.

For the foregoing reasons North American nations henceforth must be prepared at home just as less fortunately placed nations have had to be in the past. Furthermore, under conditions of modern technology, defenses must be as far out from Canadian and American industrial centers as possible.

[Page 60]

If within only five years another major power will be capable of jeopardizing North American security, action should be based on realization:

That Canada and the United States lag in cold weather knowledge and experience,

That, because of this lag and because of the expense involved, defense plans will take years to implement.

That, to be efficient in an emergency affecting North American territory, the Canadian and American forces should have the experience of working together, experience of the north, and increasing uniformity of equipment and methods.

The United States Government realizes that close collaboration with Canada in basic defense matters presents both governments with new problems of great complexity and difficulty. The responsible United States officials are aware of the special problems that face Canada, a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. They have been instructed that the sole purpose of close military collaboration is defense, that every precaution must be taken to protect the traditional relations of the two countries and the position which each, respectively, enjoys.

The United States Government is also aware that the question of the financial cost of defensive measures is most serious for both Governments. It must not, however, be permitted to delay the planning of security at home and should not delay the attainment thereof. While no final commitments can yet be made by either Government, it seems clear that the Joint Defense Board should recommend and the two Governments should negotiate some equitable means of sharing the financial burden of any defenses agreed to be necessary around the northern perimeter of the continent. Possibly the United States might agree to assume an equitable proportion of the cost of any facilities jointly found to be necessary on Canadian soil if the Canadian Government were to take into account that United States expenditures in Alaska and Greenland, for instance, contribute to Canadian as well as United States security.

Although many problems remain for future determination, the United States Government believes for the reasons set forth in this memorandum that decisions by the Canadian Government on the following existing problems would be timely and would enhance the security of the Canadian and American people:

Further Canadian Government endorsement of joint planning now in progress would assure the United States authorities of continuing Canadian cooperation and an adequate measure of joint action between Alaska on the west and Greenland on the east.
Approval of the 35th Recommendation of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense would help to define the relations between the armed forces of Canada and the United States and would provide authoritative guidance as to the nature and limits of the collaboration desired by both Governments.
It is hoped that the Canadian Government, with Newfoundland concurrence, will permit the stationing of certain United States Army Air Force units at the Canadian 99-year leased base at Goose Bay, Labrador. Reciprocally, (as soon as the present congestion can be relieved), the United States authorities will be agreeable to a similar arrangement at United States bases in Newfoundland proper. While remaining an important feature of the defenses of the northeastern approaches to the continent, these latter bases are, however, too close to Canada and the United States to provide adequate protection against ultra-modern high speed aerial attack. Moreover, they do not afford as would Goose Bay, a highly favorable situation for the acquisition by United States and Canadian Air Force units of the experience of training together under cold weather conditions, of testing northern equipment and of coordinating their respective methods and tactics. Finally, arrangements of this kind at Goose Bay and the other bases would be consistent with the joint responsibilities which the two Governments have discharged in the past for the defense of Newfoundland.

In conclusion, the United States Government reiterates that it has been gratified by the cooperative attitude of the Canadian Government and by the informality, frankness and mutual trust which have prevailed during discussions of the delicate and momentous problems of joint defense. It believes that final decisions, not only on the three points just mentioned, but also on others in this field can be reached without necessity of any more formal documentation than has been customary since establishment of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense in 1940. There is no doubt that public opinion firmly supports effective collaboration with Canada and, in the view of the United States Government, this is a strong and satisfactory basis for joint action.

  1. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chief of Staff, United States Army.
  2. Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery, Chief of the Imperial General Staff.
  3. 59 Stat. (pt. 2) 1031. For related documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. i, pp. 1 ff.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Reference is to the Second Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers and to the Paris Peace Conference; for documentation on U.S. participation in these sessions, see volumes ii, iii, and iv.