842.20 Defense/11–2246

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in Canada (Atherton)


I talked with General McNaughton22 this afternoon on his estimate of the world situation which I venture very briefly to put down as a result of our combined efforts.

If a potential enemy to the democratic way of life threatening the North American continent begins an attack outside the limits of this hemisphere, we have time with an awakened public opinion to prepare and to some degree mobilize even sufficient forces to make available strength overseas. If, on the other hand, the main attack of a potential enemy is directed in the first instance against the North American continent, we have no time to prepare. This first attack on North America would not be for the purpose of conquering the continent, it would be of the same nature as Pearl Harbor at certain strategic points within the North American economy which would reduce our economy and our war industrial potentials to such a degree that we would be more nearly at an equality with the potentials of the unnamed enemy. Such bombing for the destruction of our economic resources would, of course, give occasion for sabotage through fifth column agents and would largely increase the destruction of our industrial system.

Should the enemy be Soviet Russia, it should be realized they are in a mood of exultation at the present time, of feeling that their way of life has proven successful in overcoming Nazi strength and the virus is pretty well all through the Soviet governing people. The only way this could be maintained by the Soviet is through never permitting through outside contact the Russian people to realize the standard of living of the democratic world. Therefore there can be no permitted penetration of the Eurasian continent by the democratic [Page 68]countries. For this reason alone, Russia will never permit disarmament by inspection, since that inspection would mean foreign setups within the limits of the Soviet border. What then is the ultimate deterrent to aggression by Soviet Russia? It consists in a static defensive-offensive potential of the North American continent. We have over the next five or six years time to prepare this defense of North America. It is doubtful if in the first year more than twenty-five to thirty millions can be spent. It should further be realized that the greater we can encourage laboratory research in certain lines the more eventual expenses in years to come will be reduced, i.e., development of radar specifically. It should be realized that with this potential defense of the North American continent within the confines of the North American continent completed that we shall be in a greater position to render effective service overseas, especially in navy and manpower, than if we, for fear of present-day political or international complications, defer this action until the moment of attack when all our energies would of necessity be concentrated for an indefinite period on home defense.

  1. Gen. Andrew G. L. McNaughton (ret.), Chairman, Canadian Section, Permanent Joint Board on Defense.