S/S–NSC Files: Lot 63 D 351: NSC 40 Series1

Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Webb) to the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council (Lay)2

top secret

Subject: First Progress Report on NSC 40/1,3 “The Position of the United States With Respect to United States and North Atlantic Security Interests in Iceland.”

NSC 40/1 was approved as Governmental policy on August 5, 1949. It is requested that this Progress Report dated March 15, 1950 be circulated to the members of the Council for their information.

The Department of State has drawn up and forwarded to appropriate implementing agencies both here and in the field a program designed to decrease the vulnerability of the Icelandic Government to Communist seizure of power. A copy of this program is attached. It is too early to assess the results of this program.

The planning by the Department of Defense is now in advanced stages. When it is completed there will be appropriate consultation between the Departments of State and Defense on the subject of arrangements for rapid implementation of these plans.

The need, adequacy and timeliness of the policy set forth in NSC 40/1 have not changed materially since it was approved, but the conclusion of the North Atlantic Pact has improved the situation.


top secret

Program Designed To Decrease the Vulnerability of the Icelandic Government to Communist Seizure of Power

(Prepared by the Department of State in Compliance with NSC 40/1)

1. measures to stimulate icelandic self-help

Measures to be taken by Iceland should be suggested by the American Minister4 whose approach should be normally through informal [Page 1458] confidential talks with the Foreign Minister.5 These should take place as soon as the Minister finds it appropriate. In his discretion he may discuss with other Icelandic officials and with one or more of his colleagues representing North Atlantic Pact countries. These discussions should be informal—not a specific suggested program but an interchange of ideas, stimulating interest among top government officials. Emphasis should be on Icelandic action and away from supporting action by outside interests. The measures to be considered by the Icelanders may well include:

Stimulation of an informal Home Guard or defense organization along the lines of the groups of young Conservatives who helped the police quell the Communist demonstrations outside the Althing last March. This might take the form of an athletic or physical exercise group.
The development of an official Icelandic counterintelligence organization. Arrangements should be made for our Minister to be fully informed of the information which the Icelandic Government has concerning Communist plans.
Training and equipping Icelandic guards to protect the Keflavik Airport against sabotage. If outside financial aid is necessary, it may be sought in MAP … according to size and character of aid.
Training in U.S. police methods for a few officers of the Icelandic police (one such official was trained in New York this year).

2. measures affecting american personnel at keflavik

The Minister should use appropriate means to have American personnel at Keflavik briefed on

Alertness against possible sabotage,
Conducting themselves in such a way as to raise American prestige in the eyes of Icelanders.

3. measures

Encourage Scandinavian labor groups to send representatives to Iceland to suggest ways of combating Communism in Icelandic labor groups, and to secure their adherence to the new International Labor Organization.
Encourage U.S. labor groups to invite and pay the expenses of an Icelandic Labor group to visit the United States to learn about American labor conditions. This measure may be executed by ECA.…
Maintain the availability of the Keflavik airport and its facilities and such other installations as are deemed vital by the Department of Defense for the use of the United States and other North Atlantic countries in the event of war by furnishing protection against sabotage and seizure in the event of a communist coup or an attempted invasion by an unfriendly foreign power, such protection to be coordinated [Page 1459] … and to continue only until military forces are available to discharge this responsibility.
Establish communications to furnish tactical intelligence, if necessary under any circumstance, to U.S. assistance forces.

4. economic measures

a. ECA

The administrator of ECA6 should be reminded by letter that our special interest in Iceland should be borne in mind in considering all projects for ECA assistance to Iceland.

b. The American High Commissioner for Western Germany7 should be instructed to lend his support to Icelandic efforts to sell Icelandic fish to Western Germany.

5. information and education exchange

The Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs8 should review the program of his Office for Iceland with a view to improving it. Particular attention should be given to ways of inter-changing students and teachers in conformity with the objectives of the Fulbright Act and finding scholarship aids for Icelandic students to attend American institutions. Published materials and ideas should be supplied to Icelandic leaders to help them to combat communism more effectively.

  1. Lot 63 D 351 is a serial master file of National Security Council documents and correspondence and related Department of State memoranda for the years 1947–1961, as maintained by the Executive Secretariat of the Department of State.
  2. Circulated with a cover sheet, dated May 2, not printed, entitled “National Security Council Progress Report by the Under Secretary of State on the Implementation of the Position of the United States With Respect to United States and North Atlantic Security Interests in Iceland (NSC 40/1).”
  3. For text of NSC 40/1, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. iv, p. 313.
  4. Edward B. Lawson.
  5. Bjarni Benediktsson.
  6. Paul G. Hoffman.
  7. John J. McCloy.
  8. Edward W. Barrett.