Memorandum of Conversation, by the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State ( Arneson )

top secret

Subject: Atomic Activities at Goose Bay

Participants: The Canadian Ambassador, Hume Wrong
George Ignatieff, First Secretary,1 Canadian Embassy
R. Gordon Arneson, S/AE, Department of State

Mr. Arneson called on the Canadian Ambassador at the latter’s request at 4 p.m. today. The Ambassador had received word from Ottawa to the following effect:

Canada would very much welcome having an opportunity to engage in frequent discussions on developing world situations as they relate to [Page 828] the use or non-use of atomic weapons. Ottawa would prefer in the interests of saving the time of busy people and of a fuller exchange of ideas if such discussions were set up on a tripartite basis.

Over and above such general discussions directed toward an analysis of world situations which might or might not lead to the use of atomic weapons, Canada also desires to be consulted as much in advance as possible in the following cases:

Storage of nuclear cores at Goose Bay.
Over-flight of Canada with nuclear cores or complete weapons.
Atomic weapon strikes from Goose Bay.

Canada is prepared to recognize now the necessity for an exception to the above; in the event of Soviet armed attack anywhere on the North American continent Canada is prepared to agree in advance that the United States should launch immediate retaliation by any and all means and from any and all available bases.

As to the deployment of non-nuclear components to Goose Bay and over-flight of Canada by planes carrying non-nuclear components, Canada is prepared to have such activities carried out at any time, subject to maximum notification. Details of actual flights, number of participating aircraft, etc., can be handled through regular interservice channels.

Mr. Arneson said that the Canadian proposals appeared promising but that he would, of course, need to have further discussions in the Department before he would be in a position to say what the United States reactions would be. He expressed the view that periodic discussions on developing world situations which might or might not call for the use of atomic weapons should provide the Canadian participants in such talks with the necessary background with which to consider any future proposal by the United States that nuclear components or completed weapons be stored at Goose Bay, flown over Canada, or employed in air strikes from Goose Bay. It was his hope that such discussions would help to identify with particularity those situations which, if they occurred, would call for prompt preparatory actions on the part of the United States and/or for offensive atomic strikes. The Canadian Ambassador felt that arrangements for periodic discussions would go a long way toward bringing about Canadian agreement to the storage of nuclear components and strikes from Goose Bay if and as necessary. He did not feel that the Canadian desire for consultation in the above cited instances would serve as a cause of delay. Such consultations, he felt, would be part of the process of decision rather than an obstacle in the way of carrying out a decision once made by the President.

The Ambassador inquired whether it would be thought appropriate for him to talk with Sir Oliver Franks about these matters. He said he had refrained from doing so up until now and would not do so unless the United States were agreeable. Mr. Arneson stated that he [Page 829] did not know what the Department’s current thinking was on the question whether discussions should be on a tripartite or a bilateral basis. He recalled that the earlier thinking was that the latter should be the case. Until he had had a chance to clarify this he suggested that the Canadian Ambassador hold off any discussions with Sir Oliver Franks.

In connection with Mr. Arneson’s visit to Chalk River2 later on in the week, it was suggested that he should stop over in Ottawa Saturday morning, May 12, and meet with the appropriate Canadian officials dealing with this problem. The Ambassador thought that the Canadians would want Mr. Pearson to sit in as well as Under Secretary Heeney. Mr. Arneson expressed the view that this would be a very useful thing to do and would be at the disposal of the appropriate Canadian officials Saturday morning. He hoped that he would be in a position to state rather more definitive views to the Canadians by that time.

  1. Counselor, Canadian Embassy.
  2. Chalk River was the site of the Canadian NRX reactor.