Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs ( Perkins ) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State ( Matthews )


Subject: Background information regarding action in the JCS on possible Canadian Participation in the U.S. Northeast Command.

As you will recall, General Vandenberg1 raised with the Joint Chiefs of Staff the question of Canada’s participation in the Northeast Command and the JCS inquired whether the Department considered that Canadian participation would be desirable from a political point of view.

Mr. Raynor, in his conversation with you on August 8,2 stated that BNA perceived no objection on political grounds inasmuch as the advantages vis-à-vis Canada would outweigh any possible disadvantages with Denmark.3 It was our understanding that, upon receiving this affirmative reply from the Department, the JCS would undertake a careful study of the military aspects of the problem.

BNA has learned in confidence that the Air Force introduced in the JCS a proposal that a Canadian officer be assigned under General [Page 899] Whitten as Deputy Commander of the U.S. Northeast Command. The Air Force states that it realizes that the Joint Chiefs would probably not look with favor on making the Northeast Command a Combined Command with the Canadians; therefore, the role of the Canadian officer would have to be carefully defined and limitations would have to be placed on his authority. The Air Force feels that he might be used in bringing about an integrated U.S.-Canadian air defense system for the Island of Newfoundland. They also consider that the Canadian officer might be used by the Northeast Command as a channel of communication with Ottawa for getting Government permission for certain projects, for keeping the Canadian Government informed, and for handling civil defense and other important matters.

The Air Force paper quotes excerpts of a conversation between General Foulkes, Chief of the Canadian Chiefs of Staff Committee, and General Bradley, during the latter’s visit to Ottawa.4 General Foulkes said that Canada was becoming disturbed at the magnitude and importance of the U.S. Northeast Command. In view of the Command’s widespread activities, the Canadians thought that they should have a high-ranking officer on General Whitten’s staff to coordinate air defense, civil defense and other matters. General Foulkes hinted that what they desired was the position of Deputy Commander, or a Combined Command. It was stated that Canada would not be satisfied with having a “liaison officer” on General Whitten’s staff. This proposal had been made by the Air Force and refused by Canada, because it was felt that Canada should have a more important and active role.

BNA has also learned in confidence that the United States Navy will probably dissent strongly within the JCS when the Air Force proposal is discussed. The Navy position, in which it believes the Army will join, is as follows:

The U.S. Northeast Command is a U.S. Unified Command, responsible directly to the JCS, and set up to give the JCS greater operational control over U.S. forces. It has no territorial command. It is not desirable to attempt to make a Unified Command into a Combined Command.
The U.S.-Canada Regional Group under NATO does not have a NATO Commander and no such command is foreseen at this time. The U.S. Air Force apparently envisages an integrated air defense of the Island of Newfoundland. The Navy considers this undesirable, in that it would imply that the United States was responsible for the defense of Newfoundland.
The Navy considers it would be embarrassing to appoint a Canadian officer as Deputy Commander of the Northeast Command, and then to restrict his activities so severely that he would be Deputy in name only. The alternative, however, would mean that the Canadians would probably assume more and more functions until the Command became, in fact, a Combined Command.

[Page 900]

The U.S. Navy, as an alternative to the Air Force suggestion, has proposed that a high-ranking Canadian officer be appointed to the Planning Staff of the Northeast Command. This officer would have no command over U.S. troops and such an arrangement would avoid the concept of a Combined Command. This Canadian officer, however, would be in a position to have an intimate knowledge of the plans and operations of the Northeast Command and to coordinate civil defense and other necessary activities. The Navy feels that its proposal would preserve the advantages of Canadian participation in the Northeast Command without the disadvantages which might be brought about by the Air Force proposal.

If the JCS approves the Navy position, they will probably transmit the matter to the United States Section of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense with the request that the Board carry out exploratory discussions with the Canadians. BNA believes that the U.S. Navy position is probably as far as the Department of Defense would be willing to go at present. If the U.S. Section were to make this proposal it would, therefore, have little room for negotiation with the Canadians, who may well find the proposal unsatisfactory. This might bring about a situation which would have the opposite effect from that which the Air Force intends, namely, to gain greater Canadian cooperation on U.S. projects and operations within Canada.

Should this matter be presented to the P.J.B.D., the State Department Member (N.S. Haselton, BNA) plans to advise caution in approaching the Canadians. Although the Department of State has on several occasions in the past urged the U.S. military services to take the Canadians into their confidence and to coordinate more closely with them, it might be better tactics, in view of the above considerations, to wait until we receive a formal approach from the Canadian Government. We would then be able to offer the Navy position as a counter proposal. On the other hand, if the military services insist that we make an offer in order to improve their working relations with the Canadians, Mr. Haselton plans to suggest that we sound out the Canadians informally at a high level, possibly through a private conversation between General Henry, Chairman of the United States Section, and General McNaughton, Chairman of the Canadian Section.5

It is hoped that the above information will prove useful in case the Northeast Command should come up for discussion in your meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

  1. Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force.
  2. Raynor described the conversation in a memorandum of that date, not printed (711.5/8–851).
  3. The U.S. Northeast Command’s area of responsibility included Greenland.
  4. General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Ottawa on August 1 and 2.
  5. Gen. Andrew George Latta McNaughton, Chairman, Canadian Section, Permanent Joint Board on Defense, Canada–U.S.