740.5/1–1451: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Gifford ) to the Secretary of State 1

top secret

3902. Pass Defense. From MacArthur for Perkins. January 13 General Eisenhower called on King Haakon, then Crown Prince and then met jointly with Norwegian Prime Minister Gerhardsen, Foreign Minister Lange, Defense Minister Hauge and top Norwegian military staff.2 Following is résumé of conversations:

1. Haakon after warmly welcoming Eisenhower said he wished to express personal views. Norway must have help and agreements should be made to supply Norway with necessary forces. He is convinced Norway has will to fight but this not enough since it does not have means to defend itself having a population of only three million and a vast area to defend. Norwegian constitution a factor in what can be done since it prohibits stationing of foreign troops in Norway in peace time. He expressed personal view that NAT Air Forces that are to come to defense of Norway in event of war should be stationed in UK in peace time. He also said that because of small size of Norwegian defense force is not possible employ Norwegian troops outside Norway. General Eisenhower replied he felt it most important Norway constitute a hedgehog defense of such strength that no one would attack it. Eisenhower described opinion current in certain US circles that it inadvisable to commit further US forces for defense of Western Europe because of the belief Europeans do not have will to defend themselves and said it of utmost importance that he be able to point to concrete actions taken by Europeans indicating their determination to defend themselves. King replied he agreed with Eisenhower and assured him that people of Norway can be counted on to make required effort.

2. Crown Prince Olav. Following usual opening amenities during which Olav expressed great pleasure at Eisenhower appointment, General Eisenhower mentioned one problem he would have to consider very carefully in drawing conclusions from his trip was length of national military service. He pointed out US Defense Department now asking Congress for 27-month conscription period and short period of some European nations would be subject of adverse comment. Olav replied Norway has tradition of short conscription period and which would be difficult to change. He added, however, that he was [Page 422] sure Eisenhower could count on Norwegian people to make great sacrifices in common defense effort.

3. Meeting with Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Defense Minister and military staff.

Prime Minister Gerhardsen opened with welcoming speech in which he pointed out Norway took serious step of joining NAT largely because Norway afraid of being attacked and oppressed if they stood alone. Norway was afraid of war but even more afraid of losing its independence and freedom because it knows from its own painful experience what this means. Norway joined NAT because it believed NAT could secure peace and freedom and Norway fully prepared to take her share of common defense burden by making maximum contribution. Norway wanted Eisenhower to get favorable impression but above all leave with correct impression of Norwegian weaknesses and strengths. All Norway happy Eisenhower selected for great task of Supreme Commander because they recognize he not only outstanding military man but a man gifted in every respect who desires peace, justice and freedom.

Hauge then gave over-all résumé beginning with summary of size of population, area, industries, gross national income, et cetera. He pointed out productivity low but increasing thanks to Marshall Plan. Norwegian youth courageous and forward looking; Norwegians are individualists yet all but Commies solidly support foreign and defense policy. Hard core of Norwegian Commie Party consists of 10,000 dues-paying members. Commies hold no seats in Parliament and strength is on decline. However Commie possibilities should not be under or over-rated. Since liberation in 1945 main task in defense field is to build up strength from little or nothing. Norway has had conscription and national military service system for 80 years. It originally based on the 19th Century Norwegian belief that professional standing army is barrier both to social progress and closer Scandinavian association and also on desire for a really democratic people’s army, Norway’s quick defeat by Germany stemmed partly from paucity of competent officers and non-coms, short term of military service and fact that only 1% (as compared with 5% in 1951) of national income devoted to defense. Norway trying to rectify by building up cadres, establishing effective national guard; obtaining equipment for training and for reserves; participating in German occupation forces, et cetera. Hauge summed up Norwegian efforts as “brave beginning but no more and no less”. Norwegian will to resist has grown in past six months. Chief deficiencies were weakness of cadres and small size of covering forces. He outlined plans to increase defense expenditures from about 350 million kroner in 1950 to between 500 and 550 million in 1951; to [Page 423] increase cadres by 1500; to increase military service to 12 months (instead of 9 to 11 months); to expand scope of 2 to 3 months refresher courses; to increase the present effectiveness of air and navy. Also desired to improve airfields and warning system but this would depend on receiving equipment.

Touching on Norwegian contribution to defense of Europe he said Norwegian troops necessary for defense of Norway but Norway also had brigade group in Germany. (He stressed German participation essential for “forward strategy”.) Assignment of brigade group in Germany to integrated force required Norwegian constitutional action which seemed assured.

Hauge severely criticized failure of efforts of Finance Ministers (through DFEC) to develop formula for equitable distribution of burden of defense effort. National income not in itself fair gauge since it does not take into account what part of per capita national income needed for bare subsistence. Also leaves out productivity. Furthermore ratio of defense budget to national income is not reliable because each country includes different items in budgets. Hauge believes just formula for equitable distribution of burden essential. He concluded that Norway would not shirk its duty and had a good conscience given its resources and capabilities.

Chiefs of Staff then gave detailed outline of programs and problems of three services. Following gives highlights:

Principal deficiencies of army were lack of trained officers and non-coms; lack of equipment (being remedied by US aid); lack of adequate staff training in unit organizations of all sizes. Present efforts were therefore to improve quality and also increase effectiveness of reserves.
Navy deficiencies listed were serious gap between capabilities and requirements in coastal escort vessels. Also too few minesweepers and MTB. Recently Norwegian Government had started to activate certain laid-up ships. This experience showed Norwegian naval mobilization plan for activating ships was faulty and reexamination is required. Navy also suffered from lack of trained officers and petty officers. Exercises with Royal Navy showed peacetime effectiveness only 50% of Royal Navy performance. Efficiency would improve if there were longer period of conscription. Also it difficult to attract officers and petty officers in regular navy because of higher wage scales in merchant marine.
Air deficiencies are in aircraft, spares and equipment; insufficient land communications and radar; housing, et cetera, interceptor performance not too bad but air-ground teamwork not properly developed.

General Eisenhower then asked a number of questions re length of service, stressing importance of building soonest adequate well-trained forces in being. He suggested training techniques to improve efficiency in proper staff team-work; stressed necessity for increasing number [Page 424] of NCO’s and paying salaries sufficient to attract, et cetera. General Eisenhower then summed up his views of over-all situation as follows:

At the bottom of military success are the fundamentals of morale, determined purpose, and burning ambition to succeed. This is hard to achieve in the Allied Command because of national aspirations of individual members. The NATO nations must work together. This is a question of having the right spirit. Each nation must strive to out-do others “if only by one man”.

While no one is trying to compare the size of the Norwegian effort with that of US, it must be pointed out there is a real problem in the US. US Congress and people must be honestly convinced that European nations are making comparable effort and sacrifices. Question of effort is really question of heart. There must be no unreadiness to make sacrifices. No one is trying to be arbitrary in this matter but Norway must realize and be sympathetic with what Eisenhower has to do. Eisenhower not pleading US cause but common NAT cause since he considers himself 1/12 Norwegian. Amalgamation of combined power can only be achieved if every nation is convinced that the others are making a comparable sacrifice. Each nation must struggle to be a little ahead of the other. Success is assured if we put our shoulders to job because the free world has the brains, strength and genius to succeed. Problem in the next few weeks is arriving at a decision that will determine course for many months to come. We can meander or go forward, lift up our hearts and heads, and find we have arrived.

[ MacArthur ]
  1. This telegram was repeated to Oslo.
  2. Regarding Eisenhower’s visit to Oslo, January 12–13, see also telegram 725, supra.