742 5/11–1452

No. 954
Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Perkins) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Matthews) 1

  • Subject: Difficulties encountered in obtaining Canadian Government approval for U.S. or joint-defense projects in Canada.


Members of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, U.S.–Canada are becoming worried by the increasing reluctance of Canada to approve U.S. or joint military projects on Canadian soil. The U.S.A.F. has withdrawn its request to develop Torbay Airport, Newfoundland as an air depot and may withdraw its request for a base for fighter aircraft. Owing to the difficulties being encountered, the U.S.A.F. and the other U.S. Services are re-examining their overall planning with respect to Canada, with a view to reducing their requirements and to meeting the Canadian objections.


The hitherto highly successful joint defense planning carried on in the Permanent Joint Board on Defense has become more difficult during the past year. The Members of the Canadian Section of the Board are genuinely anxious and willing to cooperate, but resistance appears to center in the Department of External Affairs and the Canadian Cabinet Ministers (to which these matters are referred) and is essentially political. On the other hand, the U.S. military services have brought on a good share of their difficulties by their own attitudes and actions. The U.S.A.F., which is the service most active in Canada, has unfortunately often proceeded in a cavalier fashion which has upset and annoyed the Canadians.

The principal difficulties at present appear to be based on the following considerations:

The Canadian Cabinet’s opposition to the stationing of additional U.S. troops in Canada in peace-time;
Fears on the part of External Affairs that Canadian sovereignty might be violated;
The need of U.S. defense departments for some assurances regarding tenure, versus the announced intention of the government not to grant the U.S. any long-term leases for military bases;
Canadian complaints that the Canadian Cabinet is not fully informed of U.S. plans and intentions owing to an alleged lack of coordination between the military services of the two countries;
The inherent conflict in methods of military planning—in the U.S. detailed planning is done by Field Commanders, while in Canada planning is centralized in Ottawa, with a much greater degree of political direction;
The often-expressed Canadian desire to be presented in advance with long-range studies giving overall U.S. military requirements, rather than to be confronted with frequent and fragmentary requests;
The Canadian desire for a greater part in joint planning and command arrangements (possibly a combined command in the Northeast);
Difficulties in allocating responsibility between the U.S. and Canada for command and control of air defense and ground defense forces at bases in Canada;
Problems caused on occasion by the U.S.A.F.’s tendency to utilize informal channels of communication owing to a lack of appreciation of the impact on Canada of its requests. The U.S.A.F. has also been prone in turn to hasty action and long delays, abrupt changes in plans, and the presentation of requests without adequate documentation. Very good progress has been made in the past year in correcting these deficiencies which are caused largely by the size and complexity of the U.S. military organization. (This latter aspect of the matter is not always fully appreciated by the Canadians.)

Possibly because of the above-mentioned considerations in the minds of the Canadian Cabinet, no important defense agreement has been concluded through the P.J.B.D. during the past year.2 The Canadians appear particularly adamant with respect to any project involving additional U.S. personnel.

There are listed below several of the most urgent matters which are still outstanding: [Page 2049]


Lease to the U.S.A.F. of part of the R.C.A.F. station at Goose Bay

This project was approved in principle in 1950 and the text of the notes has been agreed to by both governments for more than a year. The Canadians have postponed signature for a variety of reasons, the latest being that they wished a further understanding on command and local defense arrangements before signing. Mr. Arneson of S/AE is becoming concerned over the long delays in concluding this important agreement.


Global Communications Project of the U.S.A.F.

Negotiations on this were so difficult that the matter had to be dealt with by Mr. Acheson and Mr. Pearson. A meeting of the minds has now finally been reached after approximately a year of conversations in the P.J.B.D., but conclusion of the necessary agreements is still awaiting Canadian action.


Development by the U.S.A.F. of Torbay Airport

This proposal to establish an air depot and fighter plane base met strong resistance and negotiations have been under way since March, 1951 without success. The U.S.A.F. has now withdrawn its depot request and is considering alternative arrangements with regard to the stationing of fighters in the area.


U.S. Army Pipeline from Haines to Fairbanks, Alaska across Canadian Territory

This project has been discussed with Canada in the P.J.B.D. for approximately two years and the formal request for right-of-way was presented about six months ago. Although the Canadian Cabinet approved at once in principle, procedural and Federal-provincial difficulties are now being encountered, and it appears that the project, which both countries agreed had a high priority, may be adversely affected.


Joint Radar Network

This project, financed ⅔ by the U.S. and ⅓ by Canada, has been fraught with difficulties which have delayed completion approximately two years beyond the original target date. A large share of responsibility for this rests on the U.S.; however, for political and economic reasons, the Canadians insisted that Canadian-manufactured equipment be used, and their failure to produce such equipment to meet the target dates has caused considerable concern.


Six additional Radar Stations requested by U.S.A.F.

This proposal was formally presented at the P.J.B.D. meeting of June, 1952 on advice from the U.S.A.F. that it considered the proposed stations an essential addition to the radar chain. The Canadians displayed reluctance to act and asked for more information. This was presented at the September meeting, at which time the Canadians indicated that the matter would have to be very carefully [Page 2050] considered. They also indicated that they might require that Canadian-manufactured equipment be procured.


This information is submitted at this time for your use in case the Joint Chiefs of Staff should raise any of these questions with you.

It is thought also that, if you agree, Mr. Acheson might be asked to mention in a general way, during his trip to Ottawa,3 our hope that joint defense problems now being encountered may be solved to the mutual satisfaction of both countries.

The U.S. Services, particularly the U.S.A.F., have been stimulated by the U.S. Section of the P.J.B.D. to give high-level attention to ways of meeting the Canadian objections. In particular, the U.S.A.F. is giving thought to mutually satisfactory arrangements with Canada to solve air defense, command, and operational problems. Methods are being actively sought to improve coordination and planning between the U.S. and Canadian Services.

On the political level, it is doubtful that much can be done to overcome deep-rooted attitudes in Canadian Cabinet members, particularly in view of coming elections next year, and in the light of the portents of the U.S. elections for the Liberal Party in Canada, which has been in power for 20 years. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, however, high U.S. officials might emphasize to them that the United States has no desire to infringe on Canadian sovereignty or legitimate interests and that our concern is motivated solely by our wish to build up adequate defenses for the U.S.Canadian region.

Officers of BNA and of the U.S. Section, P.J.B.D., will continue active consideration of the military problems with Canada and possible means of improving cooperation. Mr. G. Hayden Raynor will be in Ottawa on November 17 and plans to discuss these matters with U.S. Embassy officers and Canadian officials.

  1. Drafted by Wight.
  2. Several defense agreements of a more limited nature were developed during 1952 out of recommendations of the PJBD approved by President Truman. Recommendation 51/5 concerning movements of U.S. and Canadian aircraft across the border, and Recommendation 51/6 regarding air defense mutual reinforcement in wartime, were approved on Mar. 7. Recommendation 52/1 concerning the simplified arrangements for entrance of public vessels of either country into the territorial waters of the other was approved on May 19. Recommendation 52/2 concerning control of electromagnetic radiations in the event of attack was approved by President Truman on Jan. 19, 1953. These recommendations, when approved, had the force of exchanges of notes. The abovementioned recommendations, attached to covering memoranda by the Secretary of State recommending approval by President Truman dated Mar. 5, 1952, May 14, 1952, and Jan. 14, 1953, are in files 742.5/3–552, 5–1952, and 1–1953, respectively. The minutes of many of the PJBD meetings at which the recommendations were discussed are in Canadian Desk files, lot 63 D 156. This is the master file of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, United States–Canada for the years 1940–1958, as maintained by the Canadian Desk of the Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs.
  3. The trip was scheduled for Nov. 21–23.