4. Informal Record of Remarks1


Our review of the record indicates that in 1957 we determined that the effective operation of the strategic deterrent would require [Page 6] sometime in the future storage of nuclear weapons at Thule, Greenland. Our records indicate that while we believed that Article II(b)(3)(ii) of the 1951 Defense Agreement2 entitled us to store these weapons at Thule, nevertheless, we considered it important to determine whether your Government wished to be informed prior to introducing nuclear weapons into Greenland. Accordingly, our Ambassador made an approach of this nature to the then Prime Minister Hansen on November 13, 1957.3 On November 18, 1957, Prime Minister Hansen gave our Ambassador a written statement which he characterized as informal, personal, highly secret and limited to one copy each on the Danish and American side.4 This statement noted the United States Government’s view of the Base Agreement and that we had not submitted a concrete plan for storage nor asked questions as to the attitude of the Danish Government. The Prime Minister concluded that in these circumstances no comment on his part was necessary. He was adamant, however, that there should be no publicity now or later since any kind of leak could be highly damaging to our two countries. Inasmuch as the Prime Minister did not register objection to the possibility of storage and did not request that he be informed prior to actual introduction of nuclear weapons, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] the United States Government.5
Our records also indicate that the question of nuclear weapons operations from Thule was discussed early in 1964 by Under Secretary for Greenland Brun and Ambassador Blair in relation to an accident in the state of Maryland involving a U.S. bomber carrying nuclear weapons.6 This discussion frankly addressed the possibility that a similar accident could arise as a result of operations involving nuclear weapons at or near Thule which would raise difficult questions in the Folketing. Ambassador Blair suggested that if such an unfortunate incident ever occurred, the Danish Government could state that U.S. activities in Greenland had as their sole object the defense interests of the Free World and that they had been worked out in full cooperation with Danish defense forces and the Danish Government under terms and conditions of the 1951 Defense Agreement and in accordance with over-all Danish policies. Under Secretary Brun made no objection to this proposal and pursued the matter no further.
In connection with overflights of Greenland, the effective operation of the strategic deterrent has also required that such flights involving nuclear weapons be carried on from time to time in accordance with Article V (3) of the 1951 Defense Agreement.

As for the current situation [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], nor are there now any overflights of Greenland by U.S. strategic aircraft.

I wish to emphasize again that in view of the sensitivity of military operations with nuclear weapons, the United States Government must continue to stand by its policy of neither confirming nor denying publicly the presence of nuclear weapons on its aircraft or bases anywhere in the world. In addition, I urge that your Government in addressing this problem publicly in the future limit itself to a statement along the following lines:

“U.S. operations in Greenland are the subject of regular consultation between the two Governments and are in accord with the 1951 Defense Agreement as well as their respective policies. The Government of Denmark is fully aware in this connection of its responsibilities to the Danish people in Greenland for their safety and defense. We are fully satisfied that the interests of the Danish people are being protected.”

We hope that all public statements on this matter by either Government will be subject to consultation between the two Governments.
  1. Source: Department of State, Danish Desk Files: Lot 73 D 167, Thule Crash—Internal Memos. Top Secret. No indication of the drafting officer appears on the record. Leddy gave Ronne a verbatim copy of the record during their meeting on January 27 (see Document 3) which Ronne included in his January 27 telegram to Krag reporting on the meeting. Ronne’s telegram is printed in Greenland During the Cold War, vol. 2, pp. 451-453.
  2. For text of the 1951 Defense Agreement, which was signed at Copenhagen, April 27, 1951, and entered into force June 8, see 2 UST 1485.
  3. Ambassador Peterson advised such a course of action in telegram 376, October 31, 1957, in the belief that the “general spirit of Dano-United States relations and cooperation in Greenland in defense matters puts us under moral obligation to be frank and open with Prime Minister on matter of such potential political importance for Denmark.” The Department authorized an approach to Hansen in telegram 499, November 8. In telegram 406, November 13, Peterson reported that he had met that day with Hansen, who, because of the issue’s “serious psychological and political implications,” wanted to study it and meet again in a few days. All three telegrams are in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1955-59, 711.56359. The difficulties that Hansen faced in responding to the U.S. approach are discussed in Greenland During the Cold War, Summary, pp. 21-22.
  4. Peterson reported on the November 18 meeting and Hansen’s statement in telegram 419 from Copenhagen, November 18, 1957. Peterson indicated that Hansen asked him to consider his copy of the statement “purely personal.” (Department of State, Danish Desk Files: Lot 73 D 167, Thule Crash—Internal Memos) No copy of Hansen’s statement has been found. In telegram 105056 to Copenhagen, January 26, 1968, the Department indicated that it could not locate a copy of Hansen’s statement and asked whether the document or a copy existed in Embassy files. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Denmark, Vol. 1) The Embassy replied in the negative. (Telegram 2933, January 26; ibid) The text of Hansen’s statement, from Danish archives, is printed in Greenland During the Cold War, Summary, pp. 23-24.
  5. In telegram 3436 from Copenhagen, February 23, the Embassy reported that General Ramberg, Chief of Defense, Danish Armed Forces, had explained to the Embassy Counselor the previous evening that Danish anti-nuclear weapons policy was first authoritatively enunciated on December 2, 1957, at a NATO Ministerial meeting when Hansen stated that Denmark did not want nuclear weapons on its soil. Ramberg emphasized that Danish officials had always regarded this as an expression of the belief that nuclear weapons should not be stored on the soil of European Denmark. Ramberg was sure Hansen’s remarks were uttered in a context that excluded Greenland. “At most, one might say prohibition against storage of nuclear weapons on Greenland was intended; certainly prohibition against overflights was never contemplated—particularly since overflights were guaranteed by 1951 treaty.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, DEF 17 US)
  6. A B-52 bomber carrying two nuclear weapons crashed in Maryland on January 13, 1964. Blair reported on his February 5 meeting with Brun in telegram 519 from Copenhagen, February 6. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Denmark, Vol. 1)