Greenland: Arctic Outpost

During 1940, while the United States had been looking to its defenses in Alaska, Hawaii, and Panama, while the exchange of destroyers for a string of Atlantic bases was under negotiation, and then, while plans and preparations for developing the new bases were getting under way, Britain and Canada were consolidating their position in the North Atlantic by stationing troops in Iceland and were attempting to counter German activities in Greenland. Although the United States Government had acquiesced in the garrisoning of Iceland, it had no desire to see Britain make the same move into Greenland; for Greenland, although a Danish colony, was, unlike Iceland, definitely within the Western Hemisphere and within the scope of the Monroe Doctrine. Should Canada take protective action in Greenland, it was feared that a precedent might be established which would give Japan an excuse to seize the Netherlands East Indies if the Germans invaded Holland. British, Canadian, and American diplomacy went through a good many convolutions, more fittingly described elsewhere, before the lines of policy took shape.1  The official American position, simply stated, rested on nonintervention, on the traditional "hands off" policy of the Monroe Doctrine, and on noninterference. The United States, for several reasons, had refused to commit itself to the defense of Greenland and at the same time had declared its objection to any military action in Greenland by Britain or Canada or to any attempt on their part to establish control over Greenland.

The War Department's interest in Greenland was not at first a very active one. Greenland figured to some extent in the RAINBOW 4. war planning, and in this connection the advice of Arctic experts was sought and studies undertaken that added considerably to the meager store of data the Army had.2


A number of possible sites for airfields, at the head of Søndre Strømfjord, about six hundred miles up the western coast from Cape Farewell, were disclosed by an Air Corps survey flight in August 1940, but the Army made no plans for developing any of them. While this survey was in progress, the State Department hastily called to the Army's attention a Canadian proposal to establish a landing held on the southern tip of Greenland, near Julianehaab, and, doubtless thinking it a matter over which the Army should be concerned, the State Department spokesman, Assistant Secretary Adolph A. Berle, Jr., was surprised when the War Department informed him that it had no objection to the Canadian proposal.3

Growth of American Interest in Greenland

During the next six months the views of the War Department changed. Strategic planning was shifting away from the dismal assumption that Britain had only a small chance of surviving. American bases were under construction in Newfoundland and American troops were there. And finally, new data indicated that it was really possible to build an airfield in the vicinity of Julianehaab. At the same time Mr. Berle was prodding the War and Navy Departments with the suggestion that further inaction on the part of the United States might result in the Canadians moving into Greenland. At a meeting in his office on 6 February 1941, representatives of the War and Navy Departments agreed that this would be less desirable than if the defense of Greenland were to be in U.S. hands. The nature of American military interests, as the war Department now viewed them, was presented at the same meeting by Lt. Col. Clayton L. Bissell of the War Plans Division. He summarized them as follows: first, the defense of the American bases in Newfoundland and of the northeastern United States would be affected by a military air base in Greenland; second, the United States should control whatever aviation facilities were constructed in Greenland, or at least insist on equal rights in the use and operation of any facilities built by anyone else; and lastly, further German efforts to obtain weather data from Greenland were to be expected. The conference ended in a general agreement and recommendation that a survey party should be sent to Greenland


to investigate airfield sites and to examine the possibility of constructing the various facilities-radio, navigational aids, and the like that would be necessary for developing the airfields. It was further agreed that it would be to the best interests of the United States if the Danish authorities in Greenland were to undertake the actual construction with the financial and technical assistance of the United States.4  These decisions were the springboard for all subsequent American activities in Greenland.

Presidential approval and the consent of the Danish authorities in Greenland followed the conference of 6 February without much delay. By the end of the month a Coast Guard vessel had been made available for the survey party, lists of special clothing and equipment were being compiled, and the Army members of the party were designated.5  Then, almost on the eve of sailing, an important decision was made, which completely changed the expedition's focus. At a meeting of Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and State Department representatives in Mr. Berle's office on 5 March it was agreed that "considerations of defense, jurisdiction, operation and maintenance" made construction of the facilities by the Danish authorities in Greenland impracticable, that the Army would therefore build the necessary landing fields, and that the State Department would negotiate an appropriate agreement with the responsible authorities.6 On 17 March the survey party under the command of Comdr. William Sinton, USN, boarded the Coast Guard cutter Cayuga at Boston and sailed for Greenland.7 A Royal Canadian Air Force observer accompanied the party.

After a difficult voyage through heavy ice the expedition arrived in southern Greenland. In this area and in the vicinity of Holsteinsborg and the Søndre Strømfjord at lease a dozen possible sites were investigated, the most promising of which were at Narsarssuak, Ivigtut, and Søndre Strømfjord, on the glacial moraine at the head of the respective fjords.8

Meanwhile important developments had been taking place in Washington. The ninth of April was the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Denmark,


and on this date an agreement guaranteeing the security of Greenland with the United States as guarantor was signed by Secretary of State Hull and Mr. Henrik Kauffman, the Danish Minister. Preparations for sending a construction party and a defense force to Greenland were begun immediately. A survey of the east coast, which the Air Corps had decided was necessary, was quickly organized.9 The Greenland defense agreement was the culmination of the State Department's efforts to meet the problem posed by the convergent interests in Canada, Great Britain, and the United States; while these other preparations followed both from the agreement itself and from the expanding activities of the Air Corps.

With a bow in the direction of the Act of Havana, which authorized unilateral measures of hemisphere defense in times of emergency, the Hull Kauffman agreement gave the United States the right to construct, maintain, and operate in Greenland such airfields, seaplane facilities, and other defense facilities as were necessary to protect the sovereignty of Denmark and the territorial integrity of Greenland. The rights granted to the United States were extensive. They included, among others, the authority to deepen harbors and anchorages, to construct roads and fortifications, and, in general, "the right to do any and all things necessary to insure the efficient operation, maintenance and protection" of whatever defense facilities were established. It was agreed that the areas necessary for these purposes would be leased to the United States. A comparison with the British Base Agreement, signed only twelve days before, is unavoidable. Of the two, the Greenland defense agreement was much less comprehensive and thus permitted the United States considerably more latitude. That is to say, there was far more room for discussion and negotiation and possibly misunderstandings. Both agreements committed the respective governments to a speedy execution of formal leases and both provided that the use of the leased areas by the United States was not to be delayed pending the execution of the leases.10  The Greenland agreement then granted to the United States three particular rights by explicit provision: the right of exclusive jurisdiction over all persons within the leased areas except Danish citizens and native Greenlanders; the right to establish postal facilities and commissaries; and the right of exemption from





customs duties on all materials and equipment used in the defense areas and from all personal taxation on American workmen and military personnel.11 Only three limitations on the exercise of these rights were expressly laid down: the United States, in locating the defense areas, undertook to give the "fullest consideration consistent with military necessity . . . to the welfare, health and economic needs of the native populations"; as for the facilities to be built there, the United States promised that they would be made available to the aircraft and vessels "of all the American Nations" for purposes of hemisphere defense; and lastly the United States undertook to "respect all legitimate interests in Greenland" as well as all laws and customs pertaining to the native population and to give "sympathetic consideration to all representations" by the local authorities respecting the welfare of the inhabitants.12

Greenland's Strategic Importance Reappraised

By this time the impetus that had originally turned the War Department's attentions toward Greenland was given new force by the Air Corps, which had been casting about for the best way to assist the transatlantic ferrying operations of the British. A number of proposals were considered. One of the more modest of them was presented by General Arnold himself, and this suggestion, that the United States take over the delivery of planes from the factory to some transfer point like Montreal or Presque Isle, Me., was quickly adopted. It was decided, also, to establish an air transport service between Washington and the United Kingdom. During March, April, and May, other proposals were studied and rejected. The question of whether to develop a route for short-range planes was still unsettled when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. A proposal that the United States accept responsibility over the entire transatlantic ferry route, which had been rejected in the spring, had not been accepted by the time the United States became an actual belligerent. Whether laid aside or still in question, these two proposals nevertheless provided justification for building airfields in Greenland. Even if other means for delivering short-range planes to England could be provided sooner, an air route should be developed simultaneously, argued General Arnold. And apart from this matter of ferrying short-range planes, it was sound aviation doctrine, he pointed out, to have alternate fields available for use in the transport operations already decided upon, or in patrol and reconnaissance opera-


tions.13  These considerations explain the Army's interest in the survey of Greenland that was planned for the early summer of 1941.

Although in General Arnold's opinion there were only two reasons for establishing bases in Greenland, namely, protecting convoys and ferrying planes, there was in actual fact another element which was becoming increasingly decisive.14 This was the defense of Greenland itself. The problem-for, because of the terrain, the climate and general physical features, it could not be considered otherwise-was a dual one. It involved, first, the fact that Greenland was a major source of cryolite for the aluminum industry of the United States and Canada and, second, that it was the breeding ground of western Europe's storms.

One well-directed shot from the deck gun of a German submarine or a clever act of sabotage by one of the workmen could have seriously damaged the cryolite mine at Ivigtut, might have perhaps put it out of operation and thereby disrupted the Canadian aluminum industry, on which Allied aircraft production was heavily dependent. To prevent this, the local authorities had organized a mine guard armed with rifles and a few machine guns and had obtained from the United States a 3-inch antiaircraft gun manned by former U.S. Coast Guard gunners. Then, during the first weeks of April 1941, the success of German arms in the Mediterranean aroused President Roosevelt's concern for the safety of the Atlantic outposts. At his insistence the War Department hastened to garrison Bermuda and Trinidad and to send reinforcements to Newfoundland. As soon as the Greenland defense agreement was signed, the general question of a defense plan was tossed into the lap of the Army-Navy Joint Board.15 As early as 16 April, on several occasions during the next three months, and particularly after the Bismarck episode, the Canadian Government expressed its doubt and solicitude about the adequacy of the defenses at Ivigtut. The War Department unhesitatingly rejected a Canadian offer to provide a garrison, although both the War and Navy Departments shared to some extent the concern of the Canadian Government. While the State Department in an aide-mémoire drawn up with the advice of the War Department was informing the Canadian Gov-


ernment that "the measures which have been and will be taken . . . are believed to be all that are practical both from the point of view of timeliness and of extent," the War Plans Division was at the same time informing the Chief of Staff that these measures were inadequate and that the estimated size of the garrison planned for Ivigtut should be increased from approximately 100 men to about 480.16 After this increase had been approved and the plans changed accordingly, the War Plans Division considered the cryolite mine to be sufficiently well protected, although the first defense force did not actually arrive at Ivigtut until well after the beginning of the new year, 1942. By that time it had been whittled down to one officer and twelve enlisted men.17

The second factor in the defense problem -the value of Greenland as a base for meteorological observations- had been responsible for what turned out to be the first violations of Western Hemisphere territory by Nazi Germany. During the summer of 1940 the German Government had organized in Norway a number of expeditions for the purpose of establishing radio and weather stations in northeastern Greenland, in the neighborhood of Scoresby Sound. Although manned, it would seem, by Norwegians and Danes, and led by a Dane, these weather stations were under German control and were operated for the purpose of assisting the German naval and military effort. The British therefore undertook immediate countermeasures. A mixed British-Norwegian landing party seized a supply of aviation gasoline, dismantled several radio stations, and took into custody a number of heavily armed Danish "hunters" found on the coast. This was in late August or early September 1940. A few weeks afterward the British intercepted another vessel off the coast of Greenland with about fifty Germans, some of them meteorologists, on board.18 All this activity at the top of the Western Hemisphere was a source of much concern to Secretary of State Hull. The British in Iceland were maintaining close watch, attempting by means of radio direction finders to locate any clandestine weather broadcasts from Greenland; but in the absence of continuous air and naval patrols German intruders ran a fair


Photo: TROOPS EXAMINE GERMAN PARACHUTE KIT found at site of abandoned German radio base in Greenland.

TROOPS EXAMINE GERMAN PARACHUTE KIT found at site of abandoned German radio base in Greenland.

chance of being undisturbed. By the spring of 1941 there was a strong suspicion in Washington that one of the German-controlled weather stations was still operating. Reports continued to reach the War Department of German planes sighted over Scoresby Sound, of an unidentified vessel off Julianehaab, of a strange plane high over Disko Bay, and of German plans to land a force somewhere on Greenland's eastern coast.19

The information that a German landing impended came to the War Department from the Navy, but at the same time the Navy Department made it clear that the report was of questionable reliability. In the meantime a dispatch from the military attaché in London reported that a German detachment was believed to have already established itself in the neighborhood of Scoresby Sound. President Roosevelt, who a few days earlier had asked the


War and Navy Departments for recommendations to forestall an act of this kind, brought the matter up at a Cabinet meeting on Friday, 25 April. 20 As Secretary Stimson later remembered it

The President mentioned the rumor that had come, up to the effect that the Germans already had a force landed on the east coast of Greenland. He said that the British Admiralty and the Navy were not inclined to believe the rumor but the War Department did believe it and that he was inclined to believe the War Department.21

The President agreed with his advisers that the situation called for a well-armed naval expedition rather than an Army garrison. He approved the idea of sending one or two Navy patrol planes to Iceland for an inspection flight or two over the Scoresby Sound area, but he disagreed with the suggestion that Iceland be used as a more or less permanent base of patrol plane operations. The upshot was that the Navy proceeded to organize an east coast "survey" party for which the Coast Guard provided specially equipped vessels and experienced crews. For the time being the Army's assistance was not required.22  The War Department could therefore concentrate its attention, so far as concerned Greenland, on constructing the airfields and on garrisoning the west coast.

Establishing the BLUIE Bases

As soon as the negotiations with the Danish Minister were sufficiently advanced, President Roosevelt authorized the War Department to go ahead with the preparations for building the airfields. For this purpose he gave his approval to the expenditure of approximately $5,000,000 from funds previously allocated for constructing the bases acquired from the British. General Arnold, who; as Chief of the Air Corps, was at once placed in charge of all matters pertaining to the Greenland airfields, was immediately directed to start assembling the necessary construction equipment, materials, and personnel, but within a week some of his responsibility had been shifted over to the War Plans Division. For the sake of conformity, Colonel Anderson, acting head of the War Plans Division, proposed on 9 April that the development program be placed under the direction and co-ordination of


the War Plans Division, as had been done in the case of all the other outlying bases. His recommendation, approved on 11 April, was formally adopted on 17 April.23

During the following month the several interested divisions of the General Staff worked out the various derails of the construction force. A momentary hitch developed when the Navy Department decided it could not spare any of its transports because of the two months' layover that would be required at the base; but this particular problem was solved by the War Department's transferring to the Navy a recently acquired Army transport, the U.S.S. Munargo, to be fitted out and used for the movement, and in addition to the Munargo, the veteran troopship Chateau Thierry was later assigned. As decided upon in mid-April, the Greenland force consisted of one battalion (minus one company), 21st Engineers (AVN), reinforced by a composite battery, 62d Coast Artillery (AA), plus the necessary service troops. The departure, originally scheduled for 19 May, was delayed a whole month for repairs to be made to the  Munargo; but on 19 June the two ships sailed out of New York Harbor with the 469 officers and men of the Greenland force on board.24  Col. Benjamin F. Giles, Air Corps, was in command.

Six days later the Munargo and the Chateau Thierry were at Argentia, Newfoundland, taking on fuel and fresh water and awaiting word of ice conditions farther North. Soon the bay became a busy place. One evening, a day or two after the Greenland force arrived, a flotilla of United States destroyers, followed by four or five Navy transports, loomed out of the heavy fog and slipped into the harbor. By next morning two battleships of the Atlantic Fleet, several more destroyers and the cruisers Nashville and Brooklyn had joined the assemblage along with four troopships loaded with marines. These new arrivals--transports, troopships, destroyers, battleships, and cruisers -were the ships of Task Force 19, the first task force organized by the Navy for foreign service in World War II.25 It was bound for Iceland. The plans


for this movement had been going through the mill simultaneously with the Greenland preparations, for the President early in June had decided to establish an American garrison in Iceland and to set up a base there for patrol operations like those he had vetoed at the end of April. The marines were the first element of the garrison, to be followed in the course of the summer by sizable units of the Army Air Forces and of the 5th Division so that by August Iceland would bulk larger than Greenland in Army planning; but of these subsequent doings neither the marines nor Colonel Giles and his men could have had any knowledge. Leaving the Iceland convoy behind, the Greenland force resumed its voyage on 30 June and a week or so later arrived off Narsarssuak. There the major U.S. Army and Navy base in Greenland, BLUIE WEST I, was built.26

By the end of September 1941, when the contractor's people arrived, the troops at BLUIE WEST I had erected 85 buildings, about two-thirds of the total needed for the initial force, and had begun to install the necessary utilities. They had built three miles of access roads, constructed a temporary dock, and started work on the airfield. By the time the civilian construction force arrived they had finished grading one of the two runways and had a metal landing mat partly laid. BLUIE WEST I was thus one of the earliest U.S. Army airfields, if not the first, to make actual use of steel matting in runway construction, an important engineering development that was still being tested two months later in the Carolina maneuvers and one that afterwards contributed greatly to the winning of the war, in the Pacific particularly. After the arrival of the civilian construction force the engineer battalion, reinforced by a company of the 42d Engineers (General Service), concentrated exclusively on airfield construction. They continued to do so until February 1942 when the civilian force took over this work as well. By then the first runway was ready for limited use.

Meanwhile, similar progress had been made at Søndre Strømfjord (BLUIE WEST 8), where the first construction party, a civilian force, arrived late in September. The airfield, begun during the first two weeks of November, was almost completely graded by the beginning of January 1942, when the first plane landed on the runway.27 During the following summer, when the


movement of the Eighth Air Force to England put the two Greenland airfields to their severest test, migrating aircraft had to share the runways with bulldozers and rollers and all the other paraphernalia of construction; for work was still in progress although the fields were usable.

The troops at BLUIE WEST I were added to from time to time during the late summer and early fall of 1941 until by mid-October they numbered about 665 men, two-thirds of whom were Engineers. A small detachment of about thirty men made up the entire Army force at BLUIE WEST 8. An even smaller party operated a radio range and direction finding station on Simiutak Island, about 45 miles from the main base at BLUIE WEST I, and another detachment manned a weather station at Angmagssalik, on the east coast near the Arctic Circle. When war engulfed the United States in December the Army's Greenland forces altogether totaled approximately 750 men.28

From the beginning the garrison enjoyed excellent relations with the local populace. The Danish authorities in Greenland gave the American command their full co-operation and advice at all times, without which the problems of establishing the bases would have been greatly magnified. Troops and civilian workmen acquitted themselves well.29 That there were no AWOL's or desertions is perhaps not too surprising since there were no places to go, but the fact that there were likewise no courts-martial, at least during the first year, is a record of which any commanding officer can be proud.

Command arrangements followed the precedent recently worked out for the Newfoundland Base Command. Tactical control was at first vested in the Commanding General, First Army and responsibility for supply in the Commanding General, Second Corps Area. The latter's responsibility did not however extend to construction matters, all the administration and supply of which were controlled by the Chief of Engineers through the Division Engineer, Eastern Division. When Greenland, along with Newfoundland, was placed directly under GHQ in July the Commanding General, First Army, was thereby relieved of his responsibility for tactical command. The intention was that as soon as the necessary facilities were constructed the Greenland Base Command would be constituted and would operate as a task force under GHQ. Although the Greenland Base Command was not


formally activated until 26 November 1941, the Army forces in Greenland were going by that name as early as 15 July, which was the date they had passed under the control of GHQ.30 The appointment of an Air Corps officer, Colonel Giles, to command them followed the same principle of functional allocation on which the appointment of an Air Corps officer to command at Newfoundland had been based. It was an explicit recognition of the fact that the principal operations would consist of "staging operations involved in the movement of medium range aircraft to England and air operations involved in the defense of Greenland, particularly the air base and Ivigtut." 31

The Defense of Greenland

With Greenland, as with many other outposts of the Western Hemisphere, the War Department faced the problem of passing safely between the Scylla of remote contingency and the Charybdis of immediate need. The question of what ought to be planned for and what on the other hand could be, or had to be, provided posed a dilemma that would have to be resolved if plans and preparations were to bear any relation to each other.

Throughout the summer and fall of 1941, while the construction program was being pushed forward, the War Plans Division and the Army-Navy Joint Board were drawing up the specifications for the defense of Greenland, which GHQ then converted into the actual blueprints. As the Army-Navy Joint Board viewed it, the defense of Greenland would require, first, fleet operations to deny major enemy forces access to the Greenland area, second, the local defense of vulnerable points, third, surface and air patrols of the entire coast during seasons favorable to minor enemy operations, fourth, a system of civilian observation posts, and fifth, appropriate reserve forces held in readiness to repel minor attacks and dislodge enemy units. According to the joint Board planners the most vulnerable points, those that would require local defenses, would be any American installation in Greenland and the cryolite mine at Ivigtut. Because of the terrain and the climate these defenses could be mutually supporting only to the extent of providing small detachments of troops specially trained and equipped and serving with the principal garrisons who would be ready at all times to move by sea to the vicinity of any threat. Depending upon the state of aviation supplies at the


airfields in Greenland, the use of air reinforcements "of minor strength" from Newfoundland would be possible.32 These considerations were the basis of the permanent garrisons authorized for BLUIE WEST I and Ivigtut. Upon the departure of the initial forces in June the approved figures stood at 181 officers, 20 nurses, and 1,849 enlisted men for BLUIE WEST I and 21 officers, 2 nurses, and 459 enlisted men for Ivigtut. A reduction in the Ivigtut garrison, down to 302 officers and men, was effected by eliminating the infantry unit; otherwise the authorized strength in October remained the same as it had been four months before.33 After orders had gone out to all the Atlantic bases in September to resist by force the intrusion of any German or Italian military planes and vessels of war there had been some thought that a garrison of 1,500 men could be established in Greenland before winter set in. But very shortly the build-up was postponed until the following spring. Until May 1942 the only combat unit in Greenland was the antiaircraft battery at BLUIE WEST I. Meanwhile GHQ had drawn up the defense plans for Ivigtut and the cryolite mine and for air warning installations.34

The problem of the defenses at Ivigtut had two sides: one, whether additional measures in protection of the cryolite mine were required at the moment; and second, what should be done after 1 April 1942, when the contract of the civilian mine guard expired. On the immediate question, GHQ and the War Plans Division, as well as the commanding officer in Greenland, Colonel Giles, were agreed that to send an Army defense force to Ivigtut was not an urgent matter. The building that would have to be done at Ivigtut, it was decided, might interrupt the more essential work at BLUIE WEST I. Should it seem expedient for other than military reasons to replace the mine guard by American troops, as the State Department intimated it might be, the arrival of a garrison would be hastened, the War Department suggested, by putting some of the cryolite company's employees to work erecting the necessary housing, which the Army could supply in prefabricated form. Nothing came of the suggestion. The officials of the mining company, who had not concealed their misgivings over what they considered the defenseless state of the place, were agreeable to the use of their employees; but they considered the Army's proposal impracticable, while the State Department and the Office of Production Management believed that it


would, if acted upon, temporarily disrupt the mining operations. The question of what to do in the spring was more easily answered (perhaps one might say more easily avoided), since the Army expected to be able by that time to start building the housing and other facilities necessary for a garrison at Ivigtut. A naval vessel, the Greenland Government suggested, could be stationed at the cryolite port to bridge any gap between the departure of the mine guard and the arrival of an Army garrison.35 There the matter was resting when the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the war.

Immediately the War Department was made acutely aware of even the smallest chink in the nation's armor. Within a week G-2 began calling attention to the inadequacy of the Ivigtut defenses. Officials of the State Department, of the War Production Board, of the Ivigtut mining company and of one of the two principal cryolite processing companies in the United States all expressed anxiety about the situation. Toward the end of December a naval vessel was stationed in the harbor to reinforce the mine guard, an arrangement which accorded with the Greenland Government's suggestion and which both GHQ and the War Plans Division considered adequate for the time being.36 Conferences with the manager of the mine and the commander of the Coast Guard's Greenland Patrol resulted in the Army's agreeing to take over the duties of the mine guard on 1 April 1942, except those that had to do with internal protection for which the Greenland Government would provide. When the first construction forces went to Ivigtut late in March a defense unit of one officer and twelve enlisted men was sent out from BLUIE WEST I to replace the mine guard.37

An interesting contribution to the defense of Greenland was the Northeast Greenland dog sledge patrol organized in the summer of 1941 as a joint endeavor of the Army, the United States Coast Guard, and the Greenland Government. All the activity on the east coast the year before had demonstrated the ease with which anyone could establish a foothold in the vast Arctic wastes, the near impossibility of finding a hostile force that had established itself, and the difficulty of dislodging one, once it was discovered. An air patrol of the east coast, even after the new bases were completed,


would be extremely difficult, since the distance that would have to be covered was as far as from Newfoundland to Key West, Fla. The naval patrol maintained by the Coast Guard was limited by ice conditions. What appeared to be the ideal solution, and the one recommended by the Coast Guard, was to organize a dog sledge patrol for reconnoitering the isolated areas of the east coast. After some hesitation the War Department agreed to bear the expense, to furnish part of the equipment, and to provide what air coverage it could. The Coast Guard, for its part, would transport the patrols and equipment to their stations and keep them supplied. The Greenland administration in turn agreed to recruit the men and provide the dogs.

The patrol had scarcely begun operations when it proved its worth by assisting in the capture of the trawler Buskoe on 12 September, as that vessel, a small German-controlled Norwegian ship, was attempting to establish a radio and weather station in the Mackenzie Bay area. There had been some skepticism, however, in the War Department, and by the end of the year there were those who had begun to wonder whether the results justified the expense involved.38 Had it been a matter of merely hiring a few Eskimos to patrol the neighborhood of their villages with their own dog sledges the $2,000 or so the Army was spending each month on the patrol might have been excessive indeed. But as it was, except on the west coast north of Holsteinsborg, dog sledging was unknown in Greenland and, except for the settlements at Angmagssalik (BLUIE EAST 2) and Scoresby Sound, the entire east coast was uninhabited. This meant that dogs, sledges; and drivers had to be brought in either from halfway up the west coast, a distance to Scoresby Sound of at least 2,400 miles, or from the continent. 39 On one occasion a team of sledge dogs was imported from the United States by way of Iceland. The patrol, whose principal function was to report Nazis attempting to land in the guise of innocent hunters, had to be recruited from Danish and Norwegian hunters of proven loyalty. All this was expensive. The sledge patrol nevertheless survived the early doubts within the War Department, was afterward given military status as a unit of the U.S. Army, and in 1943-44, when the tempo of operations increased, the patrol found itself in the thick of combat. But that is another chapter of the story.


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