Volume #17 - 682.|
RELATIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES
DEFENCE AND SECURITY ISSUES
STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND
Ambassador in United States|
to Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
LETTER NO. 19|
January 3rd, 1951|
PROPOSED U.S. STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND PROJECTS|
Reference My Letter No. 3088 of December 2, 1950.23
1. Mr. R. Gordon Arneson of the State Department, following up the talk which he had in my office as reported to you in my Letter No. 3088 of December 2, 1950, visited me on January 3rd in order to put forward a specific proposal for simplified procedure for prior consultation or notification between the Canadian and United States Governments in connection with the staging of aircraft of the U.S. Strategic Air Command to overseas areas. On this occasion Mr. Arneson was. accompanied by Major General R.L. Walsh, the United States Air Force member of the P.J.B.D., and Mr. Joseph Chase of the State Department. Mr. Ignatieff was also present at this meeting.
2. Mr. Arneson explained that the Secretary of State had received on January 2nd a formal request from the Secretary of Defense that the Canadian Government be approached at the highest political level in order to reach a general agreement to govern the deployment of the units of the U.S. Strategic Air Command, the storage of weapons including atomic weapons, the construction of facilities for their storage, and the over-flight of Canadian territory which this deployment involves. Specifically, the proposal involves the use of Harmon Airfield as well as of Goose Bay. Before the eventuality of war, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff desire to use Harmon and Goose Bay for training purposes, as well as to make necessary preparations for their use as staging bases for actual missions in wartime.
3. Mr. Arneson brought with him a paper drafted in the Pentagon (two copies of which are attached, numbered 1 and 2) which sets out the proposed substance of a communication to be sent by the Secretary of State to the Canadian Government on this question. He asked that this paper should be studied by the Canadian Government with a view to arriving at an agreed exchange of notes which would constitute a general agreement between the two governments.
4. General Walsh made some explanatory comment in elaboration of what Mr. Arneson had said. Two considerations accounted for the earnest desire of the Pentagon for this agreement with the Canadian Government. First, there was a need for the utmost secrecy in any communications which pass between the two governments arising out of the need for prior consultation and notification. There was also the need, however, for swift action to enable the U.S. Strategic Air Command to undertake a strategic air offensive for the mutual defence of Canada and the United States if, as the Pentagon papers says, "war is joined by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations". What the U.S. Department of Defense is seeking, as General Walsh put it, is a "canopy" of an agreement reached at the highest political level which would enable the U.S. Chiefs of Staff, acting under the authority of the Secretary of Defense, to take prompt action, through channels of maximum security, such as from General Vandenberg to Air Marshal Curtis, to notify the Canadian authorities involved of any particular action to be taken under the terms of the general agreement.
5. The facilities desired by the U.S. Strategic Air Command for the staging of aircraft are those enumerated in paragraph 2 of the Pentagon paper. In answer to a query about what was involved in "the over-flight of Canada on training missions", General Walsh explained that this was intended to cover training flights under agreed conditions to Harmon and Goose Bay in the Northeast and also the overflight of Canadian territory by units of the U.S. Strategic Air Command to Alaskan bases in the Northwest. The flights in the Northwest would not involve any use of Canadian airfields, but a request has been submitted by the U.S. Strategic Air Command, on which I have written to you separately, for early permission to make an over-flight of Canadian territory from Great Falls, Montana, to Ladd Field, Alaska, using the inland route rather than the coastal route to avoid dangerous icing conditions. These aircraft would be carrying atomic weapons without nuclear components, in line with the advance deployment arrangements now being planned by the U.S. Strategic Air Command.
6. I enquired from General Walsh about the reference in paragraph 3 of the Pentagon paper to the defects of the "present prior consultation procedure". General Walsh explained that if correspondence had to be undertaken in the case of every activity contemplated by the U.S. Strategic Air Command, both timing and security might be jeopardized. If a general agreement were reached between the two governments on a political level, detailed arrangements for consultation procedures directed to the economizing of time and providing for the utmost security would be worked out, presumably between the Defence headquarters of the two countries. This, he said, was the meaning of the reference to "appropriate Service agencies" in paragraph 5 of the Pentagon paper.
7. Mr. Arneson gave some explanatory comment on the reference in paragraph 2 of the Pentagon paper to the "prior deployment - of atomic weapons". He said that under the procedure authorized by the President for the disposition of atomic weapons, Presidential approval was required at each of these stages in the process of transferring atomic weapons from the custody of the Atomic Energy Commission to the U.S. Strategic Air Command for operational use. The first stage is the delivery of the atomic weapons to the U.S.A.F. without their nuclear components.
The second stage is the transfer of the nuclear components to the U.S.A.F. The third stage is the authority to employ the assembled weapons.
8. Mr. Arneson suggested that I should inform the State Department through him as soon as possible of the comments of the Canadian Government on the Pentagon paper. On the basis of these comments, a letter would then be drawn up for Mr. Acheson's signature in terms which would be satisfactory to the Canadian Government. The reply to Mr. Acheson's letter from the Canadian Government would then constitute the agreement.
9. I said, having in mind the comments contained in your message EX-2735 of December 30th,t that the channel which I would employ for transmitting this pro-posal to the Canadian Government would be civilian rather than military. I added that it would be necessary for the Prime Minister as well as some other members of the Cabinet to be consulted, and, having in mind the Prime Minister's participation in the Commonwealth meeting of Prime Ministers in London, the earliest date on which a reply could be expected from Ottawa would be after mid-January. General Walsh and Mr. Arneson said that that would be fully understood, but they hoped that an agreement satisfactory to both countries could be reached on this matter as soon as possible, and preferably before the end of this month.
10. General Walsh explained that the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff considered that the P.J.B.D. should not be employed for the discussion of the projects referred to in the enclosure and any related matters concerning the use of special weapons. I think that if further information is required on the plans of the Strategic Air Command in this connection, it could easily be arranged for a qualified officer of the U.S.A.F. to proceed to Ottawa on short notice. General Walsh, however, informs me that Air Marshal Curtis, Air Vice Marshal James, and two or three other senior officers of the Air Force are familiar with these plans.
TOP SECRET [n.d.]
PROPOSED SUBSTANCE OF A COMMUNICATION WITH THE
1. The United States Joint Chiefs of Staff agree on the desirability of using Harmon and Goose Bay in Canada, if war is joined by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations for staging aircraft to overseas areas. Such use of these two bases would be a decisively important element in a strategic air offensive initiated for the mutual defence of our nations.
2. The use of Harmon and Goose Bay for the above purpose involves: prior deployment of Air Force units and atomic weapons, storage of weapons and construction of facilities for storage, and over-flight of Canada on training missions and, in event of war, actual missions.
3. Much of the above activity would be in the nature of operations outside the areas leased to the United States and therefore is subject to prior consultation with Canada. However, the unsettled world situation may dictate the initiation of operations in such an emergency that the present prior consultation procedure would seriously jeopardize the effectiveness of the action. Under the circumstances, it is highly desirable that a simplified prior consultation or notification procedure be developed providing for maximum secrecy and minimum delay.
4. If the Canadian Government agrees to the general principle involved, the most feasible procedure appears to be a very general agreement including prior approval for such air movements, staging and strikes. It is suggested that the general agreement authorize the development of a procedure whereby advice will be given at the proper time that these activities will be carried out. In every case, the maximum prior notice will be given and especially in the case of training or advance preparatory deployments.
5. Upon acceptance of the general principle outlined above, it is suggested that the operational commanders concerned or other appropriate Service agencies be authorized to develop the details of the consultation and notification procedure.
23 Voir/See Volume 16, Document 837.