National Geographic : 1946 Oct
Americans Stand Guard in Greenland Dr. R. J. S. Tickle Hugging the Ground, a Turf Hut Makes a Staunch Refuge for Storm-weary Hunters Near the seaward end of Nordre Str0mfjord, this hunting camp gave access to the sealing grounds. Half subterranean, its floor, roof, and walls are made of earth blocks. Greenland nimrods are armed with old style shotguns. Apart from seals, this area provides good shooting for sea birds, ducks, geese, and ptarmigan. level would be raised by melting its millions of gelid tons. Suggested amateur plans for eliminating the troublesome barrier ranged from spread ing lampblack on the surface so that more of the sun's heat would be absorbed ("But sup pose," sneered one Jeremiah, "it snowed?") to vaporizing the frozen mass with a blast of the hot air generated in the officers' club on Saturday nights! Island Vital in Wartime Why were United States armed forces sta tioned in the Danish colony of Greenland? Because after September, 1939, it became clear that the island held a key strategic po sition. Its huge bulk was anchored halfway between the United States and Europe on a great-circle course, thrusting an icy lobe south ward toward the busiest transoceanic air and ship lanes in the world.* Such vital areas, if undefended with mili tary strength, invited enemy occupation. German interest in Greenland was signalized back in 1940, immediately after the invasion of Denmark. The Nazis sent reconnaissance ships and long-range aircraft to east Green land. A landing party from a Norwegian gunboat under British control in September, 1940, wiped out an enemy weather station at Torgilsbu, southeast Greenland, and captured its personnel. The Anglo-American bases-for-destroyers deal had just been concluded. It was a time for action. With relentless power, the United States moved toward mili tary defense of various unfamiliar spots around the North Atlantic. Among them was Green land. On April 9, 1941, a year to the day after the German invasion of Denmark and less than a month after Lend-Lease became law, an agreement was signed between the United States and the Danish Minister to Washing ton, acting on behalf of the King of Denmark. It granted us the right to build airfields and other military and naval installations in Green land for defense of Greenland and the Ameri can Continent. In effect, this put the Danish island under the armed protection of Uncle Sam. Time was of the essence. On the very same day, U. S. Marines, vanguard of a survey party, landed in Greenland. * "Greenland from 1898 to Now," by Robert A. Bartlett, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, July, 1940.