Strategic Importance of Arctic Regions
Continuing advances in the development of extremely long-range aircraft have convinced the armed forces of the importance of immediately building on the experience gained in World War II to increase their knowledge of Arctic and sub-Arctic fighting conditions. Just as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans have ceased to be effective obstacles to an attack upon the United States, so today the continent's northern approaches no longer “can be considered as guarded by ice, snow, and bad-weather barriers … [because] modern aircraft are becoming increasingly independent of such conditions.”
Feasibility of Air Attacks Via Short Polar Routes
Gen. H. H. Arnold, former commanding general of the Army Air Forces, said on July 5 that polar defense would be the top problem confronting the United States in event of another war. Three weeks earlier, on June 16, Lieut. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, A. A. F. deputy commander, had predicted that future enemies of the United States would strike through the polar regions. From the standpoint of Arctic warfare, therefore, Canada has become a buffer state in relation to continental United States.
Increased attention to polar defenses results in part from the fact that trans-Arctic air lanes are the most direct routes between many of the more important cities of the world. This fact has long escaped many persons because of the widespread use of flat Mercator projection maps rather than global or polar projection maps. The airline distance from New York to Tokyo via San Francisco and Honolulu is 8,800 statute miles, but via Hudson Bay and Victoria Island off Canada's northern coast the distance is only 5,900 miles. An eastbound flight from San Francisco to Moscow by way of New York and Berlin would stretch 7,600 miles, but by Canada's Ellesmere Island and northern Norway the distance would be only 5,650 miles. Trans-Arctic routes from Murmansk in northern Russia to Detroit or New York cover less than 4,200 miles.
A further reason for the developing interest in Arctic defenses was noted, May 20, by Gen. Carl Spaatz, Arnold's successor as head of the A. A. F. He pointed out that, exclusive of the United States, all the industrial areas of the world in nations capable of supporting a modern war were north of the 45th parallel of north latitude, which passes through Manchuria, the Caspian Sea, Italy and northern United States. Moreover, certain present-day aircraft, including the new American B-36 capable of flying 10,000 miles with an atomic bomb, could attack as far south as the 30th parallel of north latitude from bases anywhere on the 65th parallel near the Arctic Circle in northern Canada, Alaska, Asia, and Europe. The 30th parallel, running along the Gulf Coast, would place even southern United States within bombing range of Arctic bases.