Arctic Defenses

July 31, 1946

Report Outline
Strategic Importance of Arctic Regions
Wartime Activities in the American Arctic
Plans for Improvement of Arctic Defenses

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.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
U.S.-Soviet Relations
Sep. 14, 1990  The Western Alliance After the Cold War
Feb. 10, 1989  Soviet Trade: In America's Best Interest?
Nov. 01, 1985  U.S.-Soviet Summitry
Jul. 09, 1982  Controlling Scientific Information
May 25, 1973  Trends in U.S.-Soviet Relations
Apr. 05, 1972  Russia's Diplomatic Offensive
Feb. 09, 1972  Trading with Communist Nations
Mar. 10, 1971  Indian Ocean Policy
Apr. 21, 1965  Negotiations with Communists
Nov. 13, 1963  Scientific Cooperation with the Soviet Union
Oct. 03, 1963  Trade with the Communists
Sep. 11, 1963  Non-Aggression Pacts and Surprise Attack
Oct. 11, 1961  East-West Negotiations
Mar. 29, 1961  Russia and United Nations
Aug. 10, 1960  Challenged Monroe Doctrine
Sep. 02, 1959  American-Soviet Trade
Jul. 03, 1959  Cultural Exchanges with Soviet Russia
Aug. 11, 1958  Conference Diplomacy
Jul. 23, 1958  Limited War
May 14, 1958  Cold War Propaganda
Feb. 26, 1958  Military Disengagement
Feb. 20, 1957  Indirect Aggression
Jul. 25, 1956  Trading with Communists
Jan. 11, 1956  Economic Cold War
Nov. 26, 1954  Peaceful Coexistence
Dec. 01, 1953  Tests of Allied Unity
Sep. 18, 1953  Negotiating with the Reds
Jun. 17, 1953  East-West Trade
Apr. 12, 1951  Non-Military Weapons in Cold-War Offensive
Apr. 20, 1949  Mediterranean Pact and Near East Security
Apr. 28, 1948  Trade with Russia
Sep. 11, 1946  Loyalty in Government
Jul. 31, 1946  Arctic Defenses
Apr. 01, 1943  American and British Relations with Russia
Feb. 24, 1933  Soviet-American Political and Trade Relations
Nov. 03, 1931  Russian-American Relations
Feb. 14, 1924  Russian Trade with the United States
General Defense and National Security