History of Greenland during World War II
|Not many references exist to support this article. Thus, it may be heavily unreferenced.|
|History of Greenland during World War II|
|Part of World War II|
Members of a German weather station surrender to US forces (October 1944)
|Commanders and leaders|
|Ib Poulsen||Lieutenant Ritter
|15 men||19 men|
|Casualties and losses|
The history of Greenland during World War II reflected the fate of the Danish motherland. After the Invasion of Denmark in 9 April 1940, its colony Greenland was left on its own. Britain and Canada had plans to occupy the island, but the United States, even though still neutral, disagreed. The Governors of Greenland, Eske Brun and Aksel Svane, via the 1925 law concerning the ruling of Greenland, declared Greenland a self-ruling territory, believing this to be in the best interests of the colony as Denmark was occupied by the Germans and in consideration of the Monroe Doctrine.
Nazi Germany had occupied Denmark in 1940 and although the Danish government was still in power it was heavily influenced by the German occupation force. After failed attempts by the new Greenland government to secure support from the United Kingdom, they turned to the USA. On 9 April 1941 the Danish ambassador Henrik Kauffmann, against the instructions of his government, signed an agreement with the US government, allowing the presence of American troops and making Greenland a de facto US protectorate. The cryolite mine in Ivittuut was an asset and made it possible for Greenland to manage fairly well during the war. The United States supplied the island and sent patrol boats to survey the east coast of Greenland although this was limited by the ice and bad weather. Eske Brun, reluctant to ask America for large scale help, set about creating a "Greenland Army" known as the North-East Greenland Sledge Patrol, consisting of 15 men. Their task was to patrol the coast line to discover a possible German landing. The sledge patrol was at the same time an effort to show the Allies the willingness of the Danes to fight against the Axis.
The Germans established a number of secret weather stations on the eastern coast of the island as this would provide them with invaluable meteorological information both to assist their U-boat campaign and to predict the weather situation in the European theatre. A few skirmishes took place between the Sledge Patrol and the Germans during the war, ultimately resulting in a final German withdrawal from Greenland.
At the very first discovery of such a weather station in 1943, a German officer was taken prisoner by the Sledge Patrol and taken to the Americans after a long journey over ice. When the patrol discovered and reported the German weather station Holzauge at Hansa Bay on the northeast coast of Sabine Island, it was subsequently destroyed by USAAF bombers from Iceland. Similarly, in the spring of 1943 and the summer and autumn of 1944 several instances of a German base construction were reported; all these attempts were thwarted by American military action.
The last German weather station, Edelweiss II, was overwhelmed by US Army forces and all the German technicians manning the site were taken prisoner on 4 October 1944. The American troops landed from the icebreaker USCGC Eastwind, which later transferred the prisoners to USCGC Storis. The German transport ship Externsteine, which was resupplying the station, was seized by the Eastwind, renamed Eastbreeze and commissioned in the United States Coast Guard.
The Allies used weather data gathered from Greenland to plan the Invasion of Normandy.
The sledge patrol was retained after the end of the war as a permanent elite unit of the Danish Army, the still-active Slædepatruljen Sirius.
In fiction 
A scene in the thriller "The Manchurian Candidate" includes an American veteran of the struggle against the German weather stations in Greenland giving a rather fanciful account of his experiences, making this aspect of World War II more well-known to the general public.
See also 
- The Sledge Patrol - By David Howarth
- History of Greenland from the point of view of the US Coast Guard
- Northeast Greenland Sledge Patrol
The US Coast Guard Cutter Northland committed the first act of war against Nazi Germany in autumn 1941 with the capture of a German radio shack. The skipper was a CMDR Edward H Smith USCG, "Ice Berg Smith" a man in his forties and well known Coast Guard ships captain. The Northland also rescued many downed US Army Air Corps flyers that crash landed on the ice (see P38 Glacier Girl). Northland was based out of Boston, MA. Prior to the outbreak of World War II the Northland was also powered by sail. An internet search will reveal photos of Northland under sail. The news article on the attack on the German radio station was first publiched in Post magazine titled: First Blow. http://www.jacksjoint.com/cutter_northland_at_war.htm http://www.jacksjoint.com/crash_in_greenland.htm http://fineartamerica.com/featured/coast-guard-cutter-northland-william-h-ravell-iii.html http://www.uscg.mil/history/webcutters/northland_1927.pdf http://www.uscg.mil/lantarea/cgcNorthland/history.asp
Extensive history related to the Northland and Captain Smith http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/pdf/iip/history/The_Coast_Guard_and_the_Greenland_Patrol.pdf