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History, U.S. Protection

cryolite, Coast Guard vessels, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, protective custody, Danish government

Germany's occupation of Denmark in 1940, during World War II, brought the status of Greenland again into question. Negotiations between the U.S. government and the Danish minister to Washington resulted in an agreement on April 9, 1941, granting the United States the right “to construct, maintain and operate such landing fields, seaplane facilities and radio and meteorological installations as may be necessary” to protect the status quo in the western hemisphere; the United States also assumed protective custody over Greenland for the duration of World War II, although recognizing Danish sovereignty.

Greenland is the source of many of the weather changes in the northern hemisphere, and knowledge of Greenland weather is of prime importance for the prediction of conditions in the North Atlantic Ocean and in western Europe. Weather and radio stations are of inestimable value for Atlantic air traffic. In 1944, during World War II, a German radio-weather station on the northeast coast was destroyed by the U.S. Coast Guard, and various German attempts to establish weather bases on Greenland were thwarted by Coast Guard vessels. In May 1947, Denmark requested that the United States end the 1941 agreement. Protracted negotiations culminated during April 1951, in a 20-year pact providing for Danish control of the chief U.S. naval station in Greenland and for the establishment of jointly operated defense areas. By the terms of other provisions, the armed forces of the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization were authorized to use all naval, air, and military bases on the island. In the early 1950s the United States expanded its military operations in Greenland, constructing a vast strategic air base at Thule, about 1,500 km (about 930 mi) from the North Pole.

In June 1952, the Danish government and private Danish, Swedish, and Canadian interests formed a company to exploit deposits of zinc, lead, tungsten, and cryolite in eastern Greenland.

Article key phrases:

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