World War II Day by Day World War II was the single most devastating and horrific event in the history of the world, causing the death of some 70 million people, reshaping the political map of the twentieth century and ushering in a new era of world history. Every day The Daily Chronicles brings you a new story from the annals of World War II with a vision to preserve the memory of those who suffered in the greatest military conflict the world has ever seen.


Washington, D.C. April 10, 1941

On April 9, 1941, a full year after Operation Weser­uebung had brought Den­mark and Nor­way into Nazi Germany’s orbit, the Danish ambas­sador in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Hen­rik Kauff­mann, signed an execu­tive agree­ment with the U.S. Secre­tary of State, Cordell Hull, autho­rizing the U.S. to protect the remote Danish colony of Green­land “against attack by a non-Amer­i­can power” and to con­struct mili­tary sta­tions on the is­land for that pur­pose. (Green­land, popu­lated then by 18,000 native Iniut and less than 500 Danes, is separated from Canada’s Elles­mere Island to the north by only 16 miles.) The Danish envoy, not­able for refusing to recog­nize the Nazi occu­pa­tion of his coun­try, was sup­ported in his move by Dan­ish diplo­mats in the U.S.

Kauffmann was also supported by Danish autho­rities in Green­land, who were keenly aware of the diffi­culties the mother country faced in governing the island. After Germany’s occu­pa­tion of their country, Danish author­ities in Green­land’s admin­is­tra­tive capital at Godt­haab (today’s Nuuk) declared the island to be a self-ruling terri­tory under a 1925 Danish emer­gency law. After debating among them­selves, they agreed to recog­nize Kauff­mann as their repre­sen­ta­tive in Wash­ing­ton. By signing the U.S. treaty “in the name of the King,” Kauff­mann ignored instruc­tions from his home govern­ment and acted in clear vio­la­tion of his diplo­ma­tic powers. Indeed, the treaty, while affirming Green­land’s loyalty to Denmark, was disavowed by author­ities in Copen­hagen in part because it allowed the U.S. to estab­lish naval and air bases on Danish terri­tory. (Although occupied by German armed forces, Denmark still regarded itself a neutral coun­try.) The Danish govern­ment even­tually charged Kauff­mann with treason for his inde­pen­dent poli­tical moves. (After the war the Danish Parlia­ment revoked Kauff­mann’s treason sentence and legalized U.S. military installations in Greenland.)

On this date, April 10, 1941, one day after the signing cere­mony, Presi­dent Frank­lin D. Roose­velt played his trump card by declaring Green­land to be part of the West­ern Hemi­sphere. This decla­ra­tion brought Green­land under the pro­vi­sions of the Mon­roe Doc­trine, which U.S. presi­dents had used to oppose Euro­pean inter­fer­ence in the Americas for over a century. The inclu­sion of Green­land into what the U.S. con­sid­ered its exclu­sive play­ground and the estab­lish­ment of bilateral diplo­matic rela­tions in May was all the more im­por­tant after Germany had made recon­nais­sance flights over Green­land, causing concern in Wash­ing­ton circles that Adolf Hitler might try to estab­lish bases on the island for future use against the U.S. (See below, “Green­land’s Role in the ‘Weather War’.”) Green­land’s occu­pa­tion by Amer­i­can armed forces on the same day as the announce­ment was followed two months later by the occu­pa­tion of the stra­te­gically located Danish depend­ency of Ice­land in the mid-Atlantic, where U.S. Marines supple­mented and even­tu­ally replaced British and Cana­dian service members who had been stationed there since May 10, 1940.

The occupation of Greenland and Iceland brought the Roose­velt ad­min­is­tra­tion closer to sup­porting Great Britain in its Battle of the Atlantic. Hence­forth, U.S. Navy ves­sels extended their con­voy patrols to these two terri­tories, both lying along the sea lanes linking the U.S. to its future ally against Nazi Germany.

Greenland’s Role in the “Weather War”

Captured German weathermen, Greenland, October 4, 1944 North-East Greenland Sledge Patrol HQ

Left: From their base in occupied Norway, the Germans set up four sec­ret weather sta­tions on Green­land’s east­ern shore. The stations were intended to pro­vide the Wehr­macht (German armed forces) with advance weather infor­ma­tion for the dual pur­pose of assisting their sub­marine, sur­face, and air cam­paign against Allied mer­chant shipping in the North Atlan­tic and pre­dicting the weather situ­a­tion in the Euro­pean Thea­ter as much as 72 hours in advance. (The Germans—actually the armed U‑boat crew of U‑537 on its first patrol—briefly estab­lished a remote auto­matic weather sta­tion, Weather Station Kurt, in Martin Bay on the north­ern tip of Lab­ra­dor, New­found­land, on the North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent in October 1943 and another one, Schatz­graber (“Treasure Hunter”), in the Russian Arctic from 1942 to July 1944 on remote Alex­an­dra Land Island, the western­most island of the Franz Josef Archi­pel­ago, which researchers uncovered only in 2016.) From their own weather stations in Green­land the Allies gathered weather data to plan their inva­sion of Normandy, France. As poor as the photo in the left frame is, it depicts captured mem­bers of the Ger­man Edel­weiss II weather station one month after the capture of Edel­weiss I by the crew of the United States Coast Guard cutter Northland.

Right: To show the Allies their willing­ness to fight the Germans in the Arctic deso­la­tion of their home­land, a small band of Danes, Nor­we­gians, and native Green­landers, 15 men in all, came together as the North-East Green­land Sledge Patrol in the sum­mer of 1941. The birth of the patrol was coor­di­nated with the U.S. Coast Guard. The patrol’s acti­vi­ties were to locate and eli­mi­nate German radio and weather stations in Green­land. In March 1943 a dog-team patrol dis­covered the Ger­man weather reporting sta­tion Holz­auge at Hansa Bay on the north­east coast, where it had been oper­a­ting since August 1942. In May 1943 U.S. air­craft from Ice­land bombed the sta­tion, the only offen­sive air attack on the Green­land main­land during the war. The photo in the right frame shows the head­quarters of the Sledge Patrol in the Northern District at Dane­borg/­Sandod­den, Greenland. Note the Danish flag atop the building.

Various Newsreel Clips from 1944, the First Showing the Destruc­tion of Ger­man Radio and Weather Stations in Greenland