NBA History of Science Seminar
Ronald E. Doel, “Telling Stories about Cold War Greenland: The Ultimate Triumph of the Environmental Sciences”
U.S. military planners set their sights on Greenland early in the Cold War for a variety of reasons. Denmark’s largest territory advanced the Allied cause during World War II, including as a way-station for transporting aircraft and supplies between the United States and Europe. Then, during the early Cold War, the island’s location midway between North America and the Soviet Union made it geographically strategic for North American Continental Defense. Part of the Cold War story is well-known: for instance, the building of the U.S. Thule Air Base in the early 1950s, and the construction less than a decade later of Camp Century, the nuclear-powered city under the ice cap. Less familiar, however, is the importance Pentagon officials placed on understanding the environment of Greenland and, more broadly, the Arctic. Danish-U.S. cooperation, the role of the CIA in enabling Arctic environmental research, and our evolving understanding of Greenland’s place in Cold War science and technology are among the issues to be discussed.