Fun news. Narsarsuaq Museum bought a collection of photos on ebay from an American soldier who was stationed at Kangerlussuaq in World War II and they include one of Marlene Dietrich on her visit to the airbase.
Greenland’s World War II history is odd and a bit bad as far as imperialism, as it was in the rest of the Realm. After Denmark was occupied Eske Brun, the Danish ‘governor’ of Greenland, declared Greenland seceded from Denmark and worked with the Danish ambassador to the USA, Henrik Kauffmann, who signed an agreement allowing American troops to be placed in Greenland. There were good things that came from it - reliable food and other resources which Greenland would have previously received from Denmark that would be cut off, and the American troops stopped the Germans creating monitoring stations in the east. But after the war and with the start of the Cold War this meant the US had a mostly unrestricted right to set up bases where it wanted and at the high point there were about 15 US bases in Greenland. As everywhere there are military bases but especially of foreign military, there were many ‘mild’ cases of exploitation of the land, Greenlandic workers and so on, and of course there was the hydrogen bomb plane disaster at Thule. Besides that there is the argument to be made against militarism, abuse and the risking of a foreign nation in a war it is not involved in, and Denmark’s abuse of the US presence making Greenland highly strategic, allowing Denmark to advance in world politics (notably NATO) without ever using that authority to benefit Greenland. After the fall of the Soviet Union all but the base in Thule have closed and the US still cites the World War II agreement as its ‘right’ for keeping the base whenever objection arises.
But anyway it is good the museum can collect some daily life photos of this time period.
Another 1960s newspaper advertisement discussing the weapons technology at the US airbase Thule in Greenland’s high arctic, this time for the Ballistic Missile Early Monitoring System. But it goes on,
“Here your tax dollars built a net to ‘catch’ ballistic missiles on the fly, but in other places your tax money still goes to build needless things, like more federal-government-owned electric plants and lines. These are totally unnecessary because the investor-owned electric light and power companies can supply all the added electricity a growing America will need. Wouldn’t it make sense for the federal government to stop such needless spending and use your money only for essential things such as defense?”
Take from this what you will. It is also interesting to consider that besides by a select number of Danish officials and organizations, Greenland has rarely been seriously discussed - by companies, politicians, individuals, in education, in militarism, in the animal rights and environmental debates - as a place people live in. Images like this one make it appear as a vastness entirely open to exploitation, even from a foreign nation, and from the ‘progressive’ angle, it is seen as a pristine mass that must be preserved at all costs, even if that means keeping the population from expansion and self-determination - and thus, the chance for it to develop into a model for ‘green’ urbanism.
A Radio Corporation of America newspaper advertisement promoting the radars located at the US airbase Thule in the high north of Greenland, 1960. This is eight years before an American bomber plane carrying four hydrogen bombs crashed near the site and only Greenlanders living in Qaanaaq - the settlement created to house Greenlanders displaced from the north of the Uummannaq region to create the air base, the earliest formal forced relocation in Greenland’s history - were used as the clean-up crew. I discuss Qaanaaq a little more here.