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Iceland, U.S. Forces in


ICELAND, U.S. FORCES IN. After the invasion of Norway and Denmark in April 1940, Great Britain realized that Germany might take over Iceland. Therefore, on 10 May 1940 the British occupied the island without the consent of the Icelandic government. The Icelanders hoped, instead, to entrust their protection to a nonbelligerent and asked the United States to place the island under its jurisdiction. The U.S. government, deciding that national security required the survival of Britain and that this could be maintained only by a secure convoy line across the Atlantic, agreed to station troops in Iceland.

The first American troops arrived on 7 July 1941. American forces increased prodigiously after the United States declared war on Germany in December 1941. By mid-1943 the military force peaked at approximately 40,000 troops and seventy-five fighter-interceptor planes. After mid-1943, as the war turned against Germany, the United States gradually reduced its Icelandic garrison. By September 1944 the troops numbered 8,500; by the end of the war, a mere 1,000. This remaining force left in April 1947, after the United States turned over the American air base at Keflavik to Iceland in return for postwar landing rights for U.S. military aircraft.

American forces returned in February 1951, when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which Iceland had become a member, sought to bolster its defenses in Europe. The number of American troops stabilized during the 1970s at approximately 1,000, serving as personnel for antisubmarine defenses, a fighter squadron, and a radar base. The almost continuous presence of U.S. forces in Iceland after World War II helped connect the previously isolated island nation with the rest of the world.


Bittner, Donald F. The Lion and the White Falcon: Britain and Iceland in the World War II Era. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1983.

Neuchterlein, Donald E. Iceland, Reluctant Ally. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1961.

John J.Hunt/e. m.

See alsoNorth Atlantic Treaty Organization .

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