Counter Intelligence Corps

CIC on Iceland

War Office

Secret pouch letter from War Office (London) to Lt.Col. R.D.Stevens, G2 (Military Intelligence) CIC Iceland.

From: History and Mission of the Counter Intelligence Corps in WW 2,
Counter Intelligence School, Fort Holabird 1946


NORTH ATLANTIC OPERATIONS. The global nature of World War II made precautions necessary to keep Germany and her co-partners from seizing effective jumping-off places off the coasts of America and to prevent them from extending their influence in bordering lands.

a. In the North Atlantic, three Base Commands were established to afford additional protection to the rear of the troop concentrations in Europe and to provide security against the possible seizure by Germany of the large land areas of Iceland, Newfoundland, and Greenland.

b. The responsibility for the security of Newfoundland rested mainly with the Canadian military and naval forces, with the exception of several United States military installations there. The only safeguard in existence was the report of the natives to the nearest Newfoundland Ranger, who in turn notified the Alien Registry Bureau. Landings could easily be affected from the Free-French Islands of Miquelon and St. Pierre, only ten miles away. In the main, the Counter Intelligence Corps was concerned with the security of the United States military installations and with the detection of possible subversive activity.

c. The importance of Greenland to the security of the North Atlantic was not overlooked by the strategists in their over-all plans. The Greenland Base Command was established early in 1942 and was composed of four camps situated in different parts of the country. The importance of this area lay not only in its strategic position but also in the Cryolite mining industry there.

d. During the period that civilian contractors and employees were engaged in the construction of army installations, precautionary measures were kept in force because of the possibility of sabotage. The possibility was heightened by the long hours of darkness in winter, an item which could afford any possible saboteur sufficient cover. Continuous security checks were necessary because the people, mostly of Danish origin, were distinctly anti-British and without confidence in the American war effort. This lack of sympathy was quickly dispelled after the invasion of North Africa.

e. These factors made it imperative for the Counter Intelligence Corps to maintain a constant vigil. Port security was of great importance because of the accessibility of the fjords. In one instance a United States Army post located near a fjord was only a few miles from an Eskimo island village which could easily have been used as a transmission point for enemy intelligence. Due largely to the activities of the Counter Intelligence Corps, the enemy found no advantages in this area.

f. Of immediate concern to the security of American troop movements too was the country of Iceland where the possibility of invasion by Germany was imminent. Iceland Base Command had a provisional Counter Intelligence Corps detachment attached to it which functioned until it was split into five separate detachments on 12 July, 1944.

g. At the inception of the Counter Intelligence Corps in Iceland, few trained men were available, so permission was obtained to draw men from units in Iceland and to train them locally. Most of the men so procured were subsequently sent to the United States as officer candidates, and some were sent to the active combat zones of continental Europe. Here, as elsewhere, the problem of personnel procurement remained acute.

h. Counter Intelligence Corps headquarters was located in the capital city of Reykjavik, and its jurisdiction extended over more than 75,000 civilians. In addition to personnel administration, Headquarters maintained close contact with all outlying posts, and directed operations and activities in them. Duties which demanded the attention of the Counter Intelligence Corps personnel were security control through censorship of the civilian press and radio, security liaison at airdromes, port security, and control of the affairs of eighty-nine German nationals.

Crew from scuttled German ship Kehdingen approaching USCG Cutter Northland

German prisoners - crew of Kehdingen and members of Weather Party Edelweis
onboard USCG Cutter Northland - October 1944

i. In the conduct of these activities commendable work was done by Counter Intelligence Corps personnel in the interrogation of German prisoners of war captured in or brought to Iceland. During 1944, Counter Intelligence Corps agents interrogated 60 Germans captured at or near Greenland by United States forces there. On 6 and 7 October of that year, 28 Germans were interrogated after having been captured by the United States Coast Guard off the coast of Greenland. Of this group 12 were members of a weather observation party, while the remaining 16 were crewmen of the scuttled trawler, the Kehdingen. Considerable information of a military nature was gained during these interrogations, among them the exact locations of factories manufacturing electrical systems and radios for the Germans.

j. Experience in this Command showed conclusively that only through the use of cultivated and trusted informants could specific and detailed information be obtained placed on the use of informants, For this reason more emphasis was while the method of “door-to-door” interview, which was customary in the Zone of the Interior, was discarded. It was difficult to secure the cooperation of the natives in this method of interview because of the dislike of Icelanders to give information relative to one of their compatriots, intelligence would be put regardless of the use to which such. However, in every instance of enemy landings or the breach of security, civilians were found eager to notify the Counter Intelligence Corps for prompt and appropriate action.

k. On the whole the situation in these areas, from an operational point of view, remained relatively quiet. Some cases of sabotage attempts and subversion were reported, but none of these constituted any real threat to the war effort. Continuous liaison was maintained by these commands with the European Theater of Operations and with interested Allied intelligence agencies. The situation in the North Atlantic did not hold the latent possibilities of danger as was the case in the Caribbean areas.

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Update: 31.1.2005