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Exhibits
The Cold Front: Greenland and America in World War II
January 1, 2003 - June 1, 2003
Greenland was strategically important to the Allies in WWII for a number of reasons. First, a mine at Ivigtut was the only known source of cryolite, a vital catalyst for aluminum production. Second, Greenland was ideally located as a refueling stop for planes flying from North America to Europe in the days before non-stop trans-Atlantic flights. Finally, meteorologists had shown that by monitoring Greenland weather they could more accurately forecast weather for Western Europe. When Denmark, the colonial power in Greenland, fell to the Nazis in the spring of 1940, Britain, Canada, and the United States began working out how to defend Greenland. 

The generous support of the Friends of Bowdoin College has made this exhibit possible.

Pictured above: Donald B. MacMillan, Greenland, 1941. Bowdoin Crew-US Navy. Silver gelatin print. Gift of Donald B. MacMillan.
<p><b>The USS <em>Bowdoin</em></b> </p>   Even before the United States was at war, the need to keep Germany out of Greenland led the government to establish a military presence there. In the spring of 1941, Donald B. MacMillan was asked to cancel his planned expedition and instead to turn the <em>Bowdoin</em> over to the Navy. In June, 1941, the USS <em>Bowdoin</em> left Portsmouth, NH, with a naval crew. They spent the next five months identifying suitable locations for radio stations and landing strips in West Greenland.  <br> <br>  Donald B. MacMillan, Greenland, 1941. <em>Bowdoin</em> Crew-US Navy. Silver gelatin print. Gift of Donald B. MacMillan.
<p><b>Construction Begins</b> </p>   A major Army base, Bluie West 1, was established at Narsarsuaq on Tunulliarfik Fjord (Tunugdliarfik). In 1941, the base was just under construction and tents were still being used as living quarters. This broad valley was one of the few places suitable for a landing strip for large aircraft, although even here the approach was difficult.  <br> <br>  Donald B. MacMillan, Greenland, 1941. Tunugdliarfik Fiord Army Camp. Silver gelatin print. Gift of Donald B. MacMillan.

<p><b>A Show of Force</b> </p>   The Coast Guard cutter <em>Comanche</em> accompanied the US Army freighter <em>Munargo</em> and other ships to Tunulliarfik Fiord, carrying men and supplies for the construction of the Bluie West 1 base. They landed 469 men in Greenland in July 1941. By September of that year they had constructed 85 buildings.  <br> <br>  Donald B. MacMillan, Tunugdliarfik Fiord, Greenland, 1941. Silver gelatin print. Gift of Donald B. MacMillan.
<p><b>Construction Boom</b> </p>   Bluie West 1 was not the only base constructed by the US Army in 1941. Bluie West 8, at Søndre Strømfjord, was also built. The <em>Bowdoin</em> had been surveying the fiord for the initial landing parties when MacMillan took this photograph of barges off-loading construction supplies in the fall.  <br> <br>  Donald B. MacMillan, Søndre Strømfjord, Greenland, 1941. Unloading at the Army Camp, Southstrom Fiord. Silver gelatin print. Gift of Donald B. MacMillan.

<p><b>Aluminum</b> </p>   One of the most important places in Greenland was Ivigtut, site of the only cryolite mine in the world. Cryolite is a mineral that was used as a catalyst in smelting aluminum, crucial to the aircraft industry. The open-pit mine, identified here by a cloud of dust, was very vulnerable to attack. The mine extended far below sea level but was only separated from the sea by a thin wall of rock.   <br> <br>  Reginald Wilcox, Ivigtut, Greenland, ca. 1941. Silver gelatin print. Arctic Museum Collection.
<p><b>Bluie West 1</b> </p>   The base at Narsarsuaq, Bluie West 1, was an important staging location for flights to Europe, as well as a base for operations in Greenland. Thousands of aircraft landed there during the war. The base was equipped with laundry and dry cleaning facilities, a movie theater (although good movies were reportedly scarce), even a shoe repair shop. Base personnel also coordinated annual supply trips to seven remote weather stations and search and rescue missions for both marine and aviation disasters.  <br> <br>  Carl D. Rutledge, Bluie West 1, ca. 1943. Digital print. Gift of Carl D. Rutledge.

<p><b>Guarding the Station</b> </p>   A mountain-trained infantry regiment was for a brief time stationed at Bluie West 1 to defend it from possible attack. The terrain around the base was the only challenge they encountered. Although there are some reports of German aircraft flying over south and west Greenland during the war, they never made any attempt to attack the base.   <br> <br>  Carl D. Rutledge, Bluie West 1, ca. 1943. Digital print. Gift of Carl D. Rutledge.
<p><b>Hospital</em></b> </p>   A large hospital was constructed at the base in case of a major aviation or marine disaster, and possibly to treat wounded men from the European front, although this turned out to be impractical. American Red Cross nurses were assisted by local Greenlandic women, seen here.  <br> <br>  Carl D. Rutledge, Bluie West 1, ca. 1943. Digital print. Gift of Carl D. Rutledge.

<p><b>Entertaining the Troops</b> </p>   The United Services Organization (USO) entertained troops around the world during the war, and Greenland was no exception. Marlene Dietrich performed at the base, and took the time to pose for photographs. Here she sits with Lt. Carl D. Rutledge and Jane Cook. She sent messages from the base to friends back home.  <br> <br>  Unknown photographer, Bluie West 1, circa 1944. Digital print. Gift of Carl D. Rutledge.
<p><b>Entertaining the Troops</b> </p>   The United Services Organization (USO) entertained troops around the world during the war, and Greenland was no exception. Marlene Dietrich performed at the base, and took the time to pose for photographs. Here she sits with Lt. Carl D. Rutledge and Jane Cook. She sent messages from the base to friends back home.  <br> <br>  Marlene Dietrich, message request, circa 1944. Facsimile. Gift of Carl D. Rutledge.

<p><b>Christmas</b> </p>   Even in wartime, important events are celebrated. Christmas was a time for festivities and traditional Christmas dinners. Here the company cooks get a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labor.  <br> <br>  Carl D. Rutledge, Bluie West 1, December 25, 1943. Digital print. Gift of Carl D. Rutledge.
<p><b>Cold Fronts</b> </p>   Weather forecasting was a major concern during WWII. Knowledge of the weather in Greenland could help meteorologists predict weather in western Europe, information that was vital for planning aerial and marine operations.  <br> <br>  Unknown photographer, Holmes Foreland, Northeast Greenland, ca. 1931. Digital print. Robert Abram Bartlett papers, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives, Bowdoin College Library.

<p><b>Battling the Ice</b> </p>   The coast of northeast Greenland is almost always bounded by extensive fields of pack ice. Ships can only penetrate to the coast after much effort. Outposts established here had to be well supplied since it could be more than a year before another ship could land. In 1941, only about 26 people, mostly trappers, lived north of the Inuit community of Ammassalik.   <br> <br>  Unknown photographer, north of Ammassalik, Northeast Greenland, ca. 1931. Digital print. Robert Abram Bartlett papers, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives, Bowdoin College Library.
<p><b>Weather War</b> </p>   Throughout the war, both the Allies and the Nazis struggled to control weather stations in East Greenland and Spitzbergen. Where possible they based themselves at sites that had been used by hunters or expeditions, such as this one, constructed in 1901 by members of the Baldwin-Ziegler expedition on Bass Rock. German expeditions twice established weather stations in this vicinity, only to be expelled by Allied forces.   <br> <br>  Unknown photographer, Bass Rock, Northeast Greenland, ca. 1931. Digital print. Robert Abram Bartlett papers, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives, Bowdoin College Library.

<p><b>Burning Radio Equipment</b> </p>   In the late summer of 1941, a US Coast Guard cutter stopped a Norwegian ship on the coast of Northeast Greenland. The ship carried Norwegian hunters and equipment. One of the men was identified as a German agent, assigned to transmit weather information to Germany. The men were taken into protective custody and the radio equipment was burned.   <br> <br>  Unknown photographer, Myggbukta Bay, Northeast Greenland. Sept. 14, 1941. Burning German weather station. Digital print. Gift of Carl. D. Rutledge.