Manning of Communications Stations

Canadian External Relations - 1954


Volume #20 - 498.









Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
to Deputy Minister of National Defence


[Ottawa], November 23rd, 1954


Dear Mr. Drury,

Representatives of the Departments of National Defence, Transport and External Affairs have recently discussed informally a question which has arisen in connection with the manning of communications stations in the Pinetree radar chain. Among the people participating have been G/C S.R. Burbank of the Department of National Defence and Mr. C.M. Brant of the Department of Transport.

2. As I understand it, when the Pinetree radar chain was established the United States Air Force planned to provide it with a VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency) radio relay communications system. At the same time, the USAF requested and was granted permission to establish circuits between Goose Bay, Gander, and St. John's employing the experimental communications technique known as "tropospheric scatter", which showed promise of providing the required communications more quickly and at less cost. From information recently received by the Department of National Defence, it appears that the experimental circuits have a good chance of being successful - presumably for this reason, construction work on the VHF and UHF system has been suspended - and the U.S. authorities are likely to apply fairly soon for permission for the experimental circuits to become operational.

3. I understand that the Commanding General of Northeast Air Command has already enquired from the RCAF in Ottawa what the policy of the Canadian Government will be, in the event that the tropospheric scatter circuits become operational, as regards the manning of the installation at Gander. It is expected that the station would require a staff of fifteen to twenty men, which NEAC clearly hopes will be exclusively U.S. military personnel.

4. On the initiative of Mr. Pearson the manning of the Early Warning (radar) station at Gander was considered in 1952, and as a result the RCAF took over the operation of the station. Attached is a copy of a memorandum† on the subject which was made available by the RCAF in the course of the informal discussions referred to above.

5. In the informal discussions the opinion was expressed that it would be most desirable for the Canadian Government to control the operation of at least one link in the communications system of the Pinetree radar chain. It was said that the Gander station would be the obvious one to take over, both because of the political desirability of not having U.S. personnel near Gander International Airport and because Gander would be a key link in the Pinetree system - it would probably be the junction point for the Newfoundland and mainland circuits, including the extension up the Labrador coast.

6. It was pointed out that Canada could take over the manning of the station under the Pinetree Agreement, and the opinion was expressed that, for the purpose of establishing Canadian control, manning of the station by Canadian personnel, either civilian or military, would be sufficient. It was argued that it was most important for the departments concerned to reach agreement on the policy to be pursued before the U.S. authorities apply for the circuits to become operational, since pressure will undoubtedly be applied for quick approval of the application, including manning of the Gander station by U.S. military personnel, as an urgent military requirement.

7. Accordingly, I have drawn this question to the attention of Mr. Pearson. He has asked me to inform you that he is of the opinion that, in the event it is decided that a military requirement exists for the establishment of operational communications circuits between Goose Bay, Gander and St. John's, it would seem desirable for the station at Gander to be manned by Canadian personnel. (I am sending this same letter to Mr. Baldwin in addition to yourself).

Yours sincerely,

R.A. MacKay
for Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs