Leased Bases - Timeline

May 10, 1940Winston S. Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as British prime minister. Soon after, he asks US President Franklin Roosevelt for between 40 and 50 naval destroyers to help defend Britain against Germany.

June, 1940France falls to Nazi Germany. As a result, the United States recognizes the need to defend the Western Hemisphere against a possible German attack.

Aug. 13, 1940The United States agrees to supply Britain with 50 destroyers in exchange for 99-year leases on British territories in Newfoundland, Bermuda and the Caribbean. The territories would be used to establish American military bases. Churchill agrees to the proposal, but on the condition that the Newfoundland and Canadian governments also be consulted.

Sept. 2, 1940An agreement in principle is reached between Britain and the United States. America will supply Britain with 50 naval destroyers in exchange for permission to establish military bases in the West Indies. Base rights in Newfoundland and Bermuda, meanwhile, are given to the Americans “freely and without consideration.”

Sept. 3, 1940The Newfoundland government announces to the public that American forces will soon establish military bases on the island.

Sept. 6, 1940Britain takes over its first eight American destroyers in Halifax.

Sept. 16, 1940A team of American officials, composed of army and navy personnel, arrive in Newfoundland to scout for possible base sites and to determine the area’s defence requirements. Within days, the group recommends building bases in Argentia and on the Avalon Peninsula. Newfoundland agrees to the requests in principal. In November, the Americans also obtain permission to build an airfield in Stephenville.

Jan. 25, 1941An American commission, consisting of Col. Malony, Comdr. Harold Biesemeier and Assistant Solicitor General Charles Fahy arrive in London to negotiate a final agreement with British officials concerning the leased bases.

Jan. 28, 1941Negotiations begin. Originally assumed to take two weeks, the talks last eight instead.

March 18, 1941Churchill meets with L.E. Emerson and J.G. Penson, the two Newfoundland representatives present at negotiations, to ask that they support a tentative agreement reached between the United States and Britain. Although both men object to the extensive legal jurisdiction that the agreement would give the Americans in Newfoundland, they comply with Churchill’s request.

March 27, 1941The finalized Leased Bases Agreement is signed in London by American and British officials.

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