The Holocaust Historiography Project

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Hoover-Era American Plan For War Against Britain and Canada Uncovered

American military officials drew up a secret plan in 1930 for war against Britain in which Canada would be the main battleground. “Joint Plan Red,” as it was known, envisaged the elimination of Britain as a trading rival.

Professor Floyd Rudmin of Queens University in Ontario, Canada, charges that the plan was a blueprint for an American invasion of Canada. According to the plan, the United States was prepared to invade Canada if political unrest brought on by Quebec’s secession threatened American access to Canada’s fresh water and cheap hydroelectric power.

The war plan document was drawn up by the Joint Board of the Army and Navy in May 1930, when Herbert Hoover was President. It identified Britain as Red, Canada as Crimson, Australia and New Zealand as Scarlet, and the U.S. as Blue. Its aim was to dismember the British empire on the grounds of “competition and interference with American foreign trade.”

Describing the objectives of a possible war, the document stated:

It is believed that Blue’s war aims in case of war with Red [Britain] should be the expulsion of Red from North and South America and the definite elimination of Red as a strong competitor in foreign trade.

Plan Red called for a series of coordinatedmilitary attacks against Canada to deny Britain land and naval bases. A naval force from Boston would seize Halifax (Nova Scotia), cutting off Canada from the Atlantic Ocean. Other U.S. forces would occupy the gulf of St. Lawrence, isolating Quebec City and Montreal.

American land forces would move from New York, Vermont and New Hampshire to take Montreal and Quebec City, much as American forces did during the Revolutionary war for independence during the 1770s. Other U.S. forces would cross into Canada at Detroit and head for Ottawa, Canada’s capital. American troops would also take the Welland Canal, paralyzing shipping on the Great Lakes, and would seize the power stations at the Niagara falls. Naval forces would blockade the Pacific at Victoria and Vancouver.

It was envisaged that British, Australian, New Zealand and Indian forces would quickly overwhelm American bases in the Philippines and Guam. Out of concern that British forces might take the American-run Panama Canal, Plan Red called for a U.S. naval and air assault against British possessions in the Caribbean, including the seizure of Jamaica, the Bahamas and Bermuda.

Christopher Cushing of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies in Toronto recently commented:

The Americans would be threatened by economic and political instability. They would be especially worried about access to Canadian fresh water and hydroelectric power. It is the same motivation which sent them to the Gulf.

For many years now, Quebec has been a major supplier of cheap hydroelectric power from dams on northern rivers to New York state and New England.

The 94-page Joint Plan Red document is now in the National Archives in Washington, DC. Edward Reese, a military archivist there, noted that “there were [official American] color plans for all parts of the world.” Indeed, all major military powers have similar contingency plans for military operations in different countries. Plan Red remained an active U.S. military strategy until 1939, when it was superceded by Joint Plan Orange, which was directed against Japan.

Source: Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 121-123.