Iceland and the US
The United States of America was the first government to recognize the establishment of the Republic of Iceland on June 17, 1944, thereby laying the foundation for the strong friendship between the two respective nations. Relations between Iceland and the New World can be traced back to Leifur Eiriksson's westward voyage, Leifur and his fellow companions became the first Europeans to set foot in North America in the year 1000 A.D.
Below you can find more information on the history of the bilateral relations of Iceland and the United States, Icelandic associations in the US, Icelandic-Americans and on Icelandic companies in the US.
The primary objective of the Embassy of Iceland is to foster political, economic, and cultural relations between the United States and Iceland. Furthermore, the Embassy´s mission is to be a conduit for communication between the two respective governments and thereby enhancing the bilateral relationship. Another important function of the Embassy is attending to the interests of Icelandic citizens vis-à-vis the United States.
The Embassy will happily assist anyone in need of information regarding Iceland. The Embassy kindly points out that US citizens in need of consular assistance regarding their dealings with or in Iceland, should primarily turn to the United States Embassy in Reykjavík Iceland.
Iceland acquired home-rule through the enactment of the Act of Union between Iceland and Denmark on December 1, 1918, whereupon Iceland and Denmark became two separate states with the same monarch. One of the articles of the Act of Union stipulated that Denmark should be entrusted with the conduct of the foreign affairs of Iceland. However, Iceland directed the course of its foreign policy, but the Danish foreign service administered this policy due to the fact that at the time Iceland had no foreign service.
When Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany on 9 April 1940, all communications between Iceland and Denmark were severed. No longer was it possible for Iceland to communicate with the King and no instructions could be given to the Danish Foreign Minister regarding Icelandic foreign affairs. The following day, Althingi the Icelandic Parliament, passed two resolutions: Royal power was provisionally transferred to the cabinet in Reykjavík and Iceland assumed the conduct of its foreign affairs. Accordingly, the Foreign Service of Iceland dates from 10 April 1940.
The beginning of diplomatic relations between Iceland and the US can be traced back to July 7, 1941, when U.S. forces came to Iceland in order to supplement and eventually replace British forces during WWII. Britain had occupied Iceland 15 months year earlier in order to achieve a strategic position in the North-Atlantic, fundamental to Allied forces.
It is noteworthy, that the arrival of US forces in Iceland was at the behest of the Government of Iceland, under condititions that the US accepted and observed. Concurrently, this agreement marked the end of Iceland´s declaration of neutrality in world affairs in the Act of Union between Iceland and Denmark from 1918. This was further to be substantiated by Iceland´s later agreement with the U.S. on the Keflavik base in 1946, with Iceland being a founding member of NATO in 1949, and with the conclusion of the Bilateral Defense Agreeement between Iceland and the US in 1951 (see chapter below).The arrival of US forces in Iceland coincided with Roosevelt´s Proclamation of Unlimited National Emergency (in which he mentioned Iceland specifically) on May 27, 1941, and on the basis of a bilateral defense agreement between the two countries, concluded by a Exchange of Messages July 1, 1941. This agreement was ratified by the the Parliament of Iceland on July 10, 1941, and President Roosevelt informed the US Congress of the exchange in a letter dated July 7, 1941, asking the Congress´s permission that diplomatic representatives be exchanged between the two countries.
On April 27, 1942, it was announced in Washington D.C. that the US had fully taken over command in Iceland. The number of US forces in Iceland peaked in 1943 when approximately 47,000 troops were stationed in Iceland. After that, the number of troops gradually declined, being around 10,000 in the fall of 1944.
The first Icelandic Ambassador to the US, Ambassador Thor Thors, presented his credentials to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on November 19, 1941, thereby marking the opening of the Embassy of Iceland in Washington D.C. The Embassy of Iceland was at that time located on 3839 Massachusets Avenue, in the Ambassador´s home. On June 17, 1944, the United States of America became the first country to officially recognize Iceland as a republic. That event in particular, based on the significant diplomatic and security relations during WWII, laid the foundation for the longstanding and ongoing friendship and alliance between Iceland and the US.
Iceland concluded a bilateral Defence Agreement (PDF-Icelandic v. & English v.) with the United States in 1951. Apart from the territorial defence of Iceland, the primary missions of US forces based at Keflavík (the Iceland Defence Force) included air defence, maritime surveillance and early warning in the North Atlantic area. In 1993 Iceland and the United States reassessed the mutual defence requirements at Keflavík, based on the 1951 bilateral defence agreement. The results, contained in an understanding signed on January 4 1994, called for reductions in force levels to reflect the relaxation of tension in the North Atlantic region. In September 2006 the Keflavik base was closed down following an Agreement (PDF). A Joint Understanding (PDF) was also negotiated in which both sides affirm their continuing commitment to the 1951 Defense Agreement. The Joint Understanding also lists bilateral activities designed to create a basis for future cooperation between Iceland and the United States in the areas of defence and security.
A few Milestones in History
12/18/1918 Iceland independent under the Danish King
05/10/1940 British forces occupy Iceland
05/27/1941 Roosevelt proclaims Unlimited National Emergency
07/01/1941 Defence agreement between Iceland and the US
07/07/1941 US forces arrive in Iceland
11/19/1941 Icelandic Ambassador to the US presents credentials
06/17/1944 US recognizes the Republic of Iceland
04/04/1949 Iceland signs the North-Atlantic Treaty
05/05/1951 The Bilateral Defense Agreement concluded
05/31/1973 Nixon meets Pompidou in Reykjavik
09/30/1986 Reagan Gorbachev summit in Reykjavik
Several Icelandic associations, publications and organizations operate in the US, focusing on Icelandic-US relations. Their information is below (updated 3-2018).
Icelandic National League of North America:
President: Sunna Olafson Furstenau
2843 27th St S
Fargo, ND 58103
Executive Secretary: Gwen Grattan
#103 - 94 1st Ave., Gimli, MB R0C 1B1
The Society of Icelanders in Arizona
President: David Hill
43540 W Bravo Ct
Maricopa, AZ 85138
Scandinavian Club of Sun City
P.O. Box 1397, Sun City West, AZ 85372-1397
The Icelandic American Association of Southern California
President: Bára Floyd - IAA President
Web page: www.clubicelandsocal.com
Icelandic Association of Northern California
President: Laufey Gunnarsdóttir
District of Columbia
Icelandic Association of Washington, D.C.
President: Mr. Gunnar Birgisson
P.O. Box 1616, Woodbridge, VA 22195
Icelandic American Association of South Florida
President: Mr. Matthías Eggertsson
204 E. McNab Road, Pompano Bech, FL 33060
Icelandic American Association of Florida
President: Erna Neal
Leifur Eiriksson - Icelandic American Association of Central Florida
President: Mr. Óttar Hreinsson E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel:(407)-249-1450
Icelandic Association Georgia
On facebook "ICE in ATL"
Icelandic Association of Chicago
President: Mr. Einar Steinsson
The Icelandic Association in Kansas City
President: Mr. J.S. Skaptason
3905 West 120 Terrace, Leawood, KS 66209
Tel: (913) 491-4679; Fax: (913) 491-0636
The Icelandic Society in Boston
Fargo-Moorhead Icelandic Klub
President: Andrea Abrahamson
c/o Susan Sigurdsson - Newsletter Editor
1402 15th Street South, Moorhead, MN 56560
E-mail: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
The Icelandic Hekla Club
President: Dianne O'Konski
The Icelandic Society of New York
President: Ms. Begga Laxdal
Consulate General of Iceland 800 Third Avenue, 36th Floor New York, NY 10022
Icelandic Heritage Society
President: Ms. Eva Goodman
P.O. Box 862 , Minot, North Dakota 58702
Icelandic Communities Association
P.O. Box 063, Mountain, North Dakota 58262
Tel: 701-993-8268 Fax: 701-993-8239
Icelandic Association of Utah
President: Lacey Nielson
P.O.Box 874, Spanish Fork, UT 84660
Icelandic American Association of Hampton Roads
President: Ms. Sesselja Siggeirsdóttir
185 Commodore Drive, Norfolk, VA 23503
Tel: (757) 587-1068
Fiske Icelandic Collection
Curator: Mr. Patrick J. Stevens
Cornell University Library
Ithaca, NY 14853-5302
Genealogy, History, Photos, Maps, Scholarships, and more.
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