Operation Blue Jay is a 1953 American short documentary film about the building of Thule Air Base in Greenland. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Construction of a worldwide system of modern air bases was one of the Air Force's most important tasks following World War II. The US studied the possibility of establishing a major operating base in Greenland when it became clear that round trip flights of planes carrying atomic bombs between US or Canadian bases and European objectives were impractical. Thule became a key point in the whole American military strategy. Strategic Air Command (SAC) bombers flying over the Arctic presented less risk of early warning than using bases in England. Defensively, Thule could serve as a base for intercepting bomber attacks along the northeastern approaches to Canada and the US.
A board of Air Force officers headed by Gordon P. Saville made a recommendation to pursue a base at Thule in November 1950. It was subsequently supported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and approved by President Truman. To replace the agreement entered into during World War II between the US and Denmark, a new agreement with respect to Greenland was ratified on April 27, 1951 (effective on June 8, 1951). At the request of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), the agreement became a part of the NATO defense program. The pact specified that the two nations would arrange for the use of facilities in Greenland by NATO forces in defense of the NATO area known as the Greenland Defense Area.
Thule AB was constructed in secret under the code name Operation Blue Jay. Construction for Thule AB began in 1951 and was completed in 1953. The construction of Thule is said to have been comparable in scale to the enormous effort required to build the Panama Canal. The United States Navy transported the bulk of men, supplies, and equipment from the naval shipyards in Norfolk, Virginia. On June 6, 1951 an armada of 120 shipments sailed from Naval Station Norfolk. On board were 12,000 men and 300,000 tons of cargo. They arrived Thule on July 9, 1951. Construction took place around the clock. The workers lived on-board the ship until quarters were built. Once they moved into the quarters, the ships returned home.
Thule Air Base is curentlyï»¿ home to the 821st Air Base Group (air base support within the Thule Defense Area), the 12th Space Warning Squadron (operates the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System), and Detachment 1 of the 23rd Space Operations Squadron (part of the 50th Space Wing's global satellite control network).