“Informal Information”: A Cultural History of NORAD’s Creation, 1944-1957

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Rayls, Peter
NORAD , Military Culture , RCAF , USAF , Air Defence , Air Defense , Military History , Cold War , Air Power History , Organizational Culture , Bilateral Relationship , US-Canadian Relationship
As the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union emerged during the late 1940s, one of the primary security concerns for Canada and the United States was the perceived danger posed by Soviet long-range bombers armed with atomic weapons. This apprehension intensified in 1950 following the start of the Korean War. Throughout the 1950s, air defence officers from the United States Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force worked together to build an air defence system capable of mitigating the risk that Soviet bombers might attack strategic targets in North America. These likeminded officers worked formally and informally to construct a system based on their shared assumptions about the best way to mutually protect their countries. In creating the North American air defence system, these officers developed not only professional relationships but also personal relationships, friendships, that buttressed their trust in each other. Political scientist Joel Sokolsky argues that officers in these situations develop a “fraternity of the uniform.” This trust continued throughout the 1950s and was solidified in September 1957 when the Canadian and American governments agreed to create the North American Air Defence Command (NORAD). This dissertation examines how Canadian and American air force officers created a unique, bilateral military culture, the North American air defence culture, in the late 1940s and the 1950s. It was fully formed by 1957 and became central to NORAD’s organizational culture when Canada and the United States formed the command in 1957. This dissertation argues that formal and informal collaboration between Canadian and American air force officers was central to the development of personal and professional relationships that influenced the 1957 creation of NORAD and its resultant, unique military culture.
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