The Birthplace of the Atlantic Charter

On August 10th, 1941, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met secretly aboard a warship in Placentia Bay off Argentia and agreed upon an eight-point press release. This document came to be known as the Atlantic Charter which helped coordinate their country's foreign policies in a time of expanding war. The 750 inhabitants of Argentia were evicted to make way for the construction of a massive U.S. base which would play a crucial role in the Battle of the North Atlantic over the next four years. At the height of the conflict six aircraft carriers and 50 destroyers were based in this ice-free harbour, and thousands of aircraft staged on Argentia's three massive runways.

The air base closed in 1973, but Argentia was an important U.S. naval base until 1994. The Americans left behind huge concrete bunkers, gun carriages, airstrips, smashed buildings, and a mountain of toxic wastes which have cost Canada millions to clean up.

The site of the abandoned base is fascinating to drive around, and a local group is working to redevelop the site as an industrial park. Most transients today arrive on the Marine Atlantic car ferry direct from North Sydney, Nova Scotia (operating from late June to early October only), and they usually head directly for St. John's, 123 km east, without stopping to ponder the role these ruins played in the history of the world.

From the series Unknown Sights of Canada by David Stanley

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