Military History Arctic Warfare
Adam Lajeunesse
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 October 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0014


Warfare in the Arctic has, for the most part, been a historical oddity. The region boasts few significant cities to capture, small populations, a harsh environment, and little transportation infrastructure. As R. J. Sutherland states in his “Strategic Significance of the Canadian Arctic,” the Arctic offers “no place to go from a military point of view and nothing to do when you got there.” Prior to World War II there was little regular warfare in the circumpolar region, whereas the war itself saw relatively limited action. It was during the Cold War that the Arctic became a recognized area of strategic importance—primarily for strategic bombers and later for nuclear submarines. Although these weapons were never used, an enormous amount of energy and resources went into preparing to fight in the region. The definition of Arctic itself often varies and can be defined on geographic, climactic, or political grounds. This article uses the geographic delimitation of 60 degrees north latitude. This region includes the entire Canadian North, Finland, the Soviet/Russian North, and most of Norway and Alaska. Parts of Alaska south of 60 degrees have been included because they are traditionally characterized as Arctic, whereas warfare on the Baltic Sea has been omitted simply because this area has traditionally not been considered as such.


The US Army bibliographies (US Army Engineer School 1946, US Army Heritage and Education Center 1988, US Army Heritage and Education Center 2011) are excellent places to start when studying military operations or capabilities throughout the Cold War, with the DEW Line collection Lackenbauer, et al. 2005 being a particularly valuable resource for that subject. Green and McLean 1990–1991 is an excellent source for researching the strategic importance of the region in the later Cold War from a naval perspective, whereas Dean 2010 focuses on publications on the more contemporary security concerns.

  • Dean, Ryan. Arctic Security Bibliography. Toronto: Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, 2010.

    Ryan provides a useful secondary-source bibliography that covers historical and Arctic security issues from World War II to the 21st century.

  • Green, Keith W., and Alasdair W. M. McLean. An Arctic Policy Bibliography. Centrepieces 18. Aberdeen, Scotland: Centre for Defence Studies, 1990–1991.

    Section 1 of this bibliography (“Military/Strategic Issues”) offers a good list of sources dealing with security concerns from the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Lackenbauer, P. Whitney, Matthew J. Farish, and Jennifer Arthur-Lackenbauer. The Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line: A Bibliography and Documentary Resource List. Calgary, AB: Arctic Institute of North America, 2005.

    This is a comprehensive bibliography on the construction of the DEW line, covering primary, secondary, and archival sources. This work should be the first stop when conducting research on the DEW Line.

  • US Army Engineer School. Arctic Warfare: Bibliography of Reports and Technical Information. Fort Belvoir, VA: US Army Engineer School, 1946.

    This work presents a series of technical reports accumulated by the US Army on the subject of Arctic and winter warfare, primarily during World War II. It would be useful for very specialized studies.

  • US Army Heritage and Education Center. Winter Warfare: A Bibliography. Carlisle, PA: US Army Heritage and Education Center, 1988.

    For anyone interested in the more technical side of Arctic warfare and the development of winter warfare capability by the US Army, this offers a list of references relating to the history and development of US doctrine, exercises, clothing, weapons, and tactics.

  • US Army Heritage and Education Center. U.S. Army in Alaska since 1945. Finding Aids. Carlisle, PA: US Army Heritage and Education Center, 2011.

    This is a thorough bibliography on the US Army’s activities in Alaska, dealing with secondary and primary sources and mainly covering the Cold War period.

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