|Updated: 04-Sep-2001||NATO the first five years 1949-1954|
The Military Structure
The military structure of NATO has changed beyond recognition since it was first set up in September 1949. It has been built up step by step in the light of experience: some of its early developments have been described in previous chapters, for the sake of chronology.
The supreme military authority is now the Military Committee.
This consists normally of one Chief-of-Staff from each member country
(1). The Chairmanship of the Committee changes annually.
It has hitherto been provided by the country which holds the Chair of
the Council for the year in question (2). The Military
Committee is responsible for providing the Council with military advice,
and the subordinate military authorities with direction and guidance.
This body is in permanent session in Washington. It is composed of representatives of the Chiefs-of-Staff of France, the United Kingdom and the United States (or, when appropriate, a Chief-of-Staff (3) from each of these countries). The Chairmanship changes quarterly. The Standing Group is served by a number of staff teams drawn from France, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The Standing Group provides strategic direction, co-ordinates
and integrates defence plans originating in NATO commands and the Canada-United
States Regional Planning Group, and, in addition, controls and directs
the work of a number of agencies which deal with special types of military
The link between the North Atlantic Council Headquarters in Paris and the Standing Group in Washington is provided by a Standing Group Liaison Officer (Vice-Admiral Royer Dick, UK) whose offices are at the Headquarters of the North Atlantic Council. This appointment is held in turn by the Standing Group countries. The Standing Group Liaison Officer is assisted by a staff of some sixteen naval, army and air force officers drawn from member countries. He is responsible for presenting the views of the Standing Group to the North Atlantic Council and for conveying the instructions and views of the Council to the Standing Group. He is also responsible for giving the Council the advice of the Standing Group on military problems of a more technical nature, such as the Annual Review and infrastructure, and for providing military representation on any council committees considering problems with military implications. He also maintains contact with the various Commanders to ensure that when commands deal directly with the International Staff, there is co-ordination between command views and those of the Standing Group.
The origins of the Allied Command Europe and the establishment of its Headquarters (SHAPE) in the Versailles area in June, 1951, have been described in Chapter IV. The story will now be continued from that point; and since it is the first example of the setting up of an international headquarters in time of peace, it will be told in some detail.
General Eisenhower remained as Supreme Allied Commander
Europe (SACEUR) until May, 1952, when he was succeeded by General Matthew
B. Ridgway (USA). In July, 1953, General Ridgway was nominated Chief-of-Staff
of the United States Army and was succeeded by General Alfred M. Gruenther
(USA) who had been Chief-of-Staff to both the former Supreme Commanders.
The staff system is based on the American concept of four bureaux, one for Administration, one for Intelligence, one for Plans and Operations, one for Logistics, with certain additions such as special sections for Finance (which was most necessary in an enterprise supported by so many various currencies), and for Signals (of paramount importance in any command controlling such scattered forces, and particularly so in this new and complex organization).
The Chief-of-Staff was allotted two Deputy Chiefs-of Staff, one French and one British: the first to control Logistics and Administration, which would involve many questions where negotiation with the French Government would be necessary ; the second to deal with Plans and Operations.
SACEUR has forces actually assigned to him in peacetime. The term 'assigned forces' needs some explanation. The military forces of the member nations can be divided into three categories:
Assigned forces are those which have already been placed under the operational command of a NATO Commander. Earmarked forces are those which nations have agreed to place under the operational command of a NATO Commander at some future date in peace, or automatically in the event of mobilisation or war. National forces are those which remain under national control. For example, a French soldier serving in Germany is almost certainly a member of assigned forces; a French soldier who finished his military service a year ago and is now a reservist is probably a member of earmarked forces; while a French soldier serving in Indo-China is a member of national forces.
SACEUR has operational control over all the forces assigned to his Command in time of peace, and is responsible for ensuring that they are properly organized, equipped and trained. He is entitled to deal direct with national authorities in these matters, to settle with them how their forces should be deployed in peacetime and to determine with them the priority in which earmarked forces should be mobilised and come under his Command. Each nation is responsible for the logistic support of its own forces, but SACEUR is responsible for ensuring that these national arrangements are co-ordinated.
SACEUR is responsible, under the general guidance of the Military Committee, for the preparation of plans to meet the contingency of aggression. In time of war he would be responsible for the overall conduct of all operations under his Command.
Let us first look at the original command structure in Europe. It was decided that the three Regional Planning Groups which SHAPE replaced would serve as a basis for the subordinate commands which would each be under a Commander-in-Chief. The area from Northern Norway to the Mediterranean falls geographically and strategically into three sectors. In the centre is the peninsula of Western Europe; on its northern flank Scandinavia, the North Sea and the Baltic; on its southern flank Italy and the Mediterranean. Because of the overwhelming importance of the central sector. General Eisenhower decided that he should himself exercise control over all operations and appointed General (now Marshal) Juin (France) as his Land Forces Commander, General Norstad as his Air Force Commander, and Vice-Admiral Jaujard (France) as Flag Officer Western Europe. These three officers were to have their Headquarters at Fontainebleau, till now the seat of the Western Union Defence Organization. In the north, where the jagged rocky coastline of Norway is of immense length and where naval action could usefully support land forces.
Admiral Brind (UK) (6) was selected as the Commander-in-Chief, with his Headquarters at Oslo. Under his control he had an American General commanding the Air Forces, a Norwegian Land Forces Commander and a Danish Land Forces Commander. It was not considered wise to place under the control of one man the Land Forces of Denmark and Norway, which, because of their geographical separation, could not be mutually self-supporting. Both the Northern and Central Commands were formally established on the 2nd April, 1951, the date when SHAPE came into being.
The problem of command in the southern area was more difficult to resolve, complicated as it was by the special position of the British Naval Force which had for so long wielded control of the Mediterranean. However, in June, 1951, Admiral Carney (USA) - succeeded in 1953 by Admiral Fechteler (USA) - was selected to be Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Southern Europe.
Under his command was an Italian General commanding Land Forces, an American General commanding the Air Forces and an American Admiral to control the powerful 6th US Fleet. The solution of the Mediterranean Command was to wait for two years.
The command structure of SACEUR has been considerably modified since General Eisenhower left Europe in May, 1952. In the first place, the forces of Greece and Turkey have been added to the Command; secondly, the Mediterranean Command has been created; and thirdly, the Central Command has been reorganized.
With the accession of Greece and Turkey to the North Atlantic Treaty in February, 1952, SACEUR was faced with the problem of how the forces of these two new allies were to be fitted into his command structure. As a temporary measure, Admiral Carney, who was the Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces in the South, was given the overall responsibility for these forces, but they remained under then-own national Commanders pending a final decision on this question.
One alternative was to create an entirely new command for the Greek and Turkish forces: another was to place them under the command of the Land Forces Commander Southern Europe, stationed at Verona. The objection was that this Commander would not only have been very far away from his new charges, but also he might, in the event of war, be involved in simultaneous operations on three fronts.
Finally, it was decided in August, 1952 that a separate command, entitled 'Allied Land Forces South-Eastern Europe' should be set up to control the Greek and Turkish forces, and that this new Command should be subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief South. The site chosen for this new Headquarters was Izmir, Turkey, with an advance post in Salonika.
At the end of 1952 it was decided that a further subordinate command should be set up under SACEUR, with the title 'Allied Forces Mediterranean', and with Headquarters at Malta. The first Commander-in-Chief was Admiral the Earl Mountbatten of Burma (UK) (7), and his Headquarters came into being in March, 1953. Later that year, the various national forces under his control were organized into six separate areas, each commanded by an Admiral: one French, one Greek, one Turkish, one Italian and two British. In time of war. Admiral Mountbatten would be responsible for the security of the line of communications through the Mediterranean.
Shortly before General Ridgway was succeeded by General Gruenther, an important change gave Allied Command Europe the form which it has today. This was indeed a double change, involving not only the reorganization of the Central Command, but also an extension of the responsibilities of the Air Deputy.
When General Eisenhower first devised his command structure in 1951, he decided, as has already been said, to maintain direct control of the Central area himself. In July, 1953, however, it was decided that the Central Command should have its own Commander-in-Chief, as was the case in the North and in the South. Marshal Juin assumed the title and responsibilities of Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Central Europe, and a French Land Forces Commander was appointed to be directly subordinate to him. His Command includes the Northern Army Group, consisting of Belgian, Canadian, Netherlands and United Kingdom Forces, and the Central Army Group consisting of French and United States Forces. Vice-Admiral Jaujard remained as Commander Allied Naval Forces Central Europe. General Norstad moved to SHAPE as Air Deputy (to replace Air Chief Marshal Saunders) and was himself replaced by Air Chief Marshal Sir Basil Embry (UK) as Commander Allied Air Forces Central Europe. The latter controls two Allied Tactical Air Forces, one of which would give air support to the Northern Army Group, the other to the Central Army Group.
To sum up, SACEUR has four principal Commanders-in-Chief who report to him direct: General Mansergh in the North (CINCNORTH), Marshal Juin in the Centre (CINCENT), Admiral Fechteler in the South (CINCSOUTH) and Admiral Mountbatten in the Mediterranean (CINCAFMED) (8).
General Norstad took over the appointment of Air Deputy on the 27th July, 1953. His responsibilities are considerably wider than those of his predecessor, and his staff is correspondingly larger. Hitherto the post of Air Deputy had carried with it no executive responsibilities. It was decided, however, that with the increase in air power available to the Supreme Commander, both from assigned air forces and from external sources (the United States Strategic Air Command and the United Kingdom Bomber Command), a single central authority was necessary. Only in this way could the expanding allied air forces derive full advantage from the flexibility which is an outstanding characteristic of air power.
Consequently, General Norstad is concerned with the development of the air forces of Allied Command Europe and with planning for the most effective utilisation of those forces. In addition, he is responsible for ensuring that the great air striking power available to SACEUR from the United States Strategic Air Force and United Kingdom Bomber Command is applied to the best advantage.
Let us now cross the Atlantic. The Council at Brussels, in December, 1950, decided to appoint a Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic as soon as possible after the appointment of SACEUR. During the following year decisions were reached on the nationality of the Commander and the scope of his authority concerning certain inshore waters. Towards the end of 1951, an advance planning staff was gradually assembled, and began to take over from the North Atlantic Ocean Regional Planning Group. The Atlantic Command, the first international ocean Command in history in peacetime, was finally established in January, 1952, at Norfolk, Virginia. Admiral Lynde D. McCormick (USA) took up his duties as Supreme Commander on the 10th April, 1952. Two years later. Admiral Jerauld Wright (USA), a former Deputy to the Standing Group, relieved Admiral McCormick. Vice-Admiral J. F. Stevens (UK) relieved Vice-Admiral Sir William Andrewes as Deputy Supreme Commander in 1953.
The Staff of SACLANT is drawn from the navies, armies and air forces of eight countries: Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In addition, these nations, as well as Belgium and Iceland, have national liaison representatives accredited to SACLANT. Direct liaison is maintained with SACEUR through the SACLANT Representative in Europe.
SACLANT Headquarters are organized in seven divisions: Personnel and Administration; Intelligence; Plans, Policy and Operations; Logistics; Communications; Budget and Finance; and Public Information. In general, the staff divisions, in the assignment of personnel, reflect the international character of the Command, with as many as seven nationalities represented in one division.
The Atlantic Command extends from the North Pole to the Tropic of Cancer, and from the coastal waters of North America to those of Europe and Africa, except for the English Channel and waters around the British Isles. It is at present divided into two major geographical command areas.
The Western Atlantic area is commanded by an American
Naval Commander-in-Chief, at present SACLANT himself. The Eastern Atlantic
area is under the joint command of a British Naval Commander-in-Chief,
Admiral Sir Michael Denny, and a British Air Commander-in-Chief, Air
Marshal Sir John Boothman. Both areas are further divided into sub-areas
(as shown in the diagram on page 76). The important Atlantic Islands
such as Iceland, Greenland, the Azores, Bermuda, the Faroes, are placed
for military defence purposes under island Commanders, all but one of
whom is a national of the sovereign island Power.
The division of the Atlantic region into the three above mentioned area commands calls for a brief explanation. In the North Atlantic Ocean, the main shipping lanes form roughly a triangle, which has its apex on the coast of North America, and its base along the western seaboard of Europe, between the United Kingdom and Gibraltar. Each angle of the triangle constitutes a focal area in which shipping concentrates, and which would be of vital importance in times of war.
Directly subordinate to SACLANT, and an operational rather than a geographical Commander, is the Commander Striking Fleet Atlantic. This fleet is a force of heavy surface ships, aircraft carriers and necessary supporting units. Its role in time of war would be to undertake offensive and support operations, rather than the direct defence of the Atlantic trade routes. It is contemplated that the Striking Fleet would furnish support to other NATO Supreme Commanders besides SACLANT.
Another important operational command is that of the Commander Submarine Force Eastern Atlantic who is responsible, under the Commander-in-Chief Eastern Atlantic, for co-ordinating the operations of all submarines assigned to those "waters. Submarines from six nations have already undergone combined training.
SACLANT, like his colleague SACEUR, is directly responsible to the Standing Group. His peacetime duties are:
SACLANT, like SACEUR, has the right of direct communication with all the governments which have forces earmarked for his Command.
SACLANT's primary task in time of war would be to provide NATO with security in the Atlantic Ocean by guarding its sea lanes and denying its use to an enemy. In other words, his mission would be to protect the life-lines of the free world in the Atlantic. This weighty responsibility requires sufficient escort vessels and aircraft to protect an intricate convoy system, adequate hunter-killer forces to combat the underseas menace, a highly mobile striking fleet, and an effective submarine force.
In time of peace forces are periodically placed at SACLANT's disposal for combined training (9), but he has no forces permanently assigned to him. The reason for this arrangement can easily be explained. The Atlantic maritime Powers of NATO naturally maintain naval forces and maritime air forces to protect their national interests in those waters in time of peace. To have created a separate NATO naval force for the specific purpose of guarding Atlantic Ocean life-lines in time of war would have been impossibly expensive. It was therefore decided by the countries with interests in the Atlantic that the naval forces which they maintain there in time of peace for their own national purposes should be dedicated in time of war to the common cause of protecting the life-lines across the Atlantic Ocean. Seven countries have therefore earmarked forces for SACLANT. Naturally enough these forces are predominantly naval, but some ground forces and land-based air forces are included.
Under the Brussels Treaty Organization, the Western Union Chiefs-of-Staff agreed in 1949 to give control of the Channel and the southern waters of the North Sea (with the exception of small national coastal areas) to the British Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth.
When the NATO organizations for the European and Atlantic Commands were framed, it was decided to set up a 'Channel Committee' composed of the Chiefs-of-Naval-Staff (or their representatives) of Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. A special arrangement of this kind was considered essential, since it was thought that the Standing Group would be too far away and too occupied with matters of high strategy to attend to the detailed problems which would arise in the small but vital Channel area.
It is interesting to recall that there is a historical precedent for the Channel Committee dating back to the 16th Century. It consisted of a protestant navy which waged war against Spanish power in Europe and against the Catholic elements of French and Flemish shipping. The ships, which numbered one hundred sail, operated under the guiding hands of Admiral Coligny, Sir William Cecil and the Prince of Orange.
Directly under the Channel Committee is the Channel Command. This Command was established in February, 1952, under the joint command of an Allied Commander-in-Chief and an Allied Maritime Air Commander-in-Chief. The Allied Commander-in-chief, Admiral Sir John Edelsten (UK), is also the British Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. The Maritime Air Commander-in-Chief, Sir John Boothman, holds two other appointments. He is Air Commander-in-Chief Eastern Atlantic, and also Commander-in-Chief British Coastal Command. This ensures the most flexible and economical use of the maritime air forces.
In peacetime, the Allied Commander-in-Chief Channel, in conjunction with the Maritime Air Commander-in-Chief, is responsible for preparing plans for the control and defence of the Channel area, and for co-ordinating these with other NATO and national plans.
In time of war, these Commanders-in-Chief would have the following joint responsibilities:
The Allied Commander-in-Chief, together with the Maritime Air Commander-in-chief, organizes and conducts inter-allied exercises in agreement with the national authorities concerned, and in consultation with SACEUR and SACLANT.
Responsibility for certain coastal tasks, such as inshore minesweeping and harbour defence, rests not with the Channel Command, but with the Commanders of coastal areas acting under their respective national authorities. Forces earmarked for the defence of the area in war are, therefore, divided into two categories:
The Canada-United States Regional Planning Group works in Washington. Directed by the Chiefs-of-Staff of the United States of America and of Canada, it is the only survivor of NATO's original five Regional Planning Groups. It is responsible for making plans for the defence of the North American continent and for making recommendations on military requirements. Its defence plans are seen by other NATO nations and approved by the Standing Group, in the same way as are those of the Supreme Commanders.
This survey of the military structure of NATO would be incomplete without a short description of the various agencies which work under the general direction of the Standing Group. Their activities differ very widely, but their aims are identical - namely, to promote uniformity among the armed forces of NATO and to improve their efficiency.
The NATO Defence College was set up in 1951 on the recommendation of General Elsenhower. Its broad purpose was to provide a body of officers who are trained in international co-operation, and who have a good understanding of the problems, methods and achievements of the Alliance as a whole.
The College is housed in part of the Ecole Militaire building in Paris. The course of study is for six months; the first course started in November, 1951. The appointment of Commandant is held by France, the United Kingdom and the United States in rotation, and the tour of duty is for two years. The first Commandant was Admiral Lemonnier (France) who was succeeded by Air Marshal L. Darvall (UK) in 1953. The directing staff, both civil and military, come from several NATO countries. There are approximately fifty students per term, drawn from officers of all three services of the rank of colonel or equivalent and from civilian officials. The languages used are French and English.
Five courses have already been completed and more than two hundred graduates of the College are now serving in international headquarters throughout NATO and in key positions in the ministries and armed forces of their respective countries. Apart from the military and technical benefits which the Atlantic Community derives from the College, a most encouraging feature has been the friendships which have been made between many officers and officials of different nationalities.
Two of the limitations to effective co-operation between armed forces of a coalition of nations are:
It was with those limitations in mind that the Military Agency for Standardisation was set up in London in January, 1951. Directly responsible to the Standing Group, its task is to study and foster the standardisation throughout the armed forces of member countries of:
The Agency has three Service Boards, one for the Navy, one for the Army and one for the Air Force. These have under them a considerable number of working parties whereon military experts from the interested governments are brought together to examine problems of infinite variety. When agreements are reached they are embodied in formal recommendations from the Agency to the governments concerned.
Considerable uniformity has already been achieved in the standardisation of operational and administrative practice (usually known as non-material standardisation). This is evident to any witness of recent combined exercises. A large number of NATO publications dealing with various aspects of this problem have been distributed and are now in use.
Progress has however been much slower in the standardisation of war material because of the inherent difficulties of the problem. For example, standardisation very often involves the great expense of scrapping existing equipment and retooling production lines. Again, there is much military equipment, such for example as vehicles, which is based on the designs in everyday civilian use: and nations naturally prefer to rely on their own models.
Thus standardisation is to some extent limited to items of war material which are of purely military design; and the best chance of achieving it occurs when new designs are about to be put into production. The agreement that was eventually reached on the new. 30 calibre small arms ammunition is a good example of this.
The standardisation of component parts, and of materials which are used in large quantities, has presented fewer difficulties, and good progress has been achieved in such matters as the refuelling and servicing connections for aircraft and ships, the dimensions of certain equipment within ships and aircraft, and aviation fuels.
The following are examples of work that is being pressed forward:
'Working towards the same end as the Military Agency for Standardisation, but in more specialised fields, are two groups whose efforts are bent towards making the NATO air forces more efficient. The first is concerned with aeronautical research, the second with air training.
The Advisory Group for Aeronautical Research and Development (AGARD) was established on a trial basis for a period of two years in January, 1952. It is composed of one or two scientific representatives from each NATO country and it is under the Chairmanship of Dr. Theodore Von Karman (USA). Its object is to bring together leading aeronautical experts so that the research and skill of all the member countries can best be used for the common good. Examples of the problems which have been the subject of study and exchange of information are the operation of jet engines at high altitudes, wind tunnels, and the advances of medicine applied to high speed aviation. Incidentally, AGARD has proved that much useful co-operation is possible in the field of scientific research and development without infringing national security policies.
Another Group, called the Air Training Advisory Croup (ATAG) was formed, in July, 1952, to help nations achieve the required standard of pilot training and to advise how their available resources could best be used to meet the air-crew requirements of the European Air Forces of NATO.
The ATAG Squadron, which is based at Villacoublay airfield, near SHAPE, is manned by highly qualified flying instructors of the various NATO countries. Its task is to visit flying training schools throughout Europe and, by flying with instructors and pupils, to check the standards of training and to suggest means of improvement. The ATAG staff is located at SHAPE, although until recently it was not a SHAPE agency, but reported directly to the Standing Group. This arrangement had more drawbacks than advantages; and on the 1st January, 1954, the functions of ATAG were absorbed by the Air Inspection Directorate of the Air Deputy at SHAPE. This is expected to give ATAG more authority and to facilitate co-operation with the other SHAPE divisions.
Probably the most productive of ATAG's achievements was
the setting up of a Flying Instructors' School for the Italian Air Force
at Foggia. The success of its other efforts will only be known in the
future when its effects upon the training standard of the NATO air forces
In modem war, good communications are a "vital necessity, and the need for co-ordinating the communication systems of Continental Europe has been evident since the early days of Western Union. It would be beyond the scope of this survey to do more than indicate some of the technical problems which are being studied - the co-ordination of radio frequencies, the use of the national telephone systems of the many countries involved, the standardisation of teleprinters, collaboration between the civil and military authorities, the co-ordination of European naval communications, and so forth. A number of signals agencies which work directly under the Standing Group and in close liaison with the Signals Division of SHAPE are studying these problems and many others (10).