The NATO Song
NATO marked its 10th anniversary on 4 April 1959. To celebrate this milestone, the Allies “agreed in principle that a special effort should be made to derive the maximum publicity for NATO on the occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty” (according to a note from the Committee on Information and Cultural Relations).
To that end, the NATO Information Service worked closely with the national governments of the then 15 NATO Allies (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Türkiye, the United Kingdom and the United States) to coordinate communications activities across the Alliance.
One of the most unique anniversary products commissioned by an Allied national government was “The NATO Song” by Bing Crosby, a short ode to the value of NATO as a defensive shield behind which its free societies could flourish. But how did the famous singer of “White Christmas” – the best-selling physical single of all time – come to sing a song about NATO?
As part of its national contributions to raising NATO’s profile for the 10th anniversary, the United States government hired an advertising agency to run a publicity campaign. The agency advised that NATO should emphasise its role not just as an alliance of member countries dedicated to collective defence, but as a community of people with a common history and shared values.
To spread this message, in addition to Bing Crosby, the ad agency tried to rope in other A-list stars at the time – including Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra and Harry Belafonte – to record songs about NATO (sadly, our archives have no records that these songs were ever produced). They also came up with promotional slogans for the Alliance, including:
''Good night, sleep tight, NATO stands on guard.''
''N-A-T-O – four letters that spell peace.''
“Since NATO, not an inch of territory lost.”
Bing Crosby’s “NATO Song” followed the same line of thought. After its development for NATO’s 10th anniversary, it was stored in The Crosby Archive for many years before being republished in 2017 as part of Among My Souvenirs, a compilation album of older songs.
Interestingly, the surviving track gives a behind-the-scenes look at Crosby’s process. In it, he sings multiple takes of the song, trying out versions with quicker and slower tempos. He also chats with his sound engineers and producers, giving them multiple options to work with.
Ultimately, “The NATO Song” does in a few seconds what all of NATO’s public communications have done in the decades since: reminded the citizens of NATO countries that the Alliance has stood on guard for their peace and freedom since 1949, and that it will continue to uphold these values into the future.
Ten years have passed since people lived in fear and dread
When hope and independence died, and dark aggression spread…
Then NATO went on guard and free men ceased to yield
We live again in peace and strength behind the NATO shield.
Provided to YouTube by Universal Music Group
The NATO Song - Bing Crosby - Among My Souvenirs
℗ 2017 Primary Wave Music IP Fund 3, LP & HLC Properties, Ltd.
Released on: 2017-12-08
Producer: Robert S. Bader
Composer / Lyricist: Unknown
In addition to “The NATO Song,” the NATO Information Service and Allied national governments created a wide variety of other products and events for the 10th anniversary. These included:
- unique postage stamps designed by the national postal services of each NATO Ally;
- a set of stickers with the slogan NATO – our insurance for peace;
- official specifications for the NATO flag and emblem, describing the exact dimensions of the NATO symbol and the specific colours to be used;
- the inauguration of a new NATO Headquarters building at Porte Dauphine in Paris;
- a meeting of the North Atlantic Council on 4 April 1959 in Washington, D.C., where the Treaty had been signed 10 years earlier;
- military parades and air force fly-overs in Allied capital cities;
- a “Know Your NATO” information brochure called Shield of Freedom;
- a special issue of the NATO Letter, the Alliance’s magazine, on Ten Years of Atlantic Co-operation;
- a “NATO Talking Book” featuring the voices of French President Charles de Gaulle, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, among others;
- and a distinctive picture book called NATO – Hope of The Free World.
NATO has celebrated many more milestone birthdays with special activities over the years, from cutting a NATO cake on the 20th anniversary in 1969 to launching a new website (including an official NATO screensaver!) for the 50th anniversary in 1999.
But, as “The NATO Song” attests, the 10th anniversary was a unique moment in the Alliance’s history – a time when the Allies could take stock of their progress over the previous ten years, celebrate their growing strength and prosperity, reflect on their improved peace and security, and see the proof that NATO was living up to its promise. A time when they could look back on a decade of shared accomplishment, and look forward to an even brighter future together.