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How did NATO handle the military coups and juntas in Greece, Turkey and Portugal?

How did NATO handle the military coups and juntas in Greece, Turkey and Portugal?

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Since the founding of NATO three of its members had military coups and juntas:

  1. Greece from 1967 to 1974
  2. Portugal from 1974 to 1975
  3. Turkey

    1. from 1960 to 1961
    2. in 1971
    3. from 1980 to 1983

Since NATO partners agreed to "contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions." (NATO treaty, article 2), how did it handle this weakening of the free institutions of two of its members? Was it just "business as usual" for the soldiers?

Note: Portugal is special since in the end it actually strengthened the free institutions in Portugal.

NATO stayed out of the way; and they "consulted"

Article 4

The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.

Civil war, insurrection, coup, and any number of other calamities short of war may meet those conditions, and thus trigger an official consultation.

The limitations of the Washington Treaty

The Washington Treaty was designed as a cooperative defensive treaty, not license to interfere with one another's internal politics. Granted, being in a multinational body where money is involved will bring with it varying amounts of influence. But interference in one another's internal political affairs is not addressed within the treaty.

Within the constraints of the Treaty, the organization as a whole can act only with unanimous decision, which makes any Alliance-wide response difficult to envision since whomever is having a problem may likely veto (or break silence) any proposed interference (or assistance?) from the combined group comprised of the other nations. If Turkey didn't ask for help, there wasn't going to be a NATO action. Likewise with Greece, etc.

My experience with the Turkish "post modern coup" in 1997

At our HQ (I worked for a Turkish officer) our Turkish colleagues disappeared for a few days when the various maneuverings in Turkey began that led to the 1997 Turkish Military Memorandum which amounted to the fall of Islamist Prime Minister Erbakan. NATO itself didn't issue a press release specifically covering that happening, though the governments of the 16 members of NATO (at that time) all dealt with the situation of their NATO ally differently, and in a bilateral mode.

Bottom Line: as an alliance, not much NATO could do. As individual members, offers of assistance were of course provided via the usual diplomatic channels irrespective of NATO connections.

What NATO has done recently; stayed out of the way, consulted, etc.

In the past year, events in Turkey have created a problem for NATO in the form of a diplomatic / political dilemma. The current government has taken the stand that most of the officers assigned outside Turkey on the NATO staffs are politically unreliable, and sent replacements with orders to the officers on the staff to return home. Needless to say, most of the officers believe that upon returning home they will be denied their freedom, or worse. Most of them appealed to host nations -- not NATO -- for political asylum. The German government, for example, granted asylum but that's bilateral/local decision, not an alliance-wide decision.

A report published in the German daily Suddeutscher Zeitung states that most of the asylum requests by military officers have been approved after the result of the 16 April 2017 referendum on constitutional reforms granting sweeping powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. However, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) denied that the referendum outcome have affected their decision to grant asylum to the Turkish nationals, according to the report.

Most of the military officers whose asylum requests were approved were stationed in NATO bases in Germany or other European countries as well as in Africa.

The German Federal Ministry of Interior has confirmed that the asylum requests were approved

Regrettably, the notebook full of material from the NATO staff officer's course (circa 1995) that included some basics on the problem of coups within the alliance seems to have suffered from an attic cleaning and is no longer in my possession.

You have to see it in the historical context. Compared to the Communists, they were "free" indeed, even as a military dictatorship. For suitable meanings of "free," which was mostly defined as being against the Communists.

  • Greece had fought a civil war in 46-48, which had left deep divisions, and the coup participants of 67 were very anti-Communist.
  • Turkey had agreed to base Jupiter MRBMs. In the eyes of the West, that conclusively proved their good faith.

How did NATO handle the military coups and juntas in Greece, Turkey and Portugal? - History

The Truman Doctrine was an American foreign policy created to contain Soviet geopolitical spread during the Cold War, first announced to Congress by President Harry S. Truman on March 12, 1947.

Learning Objectives

Paraphrase the Truman Doctrine

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • In February 1947, the British government announced that it could no longer afford to finance the Greek monarchical military regime in its civil war against communist-led insurgents.
  • The American government’s response to this announcement was the adoption of containment, a policy designed to stop the spread of communism from the Soviet Union, in this case to Greece.
  • In March 1947, Truman delivered a speech to Congress that called for the allocation of $400 million to intervene in the war and unveiled the Truman Doctrine, which framed the conflict as a contest between free peoples and totalitarian regimes.
  • Historians often use Truman’s speech to date the start of the Cold War.
  • The Truman Doctrine underpinned American Cold War policy in Europe and internationally and influenced many foreign policy decisions in the decades to come.

Key Terms

  • Truman Doctrine: An American foreign policy created to counter Soviet geopolitical spread during the Cold War, announced by Harry S. Truman to Congress in 1947.
  • containment: A military strategy to stop the expansion of an enemy, best known as the Cold War policy of the United States and its allies to prevent the spread of communism.
  • Greek Civil War: A war fought in Greece from 1946 to 1949 between the Greek government army (backed by the United Kingdom and the United States), and the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE, the military branch of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), backed by Yugoslavia and Albania as well as by Bulgaria.


The Truman Doctrine was an American foreign policy created to counter Soviet geopolitical spread during the Cold War. It was first announced to Congress by President Harry S. Truman on March 12, 1947, and further developed on July 12, 1948, when he pledged to contain Soviet threats to Greece and Turkey. American military force was usually not involved, but Congress appropriated free gifts of financial aid to support the economies and the military of Greece and Turkey. More generally, the Truman Doctrine implied American support for other nations threatened by Soviet communism. The Truman Doctrine became the foundation of American foreign policy, and led in 1949 to the formation of NATO, a military alliance that is still in effect. Historians often use Truman’s speech to date the start of the Cold War.

Truman told Congress that “it must be the policy of the United States to support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” Truman reasoned that because the totalitarian regimes coerced free peoples, they represented a threat to international peace and the national security of the United States. Truman made the plea amid the crisis of the Greek Civil War (1946–49). He argued that if Greece and Turkey did not receive the aid that they urgently needed, they would inevitably fall to communism with grave consequences throughout the region. Because Turkey and Greece were historic rivals, it was necessary to help both equally even though the threat to Greece was more immediate. Historian Eric Foner argues the Truman Doctrine “set a precedent for American assistance to anticommunist regimes throughout the world, no matter how undemocratic, and for the creation of a set of global military alliances directed against the Soviet Union.”

For years, Britain had supported Greece, but was now near bankruptcy and was forced to radically reduce its involvement. In February 1947, Britain formally requested for the United States to take over its role in supporting the Greeks and their government. The policy won the support of Republicans who controlled Congress and involved sending $400 million in American money but no military forces to the region. The effect was to end the communist threat, and in 1952, both Greece and Turkey joined NATO, a military alliance, to guarantee their protection.

The Truman Doctrine was informally extended to become the basis of American Cold War policy throughout Europe and around the world. It shifted American foreign policy toward the Soviet Union from détente (a relaxation of tension) to a policy of containment of Soviet expansion as advocated by diplomat George Kennan. It was distinguished from rollback by implicitly tolerating the previous Soviet takeovers in Eastern Europe.

Background: Greek Crisis

The Greek Civil War was fought in Greece from 1946 to 1949 between the Greek government army (backed by the United Kingdom and the United States), and the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE, the military branch of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), backed by Yugoslavia and Albania as well as by Bulgaria. The fighting resulted in the defeat of the Communist insurgents by the government forces.

In the second stage of the civil war in December 1944, the British helped prevent the seizure of Athens by the Greek Communist Party (KKE). In the third phase (1946–49), guerrilla forces controlled by the KKE fought against the internationally recognized Greek government which was formed after 1946 elections boycotted by the KKE. At this point, the British realized that the Greek leftists were being directly funded by Josip Broz Tito in neighboring Yugoslavia the Greek communists received little help directly from the Soviet Union, while Yugoslavia provided support and sanctuary. By late 1946, Britain informed the United States that due to its own weakening economy, it could no longer continue to provide military and economic support to Greece.

In 1946–47, the United States and the Soviet Union moved from wartime allies to Cold War adversaries. Soviet imperialism in Eastern Europe, its delayed withdrawal from Iran, and the breakdown of Allied cooperation in Germany provided a backdrop of escalating tensions for the Truman Doctrine. To Harry S. Truman, the growing unrest in Greece began to look like a pincer movement against the oil-rich areas of the Middle East and the warm-water ports of the Mediterranean.

In February 1946, George Kennan, an American diplomat in Moscow, sent his famed “Long Telegram,” which predicted the Soviets would only respond to force and that the best way to handle them was through a long-term strategy of containment by stopping their geographical expansion. After the British warned that they could no longer help Greece and Prime Minister Konstantinos Tsaldaris’s visit to Washington in December 1946 to ask for American assistance, the U.S. State Department formulated a plan. Aid would be given to both Greece and Turkey to help cool the long-standing rivalry between them.

American policymakers recognized the instability of the region, fearing that if Greece was lost to communism, Turkey would not last long. If Turkey yielded to Soviet demands, the position of Greece would be endangered. Fear of this regional domino effect threat guided the American decision. Greece and Turkey were strategic allies for geographical reasons as well, as the fall of Greece would put the Soviets on a dangerous flank for the Turks and strengthen the Soviet Union’s ability to cut off allied supply lines in the event of war.

Long-Term Policy and Metaphor

The Truman Doctrine underpinned American Cold War policy in Europe and around the world. In the words of historian James T. Patterson, “The Truman Doctrine was a highly publicized commitment of a sort the administration had not previously undertaken. Its sweeping rhetoric, promising that the United States should aid all ‘free people’ being subjugated, set the stage for innumerable later ventures that led to globalistic commitments. It was in these ways a major step.”

The doctrine endured, historian Dennis Merill argues, because it addressed a broader cultural insecurity about modern life in a globalized world. It dealt with Washington’s concern over communism’s domino effect, it enabled a media-sensitive presentation of the doctrine that won bipartisan support, and it mobilized American economic power to modernize and stabilize unstable regions without direct military intervention. It brought nation-building activities and modernization programs to the forefront of foreign policy.

The Truman Doctrine became a metaphor for emergency aid to keep a nation from communist influence. Truman used disease imagery not only to communicate a sense of impending disaster in the spread of communism but also to create a “rhetorical vision” of containing it by extending a protective shield around non-communist countries throughout the world. It echoed the “quarantine the aggressor” policy Truman’s predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, sought to impose to contain German and Japanese expansion in 1937. The medical metaphor extended beyond the immediate aims of the Truman Doctrine in that the imagery combined with fire and flood imagery evocative of disaster provided the United States with an easy transition to direct military confrontation in later years with communist forces in Korea and Vietnam. By ideological differences in life or death terms, Truman was able to garner support for this communism-containing policy.

Truman Doctrine: On March 12, 1947, President Harry S. Truman appeared before a joint session of Congress and laid out his vision on containment which came to be known as the Truman Doctrine.

Evolution of the U.S.-Led International Security System

To understand alliances today, we need first to understand how we got here. Thucydides tells us that alliances have been an enduring feature of war and conflict for thousands of years. 5 Multilateral military arrangements allow states (and their historical analogues) to aggregate their capabilities and collaborate on common security challenges.

Since the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas between Spain and Portugal in 1494—an event that some strategic scholars point to as the beginning of the modern global system 6 —alliances have been formed between nation-states and their proxies in order to wage war against common adversaries. Alliances at that time were essentially agreements by European empires to combine military and economic assets in pursuit of political objectives. The European continent was the stage for many of these conflicts between states. However, colonies provided both critical resources as well as logistical bases for European capitals, and as global empires gradually expanded and grew in strategic importance, European territories around the world were drawn into supporting these alliances and were themselves made the subject of imperial competition.

The world wars during the first half of the 20th century brought the imperial system of global order crashing down. The European colonial powers no longer had the wherewithal either to maintain their global possessions or to lead the international system. As the United States became the dominant global power in the wake of those wars, it shaped the global system in a manner more consistent with its own anti-imperial values. 7 It did this by building its security and strategic relationships in two primary ways: through formal strategic-political institutions such as the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and by working with newly sovereign states rather than by taking over the possession of colonial territories.

In the aftermath of World War II and as the Cold War with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) took shape, the U.S. and its security partners decided to integrate economic instruments into their security calculations. 8 As the theory went, doing so would make states more resilient against the specter of Communism and Soviet expansionism. Hence, European reconstruction was accompanied by the Marshall Plan and NATO. NATO itself was designed with the economic and social policy compatibility of its member states in mind.

Globally, the Bretton-Woods system, including the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), would help to reconstruct European economies, facilitate trade among free-market economies, and, when possible, help newly independent states transform themselves from colonial territories to full-fledged participants in the international economy. 9 Security relationships with the United States, including the U.S. extended nuclear deterrence umbrella, helped to make allies in Europe and Asia capable of withstanding Soviet influence operations. 10

The design of an international system that benefited a wide variety of stakeholders was not an entirely altruistic calculation by U.S. post–World War II leaders. The war and the nuclear age that followed it underscored the fact that the continental United States was no longer protected by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Looking to the experience of Europe and Asia during the war and anxious to avoid a conflict that would comparably damage the American homeland, defense planners pursued a strategy of “defense in depth.” 11 By positioning U.S. forces and capabilities forward in territories closer to adversaries, conflicts could be fought and won without directly affecting the continental United States. Basing agreements and alliance commitments, enabled in part by friendly economic relations and a common desire to contain the spread of Communism, were reached between the United States and a variety of countries in order to implement this defense-in-depth strategy. By the end of the Cold War, the United States had constructed a network of security relationships with sovereign states that was generally supportive of U.S. leadership of that system.

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet threat around which the U.S. security system was organized led to a degree of soul-searching among scholars and policymakers: Why maintain these alliances and security relationships absent the threat they were designed to counter? 12 These concerns proved short-lived, however, as allies and partners began to organize their security relationships and priorities around the collective management of regional crises and threats, particularly in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeastern Europe.

The United States used its existing alliance and security partnerships to adopt an expeditionary defense posture, retaining some key sites abroad that were critical for force projection (such as Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany) while closing bases and infrastructure that were no longer deemed necessary. (Such overseas bases have also been critical to managing regional “rogue” states such as Iraq, North Korea, and Iran—the latter two primarily through deterrence and forward-stationed troops and the former through active containment measures such as no-fly zones.)

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, brought home the fact that there were key threats to the U.S. homeland that were not state-based: Ungoverned spaces provided the terrain for violent extremist groups to organize and metastasize into threats with a global reach. As the United States, in response, began to wage campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, and eventually Syria, the Department of Defense (DOD) subsequently expanded its programs to “build partner capacity” by working with fragile states in order to help them expand their capacity to govern and also, critically, their ability to eliminate threats posed by violent extremist organizations within their territory. As then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted:

The American expeditionary military posture, including key staging and logistical sites, has remained critical to enabling U.S. counterterrorism and capacity-building operations in theaters around the world. The security networks that the United States constructed as part of this strategic shift have also helped the U.S. to achieve other transnational security objectives, including nuclear counterproliferation.

The Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, along with near-simultaneous island building by China in the South China Sea, led U.S. policymakers to conclude that these powers are willing to use military tools to advance their strategic objectives and, in the process, damage the interests of the United States and its allies and partners. This emerging “strategic competition” with other powers has added to the scope and scale of the challenges with which the U.S.-led security order—already busy managing North Korea and Iran and countering violent extremists—must grapple. As the 2017 National Security Strategy notes:

This has led to a hybrid of the defense in depth and expeditionary military postures. The European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), for example, is a U.S.-led effort to:

  1. Continue to enhance our deterrent and defense posture throughout the theater by positioning the right capabilities in key locations in order to respond to adversarial threats in a timely manner.
  2. Assure our NATO allies and partners of the United States’ commitment to Article 5 and the territorial integrity of all NATO nations.
  3. Increase the capability and readiness of U.S. Forces, NATO allies, and regional partners, allowing for a faster response in the event of any aggression by an adversary against the sovereign territory of NATO nations. 15

Simultaneously, the U.S. has conducted counterterrorism and capacity-building operations in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and to some extent in Syria, using logistical infrastructure in Europe and the Middle East. None of this would be possible were it not for robust U.S. strategic and security relationships with allies around the world.

In summary, since the end of World War II, the United States—in contrast to the global powers that preceded America’s rise—has worked to establish an international security system of sovereign states and international institutions rooted in relatively advantageous economic relationships. After the end of the Cold War, that system adapted to perform crisis management tasks. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the system broadened still further as the United States partnered with fragile, weak, and failing states to improve the capacity of their security institutions to manage threats emanating from their territories before they could become global threats. In this network of formal and informal security relationships, the U.S. serves as the central foundation (the hub) for a global defense and military architecture (the spokes) that manages regional and international security challenges. 16

Greek crisis

In 1946–47, the United States and the Soviet Union moved from being wartime allies to Cold War adversaries. During that time, Soviet imperialism in Eastern Europe, its delayed withdrawal from Iran, and the breakdown of Allied cooperation in Germany provide the backdrop of escalating tensions for the Truman Doctrine the US response has been much debated by historians. [5] To Harry S. Truman, with growing unrest in Greece, it began to look like a pincer movement against the oil-rich areas of the Middle East and the warm-water ports of the Mediterranean. [7]

In February 1946, Kennan, an American diplomat in Moscow, sent his famed "Long Telegram", which predicted the Soviets would only respond to force and that the best way to handle them would be through a long-term strategy of containment, that is stopping their geographical expansion. After the British warned that they could no longer help Greece, and following Prime Minister Tsaldaris's visit to Washington in December 1946 to ask for American assistance, [8] the U.S. State Department formulated a plan. Aid would be given to both Greece and Turkey, to help cool the long-standing rivalry between them. In March 1947, President Truman appeared before Congress and used Kennan's Containment policy as the basis for what became known as the Truman Doctrine.

To pass any legislation Truman needed the support of the Republicans, who controlled both houses of Congress. The chief Republican spokesman Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg strongly supported Truman and overcame the doubts of isolationists such as Senator Robert A. Taft.

American policy makers recognized the instability of the region, fearing that if Greece was lost to Communism, Turkey would not last long. Similarly, if Turkey yielded to Soviet demands, the position of Greece would be endangered. [9] That is, it was a regional domino effect threat that guided the American decision. Greece and Turkey were strategic allies important for geographical reasons as well, for the fall of Greece would put the Soviets on a particularly dangerous flank for the Turks, and strengthen the Soviet Union's ability to cut off allied supply lines in the event of war. [10]

The Truman Doctrine was the first in a series of containment moves by the United States, followed by economic restoration of Western Europe through the Marshall Plan and military containment by the creation of NATO in 1949. President Truman made the proclamation in an address to the U.S. Congress on March 12, 1947, amid the crisis of the Greek Civil War (1946–49). Truman insisted that if Greece and Turkey did not receive the aid that they needed, they would inevitably fall to Communism with consequences throughout the region.

Greece under the Colonels

There have been three widely separated political Greeces: the ancient city- states, the Byzantine empire and modern Greece, which won its independence from the Turks less than a century and a half ago. In essence, there is little relationship between the governance of these three Greeces but, because of classical influence on contemporary education and because the early Athenians were so gifted in defining and elaborating systems of thought, there is a persistent tendency to regard contemporary Greece in terms of its antique glory. Nowadays above all, when the country is governed by a stolid group of Colonels, it is fashionable to decry dictatorship in the birthplace of democracy.

"Democracy" is, of course, a Greek word and a Greek invention although the democracy made famous in the Athens of the fifth century BC was economically founded on slavery, and Plato's "Republic" is in fact a treatise on elementary fascism. Moreover, one should not forget that "anarchy," "tyranny," "despotism" and, above all, "chaos" are also Greek words, to say nothing of "demagogue." Actually, as Aristotle pointed out: "The forms of government are four-democracy, oligarchy, aristocracy and monarchy and hence the power that governs and decides in them is always some part or the whole of each."

None of the three stages of Greece-classical, medieval or modern-has been famed for good government, very possibly because the Greeks are too intelligent, too unruly and too self-seeking to submit easily to the dictates of others. Few recent Greek statesmen have qualified as able to produce sustained stability in an inherently unstable nation. It can be argued that Constantine Caramanlis, Prime Minister from 1955 to 1963, headed the most successful modern administration but was too vain to accept political defeat, and instead of leading a parliamentary opposition-as Churchill had done in England-he departed in a huff for voluntary exile.

The disappearance of Caramanlis left no one with the prestige or personality to unite the center and right-wing majority that dominated Greek opinion after the bloody Civil War ended in 1949. George Papandreou, who took over the Prime Ministry after the 1963 elections, sought to capitalize on his popularity and oratorical skill by winning the center to an alliance with liberal opinion and to consolidate his position by social and agricultural reforms which risked the fiscal stability created under Caramanlis. He was a conventional type of Greek politician, a good speaker, a subtle behind-the-scenes operator and, although not above rabble-rousing techniques, an undoubted patriot, a middle-of-the-road man and an anti- communist.

Such moderation was not demonstrated by George Papandreou's son, Andreas, who rose to considerable eminence during the years of his father's Prime Ministry and, as a Minister, put his finger in many other pies including that of KYP, the Central Intelligence Agency, Andreas was not on close terms with his father as a youth his parents were separated. During the Metaxas dictatorship before the war, when still in his teens, he joined a left-wing student organization, was caught and arrested. According to Constantine Maniadakis, then Minister of the Interior, he informed on his associates. In any case his mother pleaded for his release, which was granted on condition the young man leave the country, A wealthy shipping magnate (father-in-law of Stavros Niarchos) generously paid for Andreas's move to the United States, where he eventually became an economics professor and an American citizen.

Andreas Papandreou returned to Greece under the Caramanlis régime. When the local political picture began to fascinate him, he gave up his American passport and started to display increasing hostility to the United States. Exceedingly ambitious, he seemed to sense that the future might hold promise for any politician seeking to unite a coalition of youth, underground communists, the non-communist left, anti-Americans and the anti- royalists who had always been an important element in recent Greek history.

In July 1965, Andreas told me: "I would like to be Prime Minister, but I won't violate my principles to be one. My father loves me as a son, but my unbending tendencies have caused him trouble. I am a tough nut. He felt I was going overboard. He has not supported me politically as his successor. In fact, he has gone the other way. After George Papandreou, I have the widest popular base in Greece. I do not need George Papandreou."

That summer the King eased the elder Papandreou out of office and installed a succession of weak governments in an effort to disintegrate the Papandreist Center Union majority in Parliament. This tactic did not work well. King Constantine, who was only 23 and had come to the throne suddenly after his father's death, was counseled by close advisers to intervene in the deteriorating political situation. Subtle arguments were adduced for the constitutionality of this intervention and, when the elder Papandreou tried to name himself Minister of Defense as well as Prime Minister (so that he could head an investigation into an army plot to which Andreas allegedly was linked) the King moved in. Andreas seized the opportunity to edge his father increasingly out of the public eye. He helped to foster mass demonstrations in which the communist underground and its permitted locum tenens, a far-left party called EDA, enthusiastically collaborated.

Constantine's intervention was certainly not a success. Greece had originally become a monarchy after shrugging off the Turks "so that all division and rivalry for preference should cease among us." Unfortunately, this form of government, even when mixed according to the Aristotelian formula, failed to pacify the fractious, fickle Greeks. King Othon was expelled in 1862. King George I was assassinated in 1913. King Constantine I was twice deposed-temporarily in 1917 and permanently in 1922. Constantine's son reigned briefly before dying from a monkey bite. George II was unseated in 1924 when a republic was proclaimed. He returned as king in 1935 and reigned with maximum difficulty for twelve years before dying. His brother Paul succeeded but died early, in 1964. Constantine II, the present ruler, was promptly faced with crisis and eventually by the military coup d'état on April 21, 1967. The young King tried to overthrow the consequent dictatorship by his own countercoup eight months later but failed. He flew off to exile in Rome.

The current fashion is to decry the military coup as a rape of democracy. Indeed it was but democracy in Greece is no virgin. There had already been eight military revolutions or coups d'état since World War I: the revolution of Colonels Plastiras and Gonatas (1922) the abortive counterrevolution of Generals Gargalides and Leonardopoulos in 1923 the coup d'état of General Pangalos In 1925 the coup d'état of General Condylis in 1926 the abortive coup d'état of General Plastiras in 1933 the abortive Venizelist rebellion in 1935 and the dictatorial coup of General Metaxas in 1936. Besides, the last two generations have featured innumerable minor acts of sedition and constant intervention of military juntas in governmental affairs. It seems impossible to keep the Greek army out of politics.

The postwar army had been riddled with secret societies and, although the King sought constantly to keep it on his side, a good deal was going on which even the King's men didn't know. To begin with, there was an extreme right-wing group called Chi, which, as World War II was ending, conducted a murderous vendetta against communists, There was Pericles, another conservative officers' organization Aspida, a small left-wing army conspiracy and, the best-known of all, Idea.

Idea stands for ieros (holy), desmos (band), ellinon (Greek), axiomatikon (officers), and was formed among officers who had fled to the Middle East from occupied Greece during World War II. Its creator and chief was Lieutenant General Solon Ghikas, Chief of the Army General Staff at the time of his retirement in 1956. Ghikas, a small, stocky man with shrewd eyes, pointed features and toothbrush mustache, is still alive, 71, active and keenly interested in events. At one time he was a minister in the Caramanlis government. Idea was thoroughly anti-communist, pro-King and basically pro-Caramanlis (although the latter had his own running feud with the Palace). Idea became a kind of holding company for the Greek high command. All Lieutenant Generals (the highest rank except for the honorary title of Field Marshal awarded to Alexander Papagos) were or had been members. Although Idea had faded into inactivity, its fraternal band of Lieutenant Generals on the Supreme Military Council decided in 1967 to "interfere" in the political situation when the King's effort to disintegrate the Papandreists had clearly failed and he had been forced into calling elections in May of that year. It was feared Andreas Papandreou would become a dominant force and lead the country out of NATO toward a neutralist or pro-Soviet posture.

A month prior to the scheduled election, Andreas Papandreou announced a mass meeting in Salonika, and shortly thereafter the Supreme Military Council met under the presidency of General Spandidakis to decide whether to "interfere" before or after the Salonika demonstration, which, it was feared, might lead to a violent leftist take-over. However, while all the Lieutenant Generals agreed that action was necessary, they disagreed on the timing in the end, a majority voted to move only after the demonstration. General Zoetakis, then commanding the Third Army Corps in Salonika, immediately gave a warning of what was ahead to a secret junta of Colonels who had been conspiring in the shadow of the Generals. Actually they had been planning a coup d'état for at least eleven years.

During this crucial period, few people had any idea that a tightly disciplined handful of Colonels was waiting in the wings to seize the country. Some of them were individually known to diplomats-especially George Papadopoulos, once a key man in Intelligence-and all were of course known to the Generals but nobody was aware of the extent or effectiveness of their underground organization.

As early as 1956, when General Nicolopoulos headed the Supreme Military Council, he had informed the other Generals that a group of officers was organizing a political plot within the army, and he named as conspirators George Papadopoulos (present Prime Minister), Nicholas Makarezos (one of the top triumvirate) and John Ladas (a security specialist and member of today's 12-man Revolutionary Council). The Generals were skeptical and refused the severe measures proposed by Nicolopoulos, although they did agree to transfer the suspects to positions in which they did not command any units.

In 1958 Nicolopoulos called a special Council meeting with the sole purpose of discussing the same group of field officers whom he accused of "trying to mix the army into a conspiracy." He requested the other Generals to agree to retire the suspects, but the Council again refused, claiming they all had excellent records and the evidence was inconclusive. This was a principal reason for Nicolopoulos's resignation in September 1958. He was succeeded by General Siridakis, who dropped the issue. In 1959 General Kardamakis succeeded as Council president and actually promoted the suspects, making Makarezos chief of his personal staff. After the coup Kardamakis was given a comfortable position as head of the National Power Authority.

When Zoetakis passed down word in April 1967 that the Generals were not going to move immediately, the Colonels decided to strike. Papadopoulos had been their guiding genius from the start, even during earlier days when first General Balas, then General Patilis (now a Deputy Prime Minister) had been formally acknowledged as the Colonels' leader. The operation led by Papadopoulos moved under the code name "Prometheus."

Prometheus, as a matter of fact, was simply the label of a contingency plan prepared in the Athens general headquarters, which Greeks proudly call "the Pentagon." It had been accepted as part of NATO's response in the event of war with a communist country. Prometheus foresaw, in the event of such a war, the need for swiftly rounding up communist leaders and other security suspects, as well as for taking over key points such as radio stations, airfields and communications centers. The purpose of the original plan was, of course, to prevent a coup d'état, not to promote one. But Papadopoulos had seen how easily this purpose could be perverted to his purposes. Two things were necessary: the first was to move enough tanks around Athens to ensure speedy capture of all key points. This was prepared by the plotters' senior officer, Brigadier General Stylianos Pattakos (now first Deputy Prime Minister), who headed the armored training center and commanded the only tanks near Athens (the rest being on guard along the northern borders).

The second was to win the allegiance of a high authority who would issue, over his own name, orders implementing the Prometheus contingency plan. Such became the role of Lieutenant General Gregorios Spandidakis, Chief of Staff, who defected at the last moment from his colleagues on the Supreme Military Council. As the Junta believed Spandidakis could not be relied upon to act without the King's approval, he was informed of the plot only at the very last minute. He was then persuaded to issue orders for Prometheus in order to avoid risk of clashes between army units. Spandidakis was right when he told me just after the operation: "The coup succeeded totally all over Greece, and in three hours, only because orders for executing it had been issued by the Chief of Staff himself." It was not exactly a proud boast. Spandidakis was temporarily rewarded with a Deputy Premiership but now is on the shelf.

When the Colonels struck it was widely assumed that this was another instance of traditional pro-royalist military intervention. It had been known that Constantine was increasingly inclined to listen to those of his generals who urged an army take-over. Even when old George Papandreou was bustled off to arrest, the former Prime Minister was convinced this was a monarchist generals' plot in reaction to his son's excessive activities. That night of April 21-22, he told a friend locked up in the same detention center that he had often warned Andreas to quiet down and couldn't blame the King for his high-handed reaction. Yet Constantine was as surprised as anyone by the Colonels' coup.

At 2:15 a.m., April 22, the King had just dozed off in the country palace at Tatoi, some miles from Athens, when his friend and secretary, Major Arnautis, telephoned: "They are smashing my door with guns." "Who?" the King asked. "I don't know," Arnautis shouted. Constantine said: "Hold on. I am coming to help you." "For God's sake, don't come," screamed Arnautis. "Call the police. Have they announced anything to you? What's the army doing? I am trying to get reinforcements sent up to Tatoi." Before the King knew what was happening the house of his mother, Queen Frederika, had been surrounded by tanks his supporter, Premier Canellopoulos, had been menaced with tommy-guns Arnautis was pistol-whipped and almost all telephones were cut George Rallis, a pro-monarchist Minister, managed to reach Tatoi by telephoning from a suburban police station and the King told him to try to get the army in the North down to Athens. However, within minutes Tatoi was also surrounded by tanks, A short while later Papadopoulos, Makarezos and Pattakos arrived at the Palace to tell young Constantine: "The coup was done in your name in order to save the country." When the furious King demanded: "Where is my Prime Minister? Where is my government?" Pattakos answered: "You have none we have arrested them all."

Later that morning the King drove to "the Pentagon" and confronted the rebel leaders, demanding the prompt release of Arnautis, Canellopoulos and others. He insisted that civilians be included in any new government and a little-known but esteemed conservative named Kollias was made Prime Minister. When the Colonels initially protested that Washington was on their side, young Constantine rejoined: "Obviously you are mad. Certainly the Americans are not on your side. Remember the case of Argentina? When the army took over there the United States withdrew its ambassador. The way you are going, you are bound to fail and you will isolate Greece from its friends." Constantine cautioned Pattakos, the new Interior Minister: "I hold you personally responsible that no drop of blood shall be shed and no politician shall be harmed." Constantine refused to sign any document legalizing the coup and took special pains to warn against any thought of executing Andreas Papandreou, saying: "No executions. Remember you can't execute politicians." Pattakos replied: "Turks we shall never become."

So much for the legend, assiduously spread by opponents of the United States, especially Andreas Papandreou, that the coup was American-inspired and that both the King and Washington were privy to it. Also, incidentally, Papandreou's life was saved by Constantine's prompt intervention and not, as has been widely affirmed, by the later intervention of foreign liberals. I saw him at the time, in the little hotel at Pikermi where he and about 30 other opponents of the Junta (including prominent communists) were being held under heavy guard, I wrote: "He put on a gallant front but he looked a tiny bit grey around the mouth and couldn't keep his hands still the way it sometimes happens when people are frightened. He admitted that he had been wholly surprised by the coup. He was fast asleep when a ring at the door was followed by the door itself bursting inward. Taken to a military headquarters, he was held there 20 hours. A doctor dressed his injuries (a minor foot cut suffered during arrest). After less than a day he was brought out here and has nothing to complain of-except lack of freedom." Subsequently Andreas was released and allowed to leave Greece he has since been working hard from abroad to achieve the Junta's overthrow. Cold- shouldered by the exiled leaders gathered around Constantine and Caramanlis, he signed a joint pact with Antonis Brillakis, a communist activist leader who had escaped to Italy.

The next phase of this unpleasant tale was the King's unfortunate countercoup of December 1967. Constantine had no illusions about the Colonels and had been in discreet touch with certain of his generals. General Peridis, principal commander in the North, assured him he could seize Salonika with its key communications and radio station by 11:00 a.m. on December 13, the day selected for the attempt Early that morning Constantine sent his military aide (a stooge of the Colonels) on a phony assignment, summoned Prime Minister Kollias to Tatoi, virtually kidnapped him and his wife's physician (the Queen was pregnant) and flew off to the North. But Peridis had been wrong Salonika remained in the Colonels' hands and by late the next day it was evident that the uprising had failed. The King fled to Rome with his family and has lived there ever since.

During the ensuing twenty-two months the situation has stultified. Constantine sought, from Italy, to rally liberal support but he has not been notably successful. He has so far refused to consider returning to Athens, as suggested by some royalists, including Foreign Minister Pipinellis, insisting that first the Colonels must implement their Constitution, restore press freedom and indicate when there will be free parliamentary elections (both of which remain suspended). But all contacts between the King and the Junta (including three talks by the King with Pipinellis last summer) have been fruitless. While most of the Colonels still decorate their offices with portraits of the King and Queen (as well as their Phoenix symbol), they seem in no hurry to bring Constantine back on any terms.

I am reminded that Franco in 1946, thirteen years before he designated Prince Juan Carlos (Constantine's brother-in-law) as his eventual successor, assured me he was a monarchist and implied that he would eventually hand over the reins to Don Juan, Count of Barcelona, the father of the boy-Prince. Franco waited so long that Juan Carlos grew up, became legally eligible and politically tame. This may be the formula the Colonels hope to apply to Constantine and his baby son, Prince Paul.

The Junta, headed by Papadopoulos, who is clearly the boss, has been consolidating its position. Papadopoulos, Pattakos and Makarezos comprise a triumvirate at the top, just under the actual dictatorship of Papadopoulos. The next highest echelon of the Junta is the twelve-man Revolutionary Council. Only three of these twelve remain on active military duty the rest have retired.

On the whole the Colonels have stuck together remarkably well despite constant rumors of friction. In 1968 two officers named Gadonas and Karydas were supposed to be in the Revolutionary Council and seem to have been dropped. Below the top echelon of the Council itself, it is believed a second group of twelve subordinates exists and beneath them a less organized body of junior officers, widely known as "the Captains," bringing to about sixty the controlling group of officers, retired and active. No one can be entirely sure of this hierarchical order because Papadopoulos has managed to impress on all his colleagues the need for strict secrecy, an unusual phenomenon among Greeks. The battalion commanders around Athens are proven loyalists.

So far there is no valid hint that Papadopoulos is in the slightest hurry to restore freedom. Once he told me that the régime might be called Guided Democracy. Eventually, he said, Parliament would be brought back, with certain safety features neutralizing weaknesses of the past. But applying the old Aristotelian definition, the régime contains more oligarchy (the New Class of field officers) than aristocracy, monarchy or, above all, democracy. Its administration has been tough, but inefficient and confused. It has not managed to attract many of the nation's élite to help govern.

Greek society has slowly congealed. Public administration and education have deteriorated. The press has been stupidly censored and is now too wary to experiment with a theoretical easement of restrictions. The Constitution exists only in theory the reality is martial law. Informers and police agents are everywhere. Only by the expedient of expensive short-term borrowing instead of cheap long-term loans have the currency and economy been kept apparently stable. While many businessmen profess content with the absence of strikes, the normally disputatious Greeks are in general sullen and silent. Afraid of the Colonels' policemen or fearful of a return to chaos, many of them refrain from commenting on the régime. This is abnormal in a nation which inherited from Solon a law which ordained that "he shall be disfranchised who, in time of faction, takes neither side."

It is hard to see how the Colonels are going to be ousted unless they fall out among themselves and there is no evidence yet to signal such a quarrel. Papadopoulos seems to enjoy encouraging rumors of disputes within his Revolutionary Council, primarily in order to use these reports as proof that his colleagues would not tolerate such moves as announcing a date for elections or bringing back the King. Furthermore, the opposition both inside and outside Greece is more divided than it appears. Inside the country only the Center Union element, headed by the relatively conservative Mavros, accepts the national leadership proposed by Caramanlis abroad, Andreas Papandreou and Brillakis lead a left-wing outflanking movement aimed against both Caramanlis and the King. One prominent politician, the pro-Caramanlis former Foreign Minister, Evangelos Averoff-Tossizza, argues that the only way out is for the opposition to collaborate with the Colonels and arrange a basis for at least a small minority opposition in a future parliament

The Colonels have had several windfalls. The Arab-Israeli war, Soviet naval expansion in the Mediterranean, and the Libyan coup d'état have combined to make the U.S. Sixth Fleet depend more heavily on Greece's harbors and airfields. Spiro Agnew is seen by the Colonels as a pro-Hellenic asset of no mean proportions. And the neo-isolationist mood in America permits the Administration to pursue a passive policy toward Athens despite the exhortations of those who are doves over Viet Nam yet hawks over Greece. The communist underground is playing a cautionary game, leaving bomb- throwing and pamphlet-distributing largely to liberals and conservatives.

Papadopoulos has drastically purged the armed forces of the King's men and, by giving pay raises and other economic favors to loyalist officers and NCOs, has obtained a certain amount of well-positioned personal backing. There is no doubt that his régime is harsh, although most impartial observers do not think that those who are in prison or restricted liberty for political reasons today number more than twice as many as were held under the last George Papandreou government Nor do I believe that torture is official policy, although gendarmes and especially Ioannidis' military police have sometimes been ruthlessly brutal.

Unhappily, Washington is criticized by all sides in this intricate dispute. Andreas Papandreou and the communists claim the Colonels were installed by the CIA and are supported by the White House. Caramanlis and other exiles earnestly insist that if Washington embargoes all arms shipments to Greece- not just heavy weapons-the army will rise up and the government will fall (which I personally do not believe). Even King Constantine felt he was snubbed by President Nixon when he attended Eisenhower's funeral.

It is my own feeling that we must carefully distinguish between military policy toward a member of the NATO alliance and political policy toward Greece as a nation. As we learned to our embarrassment in Portugal, a country can contribute help (in that case the Azores) even if we don't like its ideology. Greece as a key component of NATO's Southeastern Command deserves the weapons available to other allies, including more modern tanks, guns and aircraft now held up by executive decision. An M-48 tank is no more useful against hostile crowds than an M-47, but it is certainly more useful against potential external enemies.

Policy-making is a cold, calculating business. It must be remembered that the best-organized political force in Greece today is, unhappily, Papadopoulos's purged army. If the Junta gets truly disillusioned with Washington, it retains the option of turning toward Moscow. This may sound like nonsense in light of the violently anti-communist professions of the Colonels and their emphasis on Discipline, Order, Nationalism and Christianity. Nevertheless, I remember how hostile Nasser was to Russia in the early 1950s when he held his own Marxists in jail. He told me "all communists are thieves" and stressed his allegiance to Islam which, our experts insisted, could never tolerate accommodation with Marxism. It should not be forgotten that, although the communists inside Greece are today remarkably quiet, and many of their number are locked up, all the communist nations with which Greece had relations before the 1967 coup still have their embassies open and maintain excellent, even cordial, relations.


The mission of the United States Air Forces in Europe is to be the air component for the U.S. European Command, directing air operations in a theater spanning three continents, covering more than 20,000,000 square miles (52,000,000 km 2 ), containing 91 countries and possessing one-fourth of the world's population and about one-third of the world's Gross Domestic Product [ citation needed ] .

As part of this mission, USAFE trains and equips U.S. Air Force units pledged to NATO, maintaining combat-ready wings based from Great Britain to Turkey. USAFE plans, conducts, controls, coordinates and supports air and space operations in Europe, parts of Asia and Africa to achieve U.S. national and NATO objectives based on taskings by the U.S. EUCOM commander.

The Risk of NATO’s H-Bombs in Turkey

Exclusive: As the world nervously assesses North Korea’s claims about having a hydrogen bomb, another danger point is in Turkey where an erratic leader could seize NATO’s H-Bombs, warns Jonathan Marshall.

Even in this contentious era, one proposition still enjoys near-universal support: the United States should make it the highest priority to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of hostile states.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses citizens in front of his residence in Istanbul on July 19, 2016. (Photo from official website of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey)

It’s far too late to stop North Korea from getting the Bomb, despite all the militant rhetoric coming out of Washington. But we still have a chance to prevent an erratic Middle East strongman from holding the United States hostage by threatening to seize dozens of deadly hydrogen bombs.

I’m referring, of course, to Turkish President Recep Erdogan.

As I warned more than a year ago, he controls overall access to NATO’s largest nuclear storage facility — a stockpile of some 50 B-61 hydrogen bombs at Incirlik air base in southeastern Turkey. Each weapon has a yield of up to 170 kilotons, nearly 12 times greater than the atomic bomb that wiped out Hiroshima in 1945.

The bombs are a holdover from the Cold War, with no current strategic rationale. They represent a growing risk to U.S. security, not a safe deterrent.

As Erdogan’s relations with the United States and Western Europe go from bad to worse, the case for withdrawing those weapons of mass destruction from his reach grows ever more urgent.

“It is the worst place possible to be keeping nuclear weapons,” said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear arms control expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund. Citing the relocation of American families from the air base as U.S.-Turkish tensions have grown, he asked rhetorically, “it is not safe for our military spouses and children, but it is OK for 50 hydrogen bombs to be there?”

His concerns were recently echoed by a “former senior NATO official” who agreed the weapons “should be removed given the instability, both in the country and across the border in Syria and Iraq.”

Growing Tensions

Although the United States and Turkey are technically NATO allies — and Turkey still allows the U.S. Air Force to conduct bombing raids into Syria and Iraq from Incirlik — there’s growing friction between them.

An aerial view of the airfield at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, Nov. 1987. (Photo from the Department of Defense)

Just the other day, Erdogan blasted the U.S. judicial system as “scandalous” following reports of new indictments against members of his armed security detail who brutally attacked peaceful pro-Kurdish demonstrators outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington last spring. More than a dozen Turkish security officials have been charged since that melee was caught on video.

Erdogan has also bitterly attacked Washington for supporting Kurdish rebels in Syria, whom he regards as supporters of the banned Kurdistan Worker’s Party. As a sign of his anger, Turkish-led forces have directed fire at U.S. allies in Syria, and Ankara recently published the location of U.S. Special Forces in that country, putting them at risk and triggering a Pentagon protest.

Showing no deference toward his allies, Erdogan has jailed an American pastor, a French journalist, and at least a dozen German citizens on apparently trumped up political charges, despite pleas by senior government officials from those NATO countries. An angry German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently said Berlin needs to “react decisively” against Turkey’s violation of its citizens’ rights, and “rethink” its relations with Ankara.

As international human rights groups point out, those Westerners represent only a tiny percentage of the victims of Erdogan’s authoritarian crackdown since the failed military coup against his regime in 2016. Under the ongoing state of emergency that Erdogan imposed, authorities have opened criminal investigations against more than 150,000 people accused of supporting the coup.

“As a result of the crackdown, some 50,000 people languish in jail,” writes John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s European director. “Among them are at least 130 journalists, the highest number of any country in the world. More than 100,000 public sector workers, including a quarter of the judiciary, have been arbitrarily dismissed . . . and hundreds of academics were cast out of their jobs.”

Erdogan has warned that the state of emergency may be extended several more years. He also vowed to show no mercy to his enemies: “First, we will chop off the heads of those traitors. When they appear in court, let’s make them appear in orange suits like in Guantanamo Bay.”

Washington’s Ambivalence

Such authoritarian outbursts are deeply embarrassing to NATO, which professes democratic values. Left to his own devices, President Trump would likely ignore Ankara’s transgressions, out of gratitude for Erdogan overseeing the launch of Trump Towers in Istanbul in 2012. But the special prosecutor’s investigation of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for failing to register as a lobbyist for the Turkish government last year, has undoubtedly forced Trump to keep greater distance from Erdogan.

President Trump and Vice President Pence on July 19, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

As a result, Trump’s attitude toward Turkey — as with so many issues — appears conflicted. In a recent snub, the Pentagon refused Ankara’s request to send personnel to train Turkish F-16 pilots, to replace the several hundred fighter pilots dismissed in the wake of last year’s coup attempt.

On the other hand, Washington seems committed to using Incirlik as its primary base from which to carry out air strikes in Syria and Iraq. According to Stars and Stripes, the Pentagon wants to spend about $26 million to house 216 more U.S. airmen at the base. (It also plans to spend another $6.4 million to support a missile defense radar site in Eastern Turkey.)

The good news is that the additional airmen aren’t pilots, but Air Force security personnel, charged with improving base security. If that’s a first step toward safeguarding NATO’s hydrogen bomb stockpile, we should all applaud.

But 216 men can’t stop the Turkish army from seizing those weapons if Erdogan ever decides he wants to hold NATO hostage or turn Turkey into a regional superpower. There’s only one truly secure solution to this growing nuclear peril — total redeployment of these weapons back to the United States.

The Birth of NATO

After the devastation of World War II and the ensuing Cold War with the Soviet Union, nations across the globe sought out alliances to protect themselves and to avoid a possible World War III. The United Nations was created, as were various regional alliances, such as the Rio Treaty for the Western Hemisphere. Europe’s growing concern about Soviet aggression led to the March 1948 signing of the Treaty of Brussels, which united the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg), France, and the United Kingdom, but not the United States.

Theodore Achilles and a handful of other American diplomats rightfully predicted the USSR’s expansionist policy and saw the glaring need for a military alliance which included the U.S. however, such a treaty would encounter strong opposition in a Congress wary of further entanglements abroad. After months of writing, negotiating and meeting, twelve nations signed the North Atlantic Treaty on April 4, 1949 it came into effect in August 1949. Today, NATO has 28 members and relationships with several non-member nations.

Theodore Achilles was the First Secretary in Embassy London right after WWII, where he witnessed the creation and signing of the Brussels Treaty. When he returned to the U.S., he worked as the Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs. Achilles eventually became the Ambassador to Peru. Here he discusses working with key people in Congress to get support for the idea for such a treaty amid widespread skepticism the secret negotiations the desire for Europe to “first show us what you are prepared to do for yourselves” before the U.S. committed itself the thinking behind each paragraph of the Treaty and the fight for ratification. He was interviewed beginning in November 1972 by Richard D. McKinzie. The entire text of the NATO Treaty can be found at the end of the article.

See also accounts on negotiations at the 1946 Paris Peace Conference and when President Charles de Gaulle unilaterally withdrew France from NATO. Read about Poland’s path to NATO membership. Go here to read about the Marshall Plan. You can also read Achilles’ humorous run-in with Secretary of State Byrnes. For a comparison on sensitive negotiations with Congress, check out the account on ratifying the Panama Canal Treaty.

“There is no chance the Soviet Union will deal with the West on any reasonable terms in the foreseeable future”

ACHILLES: After a year in London and a year in Brussels I returned to Washington as Chief of the Division of Western European Affairs, and it became my duty with Jack Hickerson, to concentrate for the next year and a half on negotiating the North Atlantic Treaty and getting it ratified….

On that New Year’s Eve [December 31, 1947] I was sitting at my desk, slightly drowsy in the middle of the afternoon, when my immediate chief, Jack Hickerson, Director of the Bureau of European Affairs, came into my office, well mellowed by Fish House punch [made with rum, cognac and peach brandy] and said, “I don’t care whether entangling alliances have been considered worse than original sin ever since George Washington’s time. We’ve got to negotiate a military alliance with Western Europe in peacetime and we’ve got to do it quickly.”

I said, “Fine, when do we start?”

He said, “I’ve already started it. Now it’s your baby. Get going.”

He sat down and elaborated. He had been with General [George C.] Marshall, who succeeded Jimmy Byrnes as Secretary of State, at the last meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in London in December [1947]. That meeting had broken up with no progress on negotiating the treaties which they had been trying to negotiate for the last two years.

The night it broke up the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, invited General Marshall to dinner alone in his apartment. That night, after dinner, he made a statement to General Marshall, which was almost word for word the same one he made in the House of Commons two or three weeks later. He said, and I quote, “There is no chance that the Soviet Union will deal with the West on any reasonable terms in the foreseeable future. The salvation of the West depends upon the formation of some form of union, formal or informal in character, in Western Europe, backed by the United States and the dominions, such a mobilization of moral and material force will inspire confidence and energy within and respect elsewhere.”

At that point Western Europe was devastated, prostrate and demoralized and it badly needed confidence and energy within. With the Soviet armies halfway across Europe and still at their full wartime strength and the Communist parties the largest single political elements in France and Italy, something to inspire Soviet respect was equally essential.

The only moral and material force adequate to deter further Soviet expansion was a combination of that of the United States and Western Europe together. Some form of union was definitely essential, but there was a great question as to what form and between whom.

The next morning Secretary Marshall told Dulles and Hickerson of Bevin’s words. He was impressed, but he thought that the union should be purely European, with the United States supplying material assistance. He had made his famous Marshall plan speech at Harvard only six months before and was still trying to get Congressional authorization for it. He did not want to complicate that task any more than was absolutely necessary.

Secretary Marshall flew home. Dulles and Hickerson came by sea. Jack Hickerson was convinced that a European union backed by U.S. material assistance would not be enough, that only a moral commitment by the United States to do whatever was necessary, including to fight if necessary, to restore and maintain a free and solvent Europe could create that “confidence and energy within and respect elsewhere.”

By the time they reached Washington, Foster Dulles had substantially accepted that line of reasoning. Dulles undertook to convince [Republican Senator from Michigan Arthur H.] Vandenberg, then Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Hickerson undertook to convince Marshall….

“First show us what you are prepared to do for yourselves”

Early in January Bevin (at right) made his historic speech in the Commons saying substantially what he had said to Marshall, and he inquired in a private message to Secretary Marshall what the U.S. might be prepared to do about it.

Jack Hickerson drafted a reply, but Marshall balked. Jack’s draft reply would have given Bevin very substantial encouragement. The reply Marshall finally signed insisted that the nations of Western Europe first show what they were prepared to do for themselves and each other, after which we would consider sympathetically what we might do to help. That was to be our theme song for the next few months: “Show what you’re prepared to do for yourselves and each other, and then we’ll think about what we might do.”

Bevin’s message also stated that he hoped to realize a network of bilateral alliances between Britain, France and the Benelux [Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg] countries, each ostensibly aimed at any new threat from Germany, but actually and equally valid against any Soviet aggression.

We had recently concluded, and the Senate had ratified, the Rio Treaty by which the nations of the Western Hemisphere constituted themselves a collective defense arrangement under the U.S. Charter to respond individually and collectively to any armed aggression.

Jack’s draft reply to Bevin contained, and Marshall accepted, the suggestion that a similar collective defense arrangement between Britain and France and the Benelux countries would be far preferable to a network of bilateral alliances. Bevin bought the idea. Senators Vandenberg and [Thomas] Connally, who had been on the delegation that negotiated the Rio Treaty, and to safeguard its provisions had fought at San Francisco for authorization for collective defense arrangements under the U.N. Charter, heartily approved.

It would be a long time before anyone would admit publicly that we were even considering a treaty. But Jack and I knew clearly from the beginning what we were working for….

As far as we were concerned, Jack, right from the beginning, laid down two important ground rules. One was that the Senate, through the Foreign Relations Committee, was to be involved from the start. Its “advice” was to be sought constantly all the way through, rather than merely its “consent” to a signed and sealed treaty.

The other was that the process be kept thoroughly bipartisan — essential in an election year with a Democratic administration, a Republican Congress, and the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee a potential candidate for the Presidency.

During January and February of 1948, Bevin, having accepted our suggestion of a collective defense arrangement, pushed on with negotiations with the French and Benelux governments which resulted in the Brussels Treaty, signed on March 17th. Our official position was still, and continued to be, “First show us what you are prepared to do for yourselves and each other, and then we will see what we can do.”

Secret negotiations and Soviet aggression

Yet, we had been pushing quietly ahead on two fronts. One was ultra-secret political and military talks with the British and Canadians about a treaty. The talks were held in the Joint Chiefs of Staff War Room in the bowels of the Pentagon, and the very existence of the talks was so secret that the Joint Chiefs sent staff cars to pick up the various participants and deliver them directly to a secret entrance in the basement. It was so secret that one Pentagon chauffeur got lost trying to find it.…

The talks — even their existence — were ultra, ultra secret, and to this day I don’t believe anything has been written or said publicly about them. Yet it was only two or three years later that [British diplomat and, along with Kim Philby, a member of the infamous Cambridge Five spy ring] Donald MacLean defected to Moscow. The Russians must have been getting a daily play-by-play account.

The talks lasted about two weeks and by the time they finished, it had been secretly agreed that there would be a treaty, and I had a draft of one in the bottom drawer of my safe. It was never shown to anyone except Jack. I wish I had kept it, but when I left the Department in 1950, I dutifully left it in the safe and I have never been able to trace it in the archives.

It drew heavily on the Rio Treaty, and a bit of the Brussels Treaty, which had not yet been signed, but of which we were being kept heavily supplied with drafts. The eventual North Atlantic Treaty had the general form, and a good bit of the language of my first draft but with a number of important differences.

The other front was the Senatorial one. The Europeans were, with reason, becoming increasingly frightened of Soviet expansion, and their pleas for U.S. action were becoming increasingly insistent. Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland had been taken over by the Communists by the fall of 1947. The Czech coup came in February, 1945 and the murder of Masaryk (at left) in March.

After the signature of the Brussels Treaty on March 17th, Bevin and [Georges] Bidault then French Foreign Minister, said in effect, “Now we’ve shown what we expect to do for ourselves and each other, what are you going to do? For God’s sake, do something quick.”

We were all deeply disturbed by the Soviet westward pressure, but to the Europeans we still kept saying, “You made a start, but it’s still a small start. Put some military bones on that Treaty, preferably some collective ones.” We were sufficiently disturbed, however, to contemplate a declaration by President Truman that he was prepared to negotiate a military alliance with the Parties to the Brussels Treaty and that, should there be Soviet aggression against any Parties to the Treaty pending its negotiation and entry into effect, the United States would consider it an unfriendly act.

[Under Secretary of State] Lovett tried that out on Vandenberg, and got a resounding “No!”

“Why,” asked Vandenberg, “should Truman get all the credit?” It was not an unnatural reaction on his part, for it was an election year and Vandenberg was interested in being the Republican candidate. But he was a statesman as well as a politician and his counterproposal was excellent. “Why not,” he asked, “get the Senate to request the President to negotiate such an alliance. Wouldn’t that give you a long start toward eventual bipartisan Senate approval?” How right he was.

The Outline of a Treaty

We accepted his approach with enthusiasm and he and Lovett set out to draft a “Sense of the Senate” resolution with Jack’s and my assistance. Vandenberg (at right) had played a substantial role in San Francisco during the negotiation of the U.N. Charter and in the Senate for its ratification.

In 1948 there was much public and Congressional discussion of the need to strengthen the U.S. and several Congressional resolutions on the subject were pending. Vandenberg wished to capitalize on these.

Accordingly, the preamble of the Vandenberg resolution called upon the President particularly to pursue the following objectives within the U.S. Charter. Its paragraphs 1, 5 and 6 referred to strengthening the U.N. itself. Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4, were, with the exception of one phrase, my language. They read:

2. Progressive development of regional and other collective arrangements for individual and collective self-defense in accordance with the purposes, principles, and provisions of the Charter.

3. Association of the United States, by constitutional process, with such regional and other collective arrangements as are based on continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, and as affect its national security.

4. Contributing to the maintenance of peace by making clear its determination to exercise the right of individual or collective self-defense under Article 51, should any armed attack occur affecting its national security.

The words “by constitutional process” were Vandenberg’s, and they proved very useful in the Resolution and in the Treaty itself…He also did his best to keep things bipartisan by insisting that the resolution be referred to as a “Resolution of the Foreign Relations Committee” rather than as the “Vandenberg resolution.” However, he could not have been displeased when the press and everyone else preferred the latter.

Paragraph 4 with its recommendation that the U.S. react to any armed aggression affecting its national security went far to contemplate the warning that we thought that the President should give. We were on the way, and the British and French were heartened, but still gravely worried and impatient. We did not dare move until the resolution passed the Senate and we pressed the Europeans to get them going on developing some collective military strength.

At the end of April, the Benelux military authorities began discussions, but only in September was the Western Union Defense Organization created with Field Marshal Montgomery as Chairman of the Commanders-in-Chief Committee at Fontainebleau. Montgomery did not mince words and the British showed us one of his early secret telegrams from Fontainebleau. “My present instructions are to hold the line at the Rhine,” said Montgomery. “Presently available allied forces might enable me to hold the tip of the Brittany Peninsula for three days. Please instruct further.”

On April 28 th Prime Minister [Louis S.] St. Laurent of Canada made first overt proposals for a treaty. Speaking in the House of Commons, he proposed a collective mutual defense system, including Canada, the United States and the Brussels Treaty parties. [British Foreign Secretary Ernest] Bevin promptly welcomed it. Francis [also known as Fran] Wilcox, who was then Chief of Staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bill Galloway, whom I had gotten out of uniform and into the Western European Division and who was then working with me, and I worked all day for two or three weeks drafting the Committee’s report on the resolution. Fran was an exacting taskmaster and a stickler for detail, but able as hell and knew his Committee thoroughly.

They adopted the report unanimously and the Senate approved it by the highly satisfactory vote of, I believe, 84 to 6, on June 11. Now we could move.

On July 6, talks began between Acting Secretary Lovett and the Ambassadors of Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Holland, and the Luxembourg Minister, ostensibly, on problems connected with the defense of the Atlantic area, including the possibility of a treaty of alliance.

It would still be several months before we would admit out loud that we were negotiating a treaty. The Acting Secretary and the Ambassadors met once in a while, but the treaty was actually negotiated “despite them” in Jack’s words, by a “Working Group,” whose members became life-long friends in the process.

We met every working day from the beginning of July to the beginning of September. Most of us were already on a first name basis and we all were by the third day. The NATO spirit was born in that Working Group. Derick Hoyer-Millar, the British Minister, started it. One day he made a proposal which was obviously nonsense. Several of us told him so in no uncertain terms, and a much better formulation emerged from the discussion. Derick said, and I quote, “Those are my instructions. All right, I’ll tell the Foreign Office I made my pitch, was shot down and try to get them changed.”

He did. From then on we all followed the same system. If our instructions were sound, and agreement could be reached, fine. If not, we worked out something we all, or most of us, considered sound, and whoever had the instructions undertook to get them changed. It always worked, although sometimes it took time.

“The French Government was wetting its collective pants for fear the U.S. wouldn’t ratify if it did”

Two years later we began in London to put the “O” on the NAT by creating the organization. Some of the members of the delegations had been members of the Working Group, some had not. I was our representative on one committee the French representative had not been. He made some unacceptable proposal and I told him it was unacceptable.

“Those are my instructions,” he said flatly.

From force of habit, I said bluntly, “I know, but they’re no good, get them changed to something like this.” He was sorely offended. A little later in the meeting I made a proposal under instructions I knew to be wrong. He and several others objected. I said, “I know, those are my instructions. I’ll try to get them changed.”

I have never seen a more puzzled looking Frenchman. “What,” I could see him thinking, “is this crazy American up to? Is he stupid, or Machiavellian, or what?” But he got the idea in due course. He was Ethienne Burin De Roziers (in photo), for several years my colleague as Minister in NATO and later, after some years in the wilderness, General de Gaulle’s Chef de Cabinet for many years. I was always confident that he kept the NATO spirit, but there wasn’t much he could do about it at the Elysée [Palace, the official residence of the President of France].

The French, of course, were difficult. They always are in a working group they boggled at everything. For weeks they insisted on a treaty having a duration of 50 years. We did not think the Senate would take a duration of more than 10 years and told Bernard, the French Minister, so repeatedly. He said France would not sign unless it ran for 50 years.

We told him bluntly that we didn’t give a damn whether or not France signed, and that we couldn’t go beyond 10, and everybody else would sign, and that he knew damn well the French Government was wetting its collective pants at least once a day for fear the U.S. wouldn’t sign or ratify if it did.

The French were not the only ones to be difficult. We had some on our own side. Chip Bohlen and George Kennan were strongly adverse to the idea of any treaty. Chip was then Counselor in the Department, which at that time meant being in charge of Congressional relations, and George, head of the Policy Planning Staff. In the Departmental hierarchy they both ranked above Jack [Hickerson], and naturally above me.

Any telegrams for the Secretary’s signature or memoranda to him which we originated were supposed to have their initials before it went to the Secretary. They usually didn’t have their initials. Sometimes we got by with it, sometimes we didn’t.

One time, Pat Carter, General Marshall’s Executive Assistant, bawled me out for it: “There is too much half-assed staff work around here.” I couldn’t tell him why, but every time we eventually did get the Secretary’s or Acting Secretary’s approval.

Chip’s opposition was due to his belief, pretty much a conviction that the Senate would never consent to ratification of a military alliance. His recommendation was that we get Congress to approve a massive military assistance program and let it go at that.

His fallback position was the “dumbbell” one, that there be a bilateral agreement of some sort between the U.S. and Canada on one side and the parties to the Brussels Treaty on the other…

It was obvious that someone who did not believe in the Treaty or that the Senate would ever approve it was not the man to get it through the Senate for us. Jack convinced [Under Secretary of State] Bob Lovett of the situation and Chip was transferred to Paris. We cooked up a new job for him, that of Regional Supervisor for the Military Assistance Program — which didn’t yet exist, but which we were confident Congress would approve.

Somewhere along the line George Kennan dropped his opposition and did make one positive contribution…He pointed out that it might be far more effective to hit the enemy somewhere else, rather than where the attack occurred. The language was, therefore, changed to “take such action as may be necessary to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.” In other words, to beat the hell out of the aggressor wherever and however seemed best.

Aside from that positive contribution…George had nothing whatever to do with the negotiations. In his memoirs he makes the amazing statement that he was the Department’s representative on the working group. Jack Hickerson was, assisted by Bill Galloway and myself. George was never on it and I do not think he ever attended a meeting.

Article 5 — Giving the Treaty Some Teeth

More than any human being Jack was responsible for the nature, content, and form of the Treaty and for its acceptance by the Senate. He was the one who insisted that it be a collective defense arrangement as authorized by the U.N. Charter. He was determined, although in deference to the Senate he was very careful about saying so, that it be a binding military alliance with real teeth.

He was convinced, and succeeded in convincing many others, that World War III could best be avoided by convincing the Russians, in advance, that any armed attack on any country in Western Europe would bring in the might of the United States “including the industrial might of Pittsburgh and Detroit,” as he said, “immediately.”

And he insisted that the whole Treaty be short, simple, and flexible… early on he read a newspaper correspondent’s comment that treaties should be drafted in language that the Omaha milkman could understand. Whenever anyone proposed any complicated language Jack would remind him of that Omaha milkman… It was a one-man Hickerson (at right) treaty.

Article 5 was the guts of the Treaty, the “go to war” article and naturally it was the most intensively scrutinized and argued over, both in the Working Group and within the Foreign Relations Committee. It began with Article 3 of the Rio Treaty as a model….

We were working primarily with Arthur Vandenberg, then Chairman, and Fran Wilcox, Chief of Staff of the Committee, although we met informally a number of times with the other members. Certainly Vandenberg and Wilcox did not object to a strong treaty, but they constantly had in mind the need to get the approval of two-thirds of the Senate.

It was Vandenberg who suggested replacing the words “such action as may be necessary,” by “such action as it deems necessary.” This would not only give the U.S. full freedom of action, but enable Congress to decide whether or not war was necessary.

The Committee was happy, the Europeans were not. To them this took the heart out of the binding commitment to go to war which they so badly wanted from us. We argued for days, that it still provided that we must regard an attack on any of them an attack on us, and act accordingly, and that we could be counted on to be reasonable as to what action we deemed necessary. They were not convinced…

We had to admit that their fears had considerable justification. On the other hand, as we reiterated constantly, there would be no U.S. commitment of any kind unless the Senate accepted the treaty. Eventually we agreed to insert the word “forthwith,” making the sentence read, “by taking forthwith such action as it deems necessary.” Also inserting “including the use of armed force.”

This was acceptable to the Committee and to the Europeans although they were not overly enthusiastic. With agreement on this the critical point reached, the final language therefore read:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America should be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense recognized by Article 51 of the Chapter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Thus the treaty would be activated by any armed attack “in Europe or North America,” but that required somewhat more precision. How about ships, aircraft, island possessions, occupation forces in West Germany or Berlin?

Article 6 spelled this out….The article covers islands, ships and aircraft in the North Atlantic area, rather than the North Atlantic Ocean, thus covering the Western Mediterranean and Malta. I picked the Tropic of Cancer running between Florida and Cuba as a convenient southern boundary to avoid complication with “the good neighborhood.”

During the negotiations the question of a northern boundary never arose. After signature, and during the Senate hearings, someone asked Dean Acheson what the northern boundary was. He thought fast and said, “The North Pole.” That has never been questioned.

There was no problem in agreeing on the language of Article 4. It was understood that territorial integrity and security covered anyone’s possessions anywhere, and that “in the opinion of any of them,” guaranteed consultation whenever anyone invoked the article. No one ever has yet continuing political consultation on all major international problems involving NATO countries has become one of the most important developments under the Treaty.

This government’s insistence, pronounced constantly by Vandenberg and Lovett, that the Europeans show what they can do for themselves and each other was reflected in Article 3. It also added to the deterrent with a commitment to back up the will to fight with the ability to do so effectively. Everybody liked this article.

The Canadians realized more clearly than anyone else that a truly military alliance, as important as it undoubtedly was and is, was not enough. What was really needed was a progressive development of a true Atlantic Community, with a capital “C”… Prime Minister [Louis S.] St. Laurent had implied this publicly and the Canadians pushed hard for some provision to provide a basis for it. Jack and I fully agreed. No one else was prepared to go very far…

That Saturday afternoon Jack called in Mike Pearson and Tommy Stone the Canadian Ambassador and Minister, and the four of us concocted the present Article 2:

The Parties will contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being. They will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between any or all of them.

Everyone bought it, although it was short of what the Canadians, and Jack and I would have liked. The words “strengthening their free institutions and by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions were founded” were, of course, intended to encourage efforts to oppose domestic communism, which then was a real threat in France. “Conditions of stability and well-being” were also anti-Communist and came as close to “general welfare” as Connally and Vandenberg would buy.

Despite numerous efforts over the years by both the U.S. and Canadian Governments, Article 2 has never gotten off the ground. In the early days the French made fun of it and sabotaged our efforts to promote cooperation. All they wanted was the U.S. guarantee to fight if France was attacked….It was not until April 4, 1969, the 20th anniversary of the signing of the treaty, that Article 2 was actually invoked….

Articles 1, 7 and 8, which merely show due deference to the United Nations, presented no problems. There was general agreement to Jack’s thesis that the Treaty must not be merely a piece of paper containing a specific obligation, but rather must provide flexibility of implementation and the possibility of progressive evolution.

The Europeans were also interested in speeding U.S. action in emergencies. There was no difficulty in getting agreement on Article 9. Since they could only “consider” matters of implementation, this raised no Senatorial questions. Being so organized as to be able to meet promptly at any time satisfied the Europeans, in fact it led to the establishment of the Permanent Representatives, originally considered to be Deputy Foreign Ministers, but actually only Ambassadors, who constitute the Council in Permanent Session. It was always understood that the Council be composed of Foreign Ministers. The Europeans were anxious to have a defense committee quickly and it was established early on.

Article 11 started out to be a simple statement that the Treaty shall be ratified in accordance with the constitutional processes of each signatory.

Articles 12 and 13, about the duration of the treaty, caused a great deal of argument. The French and the other parties argued strongly for 50 years the Senators were reluctant to go beyond 10. Eventually we hammered out Articles 12 and 13, providing that the Treaty would be of indefinite duration but that it could be reviewed at the request of any Party after it had been in force for 10 years and that any Party could withdraw on a year’s notice after it had been in force for 20 years.

It has now been in force for 23 years, and despite all de Gaulle’s unpleasant noises, neither France nor anyone else has ever shown a desire to have the Treaty reviewed. Indeed, de Gaulle always emphasized that he had no objection to the Treaty, i.e. the U.S. guarantee, but only to the idea of an integrated organization under it, which he considered a form of U.S. domination of France.

Expanding NATO’s Membership

By September 1948 the draft treaty was practically complete. With masterly understatement, the other governments and we bravely announced that a satisfactory basis had been found upon which to negotiate a North Atlantic Treaty. The Working Group had become a real bond of brothers and most of us have continued lifelong friends.

During the fall the main discussion related to membership. The French wanted Italy included…Of considerable importance was the question of the “stepping stones,” the Atlantic islands. In those days the range of planes was considerably less than it is today and those islands were considered of great importance should it become necessary to get U.S. forces to Europe in a hurry. The islands concerned were Greenland, which meant including Denmark, Iceland, and the Azores, which meant including Portugal.

During this summer, Denmark, Norway and Sweden had been negotiating a Nordic defense agreement, which the Swedish envisaged as a neutralist defense arrangement as between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. The neutralistic Danes were tempted, but the stalwart Norwegians saw clearly that the combined strength of the three Nordic countries would be powerless against Soviet aggression or blackmail and that only a U.S. guarantee could provide real security…The Swedes vigorously advocating a neutral Nordic arrangement and the Norwegians, naturally with our encouragement, advocating participation in an Atlantic arrangement.

The Swedes inquired privately whether they would still be eligible for military assistance if they didn’t join the treaty. Hugh Cumming and I told them that they would of course be eligible, if there was anything left after everyone else’s needs had been taken care of. The Norwegians prevailed, and the Danes and Icelanders came with them. They participated in the last few meetings.

The Portuguese presented a different problem. They were deeply suspicious of the larger continental countries, especially France and Britain, despite the latter being Portugal’s oldest ally.

The Portuguese wanted no part in European unity, which they felt would be used both to take over the colonies and undermine her basic sovereignty. Having had this fully explained to me by the Portuguese Ambassador, my good friend Pedro Teotonio Pereira, I drafted a personal message from Truman to Salazar in which I still take a certain satisfaction. It states that we understood and shared Portugal’s reluctance to get involved in European integration or internal continental squabbles, as our whole history showed. Like Portugal, we were oceanic, seafaring, Atlantic power, with a great interest in maintaining the security of the Atlantic area and not just the Continent of Europe. It worked, and the Portuguese joined the negotiations in the last days.

We did invite Ireland as an important stepping stone in anti-submarine warfare. We doubted that they would accept. They replied that they would be delighted to join provided we could get the British to give back the six Northern counties. We simply replied, in effect, that “it’s been nice knowing you,” and that was that.

The British and U.S. Combined Chiefs of Staff had ceased to exist after the war, but the British kept a large military mission in Washington with offices in the Pentagon. Nothing could convince the French that the Combined Chiefs setup was not still secretly in existence, and that the British and we together were discussing worldwide strategy. The French insisted that the proposed Military Committee, on which all the Parties could be represented, be supplemented, and in fact, dominated by an Anglo-French-American Standing Group, at Chiefs of Staff level. Nobody else liked the idea, least of all the smaller European nations, but the French made such a row over it that the rest of us eventually agreed.

At the last minute the Italians threatened for a few days that they would not sign the Treaty unless included in the Standing Group. We laughed at them and they came around.

Moving toward ratification

Tradition provides that the terms of a treaty must be kept secret, at least until signature, if not until it is actually sent to the Senate for approval. Jack and I felt that this would not do in the case of something as radical a departure from Washington’s warning against entangling alliances. We had the Foreign Relations Committee with us, but it would help them and us a lot if we also had a good deal of public support. We therefore took it upon ourselves to prepare public opinion. John Hightower covered the Department for the Associated Press and Frank Shackford for the United Press.

Long before the Treaty was signed, a good idea of its character and provisions had been given to the public. Jack and I thought it best not to seek approval for this course, either from higher authority or from the Committee, but we had the tacit approval of them both. In fact, in November, the Department decided to publish a brochure discussing the need for such a treaty and what it should contain. I was assigned to write it, did so, and turned it over to the Bureau of Public Affairs for them to obtain the necessary clearances and handle actual publication…It was printed and released to the public early in January.

In January 1949, the Democrats took over the Congress and Dean Acheson succeeded the ailing George Marshall as Secretary of State. Incidentally, I was told not long after that by Bill Hillman…a close friend of President Truman, that the appointment of Acheson came about from a slightly indirect way. According to Bill Hillman, the President sent for Jim Webb, the former Director of the Budget, and said, “Jim, I’d like you to be Under Secretary of State”

He said, “Yes, Mr. President, I’d be glad to.”

The President then sent for Dean Acheson and said, “I’ve asked Jim Webb to be Under Secretary of State. I’d like to have you be Secretary if you don’t mind having Jim be Under Secretary.”

He said, “Yes, Mr. President, I’d be delighted.”

Our first job was to indoctrinate Dean Acheson on the whys, wherefores, and provisions of the Treaty. He learned fast. Our second job was to butter up [Democratic Senator from Texas] Tom Connally, who had succeeded Vandenberg as Chairman of the Committee, and whose nose was slightly out of joint because we had worked so closely with Vandenberg on it. Dean, Jack, and I had a number of meetings with him and the Committee.

By the time the Treaty was finally signed on April 4, 1949, the Committee felt, as a whole, almost as if it were their treaty. Jack’s strategy had certainly worked, so had Vandenberg’s.

The ceremony would be held in the imposing, prosaically titled “Interdepartmental Auditorium” on Constitution Avenue. The President and Dean Acheson would sign for the United States, the Foreign Ministers and Ambassadors for the others. The ceremony went off without obvious hitches.

On April 4, 1949, when the ceremony was over, Jack and I and a little Air Force sergeant who had been working with us on security, headed for the nearest bar, which was in the basement of the old Hotel Willard. After fifteen months of effort, worry, and tension, the Treaty was a fact. We could relax, grin at each other, and really enjoy a couple of bourbons.

Now we had to think about ratification. Everything seemed as propitious as months of work and cooperation with the Committee could make it, but memories of what the Senate had done to the League [of Nations] Covenant haunted us.

First came the hearings. Dean Acheson did a superb job. In order to lean over backwards the Committee had invited the two most vocal Senatorial opponents of the Treaty, Senators [Forrest C.] Donnell and [Arthur Vivian] Watkins, both long forgotten, to attend with the same right to question as if they were members of the Committee. They bored in on whether Article 5 constituted an ironclad obligation for the U.S. to go to war if war broke out in Europe. Without equivocating in any way, Dean reiterated and reiterated and insisted that the United States, acting “by constitutional process” would take “such action as it deemed necessary.” The two opponents got no satisfaction. Vandenberg’s and Connally’s insistence on those two phrases paid off handsomely.

General Bradley’s testimony sticks in my mind as the perfect way to handle classified information. On the assumption that the General would not be able to answer many of the questions by Committee members in public session, a public session was arranged for the morning and the executive session for the afternoon. Without revealing anything that should not have been revealed, he answered every question put to him in a public session to the complete satisfaction of the questioners, including Donnell and Watkins, and the executive session was called off.

Then came the task of writing the Committee’s report. For several weeks Fran Wilcox, Bill Galloway and I spent all day every day in the Committee’s back office and lived on those awful ulcer lunches.

I was allowed to sit in when the Committee considered the draft report and witnessed Senator Vandenberg’s surprising feat of getting the Committee to vote unanimously against a resolution affirming faith in Almighty God.

What happened was this: Through oversight on our part in arranging the signing ceremony, there had been no prayers at the ceremony and several religious souls had commented adversely in letters to Senators, the Department, and to the press…this treaty was going to be approved “clean as a hound’s tooth.” “There will be no reservations or understandings of any kind whatsoever tied to its tail.” The preamble of the Treaty spoke of the common heritage and civilization of their peoples. Certainly faith in Almighty God was a cardinal point in our common heritage. Let the committee’s report say so emphatically, but let there be no reservations to the Treaty. Then he put Senator Smith’s resolution to the vote and everyone, including Smith, voted against it. The Committee’s report was unanimously favorable.


Then came the floor debate and the needed two-thirds of the Senate to concur. Nose counts indicated that we were safe, but a fair number of Senators were coy about it, and we dared not uncross our fingers…

On the afternoon of the vote I was there with a tally sheet. The minute the aye’s passed the two-thirds mark I took off for the Department without waiting to hear the final outcome, which I believe was 82 to 12. I headed straight for the Secretary’s office. Dean [Acheson, at left] already had a bottle of bourbon out of his desk drawer. And he, Barbara Evans, his longtime secretary, and Ernie Gross, the legal adviser, were celebrating. I joined in.

The Treaty entered into effect in August 1949 and we began to think about the first meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers, and about what kind of permanent organization would be desirable…Phil Jessup, who was then a special legal Consultant to the Secretary of State, and later the U.S. Judge on that International Court of Justice, instituted a new method of preparing for conferences. It was called “Position Papers” on every subject that might conceivably come up. They had, as I recall, four headings, “U.S. Objectives,” “Other countries’ Objectives,” “Discussion,” and “Recommendations.”

The idea was good, but the damn things had to be cleared with everybody and his brother in the Department, and then with other Departments. Phil instituted the method and then went off somewhere, and I was left to inaugurate it for that first meeting.

At that point I was so tired I could read a page and never remember even having seen it, let alone what it said. I thought I really was cracking and asked for a checkup at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda. They sent me instead to the Navy Dispensary down on Constitution Avenue for an examination.

The examination was simple. You took your clothes off, were given a long form and took it from room to room, A, B, C, etc., where various doctors tested you and filled out parts of the form. In about Room H, there was a patient ahead of me so I sat down beside the doctor’s desk.

Under the glass top of his desk I saw a cartoon of a Navy doctor examining a sailor and saying: “That’s the saddest story I ever heard. As soon as I get through drying my eyes, I’ll give you a ticket entitling you to five minutes of the Chaplain’s time to cry on his shoulder. Now get the hell out of here.”

Since then I have believed in miracle cures, for my own was instantaneous. The realization that my trouble was simply being so goddamn sorry for myself did the trick. I’ve never come near a breakdown since, but once in a while I have occasion to remember that cartoon and chuckle.

We prepared for that meeting altogether too well. Jack and I negotiated everything out in advance with the Embassies in Washington so completely that the Ministerial Meeting took exactly 25 minutes. There was a bit of Ministerial grumbling at traveling across the Atlantic for a 25-minute meeting, but it was a good one. It would help if more meetings were that well prepared.

Text of the NATO Treaty

The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and all governments.

They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area.

They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security. They therefore agree to this North Atlantic Treaty :

The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.

The Parties will contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being. They will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between any or all of them.

In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.

The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security .

Article 6 (1)

For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:

on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France (2), on the territory of or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer

on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.

This Treaty does not affect, and shall not be interpreted as affecting in any way the rights and obligations under the Charter of the Parties which are members of the United Nations, or the primary responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Each Party declares that none of the international engagements now in force between it and any other of the Parties or any third State is in conflict with the provisions of this Treaty, and undertakes not to enter into any international engagement in conflict with this Treaty.

The Parties hereby establish a Council, on which each of them shall be represented, to consider matters concerning the implementation of this Treaty. The Council shall be so organised as to be able to meet promptly at any time. The Council shall set up such subsidiary bodies as may be necessary in particular it shall establish immediately a defence committee which shall recommend measures for the implementation of Articles 3 and 5.

The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty. Any State so invited may become a Party to the Treaty by depositing its instrument of accession with the Government of the United States of America. The Government of the United States of America will inform each of the Parties of the deposit of each such instrument of accession.

This Treaty shall be ratified and its provisions carried out by the Parties in accordance with their respective constitutional processes. The instruments of ratification shall be deposited as soon as possible with the Government of the United States of America, which will notify all the other signatories of each deposit. The Treaty shall enter into force between the States which have ratified it as soon as the ratifications of the majority of the signatories, including the ratifications of Belgium, Canada, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States, have been deposited and shall come into effect with respect to other States on the date of the deposit of their ratifications. (3)

After the Treaty has been in force for ten years, or at any time thereafter, the Parties shall, if any of them so requests, consult together for the purpose of reviewing the Treaty, having regard for the factors then affecting peace and security in the North Atlantic area, including the development of universal as well as regional arrangements under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security.

After the Treaty has been in force for twenty years, any Party may cease to be a Party one year after its notice of denunciation has been given to the Government of the United States of America, which will inform the Governments of the other Parties of the deposit of each notice of denunciation.

This Treaty, of which the English and French texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the Government of the United States of America. Duly certified copies will be transmitted by that Government to the Governments of other signatories.

The definition of the territories to which Article 5 applies was revised by Article 2 of the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the accession of Greece and Turkey signed on 22 October 1951.

On January 16, 1963, the North Atlantic Council noted that insofar as the former Algerian Departments of France were concerned, the relevant clauses of this Treaty had become inapplicable as from July 3, 1962.

The Treaty came into force on 24 August 1949, after the deposition of the ratifications of all signatory states.

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We may never know the truth, as the fable of the lone NCO achieving greatness on behalf of the motherland answered the Soviet Union’s need for a proletarian hero. Kalashnikov was given a chest-busting panoply of medals, including two awards of the Hero of Socialist Labor, and was somehow promoted straight from sergeant to lieutenant general, albeit as an honorary rank.

Chances are Kalashnikov had some valuable initial insights, but a far more experienced team of gunsmiths likely did the sophisticated work of developing what became the AK-47 (Automatic Kalashnikov 1947). Indeed, he may have had little to do with the rest of the Kalashnikov family of guns, but the powers that be retained his name Soviets and now Russians have always called the gun a “Kalash.” Kalashnikov himself, now 93, refuses to meet with interviewers who might pose embarrassing questions about his work.

The AK-47 begat a vast family of guns, many of which shooters casually refer to as “AKs.” Soviet arsenals produced the rifle in three similar yet distinct generations, each with its own offspring: the original AK-47, the AKM (AK Modernized, introduced into service in 1959) and the AK-74 (introduced into service in 1974). Most of the weapons the world today calls AK-47s are actually AKMs and their variants.

/>A member of the Iraqi security forces loads an AK-47 during short-range marksmanship training led by Spanish Guardia Civil at the Besmaya Range Complex in Iraq on May 23, 2017. (Cpl. Tracy McKithern/U.S. Army)

Ammunition played a central role in the success of what became the AK-47. Typical World War II–era infantry rifles, such as the classic U.S. M1 Garand or the long-barreled Soviet Mosin-Nagant, were designed to fire powerful single-shot rounds with substantial recoil but considerable range. Their bullets flew fast, flat and far, lethal at a distance of a kilometer or more. The cartridges were long and heavy, meaning a soldier couldn’t carry many into battle — certainly not enough to supply an automatic weapon that might blow through hundreds of rounds a minute — and they were expensive. The repeated recoil from such ammunition fired on a full-auto setting would have quickly shaken to pieces any firearm light enough for a single infantryman to carry. Submachine guns and pistols used short, low-load cartridges. Though dangerous at close range, none had the throw, accuracy or stopping power necessary in serious firefights.

Weapons designers proposed an “intermediate” round, a cartridge long enough to hold an amount of powder between long-rifle and pistol ammunition. Traditionalists didn’t buy it. “Why would you want a less powerful round?” they argued. Answers: because a soldier could carry twice as many rounds, the minimal recoil didn’t require a strong professional to handle it and who cared if it wouldn’t carry far enough to drop someone the shooter could barely see? The shooter probably wouldn’t be able to hit such a target anyway.

The Germans made effective use of intermediate rounds in the 7.92 mm MP 43/44. Adolf Hitler himself named the gun the Sturmgewehr (“storm rifle”). Historians widely regard it as the first modern assault rifle, a brand-new category of gun: a compact, short-barreled, selective-fire weapon with a high-capacity magazine that could be operated in either fully automatic mode or on semiautomatic — one round per trigger pull, but all cartridge loading and extracting done automatically. In automatic mode it had a rate of fire almost as fast as a true machine gun, yet a lone soldier could carry and operate it.

Without intermediate loads, the AK-47 would have been nothing more than a short-lived machine gun suitable only for briefly firing from the hip, like John Wayne with a belt-fed .30-cal in a 1940s war movie.

While the AK-47’s reasonable weight, comparative lack of recoil, intermediate rounds and compact size — a big plus for close-quarters urban warfare and other situations in which a long barrel gets in an infantryman’s way — were important qualities, what makes the weapon truly special is its simplicity and durability.

With as few as eight moving parts, depending on the version, an AK-47 can be field-stripped and reassembled by an illiterate 8-year-old Ugandan after less than an hour of training. The AK is often referred to as being “soldier-proof.” There’s virtually nothing a careless grunt, mujahideen, drive-by shooter, African child soldier or druglord bodyguard can do to break, harm or jam it. Drag it across a sandy desert, drop it in a muddy swamp, submerge it during a river crossing, forget to clean it for months at a time — no matter. The AK’s clearances and mechanisms are coarse enough that they shrug off filth that would instantly clog a more sophisticated weapon. Numerous reports tell of AKs found half-buried for months in a soggy Vietnamese jungle or abandoned in the Sinai sand that were ready to fire as soon as a boot kick freed the rusty bolt. (That its chamber and barrel are chrome-lined to prevent corrosion also helps.)

/>A group of Afghan Uniform Police recruits dissemble their AK-47 assault rifles to demonstrate to their instructor what they have learned at Forward Operating Base Shank, Logar province, Afghanistan on July 2, 2012. (Spc. Austin Berner/U.S. Army)

Soviet arms manufacture often seemed to bear out the aphorism “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.” The T-34 tank, MiG-15 fighter and AK-47 assault rifle are all examples of the need to create weapons “good enough” rather than wasting time on refinement and the pursuit of perfection. Each was designed and built quickly and in vast numbers. Quantity rather than quality was the byword, and in the case of the AK, such proliferation would lead to unintended consequences.

The AK has secured its place in firearms history not by its performance as a weapon of the conventional war for which it was designed — a Cold War that never turned hot enough to engulf the world’s two major superpowers in direct combat — but by its position as a purely military weapon that broke free of the fetters of armories and official control. It marked the first time this had happened with so sophisticated a military device, though some in the early 1930s had feared the Thompson submachine gun might find a broad civilian market. In those pre–gun lobby days, Congress in 1934 passed the National Firearms Act, which, among other measures, tightly regulated private ownership of automatic weapons.

The AK genie, however, escaped its bottle in the 1970s, both because it was cheap to manufacture and because it was produced in such enormous numbers. (Estimates place the number of functioning AKs in existence today at more than 75 million — vastly more than any other family of firearms ever produced.) Through the early postwar years, the AK was just another infantry firearm. It first appeared on the world stage in Vietnam, and its performance was a shock from a weapon Western experts had derided as puny, short-ranged and inaccurate.

U.S. troops in Vietnam had nothing like it, so the Army and Marine Corps rushed the new M16 assault rifle overseas. Initially, the M16 was a disaster. Unlike the AK, it needed to be scrupulously cleaned, but nobody had thought to provide the troops with cleaning kits. Nor were its barrel or chamber chrome-lined like those of the AK, so the early M16s quickly corroded. The M16 jammed constantly, and units found themselves in firefights with 30 to 40 percent of their American-made assault rifles useless against Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army AK-47s.

Vietnam gave the Kalash credibility, and the Soviet Union’s 1979–89 war against Afghanistan — its very own Vietnam — opened the floodgates and released the weapon to the world. Unfortunately, the United States shares some of the blame for that.

The Afghan mujahideen feared the Soviets’ AKs because they fired slugs with thin casings over a cast-in airspace. Such bullets collapsed on impact with flesh or bone, carving out enormous wounds that quickly became infected. Convinced the Soviets were poisoning their bullets, the mujahideen begged their U.S. backers to supply them with such arms. Pakistan CIA Station Chief Howard Hart “finally relented and ordered hundreds of thousands of AKs, mainly from China,” writes Larry Kahaner in his comprehensive book AK-47: The Weapon That Changed the Face of War. “Hart’s decision … may have been the most important single contribution to the spread of the weapon.” Ultimately, the United States became one of the largest purchasers of AKs, handing them out in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

The Soviet Union had long been giving AKs to Communist-bloc allies, as well as such friendly states as Cuba. Moscow also freely granted manufacturing rights, with no licensing fees, to a number of other countries. Freelance production inevitably followed, for the weapon is so simple it can be crafted in Middle Eastern bazaar workshops. Afghanistan, however, was the first time the weapon truly went rogue. The collapse of the Soviet Union then unlocked armory doors throughout the region, and it has been estimated that 80 percent of the Soviet Army’s small arms — most of them AKs — disappeared.

/>A platoon leader with Morocco’s 6th Infantry Brigade instructs Marines on the assembly and disassembly of the AK-47 during the first day of African Lion 15, May 15, 2015. Marines with Alpha and Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment spent the day conducting marksmanship training and integrated weapons exchange with the Moroccan soldiers, focusing on the M4 and the AK-47. (Staff Sgt. Jared Gehmann/U.S. Army)

As AKs spread throughout Africa and Southeast Asia, particularly, they became self-sustaining. Rebel leaders like warlord Charles Taylor, who helped overthrow Liberian President Samuel Doe in 1990, recruited followers by offering them AKs with which to plunder and rape as well as killing for the cause, and the weapon became known as “the African credit card.” In Pakistan, suppliers reportedly rented AKs by the hour, and buyers would acquire them by posting a down payment and then using the weapon to rob someone for the balance due.

It is frequently claimed that in the Third World, well-used AKs are obtainable for the price of a live chicken — former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan once gave a speech announcing the guns were going for $15. Actually, from a typical low of about $150, used AK prices can run as high as $1,000, even more in times of great demand (e.g., civil war, narco-terrorism). In the United States a Chinese-made full-automatic AK can easily go for $10,000 on the black market, while semiautomatic versions (including many replicas, some built in North America) sell for $400 to $3,500, averaging about $1,500. Prices rise and fall in near-perfect sync with the state of chaos or calm in any turbulent country — and with the level of concern by American gun owners over proposed assault rifle bans.

The AK has become more than a weapon. In many countries and cultures, it is a symbol and a social statement in the same sense that a cowboy’s holstered Colt Peacemaker spoke volumes merely through its presence on his hip. The Kalashnikov is the most recognizable weapon in the world. Peruvian teenagers, aboriginal whale hunters, urban rappers, Somali warlords, Hutus and Tutsis, Sunnis and Shiites, Israelis and Palestinians, Diane Feinstein and Sarah Palin alike would identify a short-barreled weapon with a banana clip as “an AK-47.” When Hollywood wants to mark a character as a bad guy, they give him an AK, and the entire movie-going world gets it.

Though Saddam Hussein could have hoisted any gun in the world, he was never far from an AK-47, for it spoke for him. “I am an anti-imperialist — death to the West!” it said. So too for Osama bin Laden and his Kalash. In Afghanistan, an AK captured in combat from a Soviet soldier was vastly more valuable than one shipped in from China by the CIA. It was a symbol and then some — the 1980s version of counting coup or taking a scalp. As Gordon Rottman puts it in his brief but authoritative book The AK-47: “Throughout the world an individual’s act of swearing alliance to a regime, an insurgency, a warlord, drug lord or crime band was rewarded and solidified by bestowing an AK. … The AK-47 has become as much a symbol of the modern warrior as the bestowal of a spear, shield or headdress.”

The AK-47 and its derivatives deserve the title “Weapon of the Century,” at least in the early days of this epoch, because it is quite simply the most effective machine ever manufactured that allows a man, woman or child to kill another human being with the least possible skill, training, effort or expense. The Kalash has flourished, and today there are more AK models, accessories and upgrade parts to choose from than ever before. Since the working life of a well-used Kalashnikov weapon is a good quarter-century, and a gunsmith can rejuvenate or remanufacture one relatively simply, comrade Mikhail Kalashnikov’s contribution to world order should be with us a while longer.

VA Vaccine Act approved by House heads to Senate

On March 10, 2021 the United States House of Representatives unanimously approved the VA Vaccine Act, requiring the Department of Veteran Affairs to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to all veterans.

With the passage of the VA Vaccine Act in the House, it changes things considerably. The language of the bill makes it a requirement that all veterans have the opportunity to receive the vaccine, regardless of attachment to the VA’s health services. This means quite literally any veteran can receive the vaccination as long as they qualify for VA services, including those living overseas. The legislation also includes the veterans caregivers.

There are some restrictions, however. Those enrolled in the VA healthcare system are prioritized over those who aren’t currently enrolled. When the vaccine supply is available, veterans not receiving VA care can then receive it.

The bill was introduced by Congressman Mike Bost of Illinois, the leading Republican on the Veterans’ Affairs committee in the House of Representatives. “Getting vaccines into the arms of every person who wants one as soon as we can is key to finally getting us past this pandemic. In my mind, veterans should always be at the front of the line,” said Ranking Member Bost in a statement.

Congressman Charlie Crist of Florida was also on the bill’s introduction. In a statement he shared his frustration in hearing from his veteran constituents who weren’t able to get through the red tape of the VA. “I’m proud that the House has taken decisive action to do right by Florida’s Veterans. I introduced Vaccines for Veterans Act because Veterans were calling my office saying they tried to get their coronavirus vaccine at the VA but were turned away,” he said.

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

In a VA press release Acting VA Under Secretary for Health Richard Stone M.D shared that the VA now has a third highly effective vaccine to offer to veterans with the FDA emergency approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The release also shared that as of March 3, 2021 both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 had been administered by the VA to almost 1 million individuals. The Johnson & Johnson version of the vaccine only requires one dose.

The VA Vaccine Act now heads to the Senate, where a similar measure was introduced on March 9, 2021. Senators will now have to make the decision on whether to act on the House approved bill or move forward with their own, potentially delaying the process of approval. Based on the swiftness that both Congress and the Biden administration are pushing the vaccinations of all Americans, it appears the Senate will approve the House bill.

The bill has the support of nine Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) including Paralyzed Veterans of America, Minority Veterans of America, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion, Wounded Warrior Project, AMVETS and Veterans for Common Sense.

“After such a difficult year, stories of vulnerable veterans being denied lifesaving vaccines from VA are painful to hear,” said Bost in a statement. “The VA VACCINE Act would make sure that doesn’t happen again. The bill gives VA the authority it needs to meet this moment. It is a lifeline for veterans and their caregivers. I urge my Senate colleagues to send it to the President’s desk as soon as possible.”

Acting VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Richard Stone said the VA is supportive of the legislation in an interview with Military Times. “It’s the next logical step for us,” he said. “Should Congress give us the authority, we’ll be ready.”

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"We’ve gone 38 years with it being tough to say any given airborne operation was necessary to accomplish the overall objective of a given operation," DeVore told Army Times.

DeVore is not alone. Retired Col. Doug Macgregor has emerged as a vocal Army critic since retiring in 2004. The former 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry commander holds a PhD in international relations and calls large-scale airborne operations an "anachronism, a thing of the past" and compared it with horse cavalry use in World War II.

Top Pentagon leaders don’t buy it. They acknowledge a major airborne combat operation is a low-probability option, but say a siz

​able airborne assault remains a vital capability and deterrent.

"The whole new Army operating concept is we’re back to our expeditionary concept . the beauty of airborne forces is they were always designed to be expeditionary," said Lt. Gen. Joe Anderson, the Army's deputy chief of staff for operations and a former XVIII Airborne Corps commander. "Typically, an enemy is not going to want to give you free access to a runway, they’re going to damage it. So how else are you going to get in there and get that stuff capable if you don’t have some light expeditionary package that is able to get in there, doesn’t need a lot of supplies?"

"It’s not an Army requirement … It’s a national security requirement," Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of XVIII Airborne Corps, said of robust and rapid forced-entry capacity. "This is the Army’s highest levels saying this capability is something the country needs."

Many of the Army’s top leaders have earned their jump wings: Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Vice Chief Gen. Daniel Allyn, U.S. Special Operations Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel and acting Army secretary Patrick Murphy. Nine of the Army’s 13 four-star generals have led or served in the 82nd or XVIII Airborne Corps.

Airborne also offers training, morale, retention and recruitment perks, according to leaders. Many airborne soldiers absolutely love what they do, despite — or sometimes because of — its inherent risks.

82nd Airborne: The Best Part of Jumping

As many generals have noted, you can’t plan for every war and the U.S. has consistently failed to predict where the next war would be fought, or what specific skills would emerge as indispensable. No one suggests jumping out of planes in general to be obsolete Special Forces and the 75th Ranger Regiment frequently jump into enemy territory.

But does the Army need four-plus brigades — from combat troops to cooks to public affairs officers — training for low-altitude, low-speed static line jumps with ever-tightening budget restraints? (Anderson said airborne brigades costs about 10 percent more in maintenance than standard light infantry, but still roughly a third as much as an armored unit.) And given a paucity of use that spans wars and decades, what is that tactic’s true place in a modern battlefield?

In mid-August, the Army celebrated 75 years of airborne. It was on Aug. 16, 1940, when the 29th Infantry Regiment conducted its first jump at Fort Benning, Georgia. Since that day, the mission task remains simple: get soldiers and equipment safely from a speeding plane to the ground.

Over the last 15 years, the members of the 82nd have seen more than their fair share of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan — but the vast majority have never sniffed a combat jump. In fact, few large jumps into hostile territory have launched since World War II.

The Army planned to downsize the airborne 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division in Alaska into a battalion task force by 2017. Milley told Congress in February, however, he wants to push back that move at least a year. If made, that cut would bring five airborne brigades down to 4 and 1/3 (three in the 82nd Airborne Division plus the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Europe).

While leaders defend limiting airborne cuts to its share of Army-wide force reduction, others suggest slashing further.

MacGregor does not see significant tactical need for a mass combat jump of infantry forces. He says even basic air defense renders an airborne attack suicidal.

/>Sgt. 1st Class Cesar Hembree directs paratroopers during a night jump into Fort Bragg, NC, Nov. 11, 2015. More than 500 82nd Airborne Division soldiers jumped earlier that week near Zaragoza, Spain for NATO's Exercise Trident Juncture. (Daniel Woolfolk/Staff)

Sgt. 1st Class Cesar Hembree directs paratroopers during a night jump into Fort Bragg, N.C., to conclude the flight home from a NATO exercise in Spain. Army leaders argue airborne to be the only way to get a substantial force into a conflict quickly when there's no airstrip handy.

Photo Credit: Daniel Woolfolk/Staff

"Airborne requires fixed-wing airlift. These forces cannot ‘get in under the radar’ against a major theater power’s defenses," the unapologetically blunt West Point graduate said. "As seen repeatedly in Eastern Ukraine, anything flying low and slow, especially in the large numbers that are needed to move a militarily-useful conventional ground force, is toast in a real war."

But leaders say the training and resources invested are worth it from a capability and deterrence standpoint, even before accounting for intangibles.

"Today the application of a large-scale airborne assault is low probability, but it’s high consequence if we’re not absolutely prepared to do it and do it right," said Brig. Gen. Brian Winski, deputy commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division.

At the time of the Spain jump, the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd constituted the Army’s Global Response Force before 1st Brigade rotated into the role in December. Within four days the Army can have "an operationally significant force anywhere in the world," Winski said. Along with soldiers, the Army can drop vehicles, artillery and ammunition (but not armor) into place, allowing an array of capabilities. Since airstrips are finite and defensible, dropping near one, taking it over and possibly rebuilding after any sabotaging efforts are fundamentals of airborne training.

"Only the Army, through airborne assault joint force, can meet that kind of timeline and provide that kind of capability," Winski said.

/>Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division prepare to board a C-130J for a proficiency jump into the Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C., on Saturday, August 15, 2015.

The Army has four-plus brigades of airborne soldiers, though combat jumps have been few and far-between since World War II.

Photo Credit: Mike Morones/Staff

In addition to that "in case of emergency, break glass" capability, leaders like Winski and Ryan stress the paratrooper "spirit" or "ethos" as an additional asset

Ryan said problem-solving, ingenuity, adaptability in pressure situations, and trust inherent to the job draw a certain kind of soldier. He said he addressed that ethos to soldiers before Operation Dragon Spear, a joint entry training exercise involving 2nd Brigade’s paratroopers held near Fort Irwin, California.

"I told everybody up front: You know in the end we’ve got a great plan for this mission, and the only thing I can guarantee you is it’s not going to happen this way. So you’re going to figure it out," Ryan said. "I think we find a significant density of the type of folks who enjoy thriving in that sort of culture, that are attracted to these sorts of organizations."

Capt. Paul Corcoran — rear detachment commander of the 82nd Brigade Support Battalion — also said the job attracted a certain type of individual – who straddle a fine line between brave and crazy.

"In theory, you’re committing suicide every time you jump out of a plane….We’re all here, because we’re not all here," Corcoran said, pointing at his head.

While pondering the recent invention of the hot air balloon, Benjamin Franklin reasoned in a 1784 letter to a friend that "ten thousand men descending from the clouds" could "do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them."

Airborne was contemplated during World War I but first institutionalized as a tactic by several countries before World War II. The Germans used it in battle first, but would abandon it early on due to high casualties, particularly during the invasion of Crete in Greece. The Allies used combat jumps in the closing months of the war.

Newsreel Paratroopers Capture Tunisian Airfield

But since World War II, scaled-up combat airborne assaults have been rare. The 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team executed two airborne operations in Korea in 1950 and 1951. Most soldiers dropped into Vietnam via helicopter, with one major combat jump in Operation Junction City.

Jumps since have become smaller and more isolated events, and usually against low-tier militaries. Rangers jumped in to secure an airport during the controversial invasion of Grenada in 1983. A 1989 invasion of Panama was the 82nd Airborne Division’s first combat jump since World War II it secured an airport after elements from 75th Ranger Regiment dropped onto the airfield earlier and executed other combat jumps during the conflict.

Rare among today's soldiers in airborne brigades is the gold star or "mustard stain" on parachutist wings signifying a past combat jump. Special operations have delivered soldiers by parachute into Afghanistan and Iraq among other places, though never in the kind of numbers requiring today’s division-wide training. The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, part of U.S. Army Europe, jumped into Northern Iraq in 2003 — albeit into an area already held by Special Forces and Kurdish allies. DeVore, who spoke to Kurdish forces for unrelated research, said the Iraq jump came in an area where Saddam Hussein's army hadn’t operated for many years.

"The Peshmerga was laughing at it as this great publicity stunt," DeVore said.

But leaders say the mere existence of airborne may give potential adversaries pause. In 1994, the U.S. had prepared an invasion of Haiti after the United Nations, for the first time, authorized force to restore a nation’s democracy after a 1991 military coup. Haitian military leaders agreed to a transition plan – with invading U.S. forces already in the air and on the way.

"Looking at the 1940s type operations where we’re jumping massive amounts of paratroopers, that’s probably not ever going to be the case anymore," said Maj. Craig Arnold, the former head of the Advanced Airborne School at Fort Bragg. But he also said the capability of deploying self-sustaining brigade-sized elements remained important: "We can drop a massive amount of boots on the ground in a very short period of time with very little build-up."

Arnold noted that in 2013, French paratroopers helped re-take Mali after a 10-month Islamic extremist occupation. Meanwhile, Russia’s alleged involvement in Ukraine and its aggressive posturing toward NATO allies has commanders discouraging cutting from their playbook.

"The faster we can get people in — that gives our political leaders some options," U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen Ben Hodges said shortly before paratroopers dropped into Spain. "That’s the most important thing: speed gives political leaders options."

Getting military force into a territory where you’re welcome is easy enough. But crashing as an uninvited guest remains a fundamental military obstacle. The question facing the Pentagon: What’s the best way to achieve that mission?

DeVore’s study has become a flashpoint in the airborne community, according to Army Press deputy director Donald Wright, a retired lieutenant colonel and military scholar.

In his piece, DeVore argues that airborne is too large, based on the sheer unlikelihood of a forced-entry operation larger than a battalion.

Townsend vehemently disagrees. He cited DeVore’s work as well, but more as evidence that airborne commanders are constantly evaluating and adapting, and don’t "sit here and drink our own bathwater and say ‘We’re airborne and we’re awesome.’" He deferred to more recent work by RAND, a nonprofit think tank that offers research and analysis to the armed forces. A 2014 study "Enhanced Army Airborne Forces" called airborne forces "unique in their ability to quickly deploy worldwide," and looked at ways to make airborne more potent by infusing light armored vehicles (such as LAV-IIs and Strykers).

"Each case [of airborne operations since Panama in 1989] demonstrated the value of quickly deployable forces to national decision-makers, but some cases also outlined the limitations of primarily foot-mobile, light infantry–based airborne units," the report said. "The analysis focuses on one potential means to enhance the airborne force: incorporating light armored vehicles into the force to increase speed, mobility, and survivability."

The 82nd has been moving to advance just that capability: it has been evaluating an ultra-lightweight combat vehicle that would let paratroopers drop far from an objective protected by air defenses and drive into battle. The Army purchased 33 vehicles for proof of purchase test.

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who served with the 82nd Airborne Division and later commanded the 24th Infantry Division and Southern Command before retiring in 2001, sees the benefits of airborne but also understands the opposing view. He told Army Times he doesn’t want to "be lynched by 100 paratroopers who would rise from their graves, much less active duty," but still acknowledged that institutional enthusiasm belied the hard-math argument. The capability, he said, is needed — but he estimated the 75h Ranger Regiment could handle 90 percent of potential parachute entrance requirements. He called the need for a BCT airborne operation "a low probability," but still possible.

/>American service members earned Spanish jump wings at Exercise Trident Juncture Nov. 4, 2015 near Zaragoza Spain. (Daniel Woolfolk/Staff)

American service members earned Spanish jump wings at Exercise Trident Juncture near Zaragoza, Spain. While many countries' militaries have airborne forces, many are small or have shrunk largely due to infrequent operational use.

Photo Credit: Daniel Woolfolk/Staff

"You could make the argument that if you always want us to have a brigade combat team ready to fly in X hours, say 48 hours, you have got to have a division: one brigade training, one standing down, one ready. That’s a pretty good argument. But if you were shaving dimes you wouldn’t buy it," McCaffrey said of having even three airborne BCTs.

Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, a former 101st Airborne Division artillery officer, sees airborne as vital. The former Army War College Commandant with a PhD in history from Duke University said criticism of airborne stems from pushback in a "perennial, inside-the-beltway debate," in which defenders of amphibious forced-entry (i.e. Marines) attack airborne. He said between beach landings and airborne, airborne is more cost-effective and useful — both by a huge degree of magnitude. In today’s landscape, airborne remains the only viable option to quickly move an increasingly U.S.-based force into battle, especially since there won’t always be a useful airstrip where force is desired.

"Because of the political power of the Marine Corps, the most expensive and least used military capability in the military is amphibious capability," Scales said, adding that Marines still remain a highly useful land-fighting force. "The whole political thing is ridiculous."

/>Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division conduct a proficiency jump into the Sicily Drop Zone at at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C., on Saturday, August 15, 2015.

Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division make a practice jump at Fort Bragg, N.C. To remain current on jump status (which comes with a $150 bonus) soldiers must jump at least once every three months.

Photo Credit: Mike Morones/Staff

Macgregor agrees with Scales on the futility of expensive amphibious assault, an incursion technique that saw its last major use at Inchon during the Korean War. But that doesn’t make mass airborne operations useful in his eyes. His analysis is rooted in his general beliefs regarding the structure of the Army: he sees divisions as relics of 1940s force structures bloated with layers of unnecessary non-combat elements, and said the future of the Army is in decisive, long-range force, surveillance and intelligence, and heavy armor. That is what he says allies need and request most from the U.S., much more so than manpower and light infantry. He described Iraq and Afghanistan not as "wars," but as "colonial expeditions" of questionable utility. ("You don’t fight wars from forward operating bases with Motel 6 accommodations," he said).

They offered few lessons to prepare us for the most dangerous potential conflicts, he said. "Modern battlefields are dominated by accurate, devastating firepower delivered in quantity from the air and from tracked armored platforms on the ground."

It’s just too dangerous to be outside heavy armor near an adversary of any strength — whether in a slow-moving low-flying plane, parachuting outside of one, or on the ground in a non-armored vehicle trying to secure an area.

Back inside the Pentagon, Macgregor’s argument has largely been rejected.

Anderson, who participated in the combat jump in Panama, said airborne remained "a very viable option to help shape and, ultimately, decisively fight a war." He also said the Army needs to be able to accomplish some of the low-intensity conflicts that Macgregor disregards, from Grenada to Iraq, where the Army doesn’t face stout air defenses. You need a force big enough to secure an area, Anderson said, possibly before there’s an operable runway (or secured sea or land transport access) for bringing in heavier items.

Hodges, in Europe, agreed. The speed with which a large force can be brought to where there is no runway makes it worth it if Russia attacked or initiated a Ukraine-style hybrid war (mix of kinetic, subversive and cyber war) against a Baltic country like Latvia or Estonia, the U.S. would want to get a force there before Russian actors could get a foothold. A brigade jumping in would augment local and NATO forces (including U.S. light armored vehicles) already on the ground.

"Everybody in the world knows, when they see this [demonstration], they know what can come behind this. We always want to deter," Hodges said from the ground in Zaragoza.

Citing nuclear capabilities, Townsend rejected the idea that the Army should give up on something just because of infrequent use. He said in some cases the risk of airborne could be worth the reward he cited Normandy in World War II and, in projecting future scenarios, events such as a loose weapon of mass destruction being moved by a non-state actor.

Scales said the biggest threats to the U.S. — terrorists, possibly in a failed state, with access to a WMD Russia or a rogue Iran — have limited sea access and could very plausibly call for airborne operations. And while acknowledging air defenses, he argues they’d be a threat to any force entering hostile territory … and certainly no more devastating than threats to amphibious vessels moving across the water at much slower speeds. Ultimately, tactics and resource allocation also depend on the unforeseen and outside Pentagon control: what political objectives will be sought, how policy makers view the role of the military, and the unforeseen military needs those objectives as well as often-unforeseen threats present.

"If you believe future of ground forces is advise-and-assist, counterinsurgency, that’s different. But everyone inside the beltway is clamoring for a return to [preparation for] large scale wars," Scales said.

Sgt. Stephen Sandoval, after jumping into Spain, said he followed his father’s footsteps into airborne.

"It’s everything I hoped it to be," Sandoval said.

Soldiers rig up with a 53-pound parachute and harness system, generally with another 40-60 pounds of ruck sack dangling between their legs. After hours of training and prep and waiting, they waddle hundreds of yards out to a plane, and wait even longer during the flight.

And most will tell you that jump lasting for about a minute is worth every bit of it. Many obsess over it.

Asked what he liked most about it, Sandoval said: "The thrill. Anything ‘jump.’ That moment when you get out of the plane, when the canopy opens it’s just great. I wouldn’t trade it for anything."

82nd Airborne: Proficiency Jump

Winski praised the culture that develops, with an "absolute environment of trust" where soldiers may not know the person next in line, but knows the person will do the job right to keep them safe.

"It’s the unique environment of absolute trust and subordinating your safety," Winski said. "And when you do that together a bunch of times it just increases the unit spirit and confidence in ways that few other things do."

"The culture is so profound," McCaffrey said. "The soldiers are so proud to be doing something complicated, dangerous and exciting. It’s hard to ignore that….That’s what comes out of this: young people who want to serve in that kind of unit."

Pena, the lieutenant who jumped into Spain, put the difference between airborne and other troops more bluntly.

"One’s airborne, one’s not," Pena said, though he quickly added, "at the end of the day we’re all soldiers first." But he said the job "does attract a different type of personnel."

That culture exists for a reason: risk.

Since 2010 the Amy has had five training deaths in airborne brigades or airborne school. Injuries happen too, with about three per thousand jumps, and just over one per thousand major injuries, generally requiring some kind of hospital trip.

82nd Airborne: Pre-Jump Training

All the necessary training comes at a financial cost. Staying current (and paid: jumpers get a $150 bonus per month) requires a jump every three months, which consumes resources, personnel and soldier time to prep and execute the jumps. Regarding training jumps, leaders prefer proficiency to currency, and that means a jump every month or more. Winski said that should include at least a quarterly night airfield-seizure exercise for combat units.

The Army expects to spend about $82 million per year from 2016 and 2017 on bonuses alone to keep about 45,000 soldiers current, according to budget documents the Army provided to Congress.

Anderson said maintaining an airborne brigade costs about an additional $2.2 million over the regular light infantry brigade total of about $21 million. That does not include the added personnel costs of hundreds of riggers who spend their work days packing and inspecting parachutes. At the same time, it’s still far cheaper than maintaining a heavy armored brigade, which can cost triple to maintain, he noted.

"Bang for the buck," Anderson said, "The cost is well worth the capability."

/>Riggers (in red caps) inspect paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division as they prepare to conduct a proficiency jump into the Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C., on Saturday, August 15, 2015.

Riggers (in red caps) inspect paratroopers as they prepare to conduct a jump over Fort Bragg, N.C. Airborne has existed in the Army for more than 75 years.

Photo Credit: Mike Morones/Staff

But DeVore said operational costs don’t tell the whole story. According to a 1997 Government Accountability Office report, $7 billion could have been saved by buying fewer C-17s for the Air Force. Brigade-sized airborne operations were a primary factor for the expenditure.

"Sure it might be free now, but that’s because we already invested a large amount of money in our Air Force," said DeVore, who suggested an alternative: soldiers train more to specialize in mountain warfare, urban warfare, jungle warfare, dessert warfare, or other environments where light infantry will see action and large deployments.

With Army leadership committed to airborne, soldiers shouldn’t expect it to go anywhere for awhile. But critics might point out that, back in 1939, the Army’s cavalry leader was advocating for more horses at the time the Army was operating with twelve horse regiments and only two tank regiments.


  1. Seraphim

    Continue as well.

  2. Frascuelo

    the question is far away

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