The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established after the signing of the treaty in Washington, D.C., April 4, 1949, and ratified by the United States on August 24 that year. The original Alliance was comprised of 12 member nations from Western Europe (Belgium, Great Britain, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal) and North America (Canada and United States). The Europeans especially wanted to ensure their collective security and territorial integrity for fear that the once Communist Soviet Union would attempt to fill in the vacuum resulting from the imbalance of power that had emerged in the aftermath of World War II.

Above: Photograph of U.S. President Harry S. Truman signing the document implementing the North Atlantic Treaty at his desk in the Oval Office, Aug. 24, 1949, Washington, D.C., as a number of dignitaries look on. Standing behind him are (left to right): Sir Derick Boyer Millar, Charge d'Affaires, United Kingdom; Ambassador Henrik de Kauffmann of Denmark; W. D. Matthews, Charge d'Affaires, Canada;    Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson; Ambassador Wilhelm Munthe de Morgenstierne of Norway; Ambassador Henri Bonnet of France;   Ambassador Pedro Theotonio Pereira of Portugal; Secretary of State Dean Acheson; Jonkheer O. Reuchlin, Charge d'Affaires, the Netherlands; Mario Lucielli, Charge d'Affaires, Italy. Photo from U.S. National Archives by Mr. Abbie Rowe (1905-1967), photographer for National Park Service in Washington, D.C.

On October 24, 1950, a proposal by the French Prime Minister to form an Allied Command Europe within NATO was unanimously agreed by all other member nations, leading to the establishment of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) on April 2, 1951. The twelve initial signatories of the treaty were joined by Greece and Turkey on February 18, 1952. The admission of Greece and Turkey extended eastward the boundaries of NATO's Air Forces Southern (AFSOUTH) area of responsibility to include all of the Mediterranean and Black Seas and Greece and Turkey landmasses.

Left: The flags of Greece and Turkey were raised with Allied colors at SHAPE headquarters Mar. 1, 1952, in Paris, France, during a ceremony chaired by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and attended by the Greek and Turkish ambassadors. 

The North Atlantic Council (NAC) representing the 14-nation alliance outlined guidance for selecting a NATO emblem to use on a flag. The emblem needed to be simple and striking in design. It also needed to illustrate the community of traditions and ideals which united the members of the North Atlantic community. Lastly, the emblem had to "bring home the peaceful purpose of the North Atlantic Treaty."

After much uncertainty in a design, a NATO emblem was finally adopted on October 14, 1953. The NAC "approved a flag for NATO, the design of which was a white and blue compass on a dark blue background."

Shortly after, on October 28, 1953, NATO Secretary General Lord Ismay announced that the NAC had adopted a design for the official NATO emblem. He explained that the symbolism of the emblem could be described as "a four-pointed star representing the compass that keeps us on the right road, the path of peace, and a circle representing the unity that binds together the 14 countries of NATO." The blue background represented the Atlantic Ocean and the circle symbolized unity.

In 1958, a NATO official wrote the New York Times explaining the symbolism: "In actual fact, the heraldic term for the emblem is a star gyronny, which represents the four points of the compass...the organization was founded to stop Communist aggression in Europe, without the resort to war...The continued Soviet insistence on the break-up of NATO is the surest measure of its success."

On June 11, 1952, NATO authorities decided to establish Allied Land Forces Southeastern Europe (LANDSOUTHEAST) in Izmir, Turkey, to be commanded by an American (U.S.) Army general with a Turkish and Greek general officer as his deputies. The actual establishment of LANDSOUTHEAST occurred on September 8, 1952, when U.S. Army Gen. Willard G. Wyman assumed command and established his headquarters in Şirinyer. A subordinate headquarters, the Thessaloniki (Greece) Advanced Command Post was also activated.

LANDSOUTHEAST's area of responsibility stretched from the Caucasus to the western shore of Greece and provided security for 35 million people. The headquarters were initially staffed by Turkish, Greek, and U.S. military personnel supplemented by NATO international civilians. With no organic forces during peacetime, LANDSOUTHEAST was to assume the operational control of land forces assigned to NATO by Turkey and Greece (Turkish First Army, Turkish Second Army, Turkish Third Army and Hellenic First Army) in the event of a crisis or conflict involving NATO and to direct their operations within the NATO Military Chain of Command.

Left: U.S. Army Gen. Willard G. Wyman (center), first commander of NATO's LANDSOUTHEAST headquarters at the Şirinyer garrison in Izmir, Turkey, is flanked by his two new deputy commanders, Greek Army Maj. Gen. Geremanidis (left) and Turkish Army Maj. Gen. Behçet Türkmen (right), who are meeting for the first time. This picture was taken sometime in 1952, following Wyman's assumption of command. (Photo provided by the LANDCOM Museum Archives) 

The following year, on October 14, 1953, the 6th Allied Tactical Air Force (6ATAF) was also established in Izmir, commanded by Maj. Gen. R.E.L. Easton, U.S. Air Force, and responsible to AIRSOUTH for the air defence of Greece and Turkey. Three national air organisations were assigned to this subordinate command: the Turkish 1st and 3rd Tactical Air Forces, and the Royal Hellenic 28th Tactical Air Force. This new headquarters occupied Building #1 on the Şirinyer garrison.                      
 Upper Left: The members of NATO's 6ATAF headquarters pose for a group photo in front of their new headquarters in Izmir. (Photo provided by the LANDCOM Museum Archives);  Upper Right: Building #1 on the Şirinyer garrison as it looks today. 

By 1954, military personnel from France, Italy, and the United Kingdom staffed the headquarters for LANDSOUTHEAST. It was at this time that LANDSOUTHEAST moved to its newly constructed headquarters building in the Alsancak area of Izmir.

Left: An aerial view of the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of LANDSOUTHEAST's new headquarters building on the 1st Kordon in the Alsancak district of Izmir (Photo provided by the LANDCOM Museum Archives)    

In 1966, all French armed forces were removed from NATO's integrated military command, and all non-French NATO troops were asked to leave France. This withdrawal forced the relocation of SHAPE fromRocquencourt, near Paris, to Casteau, north of Mons, Belgium, by October 16, 1967. However, France always remained a member of the alliance and committed to the defence of Europe against a Communist attack. France rejoined the NATO integrated military structure on April 4, 2009.

In 1974, Greece temporarily withdrew from NATO’s Integrated Military Command Structure, recalling its personnel, and the command’s mission was changed to include the operational control of only the Turkish land forces assigned to NATO (Turkish First, Second, and Third Armies). Greece was readmitted to NATO's military command structure in 1980.

In 1977, the SACEUR announced that LANDSOUTHEAST’s command structure would be reviewed in accordance with an agreement reached between NATO and the Turkish government.          

Under the revised Command Structure, which became effective July 1, 1978, the commander of LANDSOUTHEAST would be a Turkish four-star general, his deputy a U.S. two-star general, and the chief of staff also a Turkish two-star. Turkish Army Gen. Vecihi Akýn was the first Turkish Commander of LANDSOUTHEAST.

Right: Pictured here is the last U.S. Army commander of LANDSOUTHEAST, Gen. Sam Walker (left) standing next to the first Turkish Army commander of the NATO headquarters, Gen. Vecihi Akn, following their change of command ceremony June 30, 1978. (Photo provided by the LANDCOM Museum Archives)

On May 30, 1982, NATO gained a new member when, following a referendum, the newly democratic Spain joined the alliance. At the peak of the Cold War, 16 member nations maintained an approximate strength of 5,252,800 active military, including as many as 435,000 forward deployed U.S. forces, under a command structure that reached a peak of 78 headquarters, organized into four echelons. 

The new strategic environment emerging from the major changes that occurred in the international political scene since 1989 (i.e., fall of the Berlin Wall and German Reunification, dissolution of the Soviet Union, etc.), necessitated a comprehensive review of NATO’s strategic concept, leading to the development of new plans to modify the Military Command Structure. These changes would eventually impact LANDSOUTHEAST's future.

In March 1992, the construction of the collocated headquarters building in (Building # 75) started with a groundbreaking ceremony that was held at the newly-dubbed General Vecihi Akýn Garrison in Şirinyer. The building's construction was completed on February 17, 1994.

On April 25, 1994, the LANDSOUTHEAST headquarters moved from its historical building in Alsancak its new home and continued to operate from there until its deactivation on August 11, 2004.

At the November 2002 Prague Summit, the NATO Heads of State and Government endorsed in principle a revised operational command structure based on the minimum military requirement. On June 12, 2003, the new NATO Command Structure was finalised and approved by the Defence Planning Committee in Ministerial Session. For the Southern Region, this called for the activation of a Joint Forces Command (JFC) headquarters in Naples, Italy, along with three subordinate Component Commands: the Air Component Command (ACC) in Izmir, Turkey, the Maritime Component Command (MCC) in Naples and the Land Component Command (LCC) in Madrid, Spain.

At the NATO Lisbon Summit of 2010, Alliance nations agreed that NATO should transition towards a leaner structure in an effort to address the current economic climate. During the Chicago Summit of May 2012, all 28 nations unanimously agreed to reduce the number of major headquarters from 11 to only six and to reduce the number of staff from 13,000 to around 8,800 under a move called NATO Command Structure Review.

Below: On Nov. 30, 2012, inside the theater of the Gen. Vecihi Akýn Garrison in Şirinyer, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, U.S. Navy Admiral James G. Stavridis (pictured left) passes the official colors for Allied Land Command to its first commanding general, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Frederick "Ben" Hodges (pictured right) as the LANDCOM Command Senior Enlisted Leader, Canadian Army Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Saulnier, stands at attention.  (Photo by LANDCOM Public Affairs) 

Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) was established in Izmir, Turkey, December 1, 2012, following an activation ceremonyon Nov,. 30, at the former NATO Air Command-Izmir, which deactivated the following year on June 1, 2013.  The SACEUR, U.S. Navy Admiral James G. Stavridis, presided, unfurling the LANDCOM colors to pass to its first commanding general, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Frederick "Ben" Hodges. LANDCOM's premier Command Senior Enlisted Leader (CSEL), Canadian Army Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Saulnier, would serve as an important symbol for Hodges' vision to instill an ethos across all NATO armies that sought to empower the Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) with greater influence and responsibility for training Soldiers and advising commanders. 

Hodges arrived earlier that year in June 2012, leading a small number of mulitnational officers who would form the stand-up team (SUT) to prepare the new NATO headquarters in advance of its activation. As part of the Allied Command Operations (ACO) reformation, two existing land force headquarters -- Forces Command Heidelberg (Germany) and Forces Command Madrid (Spain) -- were to be deactivated in early 2013. However, LANDCOM would assume their 90% of their missions with barely 10% of its own headquarters' positions filled. In addition, for the first time in NATO history, the NCS had to develop a deployment capability to offer the North Atlantic Council (NAC) with flexible and highly responsive options to prepare for and deter emerging and unanticipated threats to the Alliance's security.

LANDCOM would be the first of the three solitary component commands to be required to reach Full Operating Capability (FOC) by December 2014, which was the deadline for NATO operations in Afghanistan in support of International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) to conclude and transition to Operation Resolute Support. The headquarters first had to achieve Initial Operating Capability (IOC), defined as 75% of its Peacetime Establishment filled and trained to conduct the majority of their mission essential tasks.


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