On June 21st 1951, USS MOUNT OLYMPUS was at anchor in the Bay of Naples. That morning; the four star flag of Admiral Robert Carney, newly appointed Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH), was hoisted high above his new flagship. Admiral Carney read aloud a letter of appointment from Dwight D. Eisenhower, concluding with these words "Our duty is to protect and safeguard freedom. We accept this duty with confidence, well conscious of our responsibilities." A NATO operational headquarters was established in Naples.
The Lion of Saint Mark that appears on our badges to this day was selected soon after. At a flag dedication ceremony, Adm. Carney explained: "The insignia of the flag is that of the Lion of Saint Mark, a design old and honored in the Mediterranean, with the design of power - holding open 'the book of peace.’ However, the Lion has a sword poised, indicating that he is willing to maintain that peace."
An anchored warship in the shadow of Vesuvius was the first AFSOUTH Headquarters. In September 1951, AFSOUTH moved to an apartment block in Posillipo, its first brick and mortar HQ. In 1954 AFSOUTH moved to Bagnoli. The Bagnoli complex was built in the 1930s and had many former uses, notably as a home for young people in need. In 2004 AFSOUTH transformed into Allied Joint Force Command Naples, and our legacy continued. In 2012 JFC Naples moved here, to our magnificent modern building in Lago Patria.
Looking back over the past 67 years, NATO in Naples has had many homes: warship, apartment building, former home for young people, and now, a state-of-the-art, purpose built HQ. It is clear that bricks, mortar, and steel are only a small part of what defines our Command. The heart of this operational HQ is its people. This is what NATO is all about—dedicated women and men, civilian and military, from many nations and on both sides of an ocean who work together and promise to defend one another.
In 1951 there were 12 flags in front of the HQ. Now 29 Allies’ colours fly proudly. General Scaparrotti’s presence today for the SACEUR Commanders’ Conference demonstrates we are an operational headquarters that is essential to the Alliance. Every day we continue the original mission: protect and safeguard freedom, from our base in Bella Napoli.
Happy Birthday Joint Force Command Naples!