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3 - The Birth of AFSOUTH


In May 1951 Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote a letter to the Standing Group proposing the appointment of U.S. Adm. Robert Bostwick Carney as Southern Commander, with headquarters in Italy. As a consequence, Naples was a quite obvious choice, in order to allow Carney - who had the national duty of Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, with headquarters in London - to use fleet support for his new headquarters. In a press conference in Paris, on 19 June 1951, Gen. Eisenhower formally announced the appointment of Carney, with effect the same day.

A communiqué' stated that the location for his allied headquarters was to be agreed upon by Italian authorities. His mission, as Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH), was to defend Southern Europe; but without interfering with the Western Mediterranean commanders, nor with Greece, Turkey and Yugoslavia while initiatives were in progress to consider admission of these countries into the Alliance. Adm. Carney would have also assumed duties as Commander, Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe (COMNAVSOUTH), with a separate staff.

Carney's area of responsibility, therefore, extended from the Western Mediterranean - except the Balearic Islands and Malta - to a line in the Adriatic from Trieste (Italy) to Cape Matapan and to the Tunisian waters. Responsibility to protect the sea lines between France, Corsica and Algeria remained with the French. Similarly, the Italian Navy was in charge of protecting the communications between Italy and her islands.

With the appointment of CINCSOUTH, two other nominations were announced: Italian Army Lt. Gen. Maurizio Lazzaro De Castiglioni was to be Commander, Allied Land Forces Southern Europe; and Maj. Gen. David M. Schlatter, USAF, Commander, Allied Air Forces Southern Europe. Both would be subordinated to Carney. The same communiqué stated that the above decisions had been taken "in the light of the traditional interests and responsibilities of France, Italy and Great Britain, and without any prejudice about the institution of a command system which may be adopted for the whole Mediterranean theatre."

Adm. Carney flew to Rome, where he met the Defence Minister, Mr. Randolfo Pacciardi, and the Foreign Minister, Mr. Carlo Sforza. The morning after, 21 June 1951, he raised his flag on the U.S.S. Mount Olympus, at anchor in the Bay of Naples. During a brief ceremony on board his flagship, Carney read the letter of appointment received from Gen. Eisenhower. He concluded by saying, "Our duty is to protect and safe-guard freedom. We accept this duty with confidence, well conscious of our responsibilities." A twenty-one gun salute from the ship was echoed by the same number from the Italian Navy artillery, marking the marriage between Naples and AFSOUTH -- a marriage blessed by the Italian Premier, Alcide De Gasperi, on whom Carney paid a call the same day.

Adm. Carney had, as he said, great responsibilities, but no organisations to accomplish his mission. The only force available to him for combat was the U.S. Sixth Fleet, put under his operational control as COMNAVSOUTH. Together with his two designated subordinate commanders, his first task was to build a structure able to co-ordinate and control also the other available forces: what remained of the Italian armed forces and some French forces.

The first stone laid in his organisation was the activation, in Verona, of the Headquarters Allied Land Forces Southern Europe (LANDSOUTH), on 10 July 1951. Some three infantry divisions and three brigades were the only forces available to this command to defend northeastern Italy.

Next was the air headquarters, Allied Air Forces Southern Europe (AIRSOUTH), set up in a temporary facility in Florence, on 5 August. Italian, American, French and British personnel staffed this headquarters. Forces available included an Air Tactical Group of the Italian Air Force, equipped with F-47 Thunderbolts and F-51 Mustangs. The group was later dissolved in November 1951 and the 56th Tactical Air Force was established in Vicenza, under the operational control of AIRSOUTH. Its strength consisted of 132 aircraft.

Adm. Carney and his staff could not co-ordinate the growing organisation from the operational rooms of a ship. A temporary home - in an apartment building - was found in Naples, on the hill of Posillipo; and the headquarters opened on 1 September 1951. A symbol of the new Allied command was also selected, the "Lion of Saint Mark", the traditional symbol associated with the ancient Republic of Venice. At the flag dedication ceremony, later that year, Adm. Carney explained the reasons for his choice. "The insignia of the flag is that of the Lion of Saint Mark, a design old and honoured 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."

From the new AFSOUTH headquarters it was possible to enjoy a view of the beautiful Neapolitan landscape, but that could not compensate for the limited dimensions of the building. During the following year a suitable facility for the permanent headquarters was identified nearby: a complex originally built in the Bagnoli district of Naples to provide a home for young people in need. The facility, built in 1930's, was occupied by the Italian War Ministry until 1942 when it was turned over to a Fascist Youth Organisation and, later, to the German troops until 1943.
 
 
 
The Germans were replaced by the Allies from 1943 - 1945. Between 1946 and 1951 the facility was used by the International Refugee Organisation to house displaced persons. Very little of it remained in good shape, and it took nearly two years to renovate the facilities, which belong to a foundation of the Bank of Naples. Cost for the renovation was covered approximately one-third by NATO and two- thirds by the Italian Government. Relocation of AFSOUTH to Bagnoli started in January 1953, and the new complex was officially inaugurated on 4 April 1954, on the fifth anniversary of NATO, by Admiral William M. Fechteler, who had replaced Adm. Carney in August 1953. The first CINCSOUTH was Chief of US Naval Operations until 1955. He died on 25 June 1990.

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