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4 - Greece & Turkey Enter the Alliance


The first major change in the NATO posture in the Mediterranean was the welcoming of Greece and Turkey into the Alliance on 18 February 1952. By the terms of the basic treaty, this meant recognition that these two European states were "in a position to further the principles of the treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area," which, despite its name, included the entire Mediterranean as well. The admission of Greece and Turkey extended eastward the boundaries of AFSOUTH to include all of the Mediterranean and Black Seas and Greece and Turkey landmasses.

On 8 September of the same year, a new land command was established for the eastern areas, the Allied Land Forces Southeastern Europe (LANDSOUTHEAST), whose headquarters were activated in Izmir (Turkey). The area of responsibility stretched from the Caucasus to the western shore of Greece and provided security for 35 million people. A subordinate headquarters, the Thessaloniki (Greece) Advanced Command Post was also activated. The first Commander was Lt. Gen. William G. Wymann, U.S. Army. Both Greece and Turkey committed most of their armies to NATO. The six Southern Region Nations (France, Greece, Italy, Turkey, U.K. and U.S.) were all represented on the LANDSOUTHEAST staff.

The following year, on 14 October 1953, the 6th Allied Tactical Air Force was also established in Izmir, commanded by Maj. Gen. R.E.L. Easton, USAF, 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. In terms of actual forces this meant two Greek wings and four Turkish fighter-bomber groups of F-84 aircraft, plus some B-26A Mosquitoes.

While the Land and Air Commands were building up their own internal organisations, there was still some confusion about Adm. Carney's maritime responsibilities. As mentioned earlier, he was also in charge of the Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe (NAVSOUTH), a command which was not yet independently operational. It was not until December 1951, when French and Italian sub-area naval commands were established in the Mediterranean, that Allied planners found it necessary to set up a separate naval headquarters.

During 1952, several factors influenced the evolution of the allied maritime structure in the Mediterranean. These included: the presence of significant British naval forces in the Mediterranean (these forces were not under Adm. Carney's command but it was assumed they would be available if and when an emergency arose); the accession of Greece and Turkey to NATO; the assumption of Command of the British Mediterranean Fleet by Adm. Louis Mountbatten and the relinquishment of command as SACEUR by Gen. Eisenhower. By the end of 1952, it was proposed to appoint an Allied Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces Mediterranean (AFMED). He would be a British officer, reporting directly to SACEUR. Another naval command, consisting of the NATO earmarked U.S. Sixth Fleet, would be under an American Adm., responsible to AFSOUTH.

The Mediterranean was divided into areas for the exercise of those functions which were of a local and national nature. The commanders of those areas were responsible to AFMED but were to be under national authorities for parallel national tasks. Agreements concerning the establishment of a French area in the Western Mediterranean and an Italian area covering the approaches to Italy were to remain valid, but within AFMED instead of AFSOUTH. A Gibraltar area was also established, as well as areas in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean.

The AFSOUTH commander remained responsible for the land and air forces, and for the Sixth Fleet, in the new capacity of Allied Naval Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe (STRIKFORSOUTH) whose headquarters was established in Naples on 15 March 1953. The new structure became operational on the same day of the activation in Malta of AFMED, commanded by Adm. Mountbatten, directly subordinate to SACEUR, and charged with the conduct of naval operations - other than those of STRIKFORSOUTH - in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. AFMED was also charged with responsibilities for mine warfare, submarine and anti-submarine operations in this area. At the same time, Adm. Carney was relieved from his NAVSOUTH duties. Finally, air defence remained a responsibility of AIRSOUTH over the whole Mediterranean area.

AIRSOUTH headquarters was co-located with AFSOUTH in May 1953. Its organisation was already well defined, with the Sixth Allied Tactical Air Force (6ATAF) being operational and a similar structure being built in Italy. AFSOUTH included at that time four principal subordinate commands: one air, two land and one naval.

A next important event for the Alliance was the accession of Germany in 1955, almost coinciding with the creation of the Warsaw Pact. The 5th Allied Tactical Air Force (5ATAF) was established in Vicenza, Italy on 1 January 1956, completing the missing link between the 4ATAF in Central Europe and 6ATAF in the southeast.

Finally, to support land defence in the region, the U.S. agreed to establish a task force of some 10,000 personnel in Northern Italy. The U.S. Army "Southern European Task Force" (SETAF) was born on 25 October 1955.

Initially located at Camp Darby, a main logistic base located near Livorno, the SETAF headquarters was moved to Verona and eventually to Vicenza; while the strength of the force was significantly reduced with the Italians receiving the equipment from the disbanded American units. Since 1973 an airborne battalion team has been stationed in Italy and SETAF assigned the mission of readying and deploying this units for Allied Command Europe employment, as part of its Mobile Force (Land).

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