Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) is the central command of NATO military forces. It is located at Casteau, north of the Belgian city of Mons. From 1951 SHAPE was the headquarters of operational forces in the European theatre (Allied Command Europe, ACE), but since 2003 SHAPE has been the headquarters of Allied Command Operations (ACO) controlling all allied operations worldwide.
SHAPE retained its traditional name with reference to Europe for legal reasons although the geographical scope of its activities was extended in 2003. At that time, NATO's command in Lisbon, historically part of the Atlantic command, was reassigned to ACO. The commanding officer of Allied Command Operations has also retained the title "Supreme Allied Commander Europe" (SACEUR), and continues to be a U.S. four-star general officer or flag officer who also serves as Commander, U.S. European Command.
An integrated military structure for NATO was first established after the Korean War raised questions over the strength of Europe's defences against a Soviet attack. The first choice for commander in Europe was the popular and respected U.S. Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower, as he had successfully directed the Allied landings and subsequent march into Germany during World War II, amid many inter-Allied controversies over the proper conduct of the campaign in the western theatre. On December 19, 1950 the North Atlantic Council announced the appointment of General Eisenhower as the first SACEUR. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery moved over from the predecessor Western European Defence Organisation to become the first Deputy SACEUR, who would serve until 1958. Volume 3 of Nigel Hamilton's Life of Montgomery of Alamein gives a good account of Montgomery's exacting, tireless approach to improving the command's readiness, which however caused a good deal of bruised feelings in doing so. In establishing the command, the first NATO planners drew extensively on WEDO plans and personnel.
General Eisenhower arrived in Paris on January 1, 1951 and quickly set to work with a small group of planners to devise a structure for the new European command. The Planning Group worked in the Hotel Astoria in central Paris while construction of a permanent facility began at Rocquencourt, just west of the city, at Camp Voluceau.
In December 1950 it was announced that the forces initially to come under General Eisenhower's command were to be the Seventh United States Army in Germany, the British Army of the Rhine, with 2nd & 7th Armoured Divisions, to be bolstered by 11th Armoured Division and a further infantry division, three French divisions in Germany and Austria, the Danish, Belgian, and the Independent Norwegian Brigades in Western Germany, and the American and British garrisons in Austria, Trieste, and Berlin. Four days after Eisenhower's arrival in Paris, on 5 January 1951, the Italian defence minister, Signor Pacciardi, announced that three Italian divisions were to be formed as Italy's 'initial contribution to the Atlantic army,' and that these divisions would also come under Eisenhower's control.
On April 2, 1951 General Eisenhower signed the activation order for Allied Command Europe and its headquarters at SHAPE. On the same day ACE’s subordinate headquarters in Northern and Central Europe were activated, with the Southern Region following in June. By 1954 ACE's forces consisted of Allied Forces Northern Europe, at Oslo, Allied Forces Central Europe (Fontainebleau), Allied Forces Southern Europe (Paris/Naples) and Allied Forces Mediterranean at Malta.
The initial plans saw the defence of Western Europe from a Soviet invasion resting heavily on nuclear weapons, with conventional forces merely acting as a 'tripwire.' The policy enunciated in Military Committee document MC14/1, issued in December 1952, saw the defence of Germany as principally a delaying action, to allow a line of resistance to be established along the lines of the Ijssel and Rhine rivers. The conventional forces would attempt to hold this line while the allied strategic air forces defeated the Soviets and their allies by destroying their economy and infrastructure. From 1967 however, under 'flexible response,' the aim became to build up conventional forces so that, if possible, nuclear weapons might not be needed. However it was made clear that first use of nuclear weapons might be necessary if the conventional defences were being overwhelmed. Eventually SACEUR was allocated planning control of a small number of US and all the British ballistic missile submarines, and some 7,000 tactical nuclear weapons were deployed in Europe.
Belgium became the host nation for both NATO's political headquarters and SHAPE. General Lyman Lemnitzer, SACEUR at the time, had hoped that SHAPE could be located near to NATO Headquarters, as had been the case in Paris, but the Belgian authorities decided that SHAPE should be located at least 50 kilometres from Brussels, NATO’s new location, because SHAPE was a major wartime military target. The Belgian government offered Camp Casteau, a 2 km² Belgian Army summer training camp near Mons, which was an area in serious need of additional economic investment. In September 1966, NATO agreed that Belgium should host SHAPE at Casteau. SHAPE closed its facility at Rocquencourt near Paris on 30 March 1967, and the next day held a ceremony to mark the opening of the new headquarters at Casteau.
The drawdown of the British Mediterranean Fleet, the military difficulties of the politically-decided command structure, and the withdrawal of the French from the military command structure forced a rearrangement of the command arrangements in the southern region. Allied Forces Mediterranean was disbanded on 5 June 1967, and all forces in the south and the Mediterranean assigned to AFSOUTH in Naples. This left SHAPE and Allied Command Europe with three commands: AFNORTH covering Norway and Denmark, AFCENT most of Germany, and AFSOUTH Italy, Turkey, Greece, and the rest of the southern region.
After much discussion within the Alliance, ACE's three-command system was reduced to two commands after 1996, one for north of the Alps and one for south of the Alps. The United States had wished to retain three commands, arguing that 'the span of control might be excessive.' It was feared by Pentagon officials at the time that if the two-command structure was adopted, some functions at the MSC level would have had to be moved 'downward' in the new structure. But while the United States eventually had to give in on a reduction to two commands, it was successful in that a European officer was not placed in charge of the new southern command (now Allied Joint Force Command Naples), a move which France and Germany supported. Despite French President Jacques Chirac exchanging letters with Bill Clinton personally over the issue in September-October 1997, the United States stood firm and today an American admiral remains in charge of the Naples command.
An early retirement again disrupted the Mons headquarters in 2000 as General Wesley Clark was shunted aside in favor of Air Force general Joseph Ralston. Although the move was publicly characterized as a purely administrative move necessitated by Clark's approaching retirement and the lack of an open four-star slot for the highly respected Ralston [a reality which would have compelled him to either accept a temporary demotion to two-star rank or retire from the service], Clark's relief has been often seen as a slap at the general on the part of a Pentagon leadership that had been very much at odds with him during the Kosovo war the previous spring.
In 2003, a French flag was set up in the SHAPE headquarters in Mons following the return, after almost forty years, of French military officers to the HQ. Fifteen French military officers, including General Jean-Jacques Bart, work there, of a total amount of 1,100 personnel. They are however considered as "inserted," and not as "integrated," as they can not be ordered to move without previous French approval.
There are three main headquarters under Allied Command Operations:
In the early 2000s, a new category of forces, the NATO Force Structure, was created, principally to improve the flexibility and reach of land forces. Six "Rapidly Deployable Corps Headquarters, two lower readiness land headquarters, and three naval headquarters are part of this structure. Two other naval headquarters, contributed by France and the USA, are also affiliated to the structure.
Certification of the following High Readiness Forces (Maritime) Headquarters took place in 2004:
Naval Striking and Support Force NATO (STRIKFORNATO), homeported at Gaeta, Italy, whose lead nation is the USA, is commanded by Commander United States Sixth Fleet, and is also part of the NATO Force Structure. STRIKFORNATO is the only command capable of leading an Expanded Task Force. The final formation is Commander French Maritime Forces, initially aboard the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle but now aboard the amphibious ship Mistral.
Island Commander, Iceland, remains in existence as a detachment of HQ ACO.
As more capable rapid reaction forces were established, earlier 'fire brigades,' including the Allied Command Europe (ACE) Mobile Force - Land (AMF(L), were disbanded; AMF(L) was disbanded on 30 or 31 October 2002.
In addition to this Allied Command Operations has at its disposal standing forces such as:
Airlift support for SACEUR's travels is provided by the USAF's 309th Airlift Squadron at Chièvres Air Base, Belgium.
|Name||Photo||Branch||Term began||Term ended|
|1.||General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower||U.S. Army||April 2, 1951||May 30, 1952|
|2.||General Matthew Ridgway||U.S. Army||May 30, 1952||July 11, 1953|
|3.||General Alfred Gruenther||U.S. Army||July 1, 1953||November 20, 1956|
|4.||General Lauris Norstad||U.S. Air Force||November 20, 1956||January 1, 1963|
|5.||General Lyman Lemnitzer||U.S. Army||January 1, 1963||July 1, 1969|
|6.||General Andrew Goodpaster||U.S. Army||July 1, 1969||December 15, 1974|
|7.||General Alexander M. Haig, Jr.||U.S. Army||December 15, 1974||July 1, 1979|
|8.||General Bernard W. Rogers||U.S. Army||July 1, 1979||June 26, 1987|
|9.||General John Galvin||U.S. Army||June 26, 1987||June 23, 1992|
|10.||General John Shalikashvili||U.S. Army||June 23, 1992||October 22, 1993|
|11.||General George Joulwan||U.S. Army||October 22, 1993||July 11, 1997|
|12.||General Wesley Clark||U.S. Army||July 11, 1997||May 3, 2000|
|13.||General Joseph Ralston||U.S. Air Force||May 3, 2000||January 17, 2003|
|14.||General James L. Jones||U.S. Marine Corps||January 17, 2003||December 07, 2006|
|15.||General Bantz J. Craddock||U.S. Army||December 07, 2006|
The position of deputy head of Allied Command Europe, since 2003 deputy head of Allied Command Operations has been held by the following officers. From January 1978 until June 1993 there were two Deputy SACEURs, one British and one German, but from July 1993 this reverted to a single Deputy SACEUR.
|Name||Branch||Term began||Term ended|
|1.||Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery||British Army||April 2, 1951||September 23, 1958|
|2.||General Sir Richard Gale||British Army||September 23, 1958||September 22, 1960|
|3.||General Sir Hugh Stockwell||British Army||September 22, 1960||January 1, 1964|
|4.||Marshal of the RAF Sir Thomas Pike||Royal Air Force||January 1, 1964||March 1, 1967|
|5.||General Sir Robert Bray||British Army||March 1, 1967||December 1, 1970|
|6.||General Sir Desmond Fitzpatrick||British Army||December 1, 1970||November 12, 1973|
|7.||General Sir John Mogg||British Army||November 12, 1973||March 12, 1976|
|8.||General Sir Harry Tuzo||British Army||March 12, 1976||November 2, 1978|
|9.||Lt General G Schmueckle||German Army||January 3, 1978||April 1, 1980|
|10.||General Sir Jack Harman||British Army||November 2, 1978||April 9, 1981|
|11.||Admiral G Luther||German Navy||April 1, 1980||April 1, 1982|
|12.||Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Terry||Royal Air Force||April 9, 1981||July 16, 1984|
|13.||General G Kiessling||German Army||April 1, 1982||April 2, 1984|
|14.||General H J Mack||German Army||April 2, 1984||October 1, 1987|
|15.||General Sir Edward Burgess||British Army||July 16, 1984||June 26, 1987|
|16.||General Sir John Akehurst||British Army||June 26, 1987||January 17, 1990|
|17.||General E Eimler||German Air Force||October 1, 1987||October 2, 1990|
|18.||General Sir Brian Kenny||British Army||January 17, 1990||April 5, 1993|
|19.||General D Clauss||German Army||October 2, 1990||July 1, 1993|
|20.||General Sir John Waters||British Army||April 5, 1993||December 12, 1994|
|21.||General Sir Jeremy MacKenzie||British Army||December 12, 1994||November 30, 1998|
|22.||General Sir Rupert Smith||British Army||November 30, 1998||September 17 2001|
|23.||General Dieter Stöckmann||German Army||September 17 2001||September 18 2002|
|24.||Admiral Rainer Feist||German Navy||September 18 2002||October 2004|
|25.||General Sir John Reith||British Army||October 2004||October 2007|
|26.||General Sir John McColl||British Army||October 2007||incumbent|