This html article is produced from an uncorrected text file through optical character recognition. Prior to 1940 articles all text has been corrected, but from 1940 to the present most still remain uncorrected. Artifacts of the scans are misspellings, out-of-context footnotes and sidebars, and other inconsistencies. Adjacent to each text file is a PDF of the article, which accurately and fully conveys the content as it appeared in the issue. The uncorrected text files have been included to enhance the searchability of our content, on our site and in search engines, for our membership, the research community and media organizations. We are working now to provide clean text files for the entire collection.
The defensive requirements of Southern NATO are complicated by the fact that the land fronts to be defended are not only separated but dissimilar. While, on the one hand, mountain ranges guard part of NATO’s southern flank, Thrace’s flat plains beckon to the Warsaw Pact armored and motorized divisions facing the region. And Turkey's Black Sea beaches must seem especially hospitable to anyone with an amphibious landing capability.
Another important element in the balance of forC"* is that of mobility. With all the fronts we have M defend, and with rapid movement from one front tl| another made so difficult by our geography, we wo#' ^ be forced to rely on in-place forces during initial 1# tilities to hold their positions—which in several caS | lack depth. One has to bear in mind here that # Alliance is defensive in nature. Willy-nilly, NATO h had to resign itself to the inevitability of reach# rather than acting, if hostilities break out, as the pop11 lar terminology of our various strategies ("mass>' retaliation,” "flexible response,” etc.) suggests. ^ point is that it would be no difficult task for 1 Warsaw Pact to concentrate a very sizeable force at ^
Until recently, there has been a tendency both inside and outside NATO circles to speak of Allied Command Europe in terms of its central region, where NATO forces face the bulk of Warsaw Pact ground troops across the border that divides the two Germanys. But the Yom Kippur War of October, 1973, and the recent events in Cyprus with their attendant complications, have served to crystallize attention around the Mediterranean basin, and hence on NATO’s Southern Region. In November, 1973, it was my great privilege to take command of Allied Forces in this area. This article is offered in the hope that it will give the reader some insight into the challenges we face and the prospects for surmounting them as developments continue to unfold.
Allied Forces Southern Europe (AFSouth) is one of the three major commands of Allied Command Europe. It was originally established in June 1951, when its mission was limited to the defense of Italy and the Western Mediterranean. A few months later, with the accession of Greece and Turkey to the North Atlantic Treaty, AFSouth responsibility was expanded to include defense of Italy, Greece, Turkey, and the sea lines of communication throughout the Mediterranean and Black Seas, employing specified land, sea, and air forces of those three countries as well as of the U. S. and United Kingdom. CinCSouth is the only four-star admiral in our Navy with no U. S. hat, reporting solely to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe in his NATO capacity.
The coordination of so many different services from so many different nations is an inherently difficult task. But matters are complicated by the fact that Italy, Greece, and Turkey are geographically separated from one another. Strategically speaking, they can be viewed as islands. This necessitates an intricate system of subordinate commands. For example, ComSixthFleet is a national commander in peacetime who reports to CinCUSNavEur; but when U. S. forces are chopped to NATO he becomes Commander Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe, a Principal Subordinate Commander under CinCSouth. All the other NATO naval units in the Mediterranean fall under Commander Naval Forces Southern Europe, an Italian admiral headquartered in Naples. His command is broken down both geographically and by role, so that he has a maritime air commander (U. S. Navy ComFAirMed in peacetime) a submarine commander (U. S. Navy ComSubFlot Eight in peacetime), and separate commanders for the northeastern Mediterranean (the Turkish CNO), the central Mediterranean, Gibraltar, and so on.
The same kind of situation applies in the air. The Southern Region air commander, a U. S. Air Force lieutenant general, controls our two Allied Tactical Air
Forces through their separate command structures. And on land, responsibility is divided between ComLand South, an Italian general in Northern Italy, and ComLandSouthEast, a U. S. general in Izmir, Turkey- Until now, the latter has been responsible for the land defense of Greece and Turkey, but the Greek announcement of their intention to withdraw from the military structure of the Alliance may eventually cause some modification of his role.
If the organization of Southern NATO is compfi cated, that is because the defensive requirements of the region are equally so. A glance at the map gives a useful clue to this complexity. First, the land fronts to be defended are not only separated but dissimilar. Mountain ranges, it is true, guard much of the borders o northern Italy, northern Greece, and eastern and southeastern Turkey. But in Thrace there are flat plain5 suitable for the movement of armored and motorized units (all the Warsaw Pact divisions facing the Southern Region are one or the other), and the Black S# coast of Turkey offers several beaches where amphibious landings would be feasible.
We must employ our resources efficiently to defend all these areas, the more so because almost everywhere we are at a disadvantage vis-a-vis Warsaw Pact forces- This is not so much the result of sheer numbers, which are roughly comparable on land in most cases, as 0 qualitative differences. Most people are aware of the Soviet emphasis on modernization and sophistication Unfortunately, obsolescence is a continuing problem for NATO, especially in the south which is general!) less industrialized and less affluent than other parts 0 the Alliance. Similarly, the Warsaw Pact is thorough!)’ standardized in equipment and procedures, owiU largely to the influence of Soviet discipline. AFSouth on the other hand, has different sources and generation* of equipment which are by no means always compatr ble. The impact of this situation on such areas v communications, ammunition, and spare parts is sd -
flexibility^ harmonize our procedures, and strengthen °Ur operational readiness.
c Pearly> ‘n the event of aggression, especially if pre- ed by a major concentration of opposing forces, we ^|. & c well have to rely on reinforcements, if the con- s^Ct Were protracted. These would be available from t-tal sources, including SACEur’s strategic reserve. I bfd hardly point out that their timely arrival would absolutely critical to their effectiveness. The same S?P *es to resupply: the Yom Kippur War has under- rcc* the staggering levels of materiel attrition modern Eu Vent'onal warfare can entail. In the case of Southern r°pe, reinforcement and resupply demand open air
particular point along our extensive borders, and ereby increase their numerical advantage at that point many times our defensive forces. Secure inland lines 0 communication and excellent mobility would facilitate this procedure, which could be carried out under e guise of peacetime maneuvers or a combined exer- Clse almost until the moment of invasion. In the past, We ^ave put considerable trust in the hypothesis that any act of aggression would be preceeded by a gradual, > therefore, more or less lengthy deterioration in ^ptornatic relations. This warning time, it was 0ught, ought to give us valuable time to prepare ^urselves against surprise attack. The October 1973 ar m the Middle East gave us pause, however. The ^ aelis had just such a warning time, maintained their tees at a high level of readiness, and yet were still .j, en by surprise when the shooting actually began. e lesson seems clear: whether or not a period of
riSlng political tension occurs before an attack, there is n 7
^ 0 guarantee against surprise. Accordingly, we place
and^ emPbasis on a full schedule of command post
n field training exercises designed to increase our
and sea lines of communication, the former for immediate relief and the latter for longer term support. Our supplies have to endure a kind of double jeopardy since not only do they have to make the passage through the Atlantic to Gibraltar, but they must also pass safely through the various parts of the Mediterranean.
This, of course, is one of the most important implications for NATO of Soviet expansion at sea. Nowhere has that development been more dramatic than in the Mediterranean. Essentially, their large, modern presence here expands their strategic flexibility enormously while it confines our own. This state of affairs arises from two factors: the importance of our sea lines of communication which I have discussed, and our requirement for StrikForSouth (the NATO designation of the U. S. Sixth Fleet) to support the land battle. In a theater where allied airpower is both outnumbered and in some cases obsolescent, sophisticated attack aircraft are a very valuable commodity indeed. An important function of our carrier-based air would be to use its mobility for quick reaction support of a specific area of hostilities. Needless to say, the carriers would have to defend themselves first; so the necessity to neutralize the threat posed by the Soviet Mediterranean naval presence would perforce hamper their support of land defense. At the same time, the defense of our sea lanes naturally becomes more and more complex as the Soviet surface and submarine threat increases. The military and psychological contribution to NATO by the U. S. Sixth Fleet as StrikForSouth is clearly a major factor in our defensive capability. It is to be hoped that the U. S. Navy will be able to make the necessary arrangements to permit the continuous maintenance of two carrier task forces in being in the Mediterranean.
I emphasize that that threat is not limited to the actual Mediterranean presence per se. The Soviet Navy has a formidable fleet in the Black Sea which can be used to reinforce their units in the Mediterranean. The Montreux Convention requires users of the Turkish Straits to declare in advance what ships will be in transit at any given time. But the simple expedient of always making much higher declarations than they actually use permits the Soviet Union an open option to shift seapower from the Black Sea to the Mediter-
Royal Marines and U. S. Marines conduct an assault landing at Saros Bay, Turkey during an annual NATO exercise designed to test the effectiveness of amphibious operations in the Turkish and Hellenic Thrace area.
ranean in large numbers whenever the need arises. Their naval response to the 1973 Middle East crisis demonstrated their ability to double, if necessary, their forces in the Mediterranean. It is not difficult to see that, in the Mediterranean, perhaps more than anywhere else, seapower is an investment that offers the Soviet Union handsome returns in strategic options at low risk. Our seapower is essential for defense, for the reasons mentioned; theirs amounts almost to a dispensable luxury.
These, then, are some of the specific issues we are endeavoring to meet in our defensive planning. It would be far simpler if they were the only considerations we had to account for. But the fact is that the purely military situation exists in an exceedingly complicated international ambiance which affects it directly. Apart from NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the Mediterranean basin is chock-a-block with nations of diverse political hues. Indeed, I suspect there is no region on earth of similar size which incorporates such heterogeneity—politically, militarily, culturally, socially, economically, and ideologically. This area is the nexus of three continents—an international vortex whose only immutable characteristic seems to be its unpredictability. Of necessity, the military and diplomatic postures of our neighbors exercise a direct influence on our policies. Accordingly, it seems worthwhile to take a brief look at some specific cases. Space prohibits a discussion of all but some of the highlights-
Both Italy and Greece border on Yugoslavia, which fronts on most of the Adriatic. This in itself is enough to make that nation’s future a vital concern for uS- Nobody knows for certain what will transpire when Marshal Tito leaves the scene, but Yugoslav alignment in a context of East-West hostilities would clearly have a serious effect on land, sea, and air operations.
In the western Mediterranean, France remains 3 signatory of the North Atlantic Treaty, although she withdrew from the military structure of the Alliance in 1967. French conventional air and seapower are among the most modern and powerful in the region> not to mention her nuclear capability. Her cooperation would make an enormous difference in an emergency* as would Spain’s.
Along the southern littoral, the north African state* are of special importance for several reasons. Some have close ties with NATO members; some are substantial oil producers; several influence and are influenced by developments in the Middle East; and others have ample air and naval facilities which, if made available to the Warsaw Pact, could constitute an entirely nev' threat to our forces from the south.
The Middle East itself, of course, has a potential f°f volatility still fresh in everyone’s memory. Strictly speaking, the Arab-Israeli confrontation falls outsit NATO’s area of responsibility. But various individual allies as well as the Soviet Union have firmly vested interests there that we cannot afford to ignore. If noth'
'ng else, oil has become a subject of the highest priority 0r everyone. The European Allies import an even igher percentage of their petroleum supply than does r e United States. Until a lasting settlement is reached ln the Middle East we may have to exist under an economic sword of Damocles. And it is worth adding at even with final peace among the Arabs and Israelis, e protection of our vulnerable tanker routes will ternain a serious problem. The Soviet presence in the n ian Ocean, facilitated by an open Suez Canal, prom- 1Ses to offer enduring concern.
.> atmosphere of international uncertainty pro- fo CS ^arsaw ^act wirh numerous opportunities r politico-military initiatives around the periphery of O- These opportunities are likely to become more attractive and feasible as the balance of sheer military Power moves gradually in the Pact’s favor. And I have n° doubt their leaders are aware of this. While Soviet rni. dary programs move forward steadily, the Allies find 'ncreasingly difficult to expand their own defensive Capabilities. This, after all, is not surprising. Inflationary £ess-es and important social programs in competition priority in national budgets all conduce to a con- ctlon, if anything, of military spending. Twenty-five y^ars of peace go a long way towards blunting the edge aPprehension which gave birth to NATO almost a fieUeration ago. Everyone quite rightly hopes that our pectations for lasting detente will not be disap- ^Unted. And if they are ultimately fulfilled, expendi- of wealth and energy on defense against the to 7- Pact may in future appear unjustified. It is easy °se sight of the fact that without the physical th Uri*^ Provided by the Alliance, coexistence between great power blocs would be a chimera. No nation est ^r°UP nations comes to accommodate the inter-
^ °f another when it is unnecessary to do so. ^rsonally, I am more apprehensive than some about part dbood of an outright military initiative on the Su^ °four opponents at some time in the future, given 0£ Clent superiority of their forces. But for the sake argument, let us concede that a resort to hostilities Th n0t ^Sure in their calculus of strategic options. ar^C* act still remains that true detente and cooperation one W more bkely to arise among equals than when party has the potential for coercion.
Allied unity has traditionally been the shield against our potential opponents’ acquisition of that potential. Our defensive deterrent has retained its credibility in large part because of our demonstrated solidarity. There is no point in pretending that this solidarity has not been damaged by the most recent Cyprus conflict. There is equally little purpose in attempting to assign blame for what is, after all, only the most recent chapter in a long and as yet unfinished chronicle of relations between two great nations. But we must face the reality that Greece has announced her intention to withdraw her forces from the military structure of NATO. The implications of this withdrawal for the Southern Region nations and for the whole North Atlantic community remain to be seen at this time of writing. But it has focussed our attention on the potential divisiveness of internal friction among our members. NATO is a free organization of sovereign states, not subject to the suppression of dissent we have seen elsewhere in the world. It can only remain so. The irony is that in order to present the most effective collective defense, we must rely on mutual cooperation and harmony.
Ultimately, however, we can take encouragement from the fact that there is still, as there has always been, a broad area of common interest shared by all members of NATO: the protection of our national integrity and the freedom of our societies. That goal is as viable now as it has ever been, and as durable.
Admiral Johnston, a 1939 graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy, has had ten commands at sea in the combatant forces. He saw action in both World War II and the Korean War. While in command of the destroyer escort USS Flaherty he participated in several successful actions against German submarines, including the famous engagement with and subsequent capture of the German U-Boat 505 off the northwest coast of Africa, the first man-of-war to be captured on the high seas since 1815. In the Korean War he commanded the destroyer Beatty. Ashore he has served on the personal staffs of the SecDef, the Chairman of the JCS, the Chief of Naval Personnel, and CinCPac. During the past ten years, Admiral Johnston has served as Commander, DesRon 26, from October 1962 to November 1963; Assistant to the Director, Navy Program Planning, Office of the CNO from November 1963 to February 1965; a member of the SecNav’s Task Force on Personnel Retention from February 1965 to January 1966; Commander, Naval Base, Newport, R. I. from January 1966 to March 1968; Commander, CruDesFlot Ten from March 1968 to January 1969 and as Chief of Legislative Affairs, Office of the SecNav from January 1969 to November 1971. He then became Naval Inspector General and, two years later, Commander- in-Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe.
------------------------------------- Is The Pope A Catholic?
Shortly after World War II, the Canadian cruiser Ontario was exercising with a U. S. Navy task group in the Hawaiian area. The captain of the Canadian cruiser was proud of the performance of his ship and, thus, when he received a signal from the American flagship inquiring if he could make 32 knots, he flashed back: "Interrogative: Ahead or Astern?”
Captain J. M. Thornton, CAF
(The Naval Institute will pay $23.00 for each anecdote published in the Proceedings.)