Supreme Allied Commander is the title held by the most senior commander within certain multinational military alliances. It originated as a term used by the Western Allies during World War II, and is currently used only within NATO.
World War II
Dwight Eisenhower served as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force (SCAEF) for the Battle of Normandy during World War II. The Allied Mediterranean theatre's Commander-in-Chief, Allied Force, the American Commander-in-Chief South West Pacific and Commander-in-Chief Pacific Ocean Areas also functioned as de facto supreme commanders. These commanders reported to the Combined Chiefs of Staff, although in the case of the American commanders in the Pacific and SACSEA, the relevant national command authorities of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Chiefs of Staff Committee had responsibility of the main conduct of the war in the theatre of operations.
General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower had the highest profile of the supreme commanders. He served successively as the Allied Mediterranean theatre's Commander in Chief, Allied Force and then as European theatre's Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force (SCAEF). Eisenhower was succeeded in the Mediterranean by his former deputy, Field Marshal Henry Maitland Wilson, who was given the title Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean. Wilson was succeeded by Field Marshal Harold Alexander, who continued in charge of allied forces until the end of the war. The post of Supreme Commander South East Asia Command (SACSEA) was occupied throughout most of its existence by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. The post of the American Commander-in-Chief South West Pacific was held by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.
Following the end of the war, the term came into use again with the formation of NATO, at which point Eisenhower again found himself as Supreme Allied Commander.
The NATO structure is divided into two commands, one for operations and one for transformation. Each has a Supreme Allied Commander as highest-ranking military officer.
- Allied Command Operations (ACO) is located at SHAPE, Mons, Belgium. It is headed by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), a U.S. four-star general or admiral with the dual-hatted role of heading U.S. European Command. (For legal reasons SACEUR has retained the traditional title including Europe although the responsibilities were extended to all allied operations in 2003).
- Allied Command Transformation (ACT) is located in Norfolk, Virginia. It is headed by the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), a four-star general or admiral. This position is currently held by French Air Force General Jean-Paul Paloméros.
Until June 2003, the operational structure of NATO was divided into "Europe" and "Atlantic". Correspondingly the commanders were known as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT).
The Supreme Commander has always been an American, with a deputy officer from another NATO member, though only British and Germans have held the post. The first SACEUR (1951-1952) was General Dwight Eisenhower. The current[update] (since 2013) Commander is General Philip M. Breedlove (Air Force), who succeeded Admiral James G. Stavridis (Navy). All who have held the position appear on the list of Supreme Allied Commanders Europe.
In June 2003, the SACLANT organisation was decommissioned and Allied Command Transformation was established. This is a transformational command, intended to reshape the NATO command structure to respond to rapidly changing world situations and technology. The commander of the organization is General Stéphane Abrial of the French Air Force. Abrial is the first non-American to hold a supreme commander role within NATO. The headquarters of ACT is at the former SACLANT headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, USA.
- Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
- Allied Command Transformation
- Headquarters Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps
- Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force
- Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Occupied Japan
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