Supreme Allied Commander

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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

General Dwight D. 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 for 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 Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) was held by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. During the Allied occupation of Japan following World War II, MacArthur held the title of Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP).

The term came into use again with the formation of NATO, at which point in 1951, 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.


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 (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 Jean-Paul Paloméros of the French Air Force,[1] who succeeded General Stéphane Abrial. Abrial was 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.

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