On a Norwegian island 165 miles inside the Arctic Circle, engineers are blasting an airfield out of rock. In Balikesir, where two years ago Turks welcomed their first U.S.-made jets by sacrificing a sheep. Turkish pilots stand ready to “scramble” whenever the radar indicates enemy aircraft. Both outposts, and with them an immense array of armies, navies, and air fleets, are joined together in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, history’s greatest peacetime military alliance.
NATO-land is 14 nations with 384 million people, whose governments have agreed that an armed attack on one is an attack on all. Linked with the 14 by a variety of aid agreements and special arrangements are Spain. Yugoslavia and French North Africa.
From 14 thin divisions and 900 aged aircraft in 1949. NATO strength has grown to: 7,000,000 soldiers, among them nearly five British and better than five U.S. divisions stationed in West Germany; 5 000 tactical aircraft, most of them jets, on 160 airfields: batteries of U.S. atomic cannon and stockpiles of Matador guided missiles; twelve national navies; a vast trelliswork of communications, pipelines, storage dumps, officer-training schools. The immense martial array is controlled by three main international commands: SACLANT (for Atlantic convoy routes), CHANCOM (for the English Channel) and SACEUR (for Europe and the Mediterranean). Behind it lies the long-range strategic air power of the U.S. Strategic Air Command and Britain’s Bomber Command. The bomber force, with its necklace of offensive air bases from Iceland to Iraq, is not directly committed to NATO, but it is ready and certain to strike should NATO be attacked.
“Along a 4.000-mile perimeter,” says U.S. General Alfred M. Gruenther Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, “we have developed a shield.” But it is not enough. To fill the gap in the shield German reinforcements are indispensable. Last week in London, the allies agreed to admit West Germany as NATO’s 15th member.
TIME, 11 October 1954