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After reading this BBC article about the new SACEUR, General Philip Breedlove, United States Air Force, it occurred to me that SACEUR has always been an American officer.

Supreme Allied Commander Europe (In order of appointment)

  1. Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. Army

  2. General Matthew Ridgway, U.S. Army

  3. General Alfred Gruenther, US. Army

  4. General Lauris Norstad, U.S. Air Force

  5. General Lyman Lemnitzer, U.S. Army

  6. General Andrew Goodpaster, U.S. Army

  7. General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., U.S. Army

  8. General Bernard W. Rogers, U.S. Army

  9. General John Galvin, U.S. Army

  10. General John Shalikashvili, U.S. Army

  11. General George Joulwan, U.S. Army

  12. General Wesley Clark, U.S. Army

  13. General Joseph Ralston, U.S. Air Force

  14. General James L. Jones, U.S. Marine Corps

  15. General Bantz J. Craddock, U.S. Army

  16. Admiral James G. Stavridis, U.S. Navy

  17. General Philip M.Breedlove, U.S. Air Force

Further research showed that 19 of the Deputy SACEUR have been British with the remainder being German.

Having looked on the website of SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) the reason for SACEUR always being American is explained as:

  1. The United States remains the strongest military power within the Alliance.
  2. Having an American officer in charge of the Alliance's military operations symbolises the continuing commitment of the United States to the defence of Europe and reassures those European nations concerned about potential threats to their security.
  3. Nuclear weapons remain the ultimate weapon of deterrence for the Alliance, and because the bulk of these weapons come from the United States, it is important to have an American officer in command.

Side Note: To balance the leading role played by Americans in the command structure, other key NATO positions have been reserved for non-Americans.

Source: SHAPE

This explains the reasons relatively clearly, but it seems a bit like "We have the most and biggest guns so we're in charge" kinda thing. What I'd like to know is:

When NATO was originally formed was there any resistance to the setting of the precedent that the President of the United States nominated SACEUR, and that SACEUR would always be American?

Where there any political reasons for SACEUR being American beyond the Americans wanting to retain control of a force that heavily comprised of their troops and wanting to retain tactical control of their nuclear weaponry?

Why is it that only British and German officers have served as his Deputy? and who chooses the Deputy SACEUR?

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Interestingly, Jean-Paul Paloméros (French) is commanding the Allied Command Transformation (the organization that succeeded SACLANT, the "Atlantic" equivalent to SACEUR). –  Yannis Rizos Jul 4 '13 at 15:26
Having just looked that up, the precedent of having a US Officer in overall command and a British/Non-US Officer as their deputy is still apparent, until 2007/2009. Thanks for pointing that out! XD –  Kobunite Jul 4 '13 at 15:32
"Where there any political reasons for SACEUR being American beyond... the obvious" - is there any plausible reason to suspect that there were additional reasons aside from 3 listed in the question? –  DVK Jul 5 '13 at 14:14
Well, was the US reluctant to join unless one of their generals was SACEUR? could it have been related to the debt owned to the US by most of the other NATO members? was it because France wouldn't accept a British general or vice versa? This kind of issue (command of troops) is often complicated with nations not liking their troops being under another's command, it seems to me that someone may have challenged the reasons given when NATO was being formed. –  Kobunite Jul 5 '13 at 14:41
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