The United States European Command (EUCOM) has been a part of more than 200 named operations, including humanitarian and natural disaster relief efforts, since 1952. Additionally, EUCOM has supported numerous peacekeeping and anti-terrorism/force-protection operations across Europe.
EUCOM’s past is just diverse as its present. During the Cold War years, EUCOM focused on preserving harmony in Europe and since then it has deployed forces to support more than 95 contingency, NEO and humanitarian operations, and continues to build upon its proud heritage.
On December 14, 1946, President Harry S. Truman approved the Outline Command Plan, the first Unified Command Plan for US forces. However, even six years after EUCOM was established the US did not fully develop the unified command structure in Europe.
This delay was partly due to Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was hesitant to hold the dual responsibilities of commander of all US forces in the European theater and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) of the NATO forces.
However, Gen. Eisenhower later told the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he would assume direct command of US forces in Europe and establish a separate staff under a deputy to conduct joint US military affairs.
Gen. Eisenhower’s concept was accepted by the Joint Staff on May 23, 1952 and five days later Army Gen. Thomas T. Handy was appointed by him as his deputy and was directed to establish the “new” unified command.
Following Gen. Eisenhower’s return to the US, Army Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway became the SACEUR on May 30, 1952. Ridgway declared his willingness to handle the dual responsibility as the Commander in Chief of United States European Command (USCINCEUR).
In 1952, he delegated authority for the direction and control of EUCOM Headquarters to his deputy, Gen. Thomas T. Handy. This continues to be essentially the same leadership structure today.
General Order No. 1 created the new unified command and General Order No. 2 combined the three European commands, namely the US Air Forces in Europe, US Army European Command and US Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, under the new headquarters, EUCOM.
In 1952, the EUCOM headquarters operated temporarily in I.G. Farben Hochhaus in Frankfurt and remained there for two years until permanent facilities were available.
EUCOM headquarters repositioned to Camp-de-Loges in 1954, just outside Paris to be near Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. But the French President Charles De Gaulle demanded the removal of all US and NATO headquarters and forces from French soil in 1966 as sharp policy disagreements emerged within NATO.
The search for new quarters led to HQ Seventh US Army departing Patch Barracks in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, Germany, so EUCOM headquarters could set up there.
EUCOM dealt with continued US- Soviet tensions in the post-war period including widespread unrest in Eastern Europe following Joseph Stalin’s death. Berlin became a flashpoint in 1961 when the Soviets erected a wall to stop the hemorrhage of people fleeing Communist rule.
EUCOM continued to prepare to defend Europe and began a series of annual Return of Forces to Europe (REFORGER) exercise in 1967 to reassure its allies. The Vietnam War and balance of payment problems became significant causes of decline in the readiness of US forces while the Cold War crises continued, including the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.
During the 1970s, terrorist groups began targeting US facilities and personnel with bombings, kidnappings and assassinations, increasing the force protection concerns in Europe.
The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 following the deployment of SS-20 intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe. NATO responded with a two-track decision to step up negotiations while deploying US intermediate-range Pershing II missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles to counter the Soviet threat.
In the 1980s, US forces in Europe grew to more than 350,000, as the armed forces began to recover from the Vietnam War. The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, together with a powerful Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Colin L. Powell supplemented the strengthening of the combatant commanders’ (COCOMs) role.
Goldwater-Nichols also established US Special Operations Command, which activated a new sub-unified command, Special Operations Command Europe. The US continued negotiations with the Soviet Union on strategic and theater-level arms limitation. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty effectively ended the Soviets’ deployment of SS-20s in 1987.
The Cold War ended as the Soviet Union’s empire in Eastern Europe collapsed in 1989. The reunified Berlin citizens tore down their wall. As a sign of reduced tensions, EUCOM took its airborne command post off alert in 1991 and provided forces to US Central Command for Desert Storm, another out-of-sector operation.
EUCOM reached out to emerging democracies through programs such as the Joint Contract Team Program, NATO Partnership for Peace and the National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program. It actively pursued peace and stability operations in the Balkans, including Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovo. However, these missions were executed with fewer assigned forces, as EUCOM’s troop numbers fell below 120,000.
Immediately after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US, NATO invoked the treaty’s Article V and deployed a NATO early warning aircraft to help monitor the North American skies.
EUCOM provided major forces for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and stepped up its efforts to protect US interests in Europe and Africa.
Subsequent terrorist attacks in the EUCOM theater of Casablanca, Madrid, London and Algiers made it clear that terrorism demanded a collective response, so it worked to build partner capacity in Europe and Africa for peacekeeping operations and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
EUCOM launched Operation Enduring Freedom, Trans-Sahara in 2007 while continuing to provide rotational forces to Afghanistan and Iraq.
A portion of EUCOM’s initial work was divided as the United States established the US Africa Command on Oct. 1, 2008, also located in Stuttgart, Germany, allowing EUCOM to focus on interests in Europe and the Caucasus.
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