U.S. Army General Matthew B. Ridgway followed Eisenhower as SACEUR on 30 May 1952 and helped to push NATO away from costly conventional forces to a reliance on nuclear weapons. Ridgway's successor, U.S. Army General Alfred M. Gruenther, became SACEUR 11 July 1953. General Lauris B. Norstad became the first U.S. Air Force SACEUR on 20 November 1956. He ushered in massive retaliation as NATO's new strategy in 1957 and steered NATO's military during the 1958 Berlin Crisis. He also commanded during the August 1961 erection of the Berlin Wall. After U.S. President John F. Kennedy took office, Norstad reluctantly supervised the change from massive retaliation to a flexible response defense posture.
U.S. Army General Lyman L. Lemnitzer became the next SACEUR on 1 January 1963. He oversaw the full implementation of the flexible response strategy and commanded during France's military withdrawal from NATO-integrated command in 1966. During Lemnitzer's tenure, NATO closely monitored the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
On 1 July 1969, NATO appointed its sixth commander, U.S. Army General Andrew J. Goodpaster. Most critically, the Soviet bloc surpassed the West in strategic nuclear weapons during his tenure. Goodpaster commanded NATO's military forces during several crises, including the Yom Kippur War, the 1973–1974 oil crisis, and the 1974 Cyprus Crisis.
NATO named U.S. Army General Alexander M. Haig to replace General Goodpaster on 15 December 1974. Haig's watchwords of readiness, rationalization, and reinforcement permeated NATO. He hoped that his policy would counter the growing power of the Soviet bloc. In 1975, he introduced the training exercises commonly referred to as REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany).
U.S. Army General Bernard B. Rogers became the eighth SACEUR on 1 July 1979. Rogers believed that NATO's conventional forces were inadequate to withstand a Warsaw Pact conventional attack. He advocated the follow-on forces attack concept in order to attack the second and third echelon of the Warsaw Pact's conventional forces. Rogers's strong opposition to President Ronald Reagan's and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev's proposal to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles played a major role in his 1987 retirement.
On 26 June 1987, U.S. Army General John R. Galvin assumed command as the ninth SACEUR. His tenure ended on 23 June 1992. Thus, he oversaw NATO's forces during the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the unification of Germany. He also began the process of redefining NATO's military mission for the post–Cold War era.
Jonathan P. Klug
Kay, Sean, Victor Papacosma, and Mark R. Rubin, eds. NATO: After Fifty Years. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2001.; Schmidt, Gustave, ed. A History of NATO: The First Fifty Years. 3 vols. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.