Supreme Allied Commander

From Academic Kids

Supreme Allied Commander is the title given to the most senior commander of some multinational organisations. It originated with the United Nations in World War II and is currently used for NATO.


World War Two

During WWII there were three areas which had supreme commanders in name and two others which effectively had supreme commanders. The three in name were the Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean (SACMED), Supreme Allied Command South East Asia (SACSEA) and Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force (SCAEF) in north west Europe. 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 of the main conduct of the war in the theatre of operations.

General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower was probably the most high profile of the supreme commanders. He served successively as SACMED and SCAEF. Eisenhower was succeeded as SACMED by Field Marshal Henry Maitland Wilson who was in turn succeeded by Field Marshal Harold Alexander. The post of SACSEA was occupied throughout its existence by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Following the end of the war, the term came into use again with the formation of NATO. At which point Eisenhower again found himself a 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.

  • Allied Command Operations (ACO) is located at SHAPE, Mons, Belgium. It is headed by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), a U.S. four star general with the dual-hatted role of heading U.S. European Command. (SACEUR has retained the traditional title including Europe although the responsibilities were extended to all allied operations in 2003.)
  • Allied Command Transformation (ACT) is located in Norfolk, Virginia. It is headed by the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), a U.S. flag (four star) admiral with the dual-hatted role as commander U.S. Joint Forces Command (COMUSJFCOM).


Until June 2003 the operational structure of NATO was divided into "Europe" and "Atlantic". Correspondingly the commanders were known as Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT) and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

The first SACEUR (1951-1952) was General Dwight Eisenhower. The current (since 2003) Commander is General James L. Jones (USMC), who succeeded General Joseph Ralston (USAF). The Supreme Commander is always an American.

In June 2003 the SACLANT organisation was decomissioned and Allied Command Transformation was established. This is a transitory command, intended to reshape the NATO command structure to respond to rapidly changing world situations and technology. The commander of the new organisation is Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., U.S. Navy. The headquarters of ACT is at the old SACLANT headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, USA.

See also

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