Richard Clark Lindsay: A NATO Founder

RC Lindsay, head
     Richard C. Lindsay's last command before retiring from the   U.S.  Air Force in 1960, was Allied Air Forces Southern Europe (NATO), based in Naples, Italy. As his daughter collecting his available writings, we can see that more than fifty years have passed since he wrote the following. It seems appropriate therefore to reflect on the achievements and challenges of the European Community.
What was begun as a perceived military necessity has become a full-blown awareness of the mutual advantages of the "wi
ll and unity" of which my father wrote. Now in 2008, let us reflect and celebrate our unity, while yet honoring our diversity of history, culture and religion.  RLT ]


The Military Potential of NATO
Richard C. Lindsay

Major General Richard C. Lindsay, Washington, D. C., is Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, United States Air Force. Formerly he was Standing Group Liaison Officer to the Council Deputies, NATO.

Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 312,
The Future of the Western Alliance. (Jul., 1957), pp. 89-93.


"The Military Potential of NATO

Abstract: NATO required a military expression if it was to satisfy its political purpose. This required the development of national potentials into combined military capability. At the outset, the capability was insignificant, but the potential based on the resources and the heritage of the free peoples of the West was virtually unlimited if will and unity existed. By capitalizing on that potential, we now have a capability which is a prime factor in world affairs.-Ed.


o appreciate the military aspects of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, one must have some background on the existence of that organization as a political institution.


NATO, which now includes fifteen sovereign members, came into being as a response on the part of free nations to the alarming and clearly aggressive actions of the Soviet Union in the years after World War II. Without attempting to recall each unhappy instance, the Soviet Union had offered clear proof of its determination to engulf peaceful free nations, imposing upon them a despotic domination directly in conflict with the basic values which had given the Western world its greatness.


Facing this threat and noting the tremendous military power which the Soviet Union had maintained intact and improved after World War II, the free nations of the Western world recognized that a collective resistance to this threat was their only true hope. This led to the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949.
From its conception, the organization was a political expression of common purpose. This was - and still is - the defense of the membership against aggression. The member nations recognized that only in unity would they find strength. Only by freely joining their individual capabilities in a common cause could these nations hope to oppose successfully the possibility of extension of the Soviet dictatorship.


Against the background of common agreement in this political expression, consideration could then be given to the obvious requirement for an active defense expression - one that would assure that the full weight of the strength of the member states could be applied, as directed by the political authority, in common cause. That military effort, or that military expression of NATO, had one primary objective above all others and that was to constitute a deterrent to war. It had become quite evident that the Soviets were no respecters of weakness. A posture of military strength was a guarantee of peace. To have this posture to get that guarantee was NATO's highest purpose and first obligation.
Of course, it followed that a second purpose would be to establish a capability to mount an effective defense in the event such action were required. I stress the two points of deterrence and defense because, in spite of Soviet propaganda to the contrary, NATO has never had anything but a deterrent and defensive character. It is to those purposes that the organization was and remains dedicated.

To create the military posture that would be essential to satisfy these purposes called for, as a first requirement, a special unity. Historically, nations have established military strength to further their own national policy which would not necessarily coincide with or relate to the national policy of a neighbor. Thus, the first essential in creating any military expression of NATO was to assure unity among the several national military forces - not a unity in respect to uniform, equipment, and pay - but a unity of objective within the purpose of NATO.

To relate, to co-ordinate, to unite this number of separate military efforts was an awesome job. It was something for which there was no precedent in peacetime. It would call for sacrifice, but it had to be done; and from this necessity was derived what is probably still NATO's most valuable asset. I mean the will to unite; the will to act in concert; the will to fight in mutual support of one another. This is in my mind the first element - and the most essential one - of the potential of NATO, be it military or otherwise.

General Norstad, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, in a recent public statement referred to this will as an essential element of the deterrent effectiveness of NATO; he also recognized it as "the most perishable of our assets." With this will our fundamental problems in creating a military strength could be solved. The things that had to be done were reasonably evident. Some means of controlling the several national military contingents had to be established; this called for the creation of a command structure which would include international staffs.

There had to be one agreed way of assuring the defense of the peoples and nations involved; this called for one common defense plan which would apply equally to all the NATO nations in defining the role of the military forces which were contributing to the NATO effort. Effective physical means of controlling the forces operating in the area from Norway to Turkey and in the Atlantic had to be created where they did not exist; this called for new and improved systems of communications. The usefulness of NATO's air strength was limited by inadequate airfields; these would have to be improved. The military forces themselves were not adequately equipped with modern weapons. In this connection, equipping of military forces had been accomplished on the basis of national considerations.

Consequently, new equipment programs were required which would be consistent with the role of national forces concerned in the overall NATO effort. These were some - perhaps the major - issues which had to be faced and solved if this effort were to succeed. In this trail-blazing effort, there was no past history of peacetime alliances of free nations to provide a precedent for action and a basis for encouragement. Never before in the history of man had free nations so concerted their military resources in time of peace! With this background then, let us examine what has been accomplished, what military potential has been developed in and by NATO.



First, it would be well to arrive at some understanding of what military potential should mean for us in this context.

As has already been suggested, it demands will; from the will we derive unity; only with these, can there be military potential. NATO's creation derived from will and unity - NATO's development has resulted from will and unity - any effectiveness that NATO is to have in the future must also derive from will and unity. As an additional one might almost say, secondary - element of military potential, we have the military capability that we have created within NATO. It would be well at this point to spend a few minutes discussing that capability.

To do this, I would like to consider some of the specific accomplishments that have been realized in the six years that the military side of NATO has been organized. I propose to examine what has been done in the areas we have just highlighted as the major problems which faced the military side of NATO.

We said that there had to be a command structure with international staffs in order to exercise control over the forces that would be available to this command. That structure has been  developed and it exists today. At points as far apart as Norfolk, Virginia; Oslo, Norway; the island of Malta; and Izmir, Turkey, there are today functioning military headquarters, which are prepared to exercise command over the military forces that have been made available to NATO in the event of war. In these staffs, officers of many nations work together, directing their efforts toward the common purpose defined for this great alliance. We said, too, that a common defense plan was essential to this effort. Such a plan has been in existence for some time and has in fact undergone numerous refinements to take account of improved weapons systems and technical advancements. The plan for the defense of the NATO area is in the hands of appropriate commanders who are prepared to direct their forces toward one objective: the defense of the peoples joined together in this alliance. We said earlier that another requirement was that communications be made available and improved so that physical means of exercising control over forces throughout the area in question would be available. Through contributions made by the NATO members, these communications systems have been built or installed where required and we have today a significantly improved capacity to communicate throughout the NATO area.


Mention of contributions by the member nations leads us very properly to the next point, that of providing airfields in order to capitalize on the great potential which the NATO air strength offered. Building airfields is not an extremely difficult job as engineering and construction jobs go. However, building airfields in many countries to satisfy an international user is more difficult. Throw in the necessity for multilateral financing and cost-sharing among fifteen nations and the problem assumes respectable proportions. Yet, NATO solved this problem quickly and effectively. It did so because of the will to get ahead with establishing an effective defense.

As a result, NATO has developed more than 150 airfields stretching from northern Norway through Central Europe and the Mediterranean area over to eastern Turkey. The difficulties that result from taking land for this purpose, installing airfields with modern jet aircraft near centers of population, stationing foreign forces in provincial communities - all of these have been overcome.

That this has been done so successfully and so quickly is another evidence of the effect of the will to get the job done. Still another area that had to be taken care of was re-equipping forces and developing those forces consistent with their role in NATO defense plans. In this area, tremendous progress has also been evident. In all forces - land, sea, and air - there has been a numerical increase on the order of four to five times. In terms of effectiveness, the improvements that have been made simply do not permit comparison of the military capability today with the military capability that existed in 1951. As far as equipment is concerned, the NATO forces have also made great progress, in great part thanks to the generous contribution which has been made by our countrys' programs of mutual aid; that assistance was fundamental to the improvements that have been realized.

But we are examining NATO's military potential, and the military posture in Europe is only part of the story.

Just as NATO is an element in the defense of the United States, so are United States forces which are not a part of NATO an important, even critical element, in the defense of NATO Europe. I have specific reference to our strategic air capability, which is not turned over to NATO, but remains subject to United States direction, prepared to retaliate when and as required as the key strike force in the world-wide battle against communism. This strategic air strength is indeed vital to the defense effort of NATO. The two efforts are mutually supporting and they are carefully coordinated.

NATO's defense planning places proper reliance on the accomplishment of essential tasks by the U. S. strategic air capability. Based on this evidence, it would seem that there is good reason to be well pleased with the progress that has been made in developing a military capability in NATO.

I believe that this is certainly so; but there is by no means any basis for complacency on our part. There are continuing improvements and additions to be made. It would be dangerous to reflect on our accomplishments and overlook the fact that the Soviet Union has made good use of these same years to improve its own position as well as the effectiveness of the Satellites. This, then, would suggest that we do have a considerable military capability, that we have realized substantial progress, and that NATO continues to be a developing and healthy organization. I feel that these are proper conclusions.

This is not to suggest that within NATO all is a bed of roses. Certainly, this is not true, particularly in the political sphere. The Suez situation, the Cyprus problem, French difficulties in North Africa, all these have introduced strains and created troubles for NATO. But these can and must be overcome. Given the will to remain united and the will to persist in maintaining an effective defense organization, NATO must overcome whatever current difficulties exist now and those that may occur in the future. That will remains undamaged.

Again, that will is in my view the most valuable attribute of NATO. It is essential to the effective use of the military strength that has been created; it is essential to improve that strength. And it is here that a curious relationship becomes evident. We must have the will in order to create and maintain our military effectiveness. Yet, the fact that we have realized this effectiveness is an element in creating the atmosphere of confidence that is necessary to nourish the unity and determination we require for the future. This interrelationship leads to still another conclusion - in my opinion, it is a rather difficult thing to talk about the military potential of NATO in isolation.

I feel that there is only one potential and that is a composite of military, economic, political, and cultural elements. I feel, too, that by a careful development in all of these areas, we will create a strength and a determination of united free peoples that will be one of the wonders of our time.



By way of summary, then, I would say that first, NATO required a military expression if it was to satisfy its political purpose. This required development of national potentials into combined military capability. At the outset, the capability was insignificant. However, the potential based on the resources and the heritage of the free peoples of the West was virtually unlimited; its ultimate parameters were established solely by the will and unity of these free people.

Today, by capitalizing on that potential, we have a capability which is a prime factor in world affairs. Yet, I submit, we have simply scratched the surface of this potential. We must continue to capitalize on it to maintain and improve our combined strength; we must extend its influence into other areas.

This, I believe, will bring us ultimately to a full realization of the potential of NATO.
Too ideal an objective?

Perhaps - but one promising a return which would more than justify our most dedicated and determined effort."

     Richard C. Lindsay's last command before retiring from the U.S. Air Force in 1960, was Allied Air Forces Southern Europe (NATO), based in Naples, Italy. As his daughter collecting his available writings, we can see that more than fifty years have passed since he wrote the foregoing. It seems appropriate therefore to reflect on the achievements and challenges of the European Community. What was begun as a perceived military necessity has become a full-blown awareness of the mutual advantages of the "will and unity" of which my father wrote. Now in 2008, let us reflect and celebrate our unity, while yet honoring our diversity of history, culture and religion.  RLT ]

Lindsay House Publishing

Died Nov. 3, 1990.

Richard Clark Lindsay was born in Minneapolis, Minn., on Oct. 31, 1905. He graduated from West High School in 1924 and attended Carlton College and the University of Minnesota.

On June 11, 1928 he was appointed a second lieutenant in the infantry reserve and on June 28 he enlisted as a flying cadet in the Army Air Corps. During his cadet period he attended the Primary and Basic Flying School at March Field, Calif., and graduated in June 1929 from the Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the air reserve upon graduation from Kelly and as a second lieutenant in the Regular Army Air Corps on Sept. 14, 1929.

Lieutenant Lindsay's first assignment was to the 91st Observation Squadron at Crissy Field, Calif. He served on temporary duty at Mather Field, Calif., during the first provisional wing maneuvers at that station from April through May of 1930, performing various duties in the Support Squadron.

In October 1930 he entered the Air Corps Tactical School, Maintenance Engineering Course, at Chanute Field, Ill. He graduated the following June and was reassigned to Crissy Field where he rejoined the 91st Observation Squadron, serving first as assistant and later as squadron engineering officer.

In January 1934 Lieutenant Lindsay entered the course in Advanced Aerial Navigation at Rockwell Field, Coronado, Calif. This course was interrupted when the U.S. Army Corps was designated to handle the airmail and he served as a pilot flying the mail on Route 5, between Portland, Ore.; Pasco, Wash; and Boise, Idaho, in the Western Zone of the United States.

In July 1934 after completing numerous flights and acting as station control officer at Pasco, Wash., he returned to the 91st Observation Squadron at Crissy Field. Lieutenant Lindsay returned to Rockwell Field in October and completed the Advanced Navigation Course in November.

In May of 1935 he was transferred to Hamilton Field, Calif., where he served with the 9th Bomber Squadron and the 88th Observation Squadron (long-range) as navigation officer. In January 1937 he found himself in Hawaii where he served in the 7th Service Squadron at Schofield Barracks, the 50th Observation Squadron at Luke Field, and the 18th Wing at Hickam Field. While at Luke Field he served in navigation and operations staff assignments and during this period conducted a navigation school for selected officers in the Hawaiian Department. In late 1938 and early 1939 he served first as operations officer and then as assistant operations officer of the 18th Wing at Hickam Field.

He then returned to the United States in April of 1939 and was assigned to the 97th Observation Squadron at Mitchel Field, N.Y. While stationed at Mitchel he attended the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field in January through March of 1940. He then rejoined the 97th while it was on maneuvers with the Fourth Provisional Observation Group at Natchitoches, La.

After his tour with the 97th Observation Squadron, during which time he received his promotion to captain, he was assigned to the 22nd Observation Squadron at Brooks Field, Texas, where he conducted a course training combat observers.

In March of 1941 the combat observer training was turned over to the Advanced Flying School at Brooks Field and the now Major Lindsay became chief of Section III and later the director of the Ground School and assistant director of training.

In November 1941 Major Lindsay joined the War Department General Staff where he was first assigned to the Air Plans Division, serving as member of, and later as the chief of, the African-Middle East Section, where he received his promotion to lieutenant colonel. Then, upon the reorganization of the War Department in March 1942, he served as a member of, and later as chief of, the Policy Division of the Strategy and Policy Group in the Operations Division. In the summer of 1942 he was made a temporary colonel in the Army Air Forces.

In June 1943 he was assigned to the Joint War Plans Committee where he participated in the preparation of strategic studies utilized by the joint and combined chief of staff in determining the operations the allies would undertake in the pursuit of the war. In August 1944 he became chief of the Combined Joint Staff Division of the Headquarters Army Air Forces and was promoted to the grade of brigadier general. At the time he served as the Army Air Forces representative on the Joint Staff Planners of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In May 1945, after his return from Europe, General Lindsay was assigned to the Twentieth Air Force directing the B-29 operations against Japan and in July was transferred from Pentagon duty to the Headquarters U.S. Army Strategic Air Forces on Guam as assistant chief of staff, plans where he worked for generals Spaatz and Lemay during the final days of the war against Japan.

In December of 1945 General Lindsay moved to Manila as assistant chief of staff, plans, for the Pacific Air Command and was assigned in January 1946 as commander of the 316th Bomb Wing, 8th Air Force (later the first Air Division), Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.

In March 1947 he was transferred to Tokyo, Japan, where he became assistant chief of staff for intelligence for the Far East Air Forces. In August 1947 he was returned to Washington as chief, Policy Division, in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Plans and Operations at Army Air Forces headquarters just before it became the headquarters of the U.S. Air Force. In this capacity he served again with the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the Air Force member of the Joint Staff Planners (later the Joint Strategic Plans Committee). That November he was promoted to major general.

In April 1948 General Lindsay was appointed deputy director of plans and operations for the U.S. Air Force and the following October was assigned to the Joint Staff as deputy director for strategic plans in the Office of the Joint Chief of Staff. In this capacity he continued as a member of the Joint Strategic Plans committee but as a result of his responsibility as chief of the Joint Strategic Plans Group of the Joint Staff he became chairman of that committee.

In July 1951 he was assigned as the standing group liaison officer to the council deputies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The standing group was situated in Washington while the council deputies were in London.

With the post-Korea build-up of the Air Force, General Lindsay became commander of the 3560th Air Force Indoctrination Wing at Sampson Air Force Base, N.Y., in June 1952, where he supervised the basic training of many thousands of Air Force recruits. This organization was redesigned as the 3650th Military Training Wing, Air Training Command, in March 1953.

General Lindsay returned to Air Force headquarters in April 1954 as director of plans in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, and after almost three years in this assignment he was named the assistant deputy chief of staff, Operations, on Feb. 11, 1957.

In May 1957 he was promoted to the grade of lieutenant general. On Aug. 1, 1957 he was appointed commander of Allied Air Forces Southern Europe (NATO) with headquarters in Naples, Italy.

Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star Medal
Two commendation ribbons
Order of the British Empire -
   grade of Honourary Commander
National Defense Service Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
European-African Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Japanese Occupation Medal

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