Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


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50th Anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty

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"By this treaty, we are not only seeking to establish freedom from aggression and from the use of force in the North Atlantic community, but we are also actively striving to promote and preserve peace throughout the world."   Harry S. Truman, August 24, 1949

    The North Atlantic Treaty--the first peacetime military alliance ever concluded by the United States--was signed by the foreign ministers of the twelve signatory nations on April 4, 1949. The signing ceremony occurred in an auditorium near the White House in Washington, DC. Secretary of State Dean Acheson signed for the United States, with President Truman standing beside him. Just prior to the signing of the treaty, Truman spoke to the foreign ministers and the others present in the auditorium. "In this pact," he said, "we hope to create a shield against aggression and the fear of aggression--a bulwark which will permit us to get on with the real business of government and society, the business of achieving a fuller and happier life for all our citizens."

    Article 5 of the treaty is its heart. It reads: "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them...will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking...such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area."

    President Truman sent the North Atlantic Treaty to the Senate for consideration on April 12, 1949. During lengthy hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee many witnesses expressed concern and dismay at the prospect that the United States would abandon a tradition of nonentanglement with Europe that was as old as the Republic, and others worried that the proposed military alliance would conflict with the purposes of the United Nations. Despite these concerns, on July 21, 1949 the Senate advised Truman that it favored ratification. On July 25 the North Atlantic Treaty was formally ratified by the President in a signing ceremony in the Cabinet Room. At a ceremony in the Oval Office on August 24, 1949, with Dean Acheson and representatives of the signatory governments gathered around him, President Truman formally accepted the instruments of ratification and announced that the North Atlantic Treaty was in effect.

    The twelve original signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty were Great Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Iceland, Canada, and the United States. Greece and Turkey were added to the alliance in 1952, the Federal Republic of Germany in 1955, and Spain in 1982. With the accession of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary to NATO, the alliance will have 19 member states.

    Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will on March 12, 1999, at the Harry S. Truman Library, formally accept the instruments of accession to NATO of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary. The Truman Library holds the papers of both Harry S. Truman and Dean Acheson.