Mons, Belgium – 02 December 2008. A memorial service to commemorate the life of General Bernard W. Rogers, NATO's longest serving Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) has been held at the Memorial Chapel, Fort Myer, Virginia. NATO's military was represented at the service by Major General Leonardo di Marco (Italian Army) and Command Sergeant Major Michael Bartelle (US Army).
General “Bernie” Rogers assumed the post of SACEUR at a controversial time in NATO's history, when the Alliance had just made the so-called “Dual Track” Decision to introduce modern intermediate-range missiles to Europe while also seeking to reach arms control agreements with the Soviet Union. Over the next three years he oversaw the deployment of Pershing II and Ground Launched Cruise Missiles into Europe and was a strong advocate of the initiative, arguing that the Soviet Union's existing advantage in such weapons threatened “the very essence of NATO's strategy of Flexible Response.”
After arms control negotiations with the Soviets started in Geneva, he commented that modern intermediate range missiles for NATO were the “most compelling, perhaps the only, blue chip on the table for our negotiators.” Notwithstanding his enduring support for modernising NATO's nuclear deterrent he also oversaw a reduction of some 2,400 such weapons.
General Rogers was an independent minded commander, willing to state his views without fear or favour, who earned the respect of his peers and the NATO leadership, the then NATO Secretary General, Lord Carrington stating that he would be happy to see him stay in post even up to the age of 100. After an exceptional extension of service beyond normal retirement age he finally stepped down in June 1987.
In the words of The Economist magazine, “in almost all things General Rogers thought and acted for the Alliance: he came as close to being a true NATO commander, as distinct from an American in an Alliance hat, as the organisation ever had.”
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