|Part of Cold War (1947–1953)|
NATO Northern Flank
|Type||NATO combined naval training exercises|
|Location||North Atlantic Ocean, GIUK Gap, Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea, North Sea, Jutland Peninsula, and Baltic Sea
|Planned by||SACLANT & SACEUR|
|Objective||Deployment of NATO anti-submarine warfare forces, aircraft carrier strike forces, and supply convoys|
|Date||September 14–25, 1952|
|Executed by||Admiral Sir Patrick Brind, RN (CINCNORTH)|
|Outcome||Exercise successfully executed.|
Exercise Mainbrace was the first large-scale naval exercise undertaken by the newly established Allied Command Atlantic (ACLANT), one of the two principal military commands of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It was part of a series of NATO exercises jointly commanded by Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic Admiral Lynde D. McCormick, USN, and Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Matthew B. Ridgeway, U.S. Army, during the Fall of 1952.
The strategic importance of control of Norway and the adjacent Norwegian and Barents seas was recognized by Anglo-American naval planners as early as the First World War. The invasion and Occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany Norway during World War II confirmed the importance of the region, as Germany was able to establish bases for submarine and air operations against Allied convoys bound for the Soviet seaport of Murmansk.
Following the Second World War, several former allied navies executed a number of individual and multinational exercises, including:
- Operation Frostbite (pictured), a 1946 naval exercise involving U.S. Navy Task Group 21.11 led by the aircraft carrier USS Midway (CVB-41) that operated in the Davis Straits between Labrador and Greenland;
- Exercise Verity, a 1949 combined naval exercise involving the British, French, and Dutch navies which carried out naval bombardment, convoy escort, minesweeping, and Motor Torpedo Boat attack evolutions;
- Exercise Activity, a 1950 Dutch-led naval exercise to refine combined communications and tactical procedures; and
- Exercise Progress, a 1951 French-led combined naval operation with Belgian, French, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, and British naval units that participating in antisubmarine warfare operations, air defense maneuvers, minesweeping operations, and convoy exercises.
Initial planning for Exercise Mainbrace was initiated by General Dwight D. Eisenhower prior to his resignation as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) to run for the President of the United States. The exercise itself was commanded jointly by SACLANT Admiral Lynde D. McCormick, USN, and SACEUR General Matthew B. Ridgeway, U.S. Army, with the immediate theater commander being Admiral Sir Patrick Brind, RN, who was in Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Northern Europe.
Mainbrace was conducted over twelve days between September 14–25, 1952, and involved nine navies: United States Navy, the British Royal Navy, French Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Danish Navy, Royal Norwegian Navy, Portuguese Navy, Royal Netherlands Navy, and Belgian Naval Force operating in the Norwegian Sea, the Barents Sea, the North Sea near the Jutland Peninsula, and the Baltic Sea. Its objective was to convince Denmark and Norway that those nations could be defended against attack from the Soviet Union. The exercise featured simulated carrier air strikes against "enemy" formation attacking NATO's northern flank near Bodø, Norway, naval air attacks against aggressors near the Kiel Canal, anti-submarine and anti-ship operations, and U.S. marines landing in Denmark.
Eighty thousand men, over 200 ships, and 1,000 aircraft participated in the Mainbrace. The New York Times' military reporter Hanson W. Baldwin described this NATO naval force as being the "largest and most powerful fleet that has cruised in the North Sea since World War I."
|NATO member||Aircraft carriers||Battleships||Cruisers||Escorts||MCM||Submarines||Torpedo boat squadrons||Motor ships/Naval trawlers||Grand Total|
|UK||3||1||2||31||—||17||4||8 + Trawlers||66|
- Blue Fleet Fast Carrier Task Force
HMS Eagle (R05):
HMS Illustrious (R87):
- Amphibious force flagship
Other NATO Military Exercises - Fall 1952
Exercise Mainbrace was part of a series of NATO exercise jointly commanded by Admiral McCormick and General Ridgeway during the Fall of 1952 involving 300,000 military personnel engaged in maneuvers from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean Sea.
Two exercises were conducted by NATO's Allied Forces Southern Europe during the Fall of 1952. Ancient Wall was a series of military maneuvers involving ground small unit tactical training, land-based tactical air support, and carrier-based air support. Longstep was a ten-day naval exercise held in the Mediterranean Sea during November 1952 involving over 170 warships and 700 aircraft under the overall command of Admiral Carney. The objective of the Allied ("Blue") forces was to dislodge enemy ("Green") invasion forces from their occupying positions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Blue naval forces were centered around the U.S. Sixth Fleet, under the command of Vice Admiral John H. Cassady, USN, and its two aircraft carriers, the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Wasp. Green forces included submarines and land-based aircraft. The exercise concluded with an amphibious landing at Lebidos Bay south of İzmir, involving 3000 French, Italian, and Greek troops, including the Battalion Landing Team 3/2, under the overall command of General Robert E. Hogaboom, USMC.
The Soviet Union characterized Mainbrace, Holdfast, and other NATO military exercises as "war-like acts" by NATO, with particular reference to the participation of Norway and Denmark, while the USSR was preparing for its own military maneuvers in the Soviet Zone.
- Allard. "Strategic Views of the US Navy and NATO on the Northern Flank, 1917-1991"
- Midway History and Events: Shake Down and Operation Frostbite
- "SACLANT: Guardian of the Atlantic" All Hands, October 1952
- Thompson. Lessons Not Learned, p. 15 - 16
- Time, September 22, 1952
- Time, September 29, 1952
- NATO Military Command Roster
- "NATO Ships Enter Baltic Sea" - Sydney Morning Herald, p. 2
- "The NATO Exercises, Part 1" Flight (September 26, 1952) p. 402-404.
- "HMS Vanguard: A short history of Britain’s last battleship", p. 18
- "USS QUINCY CA-71", p. 34
- Baldwin, Hanson (September 28, 1952). "Navies Meet the Test in Operation Mainbrace". New York Times: E7.
- "The Bridge in Troubled Times: The Cold War and the Navies of Europe", p. 318
- Carrier Air Group Seventeen
- Carrier Air Group Six
- Carrier Air Group One
- "Royal Navy Aircraft Carriers Part 3".[dead link]
- Audio # 564735: OPERATION MAINBRACE - ContextDescription dated 9/1952 - Imperial War Museum Collection (U.K.)
- "A Big Step Forward: Operation Longstep" (PDF). All Hands. BUPERS - U.S. Navy. January 1953. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
- "The NATO Exercises, Part 1". Flight: 402–404. September 26, 1952.
- "Official Biography - General Robert E. Hogaboom, USMC". Manpower & Reserve Affairs. United States Marine Corps. 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
Sources and references
- Allard, Dean C. (January 2001). "Strategic Views of the US Navy and NATO on the Northern Flank, 1917-1991". The Northern Mariner (Le Marin du nord) XI (1): 11–24. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
- Fry, Roger (October 2007). "HMS Vanguard: A short history of Britain’s last battleship". Vanguard: the Official Journal of the Royal Navy Association No. 10: 33. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
- Gary, USN (Ret.), GMC Richard M. (Summer 2009). "USS QUINCY CA-71". U.S. Navy Cruiser Sailors Association (USNCSA) magazine: 34. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
- L’Heureux CD, RCN (Ret’d), Commander E.J. "Aircraft Carriers Royal Canadian Navy (RCN)". Canada Aviation Museum. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
- Till, Geoffrey (April 2005). "Holding the Bridge in Troubled Times: The Cold War and the Navies of Europe". The Journal of Strategic Studies (Taylor & Francis Group Ltd) 28 (2): 309–337. doi:10.1080/01402390500088379. ISSN 0140-2390. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
- Sydney Morning Herald - "NATO Ships Enter Baltic Sea" - September 16, 1952
- Time Magazine, "Operation Mainbrace", September 22, 1952
- Time Magazine, "NATO: Hedgehogs", September 29, 1952
- Thompson, Roger (2007). Lessons Not Learned: The U.S. Navy's Status Quo Culture. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-865-0.
- All Hands magazine online
- Photo Gallery - Operation Mainbrace- CV41.org
- "Exercise Mainbrace" - Pathé Films online