U.S. command in U.K. to end as ties remain
RAF DAWS HILL, England — Even when they were at war, the United States and United Kingdom were influencing each other.
To hear British Royal Air Force Air Commodore John Harrison tell it, a 25-hour British assault on Fort McHenry near Baltimore in 1814 led Francis Scott Key to pen “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
But, Harrison said Friday, even that had overtones from across the pond. The tune Key used is an old British drinking song.
“The special relationship had begun,” he said, eliciting a laugh from the audience.
Remembering the durability of the U.S.-U.K. connection was a prominent part of a disestablishment ceremony Friday for U.S. Naval Activities United Kingdom, a command that is about to end after more than 50 years. The formal closing date for the command is Sept. 28.
While many may criticize the intelligence agencies from both countries these days, the CIA said in 1949 that the United Kingdom was America’s greatest ally, Harrison said.
“The CIA can get it incredibly right from time to time,” he said.
But the world is changing, and a Cold War-era posture that dictated such a presence has changed as well, U.S. Ambassador Robert Tuttle said. “The threats we’ve faced have altered,” Tuttle said.
Before beginning its drawdown about three years ago, the commander for Navy Region Europe was based in and around London.
But things have continuously shrunk since the headquarters moved from London to Naples, Italy, in 2004. The decision to close Navy facilities around London was made early in 2006.
To date, about 20 out of 800 naval staff with the command remain in England, according to officials.
The departure of the Navy from England can be done without worry, because the relationship between the two countries is so strong, Tuttle said.
“Our countries are linked top to bottom, coast to coast,” he said. “We have proved over a half century that our faith was justified.”
Tuttle also used the ceremony to sound off against Iran, saying the United Kingdom had contributed naval resources in the Persian Gulf as a show of force with their U.S. counterparts.
“Change is all around us,” Navy Region Europe Commander Rear Adm. Michael Groothousen said during the ceremony.
New threats require new force distributions, he said, but alliances, and history, remains unchanged.
“This will not disestablish our relationship,” Groothousen said.