Sean Gallup/Getty Images
- NATO’s 12 founding members formed the transatlantic alliance in 1949.
- In the 70 years since, the organization has only grown, but it hasn’t always been smooth.
On April 4, 1949 — almost exactly four years after Germany’s unconditional surrender ended World War II in Europe — 12 countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, DC.
Within five months, each of those countries had ratified the treaty, sealing their membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.
In the 70 years since, the alliance has responded to crises in Europe and around the world. It has also grown, incorporating Western European countries and former Soviet republics. NATO also counts countries in Asia, Oceania, and Latin America as global partners.
NATO’s expansion hasn’t been without growing pains, but the alliance, now in the process of accepting its 30th member, is bigger than ever.
You can see each country’s forces in action, along with the date they joined NATO.
April 4, 1949 — Belgium was one of 12 founding members who signed the North Atlantic Treaty four years after World War II.
April 4, 1949 — Canada.
Canadian Armed Forces
April 4, 1949 — Denmark.
Sgt Marc-André Gaudreault/JFC Brunssum Imagery
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