On April 4, 1949, Secretary of State Dean Acheson and the foreign ministers of Canada, and 10 Western European nations (Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Portugal) gathered in Washington, DC, to sign the North Atlantic Treaty. In his memoirs, Dean Acheson recalled "All the North Atlantic Treaty ministers met in Washington on April 2 to approve the draft treaty and arrange for its signature at a ceremony set for April 4. Here President Truman again showed his consideration for me. I had told him that it would be appropriate and fitting for him to sign the treaty on behalf of the United States, but this he refused to do. He would attend the ceremony and stand beside me as I signed, but the treaty would bear my name."
The North Atlantic alliance created a military and political complement to the Marshall Plan for European economic recovery by establishing a mutual defense pact against possible aggression from the Soviet Union. In his brief remarks at the signing ceremony, President Harry S. Truman said the treaty "would create a shield against aggression and fear of aggression—a bulwark which will permit us to get on with the real business of . . . achieving a fuller and happier life for all of our citizens."
Article 14 of the treaty
specifies that it be "deposited in the archives of the Government of
the United States of America." For multilateral treaties, it is customary
for one country to be designated as the depository for the original treaty
and subsequent ratifications.
Shown here are the English and French versions of the Preamble and the signature pages.
Image Top Left: Secretary of State Dean Acheson signs the Washington Treaty, April 4, 1949.
President Harry Truman and Vice President Alben Barkley are standing next to him.
National Archives, Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. Enlarged View