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United Nations Truce Supervision Organization:
History And U.S. Marine Involvement
AUTHOR Major William D. Claytor, USMC
CSC 1990
Title: United Nations Truce Supervision Organization: History
       and U.S. Marine Involvement
Purpose/Introduction. This paper was written to better prepare
myself for my upcoming assignment in the Middle East as a
member of UNTSO. An understanding of UNTSO's origin and rich
history is important.
Body. The United Kingdom washed its hands of the Palestinian
problem in 1947 and turned the situation over to the United
Nations. As a result, the UN organized several missions to
formulate a Truce and subsequently supervise its peaceful
terms. UNTSO was an outgrowth of the initial UN General
Assembly Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). The first
Truce was supervised by a limited group of observers which
were headquartered in Cairo. As turbulence continued, a Second
Truce was negotiated and the role of UNTSO expanded. The size
of UNTSO grew and so did American participation. The Middle
East Wars of 1956, 1967, and 1973 had significant impact on the
organizational structure of UNTSO and likewise, UNTSO played an
important role in the non-war years to supervise cease-fire
boundaries and current peace agreements.
    The U.S. Marine participation over the years has been
significant. UNTSO's first Chief-of-Staff was Lieutenant
General Riley, USMC. The Marine Corps has always had at least
one Military Observer assigned to UNTSO since its conception.
Today, five majors and one captain report each summer for
Conclusion. All Marine officers assigned to UNTSO must prepare
themselves not only by studying the history and culture of the
area, but by obtaining an insight into UNTSO's history to include
U.S. Marine participation in the organization.
I.  Introduction
    A. USMC does not make routine assignments of its officers
       to the Middle East
    B. Marines need to have an insight into the conception and
       history of United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization
II. Body
    A.  History of UNTSO
        (1) UK gives Palestinian problem to UN
        (2) United Nations Special Committe on Palestine
            creates "Partition Plan"
        (3) UNTSO formed to supervise Truce
        (4) UNTSO staffed with Military Observer (UNMOs)
        (5) Armistice Agreements
        (6) UNTSO's formal mission
        (7) Mixed Armistice Commissions
        (8) UNTSO--August 1949 to June 1967
        (9) UNTSO--July 1967 to October 1973
       (10) UNTSO--September 1973 to present
       (11) Israeli-Lebanon conflict
       (12) UNTSO's contributing countries
    B.  US Marine Service in UNTSO
        (1) First UNTSO Chief-of-Staff (LtGen Riley)
        (2) Colonel "Mick" Johnson (PNGed)
        (3) 1967-1973 (USMC participation)
        (4) Captain Jack Holly (foot march to Damascus)
        (5) 1973-present, increased USMC participation
III. Conclusion.  All Marines that are assigned to duty with
UNTSO must gain an insight into its origin and history as well as
an understanding of the contribution made by Marines over the
    When I was informed that my next duty assignment would be in the
Middle East as an United Nations Military Observer (UNMO) my interest
and anticipation was elevated. The challenge of working in a hostile
environment with "real world" consequence creates a desire for
information in order to properly prepare. The Marine Corps does not
(as a general rule) assign its members to positions that require
travel through or interface with the people of the Middle East,
specifically: Eqypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Therefore, the
experience base in the U.S. Marine Corps is limited for officers who
are preparing for a Middle East assignment. The Executive Agent in
the Pentagon that sponsors United Nations Truce Supervision
Organization billets does not provide adequate historical or
background information on the Command that only a few officers will
get a chance to be apart. Therefore, this paper is written to fill that
void. All Marine officers assigned to the United Nations Truce
Supervision Organizations (UNTSO) must have a comprehensive
understanding of its origin, history, and U.S. Marine Corps involvement
not only to be able to function within this unique command, but
    The United Kingdom (UK) made a request to the United Nations (UN)
on May 2, 1947 to consider the existing Jewish-Palestine problem.
(1:94-99) This move marked the first formal involvement of the U.N.
into Middle East problems. The following month, the U.N. General
Assembly established the United Nations Special Committee on
Palestine (UNSCOP) to review the tense situation. (11:9) (3:40)
After a year's work, UNSCOP made its final report which later became
known as the United Nations Partition Plan. (7:42) Subsequently, it
became evident that once the UK relinquished control, violence would
increase because the Arabs realized a Jewish state was about to be
established in their midst. (1:94-99) The UK mandate over Palestine
was scheduled to terminate May 15, 1948. It was easy to predict that
widespread fighting would consume an already turbulent area. In
order to stall for peace, the Security Council called for a cease-fire
between the hostile factions on April 17, 1948 and six days later
established the "Truce Commission for Palestine" to regulate the
cease-fire. (11:7-10) Belguim, France, and the United States were
the initial contributors of personnel to the Truce Commission. While
continuing the search for a peaceful settlement (that all would agree
to), the Security Council appointed an "United Nations Mediator in
Palestine" on May 14, 1948. The Mediator was instructed on May 29,
1948 to create a one-month truce in Palestine. The Mediator concept
was teamed with the Truce Commission for supervisory overwatch of
the Truce Plan. As a result, the Mediator and the Truce Commission
would be provided with a number of military observers which set a
precedence for today's assignment of UNMO's (United Nations Military
Observers) in the Middle East. (2:21-27)
    The month-long truce went into effect on June 11, 1948. On the
same day, the first group of 36 observers arrived via Cairo, Eqypt and
continued to arrive for the next three days. This batch of observers
were from Belguim, France, and United States.  The initial group
quickly expanded to 93 in total because of the tremendous area that
had to be covered. As the number of personnel grew, the United
Nations Secretariat (of Personnel) supported the creation of the
United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), the same
organization U.S. Marines are assigned to today. Initially, the
command was headed by a Chief-of-Staff (a general officer from one
of the participating countries) in accordance with the personal
direction of the Mediator, (a civilian). Cairo was the first
Headquarters of UNTSO. (8:2-9)  The headquarters then moved to
Haifa, Israel in late June 1948, shortly after its initial creation. The
first truce did not last long due to widespread violence which had
again erupted. As a result, the observers were withdrawn on July 9,
1948. (2:25)
    The second truce--indefinite in length--was called by the United
Nations Security Council on July 15, 1948. (11:7-12) This
declaration was to be put into effect on July 18, 1 During the
fall of 1948, UNTSO was re-established with an increased size to
supervise the Second Truce. Talks between the warring parties began
under the supervision of the Acting Mediator because the Mediator had
been assassinated on September 17, 1948. (8:2-9) The General
Armistice Agreements were the outgrowth of the Mediator-chaired
talks. In the interim, the Headquarters for UNTSO was moved again
for the third and final time to Jerusalem on October 7, 1948 (where
it still resides today).
    Immediately after the Armistice Agreements, (independent
agreements between Israel and each of her boarding neighbors) the
official role of the Mediator and the Truce Commision were complete.
Therefore, the Mediator billet and the Truce Commission was offically
dissolved. (11:7-17)
    At this point, UNTSO became the premier UN organization in the
Middle East. (2:26) It was clearly given a bi-fold mission which
reads as follows: "first, to observe and report on the truce which
was established on June 18, 1948, and, secondly, to maintain the
organization of the Mixed Armistice Commissions (MAC)." (6:18)
Included in each General Armistice Agreements, a clause was
provided for the creation of MACs which were composed of an equal
amount of representatives from the participating factions to the
Armistices (e.g., if Israel provided five members, Egypt would match
her representation with five also, and so forth for all the MACs--one
MAC for Israel and each of her bordering countries). UNTSO provided
the chairman which was always its ranking member. In the same
accord, UNTSO provided each MAC with a number of observers to detail
the nature of complaints (regardless of which country who had lodged
the grievance) in order to preserve the Truce. Logistic and
administrative support grew within UNTSO as the observers were
placed in remote locations. This requirement laid the foundation for
UNTSO's existing support structure as we know it today.
       The period from August 1949 to June 1967 was a "relatively"
stable period for UNTSO, eventhough the participating parties for each
Armistice were often uncooperative. Regardless of the hard work and
genuine intent of UNTSO, its contribution toward peace was limited
because the MACs were the foundation for peaceful existence. For
approximately 18 years, (from 1949 until after the 1967 War), lack of
harmony within the MACs was typical of the relationship existing
between the countries. With the exception of the Israeli-Lebanon
MAC, strife and discord was common. (8:2-12)
    After the 1956 War (often referred to as the Suez War), UNTSO
greatly assisted the establishment of the United Nations Emergency
Force (UNEF) by providing a group of trained military personnel for
peacekeeping and emergency operations. UNEF was the first time
UNTSO's expertise was tapped in order to establish an United Nations
Mission. UNTSO's contribution to UNEF set a precedence for many UN
missions to come. (9:120-129)
    Israel denounced unilaterally its Armistices with Egypt after the
1956 War and subsequently stopped all cooperation/participation
in its Israeli-Egyptian MAC. Furthermore, Israel denounced its
Armistice with Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria after the Six-Day War of
June 1967. As a result, the MAC concept of working through regional
difficulties became ineffective.  Nevertheless, UNTSO still retained
the responsbility to organize and chair the respective Mixed
Armistice Commissions. (2:25-55)
    The period between the Six-Day War of June 1967 and the Yom
Kippur War of October 1973, UNTSO performed a vital function of
helping to establish and supervise cease-fire agreements which
included new boundaries between the countries. Eventhough there was
no change to UNTSO's mission, the execution of its original mission
became nearly impossible with the advent of the newly drawn
cease-fire lines between Israel and Egypt-Jordan-Syria respectively.
Additionally, UNTSO did not have the MACs to supervise since Israel
abrogated its initial agreement to the Armistice as conceived.
Realizing the changing political situation, the UN Security Council
added some new tasks to the UNTSO Charter on the first few months
following the 1967 cease-fire. Specifically, in the Egypt-Israel and
Israel-Syria fronts, UNTSO established observation posts. These posts
remained in effect until the Yom Kippur War of October 1973. The UN
offices established in Amman and Gaza (before the 1967 War) were
allowed to continue to function as Liaison Offices, eventhough the
MAC concept had became defunct.  At the urging of the Lebanese
government, UNTSO created an observation operation along the
Lebanese border (1949 Armistice Demarcation line) in the spring of
1972. Due to the Palestinian activity in South Lebanon and the
potential Israeli repraisal against their encampments, UNTSO felt the
potential for further conflict warranted the additional observation
posts. (8:1-9)
    As a result of the Yom Kippur War, the location of UN Observers
Post in the Middle East was drastically affected. However, most OPs
are still located in the same place today. In the Egyptian-Israeli
sector, UNTSO personnel were structured around the 0bserver "Group"
concept and placed under the UN Peace-Keeping Forces that occupied
the region. Observer Group Sinai was formed and attached to the
Second United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF II). The Charter for
UNEF II expired on July 24, 1979 which only left UNTSO's presence.
The observers (UNM0s) were then restructured on new OPs which were
located on vantage points throughout the Sinai peninsula.  For the
Sinai Group, their main office was located in Cairo (where it still
resides today). On the Israeli-Syria border, UNTSO's cease-fire
observation and supervision mission continued but with a readjusted
cease-fire line. Observer Groups Damascus and Golan (Syrian sector)
were established as a result of the United Nations Disengagement
Observer Force (UNDOF). These Posts are still active today and are in
the same location. (8:1-9)
    The Israeli-Lebanese conflict commenced in the late 1970's. It
provided the lastest major change to UNTSO as we know the
organization currently. After the outbreak of the Civil War in Lebanon
and the Israeli invasion into South Lebanon (March 1978), the United
Nations established the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
(UNIFIL). (6:18) UNTSO's observers were thus reorganized into
Observer Group Lebanon (OGL) to assist UNIFIL. As the Israeli
penetration advanced north, the position of Observer Group Lebanon
was adjusted. (15:372) An additional task of being the United
Nations Liaison Office Beirut (UNLOB) was given to the headquarters
of the Israel-Lebanon Mixed Armistice Commission (ILMAC) which was
already located in Beirut. Under the close supervision of UNTSO's
Chief-of-Staff, UNLOB/ILMAC functioned as a dual purpose
headquarters/ liaison office for both UNTSO and UNIFIL. (10:14-15)
    By the middle of 1984, the United Nations Secretary General
established the United Nations Inspection Teams in Baghdad (UNIT-B)
and Teheran (UNIT-T), which UNTSO provides military support. The
purpose of these teams were to ensure that only military targets
were attacked as a result of the Iran-Iraq War. Because of the
Iran-U.S. relationship at that time, no U.S. personnel were allowed to
serve on these inspection teams.
    Throughout the life of UNTSO, the organization has been able to
adapt to the constantly changing political environment of the Middle
East. (5:210-214) UNTSO has been quick to reorganize to meet its
mission. The command is replete with a rich history of
multi-national service for Middle East peace. Currently, the
following countries contribute high caliber personnel to UNTS0 which
make for its non-bias image and effective handling of regional
tensions: (8:6)
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    The tensions, not to mention the open hostilities between warring
factions in the Middle East over the past forty (plus) years, has
certainly created a threatening environment for all people who live,
work, or pass through this region. There has been no exception for the
members of UNTSO eventhough they are in a "not-armed", "white flag"
status. (2:53-54) Many military and civilian staff members of
UNTSO, have been killed or injured over the years. American deaths
lead UNTSO's list of intentional assassinations. Other countries also
share the lose of life. Most deaths are the result of being in the
wrong place at the wrong time--between two warring factions. Mine
explosions, air raids, and unexplained shootings are the main causes
of deaths which fall into the "unintentional" category. Basically it is
the result of being in a hostile environment. Due to the threatening
circumstances, all UNTSO personnel must be volunteers. (4)
    From its founding in 1948, United States Marines have contributed
significantly in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization.
Of particular note, when UNTSO was organized, and during its first
five years of existence, it was commanded by a United States
Marine--Lieutenant General W.E. Riley. (11:55-72) General Riley was
a Brigadier General when he reported to UNTSO.
    After General Riley served his tenure, the U.S. Marine Corps began
to fill the number two job in UNTS0, which is the Deputy Chief-of-
Staff, a colonel's billet. Colonel B.V. Leary, USMC, actually
functioned as the Chief-of-Staff because he was in an acting
capacity.  He served in this capacity for a year and a half. According
to obscure records in Washington, D.C., Colonel "Mick" Johnson, USMC,
caught the Israelis in some unspecific "improprieties" during the Six-
Day War. As a result, he was quietly declared "persona non grata" by
the Government of Israel in retaliation. His replacement was Major
Roger Hagerty, U.S. Army, son of President Eisehower's Press
Secretary. It was the Hagerty appointment that shifted the billet
from the U.S. Marine Corps to the U.S. Army. (14:1-4)
    During the tense years between the Middle East Wars of 1967 and
1973, the U.S. Marine Corps provided one officer to UNTSO which was
usually a captain. Although the Navy and Air Force provided one
officer each during the same period, the U.S. Army provided four. All
U.S. officers stood duty at Observation Posts (OP) on both sides of the
Israeli border/cease-fire lines. The only exception to the
aforementioned OP duty arrangement was an, U.S. Army Lieutenant
Colonel who served as both the Senior U.S. Military Observer and the
UNTSO Operations Officer (third ranking position in the organization).
    A review of U.S. Marine participation in UNTSO is not complete
without a mention of the infamous experience of Captain Jack Holly,
USMC.  He joined UNTSO in May of 1973, several months before the
outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. In the period just after the
Yom Kippur cease fire was declared, Captain Holly and his OP partner,
an Irish UNMO, were on post high on the elevated ridges of Mt. Hermon.
Late one evening, an over-enthusiastic Arab soldier burst on the scene
and forced them out of their racks.  The Arab soldier commenced a
gun-point march toward Damascus with both Holly and the Irish UNMO
wearing only their skivies. Under the security of darkness, the Arab
soldier marched them barefoot over very rocky terrain. They passed
an Israeli strong point, went through Syrian lines, and then walked
half way to Damascus. Once the Syrian Government realized the
situation, both the Irish and U.S. Marine UNMO were returned to UN
custody. Nevertheless, their feet were severly damaged. Captain
Holly was in a convelescent status for a prolonged period and the
Irish UNMO experienced a nervous breakdown in addition to tremendous
physical problems. (14.1-4)
    Shortly after the 1973 War, U.S. participation in UNTSO expanded
to twenty-five officers. The U.S. Marine Corps portion was six.
Approximately the same period, the Soviets made a surprise move and
announced their support of UNTSO and likewise wanted to provide
Observers. To keep a balanced presence between the East-West
Superpowers--the Russian participation was set at the same level as
the United States (which was twenty-five each at that time).
Subsequent to the 1973 agreement, the number of observers for all
countries particpating increased. As a result, the number of
personnel to be provided by Soviet Union and the United States was
re-established at thirty-six each (which still remains today). Since
U.S. personnel are not allowed in Lebanon, (a limitation set forth by
U.S. Secretary of Defense Carlucci due to the threat to U.S. personnel),
there is a current move to reduce U.S. participation to UNTSO.
Likewise, the Soviets would have to drop its participation to the
same number as the United States. (13) Due to the lengthy
diplomatic process, this proposal has not been acted upon by both
nations yet. However, the proposal is anticipated to receive favorabe
consideration. (12)
    For several years now, the U.S. Marine Corps has provided one
Captain and five Majors annually as its portion of the U.S. Department
of Defense's commitment to UNTSO. The only exception to this quota
in recent years was the "overstaff" assignment of Lieutenant Colonel
Rich Higgins to UNSTO in the 1987-1988 time frame. The following
chart illustrates the authorized U.S. strength in relation to each duty
station or Observer Group: (8:6-9)
Click here to view image
   Normal tour length for U.S. Marines is one year. Usually, each
tour of duty is divided into two six-month assignments in any of
the above authorized locations. (13)
   The contribution of U.S. Marines as well as all members of
UNTSO over the Command's four (plus) decades of service has
been commendable. UNTSO has amalgamated people from all over
the world to help in the peaceful existence between the Israel
and the Arabs. UNTSO's history is rich in dedicated service
toward noble objectives. A thorough understanding of such
honorable service is a must for all volunteers who plan to join
her ranks. Likewise, the cultural tension behind the wars is
important to understand because Americans must avoid
threatening situations. The opportunity to be part of history in
the making is certainly intriguing. However, the opportunity to
experience another culture and contribute to a worthy cause is
equally rewarding.
1.  Andersen, Roy R., Robert T. Seibert, and Jon G. Wagner.
    Politics and Change in the Middle East. Englewood, Cliffs,
    New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1987.
2.  Burns, E.L.M. Between Arab and Israel. New YorK, NY:
    Clark, Irwin, and Company, Ltd., 1962.
3.  Charters, David A. The British Army and Jewish Insurgency
    in Palestine. 1945-47. New York, NY: St. Moctini Press,
    Inc., 1950.
4.  Erickson, Carl, Ground Monitor for 0302 Majors, HQMC,
    telephone conversation about 1990 assignments to UNTSO,
    September 20, 1989.
5.  Kuniholm, Bruce Robellet. The Origins of the Cold War in the
    Near East. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University
    Press, 1980.
6.  Laffin, John. The Art of Desperation: Lebanon 1982-85.
    London, England: Osprey Publishing, Ltd. 1986.
7.  Lastick, Ian. Arab in the Jewish State. Austin, Texas: The
    University of Texas Press. 1980.
8.  Masterigt, T.V. "Short History of UNTSO." UNTSO News,
    Volume 6, June 1989.
9.  Peretz, Don. The Middle East Today. New York, NY: Praeger
    Publishers/CBS Educational and Professional Publishing,
10. Pimlott, John. The Middle East Conflicts. London, England:
    Orgin Publishing Company, 1983.
11. Rosenne, Shabti. Israeli Armistice Agreements with the
    Arab States. Tel Aviv, Israel: Blumstein's Bookstores
    Limited, 1951.
12. Smith, Bill, Senior USMC Officer in UNTSO, personal
    discussion about the UNTSO, November 30, 1989.
13. Taylor, John, USMC Officer assigned to UNTSO 1989-90,
    personal discussion about UNTSO, January 5, 1990.
14. U.S. Marine Corps Information Paper. Marines Have Served
    UNTSO Continuously Since 1949. Headquarters, U.S. Marine
    Corps Information Paper, Number PL3-ma-44221, 1988.
15. Ziring, Lawrence. The Middle East Political Dictionary,
    Oxford, England: Elio Press Ltd. 1984.

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