Flag of NATO

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North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Flag of NATO.svg
Use Other
Proportion 3:4
Adopted October 14, 1953
Design A dark blue (Pantone 280) field charged with a white compass rose emblem from which radiate four white lines.

The flag of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) consists of a dark blue field charged with a white compass rose emblem, with four white lines radiating from the four cardinal directions. Adopted three years after the creation of the organization, it has been the flag of NATO since October 14, 1953. The blue colour symbolizes the Atlantic Ocean, while the circle stands for unity.


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was established on April 4, 1949, when twelve nations signed the North Atlantic Treaty to counteract the perceived threat from the Soviet Union.[1] It took almost three years before NATO began looking for an emblem, a task handled by the newly formed Information Policy Working Group. After several discussions, it concluded that a flag for the organization containing its emblem was necessary, and that it would recommend this to the North Atlantic Council.[2]

The council stipulated that the design had to be "simple and striking," in addition to highlighting the "peaceful purpose" of the Treaty; several proposals were rejected.[2] An emblem of NATO was finally adopted on October 14, 1953. The decision was announced by Hastings Ismay, 1st Baron Ismay – the first Secretary General of NATO – exactly two weeks later on October 28, where he also elaborated on the symbolism behind the chosen design.[2] He described the flag as "simple and inoffensive."[3] However, the flag was not universally well-received, and attracted criticism from for instance US Congressman John Travers Wood, who condemned the flag as a "strange and alien rag."[4] He made the remarks in light of an alleged incident where the flag of the United States was reportedly replaced by the NATO flag in Norfolk, Virginia, the headquarters of the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic.[4]

The flag was first hoisted on November 9, 1953, at the opening ceremony of the Atlantic Exhibition in Paris.[2][5] However, little is known about the occasion, since the speech delivered at the event could not be found.[2]


The colours of the flag carry cultural, political, and regional meanings. The dark blue field represents the Atlantic Ocean, while the circle stands for unity among the member states of NATO. The compass rose symbolizes the direction towards the path of peace, the goal that member states strive for; it has been updated once.[2][6]


  1. Cavendish, Richard (1999). "The Founding of NATO". History Today. 49 (4). Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "The Birth of the Emblem". NATO.int. North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  3. "NATO: The Colors". Time. November 9, 1953. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Idaho Lawmaker Raps NATO Flag". The Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. April 18, 1952. p. 12. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  5. "NATO Flag Flown". Toledo Blade. Reuters. November 10, 1953. p. 2. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  6. "Le Drapeau de L’OTAN—The Flag of NATO" (PDF). CPVA.ca. Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association. Retrieved March 6, 2014. 

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