United States Armed Forces

United States Army

The first American militia unit was formed in 1747 and was known as “His Majesty’s first Independent Company of American Rangers.”  Colonial units such as this aided British soldiers during the French and Indian War which began on American soil.  This and other similar units were the foundation for the Continental Army created to fight for American independence from Great Britain.  George Washington was appointed the Commander of the Continental Army, which was created on June 14, 1775, by the Continental Congress.  The initial orders from Congress authorized ten companies of riflemen.  The first full regiment of Regular Army infantry, the 3rd Infantry Regiment was not formed until June 1784.  It was initially led by men who brought a British military heritage with them but this changed as foreign allies such as the French and Prussians aided these new troops.  This is the precursor of future changes to come in the army.

After the war, the Continental Army was quickly disbanded because of the American distrust of standing armies.  Volunteer state militias became the new nation’s sole ground army with the exception of a regiment to guard the Western Frontier and one battery of artillery guarding West Point’s arsenal.  However, because of continuing conflict with Native Americans, it was soon realized that it was necessary to field a trained standing army.  The first of these, the Legion of the United States, was established in 1791.  

It was realized by some of our founding fathers, especially George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, that as the Army became smaller there was a need for a well trained core of individuals to lead the troops. The United States Military Academy at West Point was established on March 16, 1802.  This was a starting point for one of the best trained and well organized armies in the world.  

The first major war that the Army was involved in after the Revolutionary War was also the last war against the British, the War of 1812 (1812-1815).  After that the long history of the Army includes the westward expansion and the Civil War (1861-1865).  The Civil War was the deadliest war in American history since American soldiers fought on both sides.  Nearly every general officer of note for either side during the Civil War was a graduate of West Point.  In 1890 the US became a reluctant international player in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, and the Boxer Rebellion in China.
The twentieth century was ushered in by the ‘War to End all Wars,’ World War I (1917-1918).  Then came World War II (1941-1945) and the Cold War after that.  The Cold War period included two major conflicts, the Korean War (1950-1953) and the Vietnam War (1961-1975).  The Army discontinued the draft in 1973 which necessitated more involvement by both the Army National Guard and the Army Reserves.  The 1980’s became a time of reorganization for the Army.  The Cold War officially ended with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

In 1991, Operation Desert Storm commenced and lasted less than two months.  After the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, US forces invaded Afghanistan and replaced the Taliban.  The Army took part in the combined U.S. and allied invasion of Iraq in 2003.  In the following years the mission changed from conflict between regular militaries to counterinsurgency, with large numbers of suicide attacks resulting in the deaths of more than 4,000 U.S service members and injuries to thousands more.  The lack of stability in the theater of operations has led to longer deployments for Regular Army as well as Reserve and Guard troops.

As the oldest branch of the US Military, the Army is one of the most powerful and diverse fighting forces on the earth.  Approximately 549,015 full time military personal in today’s Army defend and serve our nation by land, sea and air.  The full time personnel are supplemented by the Army Reserves which has 205,297 troops and the National Guard with 358,391 troops.  Elite groups within the Army, such as the Army Rangers and Special Forces, receive specialized training for advance combat situations.  In addition to domestic bases, the Army has permanent stations in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.  There are also groups on the ground wherever there is a military conflict.