The United States Army has made the sacrifices that keep our nation free. Since its humble beginnings, it has grown, through lean times and flush, to become the premier fighting force in the world. It is the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence. And today is the Army’s birthday!

Army History 

The U.S. Army began its life as the Continental Army before the United States of America was established as a country. What is now the U.S. Army was created by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, in order to fight the British during the American Revolution. The Battle of Lexington and Concord with the “shot heard ’round the world” had taken place just weeks earlier. The Battle of Bunker Hill, where the upstart colonist militias showed they could hold their own against the British military, would take place just three days later on June 17, 1775. So, yes, the U.S. Army is actually older than the United States itself. 

U.S. Army troops during the Revolutionary War. (History.com)

After the defeat of the British at Yorktown and the United States’ independence, the United States and Great Britain would fight against each other again during the War of 1812. (Now, the two countries are the closest of allies having fought together during World Wars I and II, Korea, and the Global War on Terror.)

As the U.S. began its expansion westward, the Army was responsible for mapping nearly all of the territory and protecting American interests and citizens as they moved into new territories. 

U.S. troops from the 23rd Ohio Color Guard during the Civil War.

The Civil War that took place from 1861-1865 was the costliest war fought in our nation’s history. Over 600,000 men on both sides lost their lives. Much of the South was destroyed during the war, but eventually, all of the southern states were readmitted to the Union. 

During further westward expansion, the Army continued to protect U.S. citizens and in many cases not only contained by broke treaties made with Native American tribes. 

The U.S. entered World War I in 1917 on the side of the Triple Entente against the Central Powers. After the bloody conflict was over, America decided to downsize its military to minuscule numbers and by 1939, the U.S. had the 17th-sized army in the world, smaller than that of Portugal. 

U.S. soldiers of the 23rd Infantry, 2nd Division, firing a 37mm machine gun at a German position in the Argonne Forest, during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, 26 September – 11 November 1918. (U.S. Army Signal Corps)

By the time World War II broke out, the Army was woefully unprepared, undermanned, and with little modern equipment.  General George C. Marshall went about putting together a tremendous expansion of both manpower and equipment. In an outstanding display of organizational skill, Marshall took an army of about 175,000 men and by WWII’s end had over 11 million men under arms. The Army was able to fight a war on two fronts, from North Africa, Italy, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and Czechoslovakia in Europe, and across the Pacific where it was even preparing for an invasion of the  Japanese mainland. 

Army assault troops push toward Normandy beaches on D-Day.

Following WWII, American troops fought in bloody wars in Korea and Vietnam and in smaller conflicts in Grenada and Panama. It was while fighting these smaller conflicts that the armed services realized that while they all fought well as individual services, the interoperability between them was lacking and needed to be fixed. 

The first Gulf War in 1990-91 was an example of how that interoperability was vastly improved. The military, especially the Army, was able to project over 500,000 troops. Some of the largest tank battles in history were fought during the invasion of Kuwait and Iraq in 1991 and they resulted in a total rout of Iraqi forces. 

U.S. Army troops during the war in Vietnam.

Since 2001 in Afghanistan and 2003 in Iraq, the Army has been fighting the Global War on Terror. The war in Afghanistan has been the longest in our country’s history although the troops are slated to be withdrawn by September 11

Army Trivia You May Not Know About

Here are interesting facts about the Army that you may not know about.

  • Nearly 70 percent of all Medals of Honor have been awarded to soldiers. And 1,198 of the Army’s 2,403 Medals of Honor were awarded for actions in the Civil War.
  • General Mark Milley is the 10th Army general to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is the 20th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
  • Francis Marion, known as “The Swamp Fox,” headed a group of Revolutionary War-era Army Rangers. He is also credited with creating modern guerrilla warfare, which was key to the American victory against the British. He traveled along swamp paths and led his men in surprise attacks against unsuspecting British troops. They fought more like Native Americans than regular troops-of-the-line. 
  • More than half of the men elected president, 24 to be exact, have worn the Army’s uniform. However, only President James Buchanan served without becoming an officer.
  • The Air Force was part of the Army until 1947. The Army created the Army Air Corps, which became the Army Air Forces during World War II. The National Security Act of 1947 turned it into its own separate branch of the Armed Forces.
  • There have only been five five-star generals in the Army. There has only been one, General Hap Arnold, who was a five-star both in the Army and the Air Force. 
  • Galusha Pennypacker was the youngest general in Army history, earning a promotion to brevet brigadier general at the age of 20 during the Civil War.
  • General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the last general to be elected president.
  • During the Civil War, one-third of all Union soldiers were immigrants. 
  • The Army was the last branch to adopt an official song, declaring The Army Goes Rolling Along as its official tune in 1956.
  • The 45th Infantry used the swastika as a sleeve insignia until World War II. The swastika was actually a Native American symbol of good luck that was stolen by the Nazis. The 45th had used it to honor the Native Americans. After WWII, the unit switched to the thunderbird.
  • The Army has bases in 74 countries.
  • If all of the Army bases were combined into a single plot of land, the size of the area would become the 42nd largest state.
  • In 2020, the Army’s strength, between the Regular Army, Reserve, and National Guard units, was 1,005,725 soldiers. 

So, a Happy 246th birthday, U.S. Army! You don’t look a day over 200!

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