Military Leadership U: West Point continues to set the standard after 217 years
A starting point for some of America’s finest military leaders, The United States Military Academy boasts a proud tradition of being one of the finest and most exclusive learning institutions in the world today.
Officially opened on July 4th, 1802, West Point boasts a 16,080-acre campus and is home to around 4,300 Cadets.
In its early years, Cadets could be as young as ten years of age and as old as 37, though this would become more standardized as the War of 1812 loomed on the horizon.
It was not until the Mexican-American War that West Point graduates truly proved themselves in battle, with commanders such as Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee -who would later square off as enemies in the Civil War- racking up distinguished records for combat prowess.
The American Civil War brought about fame for West Point, as nearly every noteworthy general officer from both the Union and Confederate factions had graduated from there, commanding the forces of one or both sides in every major battle.
During the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars, the need for junior officers was so great that West Point graduated two classes early, and the overall size of the Corps of Cadets was expanded.
By World War One, the Academy had graduated several talented officers that would make names for themselves in World War II, including Douglas MacArthur, Joseph Stilwell, Henry “Hap” Arnold, George S. Patton, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Omar Bradley.
Following World War II and Korea, the first female Cadet joined in 1968, and the Vietnam War caused enrollment to fall. By the end of the conflict, 333 graduates were killed in battle.
The Academy’s splendor was restored in 1991 when General Norman Schwarzkopf led Allied troops during Operation Desert Storm. In the years to follow, leaders such as Generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno would also make names for themselves.
West Point is a truly American institution, and will likely remain as long as the United States itself- a proving ground for young officers and true leaders of men.
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