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United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy (commonly West Point, also USMA) is a
military academy and former fort of the US Army. It is located in West
Point, New York, on the east bank of the Hudson River about 50 miles (80 km)
north of New York City, and occupies 16,000 acres (25 square miles, or 6,500
[A five-cent postage stamp in honor of the Academy]
Academy graduates are awarded a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission
as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. They must serve a minimum of five
years on active duty followed by 3 years in the reserves.
The Military Academy's sports teams are called The Black Knights of the
Hudson, or simply The Black Knights. They participate in the NCAA's Division
I-A, as an independent team in football, and in the Patriot League.
West Point's motto is "Duty, Honor, Country". It is the oldest continuously
occupied military post in the country.
The site was selected for the construction of a fort by George Washington,
and the fortifications were designed in 1778 by Thaddeus Kosciuszko. General
Washington considered West Point one of the most important positions on the
continent. The high ground above a narrow "s" curve in the Hudson River
enabled the Continental Army to control the vital river traffic. He felt
that the British Army could have split the colonies in two if they gained
control of this land.
President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation establishing the United States
Military Academy on March 16, 1802 and the school opened on July 4 of the
The Superintendent from 1817-1833 was Colonel Sylvanus Thayer. He is known
as the "father of the Military Academy". He upgraded academic standards,
instilled military discipline and emphasized honorable conduct. Thayer made
civil engineering the foundation of the curriculum. For the first half
century, USMA graduates were largely responsible for the construction of the
bulk of the nation's initial railway lines, bridges, harbors and roads.
The development of other technical schools in the US during the post-Civil
War period allowed West Point to broaden its curriculum beyond a strict
civil engineering focus.
After World War I, Superintendent Douglas MacArthur sought to further
diversify the academic curriculum. In recognition of the physical demands of
modern warfare, MacArthur pushed for major changes in the physical fitness
and athletic programs. "Every cadet an athlete" became an important goal. At
the same time, the cadet management of the Honor System, long an unofficial
tradition, was formalized with the creation of the Cadet Honor Committee.
In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation increasing the strength
of the Corps of Cadets from 2,529 to 4,417 (more recently reduced to 4,000).
No classes graduated in 1810 or 1816 and there were two graduating classes
in 1861, 1917, 1918, 1922 and 1943.
In recent decades, the Academy's curricular structure was markedly changed
to permit cadets to major in any one of more than a dozen fields, including
a wide range of subjects from the sciences to the humanities.
* Gen E. R. S. Canby
* Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
* Abner Doubleday
* Ulysses S. Grant
* Robert E. Lee
* Douglas MacArthur
* George Patton
* James Ewell Brown Stuart
* Norman Schwarzkopf
* Wesley Clark