The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York is located on the west bank of the Hudson River, approximately 50 miles north of New York City and 15 miles south of Newburgh, New York. The campus and central post area comprise only a small portion of the nearly 16,000 acre reservation.
The Major Command is the United States Military Academy. In addition to being a college campus with all the academic, social and athletic activities associated with such, West Point is a military installation and a National Historical Landmark, a national tourist attraction. West Point was officially recognized for its historical significance and contributions to the country in 1960 when this rocky highland was declared a National Historic Landmark. It is estimated that almost 3 million tourists from around the world visit every year to walk the grounds, observe cadets and enjoy a day at West Point.
West Point's role in American history dates back to the Revolutionary War, when both sides realized the strategic importance of the commanding plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River. General George Washington considered West Point to be the most important strategic position in America. Washington personally selected Thaddeus Kosciuszko, one of the heroes of Saratoga, to design the fortifications for West Point in 1778, and Washington transferred his headquarters to West Point in 1779. Continental soldiers built forts, batteries and redoubts and extended a l50-ton iron chain across the Hudson to control river traffic. Fortress West Point was never captured by the British, despite Benedict Arnold's treason. West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in America.
Several soldiers and legislators, including Washington, Knox, Hamilton and John Adams, desiring to eliminate America's wartime reliance on foreign engineers and artillerists, urged the creation of an institution devoted to the arts and sciences of warfare. President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy in 1802. He took this action after ensuring that those attending the Academy would be representative of a democratic society.
Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, the "father of the Military Academy," served as Superintendent from 1817-1833. He upgraded academic standards, instilled military discipline and emphasized honorable conduct. Aware of our young nation's need for engineers, 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.
After gaining experience and national recognition during the Mexican and Indian wars, West Point graduates dominated the highest ranks on both sides during the Civil War. Academy graduates, headed by generals such as Grant, Lee, Sherman and Jackson, set high standards of military leadership for both the North and South.
The development of other technical schools in the post-Civil War period allowed West Point to broaden its curriculum beyond a strict civil engineering focus. Following the creation of Army post-graduate command and staff schools, the Military Academy came to be viewed as the first step in a continuing Army education.
In World War I, Academy graduates again distinguished themselves on the battlefield. After the war, Superintendent Douglas MacArthur sought to diversify the academic curriculum. In recognition of the intense physical demands of modern warfare, MacArthur pushed for major changes in the physical fitness and intramural athletic programs. "Every cadet an athlete" became an important goal. Additionally, the cadet management of the Honor System, long an unofficial tradition, was formalized with the creation of the Cadet Honor Committee.
Eisenhower, MacArthur, Bradley, Arnold, Clark, Patton, Stilwell and Wainwright were among an impressive array of Academy graduates who met the challenge of leadership in the Second World War. The postwar period again saw sweeping revisions to the West Point curriculum resulting from the dramatic developments in science and technology, the increasing need to understand other cultures and the rising level of general education in the Army.
In 1964, President Johnson signed legislation increasing the strength of the Corps of Cadets from 2,529 to 4,417 (more recently reduced to 4,000). To keep up with the growth of the Corps, a major expansion of facilities began shortly thereafter.
In concert with the increasing role of minorities and women in society and the military over the past three decades, greater numbers of minorities and the first women were brought to the Military Academy and the Corps of Cadets. Their presence has enhanced the quality and maintained the traditional representativeness of the institution.
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. Academy graduates are awarded a bachelor of science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, serving a minimum of five years on active duty.
The United States Military Academy at West Point is located in Orange County, adjacent to Highland Falls, New York, a village with a population of approximately 4000. Orange County, located in southeastern New York State, covers eight hundred and fifty square miles. Bounded by the Delaware River on the west and the Hudson River on the east, its northern and southern boundaries have been established by various political and historical events. The landscape is beautiful and varied, from the dramatic bluffs overlooking the Hudson River to the lush forests of the Hudson Highlands and Ramapo Mountains.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended that the US Army Military Academy Preparatory School located at Ft. Monmouth, which the DoD had recommended for closure, would relocate to West Point. DoD claimed that this relocation would increase training to enhance coordination, doctrine development, training effectiveness and improve operational and functional efficiencies. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential increase of 422 jobs (264 direct and 158 indirect jobs) over the 2006 – 2011 periods in the Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY Metropolitan Division, which would be 0.1 percent of economic area employment. As a result of the relocation, several environmental considerations would have to be made. An Air Conformity Analysis and a New Source Review and permitting effort would be required at West Point. The extent of the cultural resources on West Point would be uncertain. Potential impacts might occur as result of increased times delays and negotiated restrictions. Additional operations at West Point might further impact threatened/endangered species that could lead to additional restrictions on training or operations. Significant mitigation measures to limit releases might be required to reduce impacts to water quality and achieve US EPA water quality standards.
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