- Alternate meanings: West Point (disambiguation).
The Chapel at West Point
The United States Military Academy, also known as West Point and USMA, is a U.S. military academy and former Army fort. It is located in West Point, New York, on the west bank of the Hudson River about 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City, and occupies 16,000 acres (65 km²) adjacent to the village of Highland Falls, New York in Orange County. It is the oldest continuously occupied military post in the United States.
Academy graduates are awarded a Bachelor of Science degree and commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the U.S. Army. They must serve a minimum of five years on active duty followed by three years in the reserves. Unlike virtually all other bachelor-degree granting institutions in the U.S. (but like the other military academies), the Academy does not refer to its students as freshmen, sophomores, juniors, or seniors; they are instead officially called "fourth class," "third class," "second class," and "first class." Colloquially, freshmen are "plebes"; sophomores, "yearlings" or "yuks"; juniors, "cows"; seniors, "firsties."
The Military Academy's sports teams were historically called The Black Knights of the Hudson, but the nickname has been officially shortened to Black Knights. U.S. sports media use Army as a synonym for the Academy; this usage is officially endorsed. The Army mascot is the Mule. Army participates in the NCAA's Division I-A as a member of Conference USA in football, but will revert to its former independent status after the 2004 season. It is a member of the Division I Patriot League in most other sports; its hockey program competes in Atlantic Hockey.
West Point's motto is Duty, Honor, 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.
George Washington quickly realized the need for a national military academy, however his Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson argued that there was no provision in the Constitution which allowed for the creation of a military academy. However, when Jefferson became president, he signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy on March 16, 1802 and the school opened on July 4 of the same year.
The Superintendent from 1817-1833 was Col. Sylvanus Thayer. He is known as the "father of the Military Academy." He upgraded academic standards, instilled military discipline and emphasized honorable conduct. Inspired by the French École Polytechnique, 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).
Women were first admitted in 1976.
No classes graduated in 1810 or 1816 and there were two graduating classes in 1861, 1917, 1918, 1922 and 1943.
West Point began collegiate tradition of the class ring, beginning with the class of 1835, and continuing ever since. The lone exception is the class of 1837, which had class cuff links.
In recent decades, the Academy's curricular structure has been 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.
Note: Some notable graduates also later served as Superintendent of the Academy (see list below)
- Col. Buzz Aldrin, Class of 1951 (astronaut)
- General of the Air Force Henry "Hap" Arnold, Class of 1907
- Gen. Omar Bradley, Class of 1915
- Capt. Louis E. Caldera, Class of 1978 (Secretary of the Army)
- Gen. E. R. S. Canby, Class of 1839
- Gen. Wesley Clark, Class of 1966
- Lt. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., Class of 1936
- Gen. Jefferson Davis, Class of 1828 (President of the Confederate States of America)
- Col. Abner Doubleday, Class of 1842
- Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Class of 1915
- Lt. Gen. Jubal Early, class of 1837
- José Figueres, President of Costa Rica, Class of 1979
- George Washington Goethals, Class of 1880
- Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Class of 1843
- Gen. Hubert Harmon, Class of 1915 (1st Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy)
- Gen. Stonewall Jackson, Class of 1846
- Mike Krzyzewski, Class of 1969 (basketball coach)
- Gen. Robert E. Lee, Class of 1829
- Gen. James Longstreet, Class of 1842
- Dennis Hart Mahan, Class of 1824
- Mickey Marcus, Class of 1924
- Gen. George Meade, Class of 1835
- Gen. George Patton, Class of 1909
- Kelly Perdew Winner and finalist of Donald Trump's Apprentice in winter of 2004.
- Gen. John J. Pershing, Class of 1886
- Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, Class of 1950 (former President of the Philippines)
- Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, Class of 1917
- Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., Class of 1956
- Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, Class of 1840
- Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, Class of 1965
- Gen. Anastasio Somoza Debayle, Class of 1946 (Former dictator and President of Nicaragua)
- Gen. Jeb Stuart, Class of 1854
- Lt. Col. Edward H. White, Class of 1952 (astronaut)
The writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe dropped out of West Point before graduating. He would have been in the class of 1834.
James McNeill Whistler, artist, dropped out of the class of 1855.
List of Superintendents
- 1st Superintendent: 1801-1812: Col. Jonathan Williams (1751-1815) – In June 1803, Lieutenant Colonel Williams vacated (he did not resign) the post of Superintendent. He returned in Superintendency in April 1805.
- 1803-1805: Maj. William Amherst Barron (1769-1825) - Major Barron resigned his commission on 14 June 1807, just before he was brought to trial by a court martial for "for …neglect of the Military Academy…”
- 1805-1812: Col. Jonathan Williams (1751-1815)
- 1812-1814: Col. Joseph Gardner Swift (1783-1865), Class of 1802
- 1814-1817: Alden Partridge (1785-1854), Class of 1806
- 1817-1833: Col. Sylvanus Thayer (1785–1872), Class of 1808
- 1833-1838: Maj. Rene DeRussy (1796-1864), Class of 1812
- 1838-1845; Richard Delafield (1798-1873), Class of 1818
- 1845-1852: Henry Brewerton (1801-1879), Class of 1819
- 1852-1855: Gen. Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), Class of 1829
- 1855-1856: John Gross Barnard (1815-1882), Class of 1833
- 1856-1861: Richard Delafield (1798-1873), Class of 1818
- January 23-28, 1861; Pierre Gustave Toutant (P.G.T.) Beauregard (1818-1893), Class of 1838
- January 28-March 1, 1861: Richard Delafield (1798-1873), Class of 1818
- 1861-1864, Alexander Hamilton Bowman (1803-1865), Class of 1825
- July to September 1864, Zealous Bates Tower (1819-1900), Class of 1841
- 1864-1866, George Washington Cullum (1809-1892), Class of 1833
- 1866-1871, Thomas Gamble Pitcher (1824-1895), Class of 1845
- 1871-1876, Thomas Howard Ruger (1833-1907), Class of 1854
- 1876-1881: Maj. Gen. John McAllister Schofield (1831-1906), Class of 1853 – Awarded the Medal of Honor at the Battle of Wilson's Creek in 1861. Later commanding general of the Army.
- 1881-1882: Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard (1830-1909), Class of 1854
- 1882-1887: Maj. Gen. Wesley Merritt (1834-1910), Class of 1860
- 1887-1889: Col. John Grubb Parke (1827-1900), Class of 1849
- 1889-1893: Col. John Moulder Wilson (1837-1919) - Awarded the Medal of Honor at the Battle of Malvern Hill, VA in 1862
- 1893-1898: Col. Oswald Hurbert Ernst (1842-1926), Class of 1864
- 1898-1906: Albert Leopold Mills (http://www.homeofheroes.com/photos/1_spanish/mills_a.jpg) (1854-1916), Class of 1879 - Awarded the Medal of Honor as a 1st Lt. at San Juan Hill in Cuba. Appointed Superintendent to West Point by President McKinley, which carried an automatic promotion from 1st Lt. to Col.
- 1906-1910: Hugh Lenox Scott (1853-1934), Class of 1876
- 1911-1912: Thomas Henry Barry (1855-1919), Class of 1877
- 1913-1917: Clarence Page Townsley, 18??-1926, Class of 1881
- 1917-1919: Samuel Escue Tillman (1847-1942), Class of 1869
- 1919-1922: Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Class of 1903 - Awarded the Medal of Honor in 1942 for his leadership to Philippine resistance to the Japanese invasion.
- 1922-1925: Brig. Gen. Fred Winchester Sladen (1863-1945), Class of 1890
- 1926-1928: Merch Bradt (M.B.) Stewart (1875-1934), Class of 1896
- 1928: Edwin Baruch Winans( 1869-1947), Class of 1891
- 1929-1932: William Ruthven Smith (1868-1941), Class of 1892
- 1932-1938: William Durward Connor (1874-1960), Class of 1897
- 1938-1940: Jay Leland Benedict (1882-1953), Class Of 1904
- 1940-1942: Robert L Eichelberger (1886-1961), Class of 1909
- 1942-1945: Francis Bowditch Wilby (1883-1965), Class of 1905
- 1945-1949: Gen. Maxwell Davenport Taylor, Class of 1922
- 1949-1951: Bryant Edward Moore (1894-1951), Class of Aug 1917
- 1951-1954: Maj. General Frederick Augustus Irving (1894-1995), Class of 1917
- 1954-1956: Blackshear Morrison Bryan (1900-1977), Class of 1922
- 1956-1960: Gen. Garrison Holt Davidson (1904-1992), Class of 1927
- 1960-1963: Gen. William Westmoreland (1914-????), Class of 1936
- 1963-1966: James Benjamin Lampert (1914-1978), Class of 1936
- 1966-1969: Gen. Donald Vivian Bennett (1915-????), Class of 1940
- 1969-1970: Maj. Gen. Samuel William Koster (1919-????), Class of 1942
- 1970-1974: William Allen Knowlton (1920-????), Class of Jan. 1943
- 1974-1977: Sidney Bryan Berry (1926-????), Class of 1948
- 1977-1981: Lt. Gen. Andrew Jackson Goodpaster (1915-????), Class of 1939
- 1981-1986: Gen. Willard Warren Scott, Jr. (1926-????), Class of 1948
- 1986-1991: Lt. Gen. Dave Richard Palmer (1934-????), Class of 1956
- 1991-1996: Lt. Gen. Howard Dwayne Graves (1939-2003), Class of 1961
- 1996-2001: Lt. Gen. Daniel W. Christman (1943-????), Class of 1965
- 2001: Lt. Gen. William J. Lennox, Jr., Class of 1971 (incumbent)
For the tourist
Limited tours are given on the campus. The academy provides a bus, driver and guide for small groups that are made up as needed from individual arrivals. West Point is often the first place for automobile tourists to stop and view on the New York City to Albany scenic Hudson River route.