US Army History has been made possible by all of the brave men and women who have served throughout the years to protect and defend the United States. The United States Army is the oldest and largest branch of the military. It’s been there for us since the very beginning, when America was first fighting for its independence, all the way to the present day. To better honor this great force, we can learn more about its history and seek to help its members, both past, present, and future.
The Continental Army
America’s first Continental Army was formed on June 14, 1775, by order of the Second Continental Congress. Until then, the individual American colonies and provinces relied on their own makeshift militia. But in the year 1774, as war with Great Britain became more and more likely, regional leaders in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island began forming their own company regiments. By 1775, a fledgling colonial army composed of men from all thirteen colonies was preparing for combat. Congress had also begun the creation of departments in charge of Army operations, such as the Army Corps of Engineers, the Adjutant General’s Corps, and the Quartermasters Crops, among others. The first field artillery and cavalry units were also formed in 1775. The First Continental Regiment was formed a year later in 1776, around the time George Washington was unanimously chosen to be the Continental Army’s commander-in-chief.
Washington proved himself a great leader and founding father of the United States in his handling of the Revolutionary War. Without his leadership, it’s unlikely the Continental Army would have survived. In 1776, under Washington’s lead, the colonists forcibly removed British troops from Boston and went on to win key battles in New Jersey, Saratoga, and Yorktown that would keep colonial morale intact and eventually lead to victory and independence.
After the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army was disbanded only to be replaced some years later by the Legion of the United States, when conflicts with Native Americans proved to Congress that having no standing army was too dangerous for a new nation.
Rearrangement of the War Department and the Civil War
America’s War of 1812 against the British was wrought with complications and ended up convincing Congress that leadership reformations were needed. After the war was won, Washington ordered John C. Calhoun, the Secretary of War, to institute new departmental bureaus and bureau chiefs, as well as a commanding field general. The Department of the Interior would also be formed in the coming years.
With the Southern States’ secession from the Union, much of the original strength of the Army was lost. But once actual battles broke out, both the Northern and the Southern States succeeded in rounding up local recruits. This Volunteer Army became so large that upper management had to be restructured and new units had to be formed altogether. America’s first brigades and corps headquarters and divisions sprung up around this time. Eventually, greater resources and strength of numbers in the North afforded the Union Army victory over the Confederates.
On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and effectively freed all African slaves in the United States. Almost 200,000 newly-freed black men enlisted in the Union Army soon after.
The 20th Century: World War I
In 1917, the National Army was formed by the United States War Department, made up of volunteer and conscripted service members. This National Army came about as a result of the Selective Service Act, which clarified the US military structure in general. According to the SSA, the United States Army would be composed of three major entities: a Regular Army of 286,000, authorized in 1916; a National Guard of 450,000; and a National Army of 500,000, which the president could call into action whenever it was needed. When World War I broke out, each Army division was about 30,000 men-strong and contained upwards of sixteen infantry battalions each. In 1917, the United States Army made its debut in Europe.
World War II
When World War I ended, the US Army shrunk considerably, and funding was scarce. It wasn’t until World War II that the Army of the United States was formed, after the National Army, the National Guard, and the Regular Army became so indistinct that the War Department combined them into one entity. The United States entered World War II in 1941 after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Many American soldiers were sent to Italy, North Africa, and Sicily, while the rest took part in combat throughout England, France, and Germany. US attacks on Japanese islands such as Iwo Jima were carried out by the Army and the Marines, and American troops would later occupy defeated Germany and Japan.
Until 1947, the United States’ air fighters had been members of the US Army Air Force. However, shortly after World War II, the United States Air Force was made into its own branch of the military. It was also around this time that the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act allowed women to serve in the Regular and Reserve Army forces.
End of the 20th Century: The Korean and Vietnam Wars
In the mid-twentieth-century, the United States Army entered the Korean War to maintain South Korea’s independence from North Korea. Over the next few years, many American troops were sent to and remained in Europe as Soviet threats intensified. In 1959, the Gulf of Tonkin Incident caused American military leaders to deploy thousands of troops, many conscripted, to the Republic of Vietnam. The Army managed to weaken the Viet Cong significantly during the Tet Offensive of 1968, but withdrew from the area in 1973 due to extreme political opposition to the war back in the States and around the world.
In the latter portion of the twentieth century, the United States Army underwent some downsizing, but also participated in conflicts in the Middle East. In 1991, Operation Desert Storm utilized half a million troops to successfully drive Iraq out of areas vulnerable to invasion, such as Saudi Arabia. In 1993, the Army participated in a UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia, as well as a similar mission for NATO in 1995.
On September 11, 2001, a terrorist attack on the United States World Trade Center and the Pentagon brought the United States Army back to the Middle East. American and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan a month after the attacks. A couple of years later, American forces, under the leadership of President George W. Bush, invaded Iraq in 2003. From that point on, warfare in the Middle East would be transformed. Local insurgencies, more than anything else, would become the primary threat to US forces stationed there. Instead of the draft, the Army adopted a Total Force model to fuel the war in Iraq, which brought many National Guard and Reserve forces into active duty. Even though much of the Regular Army withdrew from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011, American forces are still present in the Middle East today.
Supporting Our Troops
We at Low VA Rates are thankful for the United States Army, the oldest and largest branch of the military we love and support. We’re mindful of sacrifices made by countless American soldiers on our behalf over the years; it’s this awareness that drives us to work as hard as we do every day to give back to the veteran and military communities. To learn about the VA loan program and the many ways it can help you and your family, visit our website, or give us a call at 866-569-8272. We’re here to serve you!