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The History of the U.S. Military
Now considered a superpower, the United States military had its origins in the settlers who came to this country more than 200 years ago. From a voluntary military to a draft military and back to volunteers, those who make up today’s forces are part of a long line of brave men and women fighting for their country.
Today’s military is made up of the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force, further aided by the Coast Guard and National Guard. From the War of Independence to the present war on terror, the U.S. military has seen battles fought overseas and on its own land. Yet the military also serve as peacekeepers at home and abroad, lending a helping hand in times of trouble.
Although there had been local militias made up of settlers who typically had to fend for themselves, the colonists were not organized on a large scale. It wasn’t until the Continental Congress created the Continental Army in 1775 that the US saw the beginnings of its military. Throughout the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army, led by George Washington, was supplemented by the colonial militias. Yet at the end of the war, with the U.S. victory, the Continental Army was disbanded as a result of the fear that many Patriots had of a standing army. Veterans received land grants and Washington resigned as commander-in-chief.
After the war, the U.S. maintained only a small army and navy, relying primarily once again on local militias. However, as a new country, they still faced a number of conflicts, both at sea and on the western front. Despite often preferring to remain neutral in various conflicts that arose between Britain and France, the U.S. military was often dragged into the conflict and gradually grew in strength and training.
The War of 1812 saw the U.S. Army emerge victorious over the British once again, and the success of Major General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans helped pave the way for him to become president of the United States.
The American Civil War was a dark time in U.S. military history, as the country fought against itself. Technological advances, such as telegraphs, rifles, and ironclad ships, led to more destructive battles, which contemporary medicine couldn’t keep up with. It is sometimes known as the first modern war, and within 20 years, the Army and Navy would undergo a massive overhaul.
By the 1880s, navies around the world were being updated and modernized. Gone were the wooden ships. New steel ships, including battleships, were introduced. By the early 1900s, Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske began pushing for a more organized and effective naval war machine. He was influential in the development of a torpedo plane and his organizational ideas were being implemented by the outbreak of World War I.
The Army also underwent its own modernization, with an expansion of West Point as well as the establishment of the U.S. Army War College. Between 1898 and 1935, the U.S. military, particularly the U.S. Marine Corps, also became experienced in long-term military occupation in Latin America.
Despite a determination to remain neutral during the two World Wars, the U.S. military eventually was pulled into the conflicts. During World War I, the military was relatively small compared to other countries and needed time to mobilize. By World War II, the American military was stronger and able to mobilize more quickly. There was a particular emphasis on air power, as well. By the time the U.S. entered the war, it was able to become a dominant military force and its economic strength helped gain supplies for Allied forces.
World War II was seen as a great victory for the United States and its military. From there, the military continued to grow and evolve in both its forces and its technological prowess, including the official organization of the Air Force. Since then, the military has faced many wars and battles, but continues to show itself as a force to be reckoned with, helping the U.S. retain its position as the world’s only superpower.
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