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The Military And Wars,
From The Revolution To Nuclear Subs

Renault light tanks
Armored troops going forward in the Argonne, France, September 26, 1918.

The United States Department of War was the military department of the United States government's executive branch from 1789 until 1949, when it became part of the United States Department of Defense. It was headed by the United States Secretary of War. It was also known as the War Office.

In 1949 the War Office was renamed the United States Department of the Army and became a component of the Department of Defense. The United States Secretary of the Army is in charge of the administrative offices necessary for the Army's operations.

The highest-ranking Army officer is the Army Chief of Staff who is assisted by the Vice-chief. The only difference today is that the Army Air Force was separated and formed into the US Air Force under the newly formed Department of the Air Force.

The United States Army was founded on 14 June 1775, by an act of the Continental Congress in response to the increased British military activity in the 13 Colonies. George Washington became our first Commander in Chief of the US Army. Today's Army is responsive and dominant at every point on the spectrum of conflicts. They provide to the Nation an array of deployable, agile, versatile, lethal, survivable, and sustainable formations, which are affordable and capable of resolving conflicts decisively. The Army's deployment is the surest sign of America's commitment to accomplishing any mission that occurs on land.

USS Louisville (SSN-724) returns from a nine-month deployment on 13 May 2003.
Louisville was the first to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles in combat during the Gulf War in 1991. The submarine was one of four Pacific Fleet attack submarines to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Assigned to Major Commands throughout the world, these forces are organized under tactical units called corps, divisions, brigades, regiments, and smaller supporting units. The Army Vision: Soldiers on Point for the Nation ... Persuasive in Peace, Invincible in War.

The United States Navy was founded on 13 October 1775, and the Department of the Navy was established on 30 April 1798. For centuries, sea power has played a vital role in determining and supporting national strategies.

We have progressed from sail to steam, to nuclear power; from guns to missiles; from biplanes to supersonic aircraft, to the space age. Still, sea power remains a fundamental factor in the world strategy. Because of its great dependence on overseas sources for raw materials and because of its overseas allies, the US must maintain naval forces capable of controlling the sea lines of communication and projecting its sea power across the oceans.

The Navy has three principle components: the Navy Department, the operating forces, including the Marine Corps, the reserve components, the shore establishment, and in time of war, the US Coast Guard. The peacetime mission of the US Navy is to be prepared to conduct prompt and sustained combat operations at sea in support of our national interest; in effect, to ensure continued maritime superiority for the United States.

Late 1950 or early 1951
Leathernecks inch forward under fire on the central Korean front [Note scarf worn around the neck of this Marine and billed cap under his helmet].

On 10 November 1775, the Continental Congress passed a resolution directing, "Two battalions of Marines be raised" for service as landing forces with the fleet. This resolution established the Continental Marines and marked the birth date of the United States Marine Corps.

Serving on land and at sea, these first Marines distinguished themselves in a number of important operations, including their first amphibious raid into the Bahamas in March, 1776, under the command of Captain Samuel Nicholas. Nicholas, the first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines, is also considered to be the first Marine Commandant.

For organizational purposes, the Corps in divided into three broad categories: Headquarters USMC, the operational forces, and the supporting establishment. Seventy percent of al active duty Marines are assigned to the operational forces.

The way in which the Marine Corps fights its wars is based on two operational concepts: maneuver and combined arms. The Marine Corps' efficiency is measured by its war-fighting capabilities, both on and off the battlefield. From infantry to aviation, and all the supporting roles in between, every unit uses one common resource: energy. The term "Marine" represents a national institution whose reputation and standing is in the hands of every Marine. As long as our nation exercises command of the seas, Marines will form the cutting edge.

Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Air Force crew from the 211th Helicopter Squadron fly on a combat assault mission July 18, 1970.

Although the youngest of the armed services, the Air Force has a rich tradition stretching back to 1 August 1907 when the Chief Signal Officer of the U.S. Army established the Aeronautical Division, consisting of one officer.

A proposal for a Department of Armed Forces was presented to the U.S. Senate in October 1945. The National Security Act of 1947 established the Department of Defense, with three sub-departments for army, navy, and air force. On September 18, 1947, Stuart Symington was sworn in as the first secretary of the air force. Carl A. Spaatz became the first chief of staff.

World War II had tested theories and developed new technologies. Now these had to be organized and developed. The potential uses of conventional and nuclear bombing had to be explored. Technologies such as jets, supersonic flight, giant bombers, mid-air refueling, rockets, missiles, the flying wing, and nuclear bombs had to be developed, tested, and understood.

The Soviet Union loomed as a powerful enemy. When they blockaded Berlin in 1948, the air force flew its first major action, the Berlin Airlift. The air force was ready and its first mission was a success. The Air Force Core Values are: "Integrity first", "Service before self", "Excellence in all we do". The Airman's Creed is a statement introduced in early 2007 to summarize the culture of the Air Force.

83-foot Coast Guard cutter USCG 1 off Omaha Beach on the morning of D-Day, tying up to an LCT and the Samuel Chase.
USCG-1 escorted the first waves of landing craft into the Omaha assault area on D-Day morning. Its crew pulled 28 survivors from a sunken landing craft out of the English Channel right off the beaches before 0700, 6 June 1944.

The United States Coast Guard has its roots in the Revenue Cutter Service, started 4 August, 1790. However, it did not gain its current name until it combined with the Lifesaving Service in 1915.

The Coast Guard is the primary federal agency with maritime authority for the United States. The service's multi-mission approach permits a relatively small organization to respond to public needs in a wide variety of maritime activities and to shift emphasis on sort notice when the need arises.

The Coast Guard's four main mission areas are: Maritime Law Enforcement, Maritime Safety, Marine Environmental Protection, and National Security. In support of these four main missions, Coast Guard personnel perform the following jobs on a routine daily basis: aids to navigation, boating safety, defense operations, environmental response, maritime licensing, port safety and security, search and rescue, and waterway management.

The U.S. Coast Guard is the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard is an adaptable, responsive military force of maritime professionals whose broad legal authorities, capable assets, geographic diversity and expansive partnerships provide a persistent presence along our rivers, in the ports, littoral regions and on the high seas. Coast Guard presence and impact is local, regional, national and international. These attributes make the Coast Guard a unique instrument of maritime safety, security and environmental stewardship. The Coast Guard was under the Department of Transportation and now Homeland Security and has participated in all major national conflicts.

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The Founding Fathers developed a profound distaste for war and military ways, and among the many lessons they took from their reading of the past was the assurance that a standing army and a free people were incompatible. As Benjamin Franklin warned in 1784, “an Army is a devouring monster.…It seems to me that if statesmen had a little more arithmetic, or were more accustomed to calculation, wars would be much less frequent.”

Franklin wrote at a time when the United States had a government barely worthy of the name, no foreign connections to speak of, and except for eighty guards no army at all. Some months earlier the last of the Continental units from the Revolution had been disbanded, and like others among his contemporaries Franklin hoped they would never be called to arms again. But within a year of his writing, his hopes were dashed. Indian troubles along the frontier required the formation of the First American Regiment—three companies of infantry, totalling seven hundred men. They were drawn as volunteers from four states, and although nominally under state control they were nonetheless a federal army raised and financed by Congress.

Beginning with the Declaration of Independence, in which George III was condemned in four separate clauses for misusing military power, and continuing through the drafting of the Constitution, the Founding Fathers displayed a deep-seated distrust of a standing army and all it represented. “Soldiers are apt to consider themselves as a body distinct from the rest of the citizens,” Samuel Adams warned in 1776. “They have their arms always in their hands. Their rules and their discipline is severe. They soon become attached to their officers and disposed to yield implicit obedience to their commands. Such a power should be watched with a jealous eye.” From the outset of the Revolution Congress placed the generals in a subordinate position, from which they have never escaped. As John Adams told Horatio Gates, “we don’t choose to trust you generals, with too much power, for too long [a] time.” Since then ultimate military authority has always rested in the civil arm: first with the President as Commander in Chief and next with the constitutional prohibition on army budgets for longer than two years.

Civilian control is the first great principle of American military policy and perhaps more than any other thing has been responsible for mitigating the otherwise oppressive effects that might have come from our preoccupation with war. Except for the abortive Newburgh Addresses in 1783, which threatened an officers’ mutiny—and which in fact merely prove the rule—we have never been even close to a military coup d’état, a condition among major powers in modern times that we share only with England.

So effectively was this principle embedded in the American system that to all intents and purposes the military was removed from the political sphere entirely, and whatever weight the generals carried in Congress came—and comes—from their acknowledged expertise as servants of the Republic rather than from any threat to use the forces they command to achieve their ends. And those who have succeeded to the Presidency are no exception. Indeed, the record suggests that the professional soldiers in the White House, like Washington and Eisenhower, were often tougher on military budgetary requests and more jealous custodians of civilian control than some of their colleagues who had followed a civilian route to the executive office.



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