A Brief History of the US Army

The US Army celebrates its 238th birthday on June 14, 2013. We thought we would share a brief history of the US Army, along with other items of historic and organizational significance.

US Army SealThe US Army was borne from humble origins—a rag tag group of revolutionaries who sought to protect the freedoms and rights they believed in. They were amateur militiamen, many with no previous military experience. They had little training, no standardized equipment, and no central chain of command. By early 1775, the Revolutionary War was growing and a more formal approach was necessary. Historians have settled upon June 14, 1775 as the official birthday of the US Army. This was the date the Second Continental Congress formed a committee to draft rules and regulations to support an army comprised of members of the colonies. They also committed to providing funds and training. The Second Continental Congress appointed George Washington as the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, and he took command on July 3, 1775.

From those humble beginnings rose the world’s most powerful, best-equipped, and best-trained army. As you can imagine, these changes didn’t happen overnight. It has taken over 200 years of war and peace for the US Army to evolve into its current state as an organization, and the world’s most elite army.

Notable Events in US Army History:

The Army is comprised of multiple branches which have evolved over the years. Here are the birthdays of the respective Army branches:

  • 1775: Infantry, Adjutant General’s Corps, Corps of Engineers, Finance Corps, Quartermaster Corps, Field Artillery Corps, Army Medical Department, Chaplains, Judge Advocate General’s Corps
  • 1776: Armor branch
  • 1812: Ordnance Corps
  • 1860: Signal Corps
  • 1918: Chemical Corps
  • 1941: Military Police Corps
  • 1942: Transportation Corps
  • 1955: Civil Affairs
  • 1962: Military Intelligence
  • 1983: Aviation
  • 1987: Special Forces


Notable Army Conflicts and Wars

The US Army has distinguished itself in numbers battles, wars, and peace keeping missions. Some of the more major wars and conflicts are listed below:

  • Revolutionary War (1775-1783)
  • War of 1812 (1812-1815)
  • Mexican–American War (1846-1848)
  • American Civil War (1861-1865)
  • Spanish-American War (1898)
  • World War I (1917-1918)
  • World War II (1941-1945)
  • Cold War (1947-1991)
  • Korean War (1950-1953)
  • Vietnam War (1959*-1973)
  • Desert Storm (1990-1991)
  • War in Afghanistan (2001-Present)
  • War in Iraq (2003-Present)
  • Numerous conflicts, skirmishes, and peace keeping missions, both at home and abroad

*Vietnam War: 1959 was the start of advisory/training roles; 1965 was first large deployment of troops

Army Creed AKA, The Soldier’s Creed:

The Soldier’s Creed is steeped in tradition and speaks to the mission, strength, and unity of the US Army.

I am an American Soldier.
I am a warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

You can learn more about the Army Values, including the core values, including the NCO Creed, Ranger Creed, the Army Song, the Oath of Enlistment, the Oath of Commissioned Officers and the Army Cadet Song at Army.mil.

The Department of the Army Seal and Emblem:

US War Office SealThe Army Seal and Army Emblem are two different items. Originally known as the War Office Seal, the Department of the Army Seal was first designed in 1778, and last updated in 1974 when the words “War Office” were changed to “Department of the Army.” The original seal also has Roman numerals indicating the year 1778, which was the year the seal was created. The Department of the Army changed this to the numerals 1775 to commemorate the year the Army was formed. The Seal is without color, includes the inscription “War Office,” includes the Roman numerals “MDCCLXXVIII” which indicate the date the Seal was adopted, and has the American flag on the observers right when viewing the seal. The US Army Seal is used for official US Army documentation.

The Army Emblem is in color, features the text, “Department of the Army,” the numerals 1775, and features the American flag on the observers left, and the Army flag on the observers right. The US Army Emblem is used for publications, printed material, and when representing the Army for public reasons.

According to the Army Institute of Heraldry, the  symbolism in the Army Seal and Army Emblem represents: “The central element, the Roman cuirass, is a symbol of strength and defense. The sword, esponton (a type of half-pike formerly used by subordinate officers), musket, bayonet, cannon, cannon balls, mortar, and mortar bombs are representative of Army implements. The drum and drumsticks are symbols of public notification of the Army’s purpose and intent to serve the nation and its people. The Phrygian cap (often called the Cap of Liberty) supported on the point of an unsheathed sword and the motto, “This We’ll Defend,” on a scroll held by the rattlesnake is a symbol depicted on some American colonial flags and signifies the Army’s constant readiness to defend and preserve the United States.” Source.

Army Flag:

United States Army FlagThe US Army was the last branch of the US Armed forces to have an official flag. Designed in 1955, the US Army Flag was unveiled on June 14, 1956 at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, on the 181st anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Army by the Continental Congress.

The Army Flag features elements from the Army Seal, a red banner with the words United States Army, and the year 1775, which was they year the Army was formed. It is authorized to be displayed with campaign streamers for significant campaigns which the Army or unit has participated in. There are currently over 180 authorized streamers.

Thanks to Those Who Have Gone Before Us

The sacrifices and accomplishments of our nation’s army cannot be boiled down to a few short paragraphs. That said, it is important to take some time to remember those who forged the way and helped to create our nation’s Army. Thanks to those who have served our nation in the US Army!

To learn more about the history of the US Army, be sure to visit the US Army Center of Military History.

Sources: John R. Maass, Historian, US Army Center of Military History, birthdays of the branches, Wikipedia.

Images: US Army Emblem, US Army Seal, US Army Flag.

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Date published: June 4, 2013.

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Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.


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