5 Things You Didn't Know About the U.S. Army

On September 29, 1789, Congress approved legislation that provided for the creation of an army under the terms of the recently ratified U.S. Constitution. To celebrate its official birth, here are five things you didn't know about the U.S. Army...


The U.S. Almost Didn't Have a Standing Army # Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23538787. Before the establishment of a U.S. military force, colonists had to deal with the British Army—and the colonists were not pleased about having an additional standing military force suddenly come into being. The fear was that the American military would begin to take over everything and become tyrants once the British were out. Most people who fought were used to doing so for only short periods of time as part of a militia. The colonies needed an army for the duration of the war because militias did not have the discipline and skills to fight on their own, but the Continental Army (the army that served during the revolution) kept its enlistment terms short so that soldiers could get home relatively quickly, and so that there was less of a risk that long-time soldiers would take over the government.

The Army Technically Existed Before the Actual Country Came Into Being While the official U.S. Army came into being in 1789, the Continental Army, its predecessor, was created in 1775, well before the United States actually came into being. The Army still treats that as its birthday. The Continental Army, as mentioned, was created to have a steady, skilled, cohesive military force to fight the British, and it was the first standing army in the colonies.


The Air Force Used to Be an Army Division # The current logo of the U.S. Army. Image credit: By United States Army (USA) (http://www.brandsoftheworld.com/) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Travel around the country and you'll see naval air bases and marine air bases—so why aren't there army air bases? There are—or were. The Air Force used to be part of the Army, known as the Aeronautical Division. This division was formed in 1907 and later became known as the Air Corps and then the Army Air Forces. The U.S. Air Force officially became its own military branch in 1947 through the National Security Act, which also created the Department of Defense and the National Security Council. So while the Navy and Marines have their own air divisions, the Army's air division spun off into its own deparment.

The Draft Has Reappeared a Few Times Mention the draft and most people will think of Korea and Vietnam, and the end of the draft in the 1970s. However, the draft, or conscription, has appeared and disappeared a few times throughout the country's history. The first draft was during the Civil War, and it was kind of a disaster; enlistees could get bonuses for signing up, which led to "bounty jumpers." Those who were conscripted and who did not want to fight could pay other men to enlist for them, leading to a lot of unofficial draft dodgers. That draft ended after the Civil War was over, but another draft started up during World War I. This time the government avoided bounty/incentive systems and expanded draft ages to those between 18 and 45. That draft ended when the war ended. The next draft, though, was unusual. The previous two had started in response to a war, but the next one started in peacetime in the U.S. World War II was already happening in Europe, but in 1940, before the U.S. joined the war, the government created the Selective Service system, which required men to register in case of a draft. The Act expired after the war but was reinstated quickly so that military numbers would always be at action-ready levels. The associated draft lasted until 1973, as protests against involvement in Vietnam continued to escalate. The Selective Service Act also expired and was not reinstated until 1980, though this time without a draft.

The Army Acted as Cartographers When not fighting, the Army was directed toward other tasks like taking over land and also mapping terrain. In fact, Lewis and Clark were Army officers, and their expedition team was known officially as the "Corps of Discovery." This group was created in 1803 specifically to explore and map the northwestern portions of the United States and territory out in Oregon.

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