Our Nation’s Military Heritage
Americans have been making the sacrifices for freedom and liberty since the Revolutionary War. The US Army was established in 1775 as a response to a need for professional soldiers in the Revolutionary War in order to fight the British Army.
When the American Revolutionary War began in April 1775, each colony had a militia, made up of part-time civilian-soldiers. Training of militiamen had increased after the passage of the Intolerable Acts the previous year. Some colonists proposed creating a national army, but the First Continental Congress rejected the idea. In June 1775, the Second Continental Congress established a Continental Army for the common defense. Riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia were enlisted for a one-year enlistment as infantrymen, adding to the full time Militias of Boston and New York and later became the 1st Continental Regiment in 1776. Congress elected George Washington to be Commander-in-Chief by unanimous vote. The first full regiment of Regular Army infantry, the 3rd Infantry Regiment was not formed until ten years later in June 1784.
Because of American distrust of standing armies when the British had been quartering soldiers in colonists’ homes, the Continental Army was disbanded when the war was over, with state militias becoming the new nation’s regular army.
From 1815 until 1860, the Army’s main duties were to control the West, settling disputes and controlling Native Tribes and protecting artillery stations at ports. During the 1840s, regular and volunteer army units fought against Mexico. By the time of the beginning of the Civil War, the regular Army was mainly defending the American frontier from Native Americans who were resisting American expansion into the west. The National Army was formed by the US War Department in 1917 to fight in World War I and made up of volunteers and enlisted and during the 2nd World War, the US Army was formed and they have been an active force in conflicts and wars around the world ever since despite many downsizing policies over the past 30 years.
The Army Air Service was created in 1918 under the Woodrow Wilson Administration to improve aircraft capabilities and was under the control of the War Department. It was demobilized after World War 1, and American pilots were often sent to Europe to train.
The US Army Air Force was created in June of 1941 by the Department of War. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Army Air Force grew and just after the war, it had more than 80,000 aircraft. It was abolished as an administrative organization in March 1942. It continued to exist as a branch of the Army until reorganization provisions of the National Security Act in July, 1947.
The US Air Force became a separate entity from the Army in September, 1947 and has been a powerful protection of our nation ever since.
In 1775, George Washington paid for a schooner called Hanna which was commissioned and launched from Marblehead; Massachusetts. Washington acquired more ships in order to help the Colonial merchants that had been harassed by the British Navy. The United States Navy was formed during the Revolutionary War when the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution creating the Continental Navy and was made into a separate branch of the US forces.
The Naval Act of 1794 created a permanent US Navy under the John Adams Presidency because of threats to American Merchant ships by the Barbary Pirates. This included six original frigates. After skirmishes with the French, British and Barbary States, the Navy was pretty much left in peace for the next three decades until the Mexican-American War in 1846, and the American Civil War in 1861 to 1864.
The US Navy played a major role in the Civil War by controlling the rivers and ports and blockading the Confederate States. They fought the Confederate Navy with sailing ships and ironclads and shut down Confederate civilian shipping.
By the end of World War One, the US Navy was the largest in the world. In World War Two, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor drew America into the war. From the Battle of the Coral Sea and Midway, to Guadalcanal, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Navy’s primary support played a major part in Japan’s eventual defeat.
The Navy participated afterwards in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the Iraq Wars and developed Nuclear power, new weapon systems and ballistic capabilities. They have been an active global presence ever since.
The US Coast Guard was founded on August 4, 1790 as part of the Department of the Treasury under the Revenue Cutter Service. In 1915, Congress merged the Revenue Cutter Service and the US Lifesaving Service with the newly created Coast Guard in 1915. This was followed in 1939 by the merger of the United States Lighthouse Service into the Coast Guard.
Whenever there is a declaration of war or when the President directs, the Coast Guard operates under the authority of the Department of the Navy. In 1967 the Coast Guard was under the Department of Transportation and in 2003 it became part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The US Marine Corps was born in Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin had used Tun Tavern as a gathering place to recruit soldiers to fight the Indian uprisings that were causing problems in the American colonies. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Continental Congress all met at the tavern a few years later as the American colonies prepared for independence.
In late 1775, the Continental Congress met at the Tavern to draft a resolution calling for two battalions of Marines able to fight for independence at sea and on land. The resolution was approved on November 10, 1775, officially forming the Continental Marines. The Congress commissioned Samuel Nicholas to raise the two Marine Battalions. Nicholas appointed the proprietor of the tavern, Robert Mullan as the chief Marine Recruiter.
The Marines’ first challenge was to raid British supplies of gunpowder at Fort Nassau in the Bahamas in 1776, which were being used against the Colonies. Under Captain Samuel Nicholas, 234 Marines made their first amphibious landing and captured the Fort within minutes.
After the War of Independence, America didn’t have enough ships to protect US citizens or US shipping interests and the Merchants. In July of 1785, two American ships were captured by Algerian pirates, and the survivors were sold into slavery. There was a ransom demand for $60,000.00 and the US was forced to pay tribute and goods to the Barbary nations for security of their ships as well as freedom for the captured citizens.
Pirating in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean continued from the Barbary Coast States and prompted the U.S. to initiate a series of peace treaties, collectively known as the Barbary Treaties.
The Treaty of Tripoli was a Treaty of Peace and Friendship, signed at Tripoli, Libya on November 4, 1796 and at Algiers on January 3, 1797. The original in Arabic was submitted to the US Senate on May 29, 1797. The Resolution of advice and consent passed on June 7, 1797 and was ratified by the United States on June 10, 1797.
In 1801, Congress passed naval legislation that, among other things, provided for six frigates that ‘shall be officered and manned as the President of the United States may direct.’ In the case the Berber Muslims, the Barbary powers of Tripoli and Algiers declared war on the United States these ships were to “protect our commerce & chastise their insolence by sinking, burning or destroying their ships & Vessels wherever you shall find them.”
In 1805, the US refused to pay any more “tribute” to Barbary Coast pirates to keep them from raiding American merchant ships. Thomas Jefferson said of the idea of continuing to pay, “Too long, for the honor of nations, have those Barbarians been [permitted] to trample on the sacred faith of treaties, on the rights and laws of human nature!” As President, Jefferson called on the Marines.
In Libya, the US Marines attacked the Tripolitan city of Derna and rescued the kidnapped crew of the USS Philadelphia. The Marines’ victory helped Prince Hamet Bey reclaim his rightful throne as ruler of Tripoli. In gratitude, he presented his Mameluke sword to Lt Presley O’Bannon who had led the Marines. The sword became part of the officer uniform in 1825, and is still in use by the Corps today. It’s from this battle that the words of the Marine Corps Hymn are still sung.
The US Marines are known as the First in Fight. They’ve been proving their toughness from the Halls of Montezuma in Mexico during the Mexican War in 1847, to Iwo Jima during World War 2, Iraq during the Persian Gulf War, and again in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in Afghanistan.
To all our past, present and future Military, Thank You for your Incredible Service!