America’s Military Might
The US Armed Forces were formed to protect the sovereignty of the American nation and to ensure the freedom and safety of its citizens. Below, learn about the history of each branch of this mighty force:
In early colonial America, the colonists employed a militia system wherein men were to serve when called, providing their own weapons. This was a useful police force, but a lack of unity and formal military training made it an insufficient fighting force.
In the spring of 1775, fighting began in Boston between the colonists and the English. The 2nd Continental Congress decided that an army was needed, and formed a basic group of 10 companies of riflemen. On the 14th of June 1775, the US Army was created, and George Washington led it. Washington realized that the perseverance of the army would raise a unified national morale. In Valley Forge, during the brutal winter of 1777-78, Washington’s army was trained by a Prussian soldier of fortune, Major General Friederich Wilhelm von Steuben.
The army continued its success and became indispensable. Washington suggested that all men ages 18-50 be available for service if needed, and that young males have the opportunity to enlist for full time service.
It wasn’t until 1787 that a permanent army and navy was instituted, and included in the Constitution. The army serves in wars and in domestic events such as natural disaster relief. To this day, all males 18 years of age must register for service at their local post office.
The US Navy
The British forces were well equipped for aqueous warfare and threatened colonial trade and waterfront territories. British ships regularly delivered supplies to their forces in America to fuel the fight against the revolutionary Americans, struggling for their independence.
Many colonists spoke out on behalf of creating an American naval force, including John Adams. Congress was hesitant to undertake the expense of creating a navy until they were informed on the 5th of October 1775 that 2 British ships were enroute to Quebec, unprotected, to bring supplies to British troops. Congress decided that sea craft should be sent from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut to ambush the forthcoming British ships. Congress also began planning for 2 armed ships that would interfere with any future ships’ approach. On the 13th of October 1775, George Washington notified Congress that he had arranged and now commanded 3 schooner ships, which were fully manned and armed. Congress could no longer refuse to approve the formation of an American Navy. Congress soon formed a Naval Committee to oversee obtaining and preparing seafaring vessels and their operations. On the 13th of October 1775, the United States Navy was officially formed. During the War of Independence, the Navy consisted of only 50 ships, yet successfully overtook some 200 British ships. After the war, the Navy was disbanded until a permanent Navy was ratified in the Constitution in 1789.
The American Air Force
The beginning of the 20th century brought new advances in transportation, namely the birth of aviation. On the first of August 1707, the United States Army Signal Corps formed an Aeronautical division. On the 26th of May 1909, Lt. Frank Plahm and Lt. Benjamin D. Faulois flew an army dirigible, becoming the first Air Force pilots.
On August 2, 1909, the Air Force purchased a Wright Brothers aircraft, named “Airplane No. 1.” Throughout the years, the US Air Force became an increasingly formidable branch of the American military, offering indispensable aid in every modern conflict and war.
On the 26th of July 1947, the US Air Force was officially created as an independent branch of the military, and still flies strong today.
The United States Marines
On November 10th, 1775, the Continental Congress formed the US Marine Corps to serve both on the land and on water. The Marines were to assist in foreign missions as well as domestic relief.
In April 1783, the Marines were dissolved, but were reconvened in July of 1798. The Marines have been an invaluable American fighting force ever since their creation.
The US Coast Guard
The US Coast Guard is the result of the merger between the Revenue Cutter Service, the Lighthouse Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, the Bureau of Navigation, and the Lifesaving Service. The Coast Guard has been performing maritime services since the colonial era—circa 1789.
The early duties of the Coast Guard were to tend to lighthouses, and care for lightships. The Coast Guard also provided law enforcement through: intercepting unreported trade cargo (to ensure that taxes on goods had been paid), and preventing piracy. The Coast Guard also enforced the law by apprehending contraband such as: slaves being transported, drugs, and during prohibition—liquor.
Since the early 1800s, the Coast Guard was delegated environmental protection duties. The Guard has protected the US against illegal forestry, seal fur trapping, sea sponge collection, and in the past few decades the Guard has formed a National Strike Force to handle oil spills.
The US Coast Guard is responsible for safety in US waterways through governing boat safety, patrolling the waters for illegal immigrants traveling unsafely, and commanding search and rescue missions.
The Coast Guard has provided military support in nearly every war since its formation in 1789. In the late 1700s, when the US Navy was dissolved, the US Coast Guard remained and is America’s most enduring, diverse maritime agency.