from The Water's Edge

Happy Birthday to the U.S. Army!

U.S. Army Reserve 78th Army Band marches in the 2017 New York City Veterans Day Parade Hector Rene Membreno-Canales/U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS

June 14, 2019

U.S. Army Reserve 78th Army Band marches in the 2017 New York City Veterans Day Parade Hector Rene Membreno-Canales/U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS
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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

The United States Army celebrates its 244th birthday today. If you see an active duty, former, or retired member of the United States Army today, wish their service Happy Birthday.

The Army website provides a short but thorough overview of its history. Here are five things worth knowing:

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  • The Army is the oldest of the four services. It was created on June 14, 1775, making it four months older than the United States Navy, five months older than the United States Marine Corps, and 172 years older than the United States Air Force, which began as part of the Army.
  • Eleven Army generals have gone on to become president of the United States: George Washington (General), Andrew Jackson (Major General), William Henry Harrison (Major General), Zachary Taylor (Major General), Franklin Pierce (Brigadier General), Andrew Johnson (Brigadier General), Ulysses S. Grant (General), Rutherford B. Hayes (Major General, Brevet), James A. Garfield (Major General, Volunteers), Benjamin Harrison (Major General, Brevet), and Dwight D. Eisenhower (General). No Navy Admiral, Marine Corps General, or Air Force General has ever been elected president. (Chester A. Arthur was Quartermaster General of the New York State Militia at the start of the Civil War, but I don’t believe he was mustered into federal service.)
  • The highest rank in the Army is General of the Armies of the United States. Only two men have held it: George Washington and John Pershing. Efforts to give General Douglas MacArthur the title failed. Washington got his title posthumously on July 4, 1976. During his lifetime, the highest rank he achieved was Lieutenant General. President Ford issued the executive order elevating Washington to six-star status because given the military’s strict hierarchy he was technically outranked by the four- and five-star generals who came after him. President Ford’s executive order directs that Washington shall always be considered the most senior U. S. military officer.
  • The Medal of Honor has been awarded to a member of the Army 2,452 times. Put differently, 70 percent of all 3,522 Medals of Honor awarded have gone to soldiers.
  • There are about 469,900 active duty Army personnel.

I asked Colonel Erica C. Nelson, an active duty U.S. Army officer spending the year as a military fellow at CFR, for her recommendations on what to read to learn more about the Army. Below is what she recommended in light of the Army’s chosen theme this year: America’s Army: Honoring the Call to Service From D-Day to Today.

Col. Nelson also recommended a miniseries and a film:

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Military History

Corey Cooper assisted in the preparation of this post.

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