The official birthday of the United States Army is June 14th, 1775. It’s easy to assume that this date implies the creation of a fully realized standing army, but the truth is that when the first shots were fired in the American Revolution, the troops involved in fighting the British could be compared to a guerrilla force; colonists from a variety of militias in the area banded together to fight the “Redcoats.”
The U.S. Army birthday will take place on Monday, June 14, 2021.
The U.S. Army operates with close to half a million active-duty soldiers. The service has come a long way since it was created approximately a year prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
How Is The Army Birthday Celebrated?
Since the Army Birthday is not an official Federal or State holiday, banks and schools remain open on June 14th, and there are no closures of financial markets or post offices. Army and Department of Defense agencies celebrating the Army Birthday usually do so on the base/local level with special events, ceremonies, social occasions, and more.
Military service organizations such as the USO, AMVETS, The American Legion, VFW, and others also recognize the Army Birthday on a local or agency-wide level. If you are interested in learning how the birthday is being honored in your area, it’s best to consult the local chapter of your preferred VSO to see what may be scheduled for the day or week of June 14th.
The U.S. Army Birthday Ball
The Army Birthday Ball is a unique event held to celebrate the creation of the U.S. Army. This event is celebrated around the world at military bases, community centers, civilian hotels or other establishments. The Army Birthday Ball is even held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, home of the most notorious military detainees in American history.
The Army Birthday Ball is a black-tie formal event with military members wearing the full-service dress (“Dress Blues” or “Mess Dress” for military attendees). There are many traditions associated with the Army Ball; these usually have to do with paying respect to those who sacrificed life and limb to serve, but also to the newest members of the service and the future of the Army in general.
Formal events like this are steeped in tradition; many look back to World War II when it comes time to plan ceremonies and recognition of those who have gone before. The Army Birthday Ball is an event held on the local level, but in conjunction with a larger worldwide group of events.
How It All Started: Origins Of The United States Army
The group of militia members who showed up to fight the British in 1775 were paid and equipped by the colonies without a formal type of government authorization that would later characterize operations and strategy of the U.S. Department of Defense.
Before a battle in 1775 near Boston, it was realized that a serious rethink of the militia concept was in order. According to Army.mil, the Massachusetts Provincial Government petitioned the Second Continental Congress to let that entity have control over New England troops.
The actual result was the creation of a standing colonial army led by its’ new commander-in-chief, George Washington, who assumed command in the summer of 1775. In December of 1776, Washington led his famous expedition across the Delaware River to attack a garrison at Trenton.
Army Evolution: 1776 And Beyond
In June 1776, Congress enacted the Board of War and Ordnance, described by many as “the lineal ancestor of the War Department” according to the U.S. Army.
The U.S. Army’s first official training period as a military service is reported as being held between winter 1777 and 1778. Held at Valley Forge, the training was conducted by Prussian military officer Baron von Steuben.
A more significant development-in early 1787, the United States Constitution is signed into law. For the Army this was a very crucial moment; the Constitution as signed in 1787 authorized the President of the United States to act as Commander-In-Chief for the Army and Navy.
The U.S. Constitution, which specifically provided that the President should be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, is adopted and signed. Approximately two years later, the Department of War would be established, and another significant milestone comes in 1802 when Congress authorized the creation of West Point Military Academy and the Army Corps of Engineers.
The U.S. Army And The United States Civil War
After the initial dust had settled from the earliest days of the Army, there were a variety of events and milestones including the War of 1812, conflicts with American indigenous tribes, and what has come to be known in the U.S. as the Mexican-American War (described elsewhere as The American Intervention In Mexico). But one of the most important milestones at this point in time, at least where the evolution of the U.S. Army is concerned, happened during the U.S. Civil War.
The Civil War is an obviously important moment in history, but one event, in particular, would do more to shape the Army than many others: In March 1863, Congress authorized national conscription via The Enrollment Act, also known as the Civil War Military Draft Act. This was not without controversy and resulted in some civil unrest including The New York City Draft Riots in the same year.
The creation of a military draft established a precedent that would be used and modified in later conflicts, as we’ll learn below.
The Army And The Creation Of A New Military Draft
The Civil War draft didn’t necessarily result in compulsory registration or service on an indefinite basis. In May 1917, the Selective Service Act was passed and remained until the end of World War One. This would be followed years later by the first peacetime selective service requirement passed in 1940. The Burke-Wadsworth Act required all U.S. males between the ages of 21 and 36 to register with a draft board. This age range was later modified and ultimately when the U.S. Army begin fighting World War Two, the draft age was extended to all males between 18 and 65.
The Army And The End Of The Draft
Military draft issues would prove to be contentious, especially during the Vietnam War when a trend of refusing the draft was more widespread and high-profile than it had been during previous conflicts. That phenomenon likely helped push many to reconsider conscription as a sustainable way to run national defense.
Eventually, Army leaders and civilian authorities recognized the value of an all-volunteer force. The Army’s adoption of the all-volunteer concept came as the result of a Presidential order; one of the few bright spots in the Nixon presidency was the President’s authorization to end the draft in 1973.
The United States Army Today
Since 1973 there have been many conflicts; the United States Army has also operated or helped to facilitate humanitarian operations in many other countries from partner nations such as Honduras, and it also provides civil engineering and modernization projects in nations that lack certain types of infrastructure.
The U.S. Army is far different today than it was after being “stood up” by the Second Continental Congress; today Army operations include cybersecurity, intelligence gathering, covert operations, community building, and research.
The evolution of the U.S. Army also has included changes in the demographics of those who serve; from an exclusively male active-duty force to a diverse and multicultural force that is far more representative of the American population than in previous decades.