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    West Point, NY History

    West Point Academy was first established in 1778 as General George Washington's headquarters during the American Revolution. The area on the west bank of the Hudson River was found to be a strategic location during the war and Washington chose a hero of the Battle of Saratoga, Polish General Tadeusz Kosciuszko, to design the fortifications that would become West Point.

    In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation making West Point the U.S. Military Academy. One of the first superintendents, Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, upgraded the academic and moral standards of the academy and placed a focus on military discipline. He made civil engineering the main foundation of the curriculum and cadets at this time were the laborers of the majority of road, bridges, railway lines, and harbor construction in the area.

    General Benedict Arnold made infamous history when he accepted a bribe from the British in return for the location of West Point in 1780. Luckily, his plot was foiled when the Americans captured British spy Major John Andre, but Arnold is still known as one of the greatest traitors in America's history.

    The Civil War saw many West Point graduates fight and lead on both sides. It is thought that nearly all general officers during the war had been trained at the academy, including such well-known names as Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. However, the post-Civil War days saw hardly any enrollment from the defeated southern states until 1868.

    Cadets in the class of 1899 were forced to graduate early during the Spanish-American War, and again during the Philippine-American War of 1901. This led to Congress authorizing bigger class sizes, from around 500 cadets to a total of 1900.

    Many later famous graduates went through the academy during 1900-1915, including Douglas MacArthur in 1903, George S. Patton in 1909, and Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1915. After World War I, MacArthur became superintendent of West Point in 1919 and emphasized a greater focus on history and the humanities. He oversaw the formation of the Cadet Honor Committee in 1922 and pushed for every cadet to also be an athlete to be ready for the physical demands of war.

    With the start of World War II, Congress again authorized an increase in cadets. In 1942 there were about 2,500 cadets and many classes graduated early to go fight in Europe. After the Korean War, however, graduation schedules remained normal but the class sizes and facilities were expanding again, this time to include nearly 4,400 cadets. The Vietnam War caused a decrease in cadets since most of the troop leaders were still fighting in Southeast Asia.

    In 1975, Congress allowed the admission of women into all Armed Services and there were 119 female cadets at West Point the following year. By 1985, another historic change had been made. Cadets could declare their own major instead of being awarded a Bachelor of Science degree as they always had. West Point always kept up with the current technologies and in 1990, each cadet had their own computer. Just a few years later, they were also early users of the Internet.

    West Point Academy is a four year, undergraduate program. Most graduates will be commissioned as second lieutenants in the Army and have a service commitment of 5 active duty years and 3 reserve status years to repay tuition. Cadets must apply to the school and receive a nomination by a Congressman or Senator, have above average grades and test scores, and pass a physical fitness test to be considered. West Point is the oldest operating military post in the U.S.