- For other places named West Point, see West Point (disambiguation).
Academy graduates are awarded a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. They must serve a minimum of five years on active duty followed by 3 years in the reserves.
The Military Academy's sports teams were historically called The Black Knights of the Hudson, but the nickname has been officially shortened to Black Knights. US sports media use Army as a synonym for the Academy; this usage is officially endorsed. Army participates in the NCAA's Division I-A as an independent team in football. It is a member of the Division I Patriot League in most other sports; its hockey program competes in Atlantic Hockey.
West Point's motto is "Duty, Honor, Country". It is the oldest continuously occupied military post in the country.
The site was selected for the construction of a fort by George Washington, and the fortifications were designed in 1778 by Thaddeus Kosciuszko. General Washington considered West Point one of the most important positions on the continent. The high ground above a narrow "s" curve in the Hudson River enabled the Continental Army to control the vital river traffic. He felt that the British Army could have split the colonies in two if they gained control of this land.
The Superintendent from 1817-1833 was Colonel Sylvanus Thayer. He is known as the "father of the Military Academy". He upgraded academic standards, instilled military discipline and emphasized honorable conduct. Thayer made civil engineering the foundation of the curriculum. For the first half century, USMA graduates were largely responsible for the construction of the bulk of the nation's initial railway lines, bridges, harbors and roads.
The development of other technical schools in the US during the post-Civil War period allowed West Point to broaden its curriculum beyond a strict civil engineering focus.
After World War I, Superintendent Douglas MacArthur sought to further diversify the academic curriculum. In recognition of the physical demands of modern warfare, MacArthur pushed for major changes in the physical fitness and athletic programs. "Every cadet an athlete" became an important goal. At the same time, the cadet management of the Honor System, long an unofficial tradition, was formalized with the creation of the Cadet Honor Committee.
In recent decades, the Academy's curricular structure was markedly changed to permit cadets to major in any one of more than a dozen fields, including a wide range of subjects from the sciences to the humanities.
- Gen E. R. S. Canby
- Benjamin O. Davis Jr
- Abner Doubleday
- Ulysses S. Grant
- Robert E. Lee
- Jefferson Davis
- Jeb Stuart
- Stonewall Jackson
- George Meade
- John J. Pershing
- Douglas MacArthur
- Dwight Eisenhower
- George Patton
- Buzz Aldrin
- Norman Schwarzkopf
- Mike Krzyzewski
- Wesley Clark