West Point in the Making of America

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Hat toss upon graduation


Epilogue: West Point in the 20th Century

West Point changed to meet the demands of a new century, but its graduates continued to lead the nation’s armed forces in war and peace.



World War I mobilization seriously disrupted West Point. Appointed superintendent after the Armistice, Douglas MacArthur (Class of 1903) oversaw the academy’s restoration to good health. Although World War II proved less damaging to normal functioning, it stimulated even more far-reaching reforms, first by Maxwell Taylor (1922), then by Garrison Davidson (1927).

West Point’s 20th-century curriculum grew to include a new range of subjects required of the well-schooled officer. Until the 1950s, everyone took the same courses. Now cadets may choose among many. Who might become an officer also changed. After mid-century West Point’s doors opened wider, first to African Americans and other minority men, then in 1976 to the formerly excluded women of America. By the end of the 20th century, West Point’s faculty and corps of cadets had become far more representative of the nation they served than had been true in the 19th century.



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Restoring the Academy




Did You Know?

Did you know that astronaut Michael Collins (Class of 1967), a participant in the first manned lunar landing, was the first director of the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum?




Smithsonian National Museum of American History


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West Point in History Introduction 1802–1860 1861–1870 1866–1914 1914–1918 Epilogue Introduction 1802–1860 1861–1870 1866–1914 1914–1918 Epilogue Restoring the Academy The Class the Stars Fell On Making the Modern Academy Class of 1980