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Day Tripper - USMA at West Point
10/31/2010 - By Teja Anderson

Day Tripper - USMA at West Point

West Point, where military history is alive

There is no denying that wars have shaped our nation into what it is today. We are free to go about our daily lives because of the courage and  bravery of our young men and women in uniform and the leaders that command and train them. Many of these soldiers have come out of West Point Academy located on the west bank of the Hudson River, only 40 miles north of New York City in New York State.

The history of war is fascinating for the individual as well as the whole family and definitely worth learning more about. The West Point  Museum is a perfect place to do just that. What better way to make American history come alive for your children than with visual artifacts?  The West Point Museum, located just outside of the gates of the Academy, has many excellent exhibits of both West Point and Military  history. You can see everything from uniforms to weapons to battle scene mock ups showing the evolution of warfare, and the development of  the American Armed Forces. While only a portion of the collection is on display, all artifacts are available for cadet academic instruction,  special exhibition and research. The Museum, considered to be the oldest and largest diversified public collection of military history in the  Western Hemisphere, has many items that will really give you a perspective on what the military is about and also make you think about all  the people who have been involved in the various wars as individuals.

Besides the academy and the museum, West Point is a charming town with great shops, restaurants and sight seeing. The state of the art  Eisenhower Theater offers a variety of performers with the musical group “Celtic Thunder," Chinese classical dance and music group “Shen Yun Performing Arts” and comedian Jim Gaffigan in October. The Moscow Ballet performs the Nutcracker in November and the platinum  record selling “Ten Tenors” are scheduled for December. There is also the nearby West Point Golf Course, which is open to the public. This  18-hole regulation length golf course has three sets of teeboxes for a fun, but challenging golfing experience for any foursome.

Please note that West Point Academy is not open for self touring. But, you can take a bus tour around the academy. The advantage of doing  this is that you can get expert commentary on the various buildings, statues and history of West Point. As the grounds and campus are  expansive, this is a good idea for those who are not walkers and there is plenty to see from the bus which departs from the West Point Visitors Center. Entrance is allowed for business, for visiting staff, faculty and cadets who live on West Point, and for public events such as concerts,  sporting events, cadet reviews, and graduation. A valid photo ID is required for all adults 16 and over, and children must be accompanied by an  adult.

West Point’s role in our nation’s history dates back to the Revolutionary War, when both sides realized the strategic importance of the  commanding plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River. General George Washington considered West Point to be the most important strategic position in America. Washington personally selected Thaddeus Kosciuszko, one of the heroes of Saratoga, to design the fortifications for West Point in l778, and Washington transferred his headquarters to West Point in l779. Continental soldiers built forts, batteries and redoubts and extended a 100-ton iron chain across the Hudson to control river traffic. Fortress West Point was never captured by the British,  despite Benedict Arnold’s treason. West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in America.

Several soldiers and legislators, including Washington, Knox, Hamilton and John Adams, desiring to eliminate America’s wartime reliance on foreign engineers and artillerists, urged the creation of an institution devoted to the arts and sciences of warfare. In 1802 President Thomas  Jefferson signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy. He took this action after ensuring that those attending the  Academy would be representative of a democratic society.

Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, the “Father of the Military Academy,” served as Superintendent from l8l7-l833. He upgraded academic standards, instilled military discipline and emphasized honorable conduct. Aware of our young nation’s need for engineers, 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 post-Civil War period allowed  West Point to broaden its curriculum beyond a strict civil engineering focus. Following the creation of came to be viewed as the first step in a  continuing Army education. In concert with the increasing role of minorities and women in society and the military over the past three  decades, greater numbers of minorities and the first women were brought to the Military Academy and the Corps of Cadets. Their presence  has enhanced the quality and maintained the traditional representativeness of the institution.

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. Academy graduates are awarded a Bachelor of Science degree and a  commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, serving a minimum of five years on active duty.

After gaining experience and national recognition during the Mexican and Indian wars, West Point graduates dominated the highest ranks on both sides during the Civil War. Academy graduates set high standards of military leadership for both the North and South. Many of the  nation’s most elite military leaders were graduates of West Point, including Generals Grant and Lee, who opposed each other during the Civil  War. Other famous graduates include; Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America; Thomas J. “Stonewall”  Jackson, George A. Custer, who with his Calvary Corps regiment of 655 men was defeated at the Battle of Little Big Horn; George  Washington Goethals, the architect and civil engineer, builder of the Panama Canal and the Goethals Bridge into Manhattan; Five Star Generals  Douglas MacArthur and George S. Patton, Jr. (“Old Blood and Guts,” famous for his victory in the Battle of the Bulge); and Dwight D.  Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States and H. Norman Schwarzkopf whose “Operations Desert Shield” and “Desert Storm”  marked a new era of warfare under President George H. W. Bush. Famous non-military graduates include astronauts Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin  and Michael Collins, two of the first men to walk on the moon, and Pete Dawkins, Heisman Trophy winner.

The Academy celebrated its 200th year anniversary in 2002. Today, it continues to ensure that all programs and policies support the needs of  the Army and nation now as well as in the foreseeable future. The Academy, with its long and noble history, remains an  energetic, vibrant  institution that attracts some of the best and brightest young men and women. It offers a challenging and  comprehensive array of opportunities  while retaining its enduring commitment to Duty, Honor and Country. Army post-graduate  command and staff schools, the Military  Academy came to be viewed as the first step in a continuing Army education. In concert with  the increasing role of minorities and women in society and the military over the past three decades, greater numbers of minorities and  the first women were brought to the Military Academy and the Corps of Cadets. Their presence has enhanced the quality and  maintained the traditional representativeness of the institution.

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. Academy graduates are awarded a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, serving a minimum of five years on active duty.

After gaining experience and national recognition during the Mexican and Indian wars, West Point graduates dominated the highest  ranks on both sides during the Civil War. Academy graduates set high standards of military leadership for both the North and South.  Many of the nation’s most elite military leaders were graduates of West Point, including Generals Grant and Lee, who opposed each  other during the Civil War. Other famous graduates include; Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America;  Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, George A. Custer, who with his Calvary Corps regiment of 655 men was defeated at the Battle of  Little Big Horn; George Washington Goethals, the architect and civil engineer, builder of the Panama Canal and the Goethals Bridge into  Manhattan; Five Star Generals Douglas MacArthur and George S. Patton, Jr. (“Old Blood and Guts,” famous for his victory in the  Battle of the Bulge); and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States and H. Norman Schwarzkopf whose  “Operations Desert Shield” and “Desert Storm” marked a new era of warfare under President George H. W. Bush. Famous non-military  graduates include  astronauts Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins, two of the first men to walk on the moon, and Pete  Dawkins, Heisman Trophy winner.

The Academy celebrated its 200th year anniversary in 2002. Today, it continues to ensure that all programs and policies support the  needs of the Army and nation now as well as in the foreseeable future. The Academy, with its long and noble history, remains an  energetic, vibrant institution that attracts some of the best and brightest young men and women. It offers a challenging and  comprehensive array of opportunities while retaining its enduring commitment to Duty, Honor and Country.



United States Military Academy at West Point
West Point, NY 10996
Phone (845) 446-3085
www.usma.edu
www.eisenhowerhall.com
www.westpointmwr.com/golf


Admission:
Adults (12 years and older): $12 - $14
Children (2-11 years old): $9 - $12
Hours:
May - November
Monday though Sunday
10:30 am - 4:15 pm

Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day


Getting There:
Travel north on the NJ Turnpike/I-95, to exit 73 toward RT-67/Fort Lee--just before the George Washington Bridge. Stay left and take  the first left at Lemoine Ave. Continue straight for ½ mile then bear right onto the Palisades Interstate Pkwy North, take Palisades  Interstate Parkway north approximately 37 miles until it ends at the Bear Mountain Bridge traffic circle — unless you want the more  leisurely and scenic route, do not get on 9W until you get to the Bear Mountain Bridge traffic circle. Proceed 3/4 of the way around the  circle, following signs for West Point and Route 9W North. Stay on Route 9W for approximately 3 miles, then right exit onto Route  218 North toward the Village of Highland Falls. Go straight for 2 miles, through Highland Falls to the West Point Visitors’ Center (on  the right).




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