Army Engineers Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1583 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military

¶ … Evolution of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

An adage suggests that an army moves on its stomach, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would likely suggest that it moves on passable roadways, rivers and bridges. During its 230-year history, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been transformed from its earliest form as superintendents of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to become one of the most important branches of the military service. The Corps' peacetime contributions to the development of America's infrastructure and its wartime contributions to facilitating the movement of U.S. troops while impeding the movements of its enemies are legend. To gain some further insights into the proud history of this branch of the military, this paper provides a review of the relevant literature to determine the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and how it has evolved since its original creation by the U.S. Congress in the 18th century. A summary of the research and important findings are presented in the conclusion.

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TOPIC: Term Paper on Army Engineers Assignment

Today, the U.S Corps of Engineers' mission is to, "Provide vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen our Nation's security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters" ("About Us" 2009:1). This mission has not changed substantively since the Corps' founding in the 18th century. According to Corps historians Coll, Keith and Rosenthal (1958), "The Corps of Engineers has a long history of service to the nation in war and peace. In 1950 it celebrated its 175th anniversary, thus honoring the date when Richard Gridley was appointed Chief Engineer of the Revolutionary forces" (1-2). In this regard, Brown (2001) notes that, "U.S. combat engineers trace their origins to the American Revolution. On May 27, 1778, Congress authorized three companies of sappers and miners. These units supported operations against the British, including construction of fortifications and participation in George Washington's successful siege of Yorktown" (117). Although the U.S. Congress originally authorized the creation of a Corps of Engineers in 1778, this initial incarnation was short-lived and the Corps was subsequently disbanded in 1783; however, the Congress once again authorized the creation of the Corps and on March 16, 1802, stipulating that the Army Corps of Engineers would be "stationed at West Point . . . And shall constitute a Military Academy," and the Corps continued to operate the United States Military Academy at West point until 1866 (quoted in Coll et al. At 2). The original plan for West Point as provided by the Corps is shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. U.S Corps of Engineers' Plan of the Military Academy at West Point, New York.


In the intervening years, the Corps began to assume many of the responsibilities that characterize its mission today. For example, pursuant to Congressional authorization to the president in 1824 to "to cause the necessary surveys, plans, and estimates, to be made of the routes of such roads and canals as he may deem of national importance, in a commercial or military point-of-view, or necessary for the transportation of the public mail" and "to employ two or more skillful engineers, and such officers of the corps of engineers, or who may be detailed to do duty with that corps, as he may think proper . . . .," U.S. Army Corps of Engineers led the way into the Americans frontier (quoted in Coll et al. At 2). Despite their significant contributions to the development of the American infrastructure, these early initiatives by the Corps were not without controversy, though. In this regard, Klyza (2002) notes that, "The constitutionality of internal improvements undertaken by the federal government was an issue of tremendous significance in the early nineteenth century. A number of projects were begun as the political debate over internal improvements swirled, and the Corps of Engineers, established in 1802, was usually a significant player in them" (2).

The Corps developed the navigation of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, for example, and was tasked with identifying the optimum routes for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal; the Corps also oversaw the construction of the National Road, and surveyed many of the routes that would be used by the nation's railroads (Coll et al.). Likewise, Klyza reports that, "The Corps of Engineers also began significant work in dredging harbors beginning in the late 1820s. Within ten years, the two engineer corps were actively dredging at thirty harbors" (2). In 1838, the U.S. Congress established the U.S Corps of Topographical Engineers and tasked it with "surveying and mapping; construction of civil works, roads, harbors, bridges, canals, tunnels, water projects, and lighthouses; and the development of Washington, D.C." (quoted in Brown at 129). In 1863, though, these responsibilities were transferred to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Topographical Engineer Corps was disbanded (Brown 129).

Notwithstanding these and other noteworthy civil engineering projects, Coll and her colleagues also emphasize that, "The Army engineer is no less proud of the military history of his Corps than of its peacetime accomplishments. Although his unique contribution is as a technician, the engineer soldier is a fighter as well" (2). From the battlefields of Anteitam during the Civil War and Vietnam, the Corps of Engineers has racked up a proud legacy. For instance, Coll and her colleagues report that, "During World War II engineer troops built airfields, camps, depots, and hospitals for the invasion build-up in Britain. They overcame German destruction in Italy by clearing the ports and roads of rubble and by throwing bridges across the rivers. They cleared the beaches at the Normandy landings and rolled the supplies across them" (1). Operating under combat conditions and enemy fire, members of the Corps also built pontoon bridges across the Rhine River enabling the movement of the U.S. troops and supplies following the destruction of the bridge at Remagen (Coll et al. 1). Members of the Corps also constructed supply routes into China, built airfields, as well as the longest pipeline system in the world at the time through inhospitable terrain (Coll et al. 1). According to Coll and her associates, "In the long fight from Australia to Tokyo, engineers manned landing craft which delivered invading troops on island after island and converted those islands into operating bases. The foundation of this contribution to victory overseas was laid at home in the development of doctrine and equipment, the refinement of troop organization, and the training of citizen soldiers" (1).

Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is comprised of "approximately 34,000 dedicated Civilians and Soldiers delivering engineering services to customers in more than 90 countries worldwide. With environmental sustainability as a guiding principle, our disciplined Corps team is working diligently to strengthen our Nation's security by building and maintaining America's infrastructure and providing military facilities where our servicemembers train, work and live" (About Us 2009:1).

The Corps is not without its critics, though, and the headlines frequently mention the heavy-handed tactics used to implement water-management projects across the country to the dismay of local landowners and farmers. Despite the Corps' assertions that, "We are energizing the economy by dredging America's waterways to support the movement of critical commodities and providing recreation opportunities at our campgrounds, lakes and marinas. And by devising hurricane and storm damage reduction infrastructure, we are reducing risks from disasters" (About Us 2), not everyone agrees. Indeed, as Spruiell (2005) points out, "The misuse of the Corps for pork projects continues to this day and has left less money available for more important Corps functions. After the Katrina disaster, many in the press criticized the Bush administration for underfunding the Army Corps of Engineers. These critics missed the point: The problem is not underfunding but the total lack of prioritization that characterizes the Corps' activities" (22). In support of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Army Engineers" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Army Engineers.  (2009, May 28).  Retrieved September 17, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Army Engineers."  28 May 2009.  Web.  17 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Army Engineers."  May 28, 2009.  Accessed September 17, 2021.