United States Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
United States Army Corps of Engineers logo.svg
Active 11 June 1775 – present
Country   United States of America
Allegiance   United States Army
Branch Regular Army
Size 37,000 civilian and military (approx. 2%) members [1]
Garrison/HQ Washington, D.C.
Motto(s) Essayons (Let Us Try)
Colors Scarlet and White [2]
Website www.USACE.Army.mil
Commanders
Current
commander
Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite, Chief of Engineers [3]
Notable
commanders
COL Richard Gridley,
COL Joseph Swift,
COL Alexander Macomb, Jr.,
BG William Louis Marshall,
MG Richard Delafield,
BG Joseph Totten,
BG Henry Robert,
LTG Edgar Jadwin,
LTG Leif J. Sverdrup
Insignia
Shoulder Sleeve Insignia U.S. Army Corps of Engineers SSI
Branch Insignia USA - Engineer Branch Insignia.png
Regimental Insignia US-Engineers-Regimental Insignia.png
Army Corps of Engineer Headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia
Olmsted Locks and Dam has been under construction for over 20 years under the US Army Corps of Engineers watch.
Colonel Debra Lewis, the Gulf Region Division Central District commander with Sheik O'rhaman Hama Raheem, an Iraqi councilman, celebrate the opening of a new women's center in Assriya Village that the Corps helped construct in 2006. [4]
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Dredge Tauracavor 3 in New York Harbor.
Mississippi River Improvement, 1890.
Proctor Lake, Texas, constructed by the Corps of Engineers to provide flood control, drinking water, and recreation.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), [5] also sometimes shortened to CoE, [6] is a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Defense and a major Army command made up of some 37,000 civilian and military personnel, [1] making it one of the world's largest public engineering, design, and construction management agencies. Although generally associated with dams, canals and flood protection in the United States, USACE is involved in a wide range of public works throughout the world. The Corps of Engineers provides outdoor recreation opportunities to the public, and provides 24% of U.S.  hydropower capacity.

The corps' mission is to "Deliver vital public and military engineering services; partnering in peace and war to strengthen our Nation's security, energize the economy and reduce risks from disasters." [7]

Their most visible missions include:

History

Early history

Plan of the military academy at West Point, New York.

The history of United States Army Corps of Engineers can be traced back to 16 June 1775, when the Continental Congress organized an army with a chief engineer and two assistants. [8] Colonel Richard Gridley became General George Washington's first chief engineer; however, it was not until 1779 that Congress created a separate Corps of Engineers. One of its first tasks was to build fortifications near Boston at Bunker Hill. The first Corps of Engineers was mostly composed of French subjects who had been hired by General Washington from the service of Louis XVI.

The Corps of Engineers, as it is known today, came into existence on 16 March 1802, when President Thomas Jefferson signed the Military Peace Establishment Act whose aim was to "organize and establish a Corps of Engineers ... that the said Corps ... shall be stationed at West Point in the State of New York and shall constitute a military academy." Until 1866, the superintendent of the United States Military Academy was always an officer of engineer.

The General Survey Act of 1824 authorized the use of Army engineers to survey road and canal routes. [9] That same year, Congress passed an "Act to Improve the Navigation of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers" and to remove sand bars on the Ohio and "planters, sawyers, or snags" (trees fixed in the riverbed) on the Mississippi, for which the Corps of Engineers was the responsible agency. [10]

Formerly Separate Units

Separately authorized on 4 July 1838, the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers consisted only of officers and was used for mapping and the design and construction of federal civil works and other coastal fortifications and navigational routes. It was merged with the Corps of Engineers on 31 March 1863, at which point the Corps of Engineers also assumed the Lakes Survey District mission for the Great Lakes. [11]

In 1841, Congress created the Lake Survey. The survey, based in Detroit, Mich., was charged with conducting a hydrographical survey of the Northern and Northwestern Lakes and preparing and publishing nautical charts and other navigation aids. The Lake Survey published its first charts in 1852. [12]

In the mid-19th century, Corps of Engineers' officers ran Lighthouse Districts in tandem with U.S. Naval officers.

Civil War

Pontoon bridge across the James River, Virginia, 1864

The Army Corps of Engineers played a significant role in the American Civil War. Many of the men who would serve in the top leadership in this institution were West Point graduates who rose to military fame and power during the Civil War. Some of these men were Union Generals George McClellan, Henry Halleck, George Meade, and Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, Joseph Johnston, and P.G.T. Beauregard. [8] [8] The versatility of officers in the Army Corps of Engineers contributed to the success of numerous missions throughout the Civil War. They were responsible for building pontoon and railroad bridges, forts and batteries, the destruction of enemy supply lines, and the construction of roads. [8] The Union forces were not the only ones to employ the use of engineers throughout the war, and on 6 March 1861, once the South had seceded from the Union, among the different acts passed at the time, a provision was included that called for the creation of a Confederate Corps of Engineers. [13]

The progression of the war demonstrated the South's disadvantage in engineering expertise; of the initial 65 cadets who resigned from West Point to accept positions with the Confederate Army, only seven were placed in the Corps of Engineers. [13] To overcome this obstacle, the Confederate Congress passed legislation that gave a company of engineers to every division in the field; by 1865, they actually had more engineer officers serving in the field of action than the Union Army. [13] The Army Corps of Engineers served as a main function in making the war effort logistically feasible. One of the main projects for the Army Corps of Engineers was constructing railroads and bridges, which Union forces took advantage of because railroads and bridges provided access to resources and industry. One area where the Confederate engineers were able to outperform the Union Army was in the ability to build fortifications that were used both offensively and defensively along with trenches that made them harder to penetrate. This method of building trenches was known as the zigzag pattern. [13]

20th century

A bulldozer operated by Sgt. C. G. McCutcheon of the 1304th Engineer Construction Battalion on the Ledo Road, Burma, 1944.

From the beginning, many politicians wanted the Corps of Engineers to contribute to both military construction and works of a civil nature. Assigned the military construction mission on 1 December 1941 after the Quartermaster Department struggled with the expanding mission, [14] the Corps built facilities at home and abroad to support the U.S. Army and Air Force. During World War II the mission grew to more than 27,000 military and industrial projects in a $15.3 billion mobilization program. Included were aircraft, tank assembly, and ammunition plants, camps for 5.3 million soldiers, depots, ports, and hospitals, as well as the Manhattan Project, and the Pentagon.

In civilian projects, the Corps of Engineers became the lead federal flood control agency and significantly expanded its civil works activities, becoming among other things, a major provider of hydroelectric energy and the country's leading provider of recreation; its role in responding to natural disasters also grew dramatically. In the late 1960s, the agency became a leading environmental preservation and restoration agency.

In 1944, specially trained army combat engineers were assigned to blow up underwater obstacles and clear defended ports during the invasion of Normandy. [15] [16] During World War II, the Army Corps of Engineers in the European Theater of Operations was responsible for building numerous bridges, including the first and longest floating tactical bridge across the Rhine at Remagen, and building or maintaining roads vital to the Allied advance across Europe into the heart of Germany. In the Pacific theater, the Pioneer troops were formed, a hand-selected unit of volunteer Army combat engineers trained in jungle warfare, knife fighting, and unarmed jujitsu ( hand-to-hand combat) techniques. [17] Working in camouflage, the Pioneers cleared jungle and prepared routes of advance and established bridgeheads for the infantry as well as demolishing enemy installations. [17]

Five commanding generals (chiefs of staff after the 1903 reorganization) of the United States Army held engineer commissions early in their careers. All transferred to other branches before rising to the top. They were Alexander Macomb, George B. McClellan, Henry W. Halleck, Douglas MacArthur, and Maxwell D. Taylor. [18]

Notable dates and projects

Gatun Lock Construction, Panama Canal, 12 March 1912.
An aerial view of the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

Occasional civil disasters, including the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, resulted in greater responsibilities for the Corps of Engineers. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans provides another example of this.

Other Languages