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History of Service Academies

Timeline of United States military academies
West Point from Phillipstown circa 1831
Library of Congress

Explore our timeline of significant events in the history of America's service academies, from establishing the military academy at West Point to the first United States Air Force Academy graduates who moved into U.S. Space Force.

A graphic labeled History of Service Academies with descriptions and photos. See associated article body for details.
Timeline outlining the history of service academies. American Battlefield Trust
Timeline outlining the history of service academies. Download the PDF to take a closer look. American Battlefield Trust

1778

  • January 27 - Connecticut militia under General Samuel H. Parsons first occupy West Point

1780

  • Tadeusz Kosciuszko witnesses the completion of construction on the West Point defenses he designed after General Washington deemed the location “the most important port in America”

1802

1817

  • USMA begins a huge reorganization under superintendent Sylvanus Thayer, becoming one of the nation’s finest sources of civil engineers

1845

  • U.S. Naval School, located at the site of Fort Severn in Annapolis, Md., established through efforts of Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft

1854

  • The West Point Museum opens to the public as the first federal museum

1861 

  • With the War Department in desperate need of Union officers, the USMA graduates the classes of 1861 and 1862 in the summer of 1861

1865

  • August 9 - After four years in Newport, R.I., during the Civil War, the USNA returns to Annapolis, Md.

1876

  • The first Coast Guard Academy, then called the Revenue Cutter School of  Instruction, started aboard the two-masted topsail schooner Dobbin

1877

  • June 14 - Henry O. Flipper becomes the first Black cadet to graduate from  the USMA

1910 

  • Coast Guard Academy established at Fort Trumbull, a Revolutionary War fort in New London, Conn.

1917-1918

  • World War I; cadets and midshipmen from both the USMA and USNA graduate early to fill the  ranks during the conflict

1932

  • The U.S. Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) moves to its present-day location

1939

  • Naval Academy Museum building, later named Preble Hall, is dedicated

1946

  • Seized from Germany following WWII, the Barque Eagle arrives at the USCGA

1947

  • September 18 - Air Force becomes separate entity under the National Security Act and formation of an academy begins

1959

  • June 3 - The U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) graduates its first class of 207 cadets

1975

  • October 7 - President Gerald R. Ford signs law that allows women to be admitted to the then all-male military colleges

2020

  • April 18 - 86 graduates receive their diplomas from the USAFA and move directly into the U.S. Space Force

Download Timeline (PDF)