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Carved from Granite

West Point since 1902

Lance Betros

Publication Year: 2012

The United States Military Academy at West Point is one of America’s oldest and most revered institutions. Founded in 1802, its first and only mission is to prepare young men—and, since 1976, young women—to be leaders of character for service as commissioned officers in the United States Army. West Point’s success in accomplishing that mission has secured its reputation as the foremost leadership-development institution in the world. An Academy promotional poster says it this way: “At West Point, much of the history we teach was made by people we taught.” Carved from Granite is the story of how West Point goes about producing military leaders of character. An opening chapter on the Academy’s nineteenth-century history provides context for the topic of each subsequent chapter. As scholar and Academy graduate Lance Betros shows, West Point’s early history is interesting and colorful, but its history since then is far more relevant to the issues—and problems—that face the Academy today. Drawing from oral histories, archival sources, and his own experiences as a cadet and, later, a faculty member, Betros describes and assesses how well West Point has accomplished its mission. And, while West Point is an impressive institution in many ways, Betros does not hesitate to expose problems and challenge long-held assumptions. In a concluding chapter that is both subjective and interpretive, the author offers his prescriptions for improving the institution, focusing particularly on the areas of governance, admissions, and intercollegiate athletics. Photographs, tables, charts, and other graphics aid the clarity of the discussion and lend visual and historical interest. Carved from Granite: West Point since 1902 is the most authoritative history of the modern United States Military Academy written to date. There will be lively debate over some of the observations made in this book, but if they are followed, the author asserts that the Academy will emerge stronger and better able to accomplish its vital mission in the new century and beyond.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

I COULD NOT have completed this multiyear project without the steadfast support of many people. While I am indebted to all of them for their help, I am solely responsible for any errors that may reside in these pages....

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Notes on West Point Terminology

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pp. xiii-xiv

WHILE THE TERMS “West Point” and “Academy” are used interchangeably in most places in the book, there is actually a subtle distinction between them. West Point is the army base established in 1778—during the Revolutionary War—and today consisting of about sixteen thousand acres; it is the oldest continuously...

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pp. xv-xvii

HIGH ABOVE a bend in the Hudson River, about fifty miles north of New York City, lies the United States Military Academy at West Point. From the river, West Point’s granite walls resemble a medieval fortress—massive rock foundations, high crenellated walls, even a portcullis or two. These features were hardly coincidental....

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Ch1: Old West Point

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pp. 1-29

THE MORNING air was electric as the crowd watched the train roll to a stop at West Point’s riverside station on 11 June 1902. After a short pause, a lively bespectacled man debarked, and the throng of spectators threw up a cheer. It was Theodore Roosevelt, the war- hero president, on hand for the United States Military Academy’s centennial celebration and graduation exercises. A cavalry detachment...

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Ch2: "A Lion's Mouth"

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pp. 31-72

ONE MIGHT think that governance at West Point would be simple and straightforward. After all, West Point, like every other army base, has a commanding general—in this case, a “superintendent”—with legal authority over the soldiers and civilians who live and work there. There are talented staff officers and subordinate commanders to carry out the policies of the superintendent. The workforce, military...

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Ch3: "The Corps Starts Here": Admissions

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pp. 73-109

THE PROCESS for admitting cadets to West Point underwent profound change in the twentieth century. In every decade, a large majority of applicants gained entry through a congressional nomination system established in the early nineteenth century to ensure geographic, political, and socioeconomic diversity. While the system met these goals, it was less effective in providing cadet candidates who were...

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Ch4: The Athenian Academy: Academics

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pp. 111-161

AT THE BEGINNING of the twentieth century, the academic program at West Point looked much the same as it had for the previous eighty years. The success of Academy graduates as leaders in war and peace had convinced the cadets’ paternal guardians that the curriculum was as close to perfection as humanly possible. It was the best...

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Ch5: Sabers and Goalposts: The Physical Program

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pp. 163-207

WITH THE APPOINTMENT of Herman J. Koehler as Master of the Sword in 1885, West Point soon had a high-quality physical education program to match its already impressive academic program.1 Koehler imposed on fourth-class cadets a daily regimen of exercise that brought dramatic improvements in their strength and endurance. His...

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Ch6: The Spartan Academy: Military Training

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pp. 209-238

MILITARY TRAINING for cadets improved dramatically over the course of the twentieth century. Its progress reflected the growth of military professionalism as the army expanded and modernized to meet the global commitments of the nation. Despite these improvements, however, Academy leaders succeeded in keeping military...

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Ch7: Toward a "Four-Class System": Leader Development at West Point

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pp. 239-262

WITH ITS TRADITIONAL focus on character and intellect, West Point was slow to establish a discrete program for leader development. The Academy’s paternal guardians believed that leadership ability was a by- product of successfully completing the requirements for graduation; those cadets who could not keep up were therefore...

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Ch8: A "Corps" Mission

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pp. 263-299

SINCE THE TIME of Sylvanus Thayer, building character in cadets has been the most important developmental goal of the Military Academy. Thayer’s conception of character had two components, the first being the personal discipline required of army officers. He nurtured cadet discipline through a rigorous academic curriculum and the...

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Ch9: Conclusion:Character and Intellect

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pp. 301-316

SINCE ITS FOUNDING in 1802, the Military Academy’s purpose has remained fixed: to produce leaders of character for the army. Since its centennial in 1902, the Academy’s methods of achieving that purpose have undergone dramatic change. Most of those changes were positive. The academic, military, and physical programs, for example, evolved steadily to a high level of excellence. A culture of positive...

Appendix A

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pp. 317-328


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pp. 329-428

Notes on Sources

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pp. 429-431


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pp. 433-443


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pp. 445-458

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781603447874
E-ISBN-10: 1603447873
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603447713
Print-ISBN-10: 1603447717

Page Count: 544
Illustrations: 26 b&w photos. 49 charts. Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • United States Military Academy -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States Military Academy -- History -- 21st century.
  • Military education -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Military education -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Leadership -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- United States.
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