The alumni from the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, also known as the “Long Gray Line,” include a surprising number of very different leaders that disproportionately affected the history of the United States. Although the alumni of West Point each started their plebe year as individuals from the north or south, down east or from the far west, after spending time learning the history, legacy and traditions of the USMA, they all had at least three things in common: duty, honor and country.
Among the graduates, there were war-winning generals:
Ulysses S. Grant, Class of 1843: He served as the commanding general of the U.S. Army during the Civil War, which defeated the Confederate Army. He went on to become the President in 1869.
John J. Pershing, Class of 1886: Pershing served as the commanding general in charge of the American Expeditionary Forces that defeated the Imperial German Army, ending WWI.
H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Class of 1956: He served as the commander of the coalition forces that defeated the Iraqi army after they invaded Kuwait, ending Operation Desert Storm in just 100 hours.
There were also a few astronauts:
Frank Borman, Class of 1950: Borman served as the commander of Apollo 8, the first space-flight mission to orbit the moon and return safely. He later became the president of Eastern Air Lines.
Edward H. White, Class of 1952: White was the first American to walk in space during Project Gemini. He was tragically killed in the Apollo 1 spacecraft fire at Kennedy Space Center in 1967.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Class of 1951: Buzz Aldrin was the second human to walk on the moon after the first manned lunar landing in 1969.
There were presidents from three different governments.
Jefferson Davis, Class of 1828: Davis served as the president of the Confederate States of America.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Class of 1915: Eisenhower served as the President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.
Fidel V. Ramos, Class of 1950: Ramos served as the President of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998.
And, of course, some West Point grads have gone on to become Medal of Honor recipients:
Douglas MacArthur, Class of 1903: MacArthur received the Medal of Honor for actions taken during the battle of Bataan at the start of WWII. Later in the war, he returned and retook the Philippines from the Imperial Japanese Army.
Alexander R. Nininger, Class of 1941: Nininger posthumously received the Medal of Honor during combat in WWII for repeatedly, single-handedly charging enemy positions (and defeating them) with a rifle, grenades and a fixed bayonet.
John M. Schofield, Class of 1853: Schofield received the Medal of Honor for actions taken during the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in the Civil War, and he was responsible for correctly evaluating the huge strategic value of Hawaii, resulting in the establishment of Pearl Harbor as a major U.S. bastion.
It’s also important to note that several military schools, including West Point, require their cadets to memorize Schofield’s graduation address to the West Point Class of 1879, as it has a universal message of leadership that we see as true even today: “He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them respect for himself. While he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect towards others, especially his subordinates, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.”