United States Army Corps of Engineers

A Brief History

US Army Corps of Engineers

Having tossed together a brief history of the Seabees, I thought it would be proper to do the same for the Army Corps of Engineers.  After all, I did feature them in the article .

Way back in 1779, on March 11, Congress established the United States Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) to help plan, design and prepare environmental and structural facilities for the U.S. Army.  However, the history of ACoE can be further traced back to June 16, 1775, when the Continental Congress organized an army with a chief engineer and two assistants.

The motto of the ACoE is "Essayons," which is French for "Let us try."

At the time of its establishment, the ACoE was made up of civilian workers, members of the Continental Army and French officers.  After the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, the Corps was mustered out of service. 

In the early 1790s, Congress started taking measures to reconstitute the American Army.  In 1794, Congress created a Corps of Artillerists and Engineers to serve the same purpose as the ACoE under the new federal government. It was soon after that it was noted that that the duties and functions of the artillery and engineers, while connected, were distinct – and so the two were to be parted into two branches.  The Army Corps of Engineers itself was reestablished as an enduring division in 1802.

The chief task of the ACoE is creating and maintaining military fortifications.  The 11-pointed fort (Fort Wood) that now serves as the base of the Statue of Liberty was one of those projects.

In the early 1800’s, after the War of 1812, the ACoE evolved from providing services for the military to helping map out the uncharted territories that would become the western United States. Beginning in 1824, the Corps also took responsibility for navigation and flood control of the nation's river systems.

  Other peacetime responsibilities included coastal fortifications and lighthouses.

At the beginning of the American Civil War, Congress added three additional companies of engineers and the ACoE was formed into a battalion of engineers.  Prior to the United States getting involved in World War I, the Army and the Corps underwent expansion and reorganization – and after entering the war, additional engineer regiments appeared.

The role of the ACoE to natural disasters has evolved, but began with direct federal participation in disaster relief – the first formal disaster relief mission was during the Mississippi Flood of 1882.  The ACoE played a critical role in responding to the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, flood of 1889 and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

As with the Seebees, the members of the ACoE are both builders and fighters.  During World War II, Engineer troops prepared and developed beaches for assault landings, both in Europe and the Pacific.  General Service and Combat Regiments built every conceivable structure or facility in the various theaters of operation. Combat regiments and battalions supported the maneuver forces with roads, bridges, and mine warfare. Stateside, the ACoE supervised the $15.2 billion defense construction program, which included the $2 billion Manhattan Project which ushered in the era of atomic warfare.

The ACoE was involved in the Korean War & Vietnam wars as well.  In both of these conflicts, engineers not only fought alongside maneuver arms but also constructed countless support facilities - combat engineers demolished, rebuilt, and destroyed the same bridges as the tide of war moved across the Korean landscape, and in Vietnam built fire bases, airfields, heliports, harbor facilities, and major highways - ACoE troops constructed 900 miles of modern, paved highways connecting the major population centers of the Republic of Vietnam and monitored the construction by private American contractors of an additional 550 miles.  And all the while, the civil works side of the ACoE continued with navigation, flood control, hydroelectric, and military construction projects in the United States.

The AcoE was in action for the contingency operations in Granada, Panama, and Kuwait.

 And humanitarian efforts such as Provide Comfort and Restore Hope constituted yet another mission for the Corps. Rebuilding Kuwait, providing for relief of displaced refugees, and supporting United Nations efforts in Somalia called for both combat and construction skills.

Disaster assistance for victims of hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes continues to be a peacetime challenge for the ACoE – such as the reconstruction of the city of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Army Corps of Engineers Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) are:

Enlisted

12A- Engineer Senior Sergeant

12B - Combat Engineer

12C - Bridge Crewmember

12D - Diver

12G - Quarrying Specialist

12H - Construction Engineering Supervisor

12K - Plumber

12M - Firefighter

12N - Horizontal Construction Engineer

12P - Prime Power Production Specialist

12Q -Power Line Distribution Specialist

12R - lnterior Electrician

12T - Technical Engineer

12V - Construction and Asphalt Equipment Operator

12W - Carpentry and Masonry Specialist

12X - General Engineering Supervisor

12Y - Geospatial Engineer

12Z - Combat Engineering Senior Sergeant

 

Warrant Officer

 120A - Construction Engineer Technician

 125D - Geospatial Information Technician

Officer

12A - Engineer Officer

12 B - Combat Engineer

12D - Facilities/Contract Construction Management Engineer (FCCME)

A more in-depth history of the ACoE is available at their website The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers:  A Brief History.

 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Branch Song "Essayons"

 Essayons, sound out the battle cry

Essayons, we'll win or we'll die

Essayons, there's nothing we won't try

We're the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Pin the castle on my collar

I've done my training for the team

You can call me an engineer soldier

The warrior spirit has been my dream

We are builders, we are fighters

We are destroyers just as well

There've been doubters who met with the sappers

1 - We know our sappers will never fail

OR

2 - And then we blew them all straight to hell

Our brothers fighting on the battlefield

Look to us to point the way

We get there first and then we take the risks

To build the roads and the air strips

And bridge the mighty river streams

We don't care who gets the glory

We're sure of one thing, this we know

Somewhere out there an engineer soldier

Designed the plan for the whole darn show

Essayons whether in war or peace

We will bear our red and our white

Essayons we serve America

And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Essayons! Essayons!