The world’s most powerful military men came from humble beginnings as colonial militias representative of the free white society of the time. Men between the ages of 16 and 60 were recruited for service in the colonial militias from all walks of life, including shopkeepers, tutors, small farmers and blacksmiths. Excluded from this recruitment were college enrollees, slaves, most free blacks and clergymen-and, in Virginia, Catholics. The men who were recruited had to make undeniable sacrifices during their service. These included operations against Native Americans and the addition of the Redcoats in border skirmishes with neighboring European colonies. The first overseas raid of the colonial militia took place in 1741 and ended in a terrible catastrophe when 4,000 American soldiers joined an attempted British invasion of Cartagena (Colombia), which was then Spanish property. The invasion failed miserably, and only about 600 American volunteers returned home alive from the expedition.
In the run-up to the Revolutionary War, the American militia was ready to step in in an emergency to provide paid, trained soldiers for the Continental Army (which was founded by the Continental Congress in 1775), although the militia ultimately provided far more soldiers for this mission than the young army. The British Regulars or Redcoats assumed that this growing military consisted of workers, criminals and other struggling members of society and was ill-equipped to deal with the brutality of war. This misguided perspective-which came about primarily because Britain itself recruited soldiers from its own lowest strata- ultimately cost Britain the colonies during the Revolutionary War, along with a major surge by the French.
The U.S. Armed Forces have played an important role in two world wars, in a multitude of civil wars and in dozens of ongoing military campaigns over the last century. These efforts have had a significant impact on the way our government makes decisions that can affect domestic and foreign affairs. The military itself has also undergone some structural changes during this period, including the introduction of new divisions and the admission of women and LGBTQ+ individuals in all military branches.
Stacker examined information from the Defense Manpower Data Center, the historical population tables of the United States Census and the St. Louis Federal Reserve to see how the military has changed over the years. By comparing records (last updated in 2019), we were able to determine the percentage of Americans recruited into the military and the number of Americans in each military branch each year from 1917 to 2019.
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Shown: Selected high-ranking American commanders of the European scene of the Second World War].
1917: The USA enters the First World War
– Army strength: 421,467 persons
– Strength of the navy: 194,617 persons
– Strength of the Marine Corps: 27,749 persons
– Strength of the Luftwaffe: Not yet formed
– Total number: 643,833 persons
– Percentage of the included population: 0.62%
Congress granted President Woodrow Wilson’s request for a declaration of war against Germany on April 6, 1917, officially entering World War I. The army expanded dramatically over the next 18 months, from 200,000 men in December 1916 to 3,685,000 in 1918, 2 million of whom were stationed in France to serve in General John Pershing’s American expeditionary force.
Shown: President Woodrow Wilson delivering his war message in the Senate Chamber, July 2, 1917].
1918: Meuse Argonne offensive
– Army strength: 2,395,742 persons
– Strength of the navy: 448,606 persons
– Strength of the Marine Corps: 52,819 persons
– Strength of the Luftwaffe: Not yet formed
– Total strength: 2,897,167 persons
– Percentage of the included population: 2,81%
Thousands of American troops joined with the Allied Response Force at Archangel in September 1918 in response to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. American soldiers participated in several major battles that year as part of World War I, including the Meuse Argonne offensive from September 26 to November 11, which involved more than 1 million American soldiers (26,000 of whom died in the battle, for a total of 120,000 dead). The offensive was the largest of the American expedition