Duty Honor Country

The Mission of the United States Military Academy

To educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.”

The West Point Motto & Crest

The best source of information on the Academic Board’s selection
of the USMA motto in 1898 is found in the U.S. Military Academy Staff
Records which are available in the USMA Archives. There is very little information on the reason for the selection of the motto and no
discussion of why a committee was originally established in 1896 to
consider the subject of a so called “Device for the Military Academy.”

At an Academic Board Meeting of 31 January 1898 the committee
appointed to consider the subject of a “Device for the Military Academy” submitted a report dated 14 January 1898. After amendment, the report was ultimately adopted. This committee, which selected both the Academy’s crest and motto, stated that: “The selection of a
satisfactory motto includes some of the foregoing, such as significance, propriety, intelligibility, and suitability, as well as dignity, conciseness, and to a certain extent sonorousness and tradition.”

Although some discussion of the reason for the selection of the crest is included, the following is the only mention in the Staff Records of the reasoning behind the selection of the words for the motto:

“After much thought and inviting the opinion of many others, the
Committee is satisfied that the sentiment expressed by the words:
‘Duty, Honor, Country’ more clearly and concisely express the genius of the institution than that embodied in any other motto or quotation which has suggested itself or has been suggested by others. It has met the approval of those to whom it has been submitted.”

Charles W. Larned, Professor of Drawing, Chairman
E.W. Bass, Professor of Mathematics
S.E. Tillman, Professor of Chemistry

At the following meeting of the Board on 4 February 1898 it was decided, by a vote of 5 3 with three members absent, that the words for the motto should be arranged as “Duty, Honor, Country.” The amended report of the committee was then formally adopted.

At the 31 August 1898 meeting of the Academic Board it was resolved:
“that the Academic Board recommend to the Honorable Secretary of War
that the design for a Seal and Arms and the Motto submitted and
recommended by the Committee of the Academic Board appointed for its
consideration and preparation, be adopted as the Seal, Arms, and Motto
of the U.S. Military Academy.”

That approval was evidently forthcoming because at the 15 December 1898 meeting of the Board the following resolution was adopted:

“Resolved that the sum of one dollar and five cents ($1.05) be allotted from the Contingent Fund of the Military Academy appropriations for the current fiscal year, to be expended under the direction of the Academic Board for the payment of the fee for copyrighting the Arms, Motto, and Seal of the Military Academy, and Descriptive Text of same.”

Office of USMA Historian 25 February 1980

Dr. Stephen Grove — USMA Historian, Office of Policy, Planning and Assessment

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