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Public Affairs : Colors and Color Guard

Colors and Color Guard, The U.S. Corps of Cadets
From the outset, military organizations have carried distinctive symbols; for many centuries these were banners. As military organizations were refined, regiments were formed and flags, which used distinctive colors and devices, were designed to represent the different regiments. These flags became known as Colors. Important in early military tactics, colors were used as a means of controlling the unit, as a symbol of its spirit, and as a rallying point, if need be, in battle.

Although the U.S. Military Academy was established in 1802, Corps Colors weren’t established until 1812, when regulations for parades and drill at the Academy were established.

In 1831, a stand of colors was issued to the Corps of Cadets, patterned after the flags given by the City of Boston , but differing in detail. The motto, “Essayons,” which is the slogan of the Corps of Engineers, the branch of the Army that administered the Military Academy at that time, appeared on this flag. This flag is located today in the West Point Museum.

Coat Of Arms and Emblem of the U.S. Military Academy

In 1899, because of a need for distinctive colors to represent Academy intercollegiate athletic teams, the colors black, gold and gray were officially adopted.

The Corps of Cadets first carried a flag similar to the Corps Color of today in 1902 during the Centennial Celebrations of the U.S. Military Academy.

In 1922, the orientation of the eagle and helmet on the shield of the Academy’s Coat of Arms was changed for symbolic and heraldic correctness.

Colors were presented to the Corps of Cadets by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1928 and 1929. The plaque and staff “pike heads” presented by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are on display in the office of the Commandant of Cadets.

Many of the former members of the Cadet Color Guard have lead distinguished military careers and made significant contributions to our nation’s history. Notable among these have been Dwight David Eisenhower, thirty-fourth president of the United States.

On May 11, 1957 , then Secretary of the Army, Wilber M. Brucker, presented the Army Color to the U.S. Military Academy.

The Army flag has been carried by the Academy’s Color Guard since that time. The Army flag now has 174 battle-streamers that commemorate battles from Yorktown to Kosovo.

The Bicentennial flag was added to the colors on Aug. 18, 2001 . The flag consists of the Bicentennial Crest. The crest is an update of the crest that was used when the Military Academy celebrated its 150-year anniversary in 1952. The crest consists of the USMA emblem, the years 1802 and 2002, and the words “ West Point ” and “Bicentennial.” A sword, a universal symbol of war, and the helmet of Pallas Athena, signifying wisdom and learning, constitute the emblem.

Today the Color Guard carries the “Colors” of the United States, our Army and the Military Academy in a long line of tradition.