The United States Armed Forces are considered the world’s most powerful military. Made up of six service branches—the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard—their mission is to protect the United States and U.S. interests at home and abroad. Aside from their obvious role as a fighting force, the missions of these branches also include humanitarian assistance, natural disaster relief, rescue operations, and policing the seas against piracy and drug smuggling.
America’s Army, Marine Corps, and Navy all have roots in the country’s colonial days. The Army is the largest and oldest branch in the U.S. military, tracing its inception to George Washington’s Continental Army. Composed of the Regular Army, Army National Guard, and the Army Reserve, today’s Army is the ground force that protects the United States and is the nation's major defensive force. The Marine Corps, part of the Department of the Navy, is a maritime land force capable of combat on land, sea, and in the air. The smallest of the branches in terms of active personnel, the Marine Corps is a combined arms force whose ferocious fighting at the Battle of Belleau Wood in World War I earned Marines their nickname of “Devil Dogs.” The Navy is the third largest of the service branches by personnel and is the largest navy in the world. It protects waterways outside the Coast Guard’s jurisdiction and is America’s primary forward-deployed force. In the War of 1812, Captain James Lawrence ordered his men "Don't give up the ship" after being mortally wounded in battle, a dying command that was famously memorialized on Oliver Hazard Perry's battle flag; replicas of Perry's flag fly on U.S. naval ships today. The modern U.S. Air Force, created in 1947 when the Army Air Force was separated into its own branch, is the second largest of the service branches. Its stated mission is to fly, fight and win in air, space, and cyberspace. Predecessor versions of the Air Force date back to 1907 and the U.S. Army's Signal Corps, with the Army's American Expeditionary Forces sending units of planes and balloons to fight and scout at the front in World War I. By World War II, the newly created Army Air Force had become America's primary aerial warfare component; they suffered the second-highest number of casualties of all of America's service branches in World War II. The Space Force, the newest of the branches, was created in 2019 to organize, train, and equip forces to protect U.S. and allied interests in space. The Coast Guard, created in 1790 by Alexander Hamilton, is a multi-mission maritime force that provides law and maritime safety enforcement, marine and environmental protection, and military naval support. It is the principal federal agency responsible for maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship in U.S. ports, waterways, and coasts.
Service personnel in all branches are made up of paid volunteers. All men in the United States between ages 18 and 25 are required by law to register with the Selective Service System in the event that the draft is reinstated; failure to register affects eligibility for federal student aid and federal employment and is punishable by a steep fine or jail time. The United States Armed Forces became an all-volunteer force in 1973.
HeinOnline’s Military and Government allows users to research the functions of the federal government in administrating the armed forces and the issues confronting service personnel both on and off the battlefield. With funding to the Department of Defense making up the largest portion of the U.S. federal budget—spending more on its military than any other country in the world, at $721.5 billion in FY2020—users will find a large number of publications devoted to appropriating, authorizing, and accounting for funds spent by the military, as well as debate on the necessity and effects of spending such large sums. The share of funding appropriated to the armed forces matches the size of this HeinOnline collection: with more than 10,000 titles and 2 million pages, users will find thousands of titles related to myriad issues, from women’s changing role in the military, the development of new weaponry, and navigating benefits offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs after service. To aid users in navigating the amount of content in this collection, HeinOnline editors have subject coded every title in this collection based on its content and service branch (when applicable).