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100 years of military history

  • 100 years of military history
    1/ Public Domain

    100 years of military history

    In the last century, the U.S. Armed Forces have played major roles in two world wars, a wide variety of civil conflicts, and dozens of ongoing military campaigns. These efforts have made significant impacts on how our government makes decisions that may affect domestic and foreign affairs.

    The military itself has undergone a few structural changes in that time, as well, including adding new divisions and permitting women and LGBTQ people to serve in all military branches. Stacker looked at information from the Defense Manpower Data Center, the U.S. Census historical population tables, and the St. Louis Federal Reserve to see how the military has changed over the years. By comparing data sets we were able to determine the percentage of Americans enlisted in the military and number of Americans in each military branch each year from 1917 to 2017.

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  • 1917
    2/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 421,467 people

    Navy strength: 194,617 people

    Marine Corps strength: 27,749 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 643,833 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.62%

    Congress granted President Woodrow Wilson's request for a declaration of war against Germany on April 6, 1917, effectively entering the United States into World War I. The army expanded dramatically in the next 18 months to 3,685,000 troops, 2 million of which were stationed in France to serve in Gen. John Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force.

  • 1918
    3/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 2,395,742 people

    Navy strength: 448,606 people

    Marine Corps strength: 52,819 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 2,897,167 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 2.81%

    Thousands of American troops joined forces in September of 1918 with the allied intervention force at Archangel in response to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. American soldiers engaged in several major battles that year as part of WWI, including the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, employed by 37 American and French divisions with the goal of cutting off all of Germany's 2nd Army. General John J. Pershing was at the helm of the offensive, which would be America's biggest of the war. World War II ended Nov. 11, 1918.

  • 1919
    4/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 851,624 people

    Navy strength: 272,144 people

    Marine Corps strength: 48,834 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 1,172,602 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.12%

    Following the conclusion of WWI, the Treaty of Versailles was signed June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles, France. The peace document included signatures from allied powers and Germany, and went into effect the following year with redrawn German boundaries and an outline of required reparations from the country. After signing the treaty on behalf of the United States and presenting his Fourteen Points that included the formation of the League of Nations, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson returned home only to find an obstinate senate voted against the treaty—twice.

  • 1920
    5/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 204,292 people

    Navy strength: 121,845 people

    Marine Corps strength: 17,165 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 343,302 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.32%

    In 1920 Congress passed an amendment to the National Defense Act, which rejected the concept of an expandable “Regular Army” and called for the U.S. Army to have three main divisions: the standing Regular Army, National Guard, and  Organized Reserves.  

  • 1921
    6/ United States Marine Corps // Wikicommons


    Army strength: 230,725 people

    Navy strength: 132,827 people

    Marine Corps strength: 22,990 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 386,542 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.36%

    On May 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified body from World War I at Arlington National Cemetery. The "Unknown Soldier" commemorates the 116,516 American soldiers killed in World War I, many of whose bodies were never identified.

  • 1922
    7/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 148,763 people

    Navy strength: 100,211 people

    Marine Corps strength: 21,233 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 270,207 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.25%

    The Washington Naval Treaty was signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, France, and Italy on Feb. 6, 1922. The document, also known as the Five-Power Treaty, was drafted in order to prevent an arms race following World War I.

  • 1923
    8/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 133,243 people

    Navy strength: 94,094 people

    Marine Corps strength: 19,694 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 247,031 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.22%

    American soldiers spent part of 1923 in China, helping to control unrest that ensued amidst warlordism—the ongoing dilemma of Beiyang Army military factions vying for control of China.


  • 1924
    9/ Missouri State Archives // Wikicommons


    Army strength: 142,673 people

    Navy strength: 98,184 people

    Marine Corps strength: 20,332 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 261,189 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.23%

    American soldiers were called upon again in a protective capacity of China in 1924. During this time, the general of the Zhili clique and the Jiangsu governor were both vying for control of Shanghai.

  • 1925
    10/ NPS Photo


    Army strength: 137,048 people

    Navy strength: 95,230 people

    Marine Corps strength: 19,478 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 251,756 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.22%

    This year in American military history saw continued unrest from Chinese factions competing for political power in Shanghai, this time in the form of riots. American troops were needed to protect the public, as well as the terms of the Shanghai International Settlement.


  • 1926
    11/ Harry S. Truman at Fort Riley in 1926—The U.S. National Archives // Flickr


    Army strength: 134,938 people

    Navy strength: 93,304 people

    Marine Corps strength: 19,154 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 247,396 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.21%

    U.S. troops were stationed in Nicaragua for a couple of months in 1926, after General Emiliano Chamorro Vargas staged a coup d'etat against President Carlos Solorzano. Chamorro became president, but the U.S. did not recognize him as such, and after a liberal revolt, the military sent boats and troops into the country. China was still experiencing Beiyang Army-related disorder, and in November of that year, American naval troops deployed to Kiukiang, where Chinese nationalist forces had overtaken the city.

  • 1927
    12/ President Calvin Coolidge awarding a Medal of Honor in 1927—Public Domain


    Army strength: 134,829 people

    Navy strength: 94,916 people

    Marine Corps strength: 19,198 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 248,943 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.21%

    American Naval forces and Marines increased their presence in Shanghai due to faction-related fighting, and a Naval guard was called to the American consulate in Nanking when Chinese nationalists overtook the city. Meanwhile, the U.S. military was trying to utilize its small budget to craft new weapons and improve existing ones, taking full advantage of the technological growth of the 1920s.


  • 1928
    13/ President Calvin Coolidge and First Lieutenant Christian F. Schilt circa 1928—Public Domain


    Army strength: 136,084 people

    Navy strength: 95,803 people

    Marine Corps strength: 19,020 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 250,907 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.21%

    Throughout the 1920s, the military began leaning on the National Guard and Organized Reserves to expand the Army. The U.S. Officers' Reserve Corps helped keep college men in the Army after graduation, strengthening ROTC programs at tertiary education institutions. There were ROTC units in 225 American colleges and universities by 1928. Also that year, the U.S. and France jointly drew up the Pact of Paris, which allowed many countries to renounce war as a device of national policy. The U.S. government agreed that if other nations acted as such, it would restrict its armed forces to the minimum needed to defend domestic territory.

  • 1929
    14/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 139,118 people

    Navy strength: 97,117 people

    Marine Corps strength: 18,796 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 255,031 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.21%

    The year 1929 was a fairly quiet year for the U.S. military, as it had not yet become involved in upheaval from the Great Depression. Troops still occupied Haiti as part of the nearly 20-year U.S. occupation of the country due to ongoing political instability. The worst massacre of this occupation occurred Dec. 6, 1929, when Marines in Les Cayes killed 12 Haitians who were protesting economic conditions.

  • 1930
    15/ GoodFreePhotos


    Army strength: 139,378 people

    Navy strength: 96,890 people

    Marine Corps strength: 19,380 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 255,648 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.21%

    The United Kingdom, Japan, and the U.S. signed the London Naval Treaty in 1930 in order to regulate submarine warfare and limit the building of naval ships. The terms of the treaty were put in place in order to avert a naval arms race following WWI.

  • 1931
    16/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 140,516 people

    Navy strength: 93,307 people

    Marine Corps strength: 16,782 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 252,605 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.2%

    The Great Depression's effects continued to spread throughout the United States and world in 1931, increasing tensions at home and abroad. It would be years before the onset of WWII; however, a hint of ensuing international conflict set in when Japanese forces overtook Manchuria in violation of the League of Nations in September of 1931. The invasion put U.S. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson in the position of determining a way to thwart the conflict. Just after the new year, he issued the Stimson Doctrine, which said the U.S. would not honor agreements or treaties between Japan and China that were in violation of existing U.S. rights or agreements.

  • 1932
    17/ Bonus March, 1932—U.S. National Archives // Flickr


    Army strength: 134,957 people

    Navy strength: 93,384 people

    Marine Corps strength: 16,561 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 244,902 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.2%

    In the summer of 1932, Congress denied military veterans an immediate bonus payment for their participation in WWI. "Bonus Marchers" remained in Washington after this decision, demonstrating their discontent to such an extent that President Hoover called for the Army’s assistance. In response, hundreds of troops intervened with such force that its reputation became marred in the eyes of the public. 

  • 1933
    18/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 136,547 people

    Navy strength: 91,230 people

    Marine Corps strength: 16,068 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 243,845 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.19%

    A little more than three years after the initial stock market crash, 13.6 million U.S. citizens were unemployed. In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as part of his New Deal program. The CCC consisted of existing government departments, including the Army, administering camps to provide more than 3 million men with manual labor jobs, mainly in the area of natural resource conservation. Many Army officers benefitted from overseeing the camps, not otherwise having the opportunity to supervise large groups of personnel in the period between the world wars. It’s also important to note that Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany during this year.


  • 1934
    19/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 138,464 people

    Navy strength: 92,312 people

    Marine Corps strength: 16,361 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 247,137 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.2%

    After President Roosevelt established an agreement to disengage from Haiti the previous year, American Marines left the country. This came on the heels of FDR’s “Good Neighbor policy,” which meant not interfering in Latin American domestic affairs. Also this year, FDR signed another version of the Securities Exchange Act into law, which controlled the secondary trading of stocks and bonds in the U.S. The policy also made way for the Securities and Exchange Commission, in charge of enforcing U.S. federal securities law.   


  • 1935
    20/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 139,486 people

    Navy strength: 95,053 people

    Marine Corps strength: 17,260 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 251,799 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.2%

    By 1935, the U.S. War Department established four Army headquarters and the General Headquarters Air Force for the purpose of strategic mobility, replacing horse transportation with Army resources and assembling a strong emergency force. That summer, both standard and National Guard soldiers, as well as other military units, began training together in these headquarters. Congress granted the Regular Army permission to boost its enlisted number to 165,000—a longtime goal. The 1935 Neutrality Act was also passed during this year, enforcing a ban on trading arms and war materials with any nation involved in a war.


  • 1936
    21/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 167,816 people

    Navy strength: 106,292 people

    Marine Corps strength: 17,248 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 291,356 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.23%

    Even though the U.S. military was not officially involved in the Spanish Civil War, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, comprised of a mix of international brigades created by U.S. volunteers, dispatched troops to Spain and fought for the Spanish Republic. By the end of the war, most of the members of the Spanish aid committees and the leadership councils of the American Medical Bureau serving in this war were women.


  • 1937
    22/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 179,968 people

    Navy strength: 113,617 people

    Marine Corps strength: 18,223 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 311,808 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.24%

    As the U.S. began to concentrate its economic power toward mobile war operations, the government enacted the Protective Mobilization Plan, in which the National Guard would be inducted into federal service. This gave the Army a protective force of 400,000 troops, which could protect the nation while the Army focused on expansion and training. These plans were the foundation for the mobilization of troops in the summer of 1940, not long before the U.S. entered WWII.


  • 1938
    23/ U.S. Army Photo


    Army strength: 185,488 people

    Navy strength: 119,088 people

    Marine Corps strength: 18,356 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 322,932 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.25%

    In 1938, the Non-Intervention Committee, comprised of representative from several countries with volunteer troops in Spain, moved to withdraw foreign volunteers from the Spanish Civil War. The U.S. and England abided by this decision, but German and Italian troops stayed in Spain.


  • 1939
    24/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 189,839 people

    Navy strength: 125,202 people

    Marine Corps strength: 19,432 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 334,473 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.26%

    WWII began in Europe when Germany and the Soviet Union attacked Poland and the U.K., and France, India, Australia, and New Zealand declared war on Germany. Although the U.S. remained neutral at this point, the military was still taking measures to train and plan for mobilization. FDR proposed the Cash and Carry policy, which replaced the 1936 Neutrality Acts, allowing the sale of military tech and materials to nations at war.


  • 1940
    25/ U.S. Air Force Photo


    Army strength: 269,023 people

    Navy strength: 160,997 people

    Marine Corps strength: 28,345 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 458,365 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.35%

    American involvement in WWII was limited: The military contributed materials and financial support to Great Britain, the Republic of China, and the Soviet Union. Anticipating eventual involvement, however, the U.S. was also beginning to strengthen its own military forces. The Army received more than $8 billion for preparations for the next year, and the munitions program was preparing weaponry to sustain a military force of 1.2 million men. Congress gave the green light to draft the National Guard into the federal service, and for the Organized Reserves to act as soldiers in its army.


  • 1941
    26/ U.S. Air Force Photo


    Army strength: 1,462,315 people

    Navy strength: 284,427 people

    Marine Corps strength: 54,359 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 1,801,101 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.35%

    The U.S. entered WWII by first declaring war with Japan on Dec. 8, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; with Germany and Italy on Dec. 11 after they had first declared war against the U.S.; and finally with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania the following year after those nations had done the same. Japan’s attack inflicted heavy damage upon the U.S. Pacific fleet, disabling 18 battleships and 164 aircrafts. The U.S. faced significant challenges in December of this year as well, having to quickly train large military outfits to fight in Europe and the Pacific. The Lend-Lease Act was also passed into law, which allowed the U.S. government to transmit weapons and other military provisions to foreign countries during the war.


  • 1942
    27/ U.S. Navy aircraft carrier attacked by Japanese in the Battle of Midway—Public Domain


    Army strength: 3,075,608 people

    Navy strength: 640,570 people

    Marine Corps strength: 142,613 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 3,858,791 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 2.86%

    The U.S. officially engaged in war with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania during this year. The American government had to spend colossal amounts of money on the effort, and assumed a wartime economy. American businesses, farmers and factory workers all contributed. Toward the end of the year, it was mandatory for all men between the ages of 18 and 64 to register for the draft, though many volunteered before being called. U.S. troops inflicted critical damage on a Japanese naval fleet in the Battle of Midway in June of 1942.


  • 1943
    28/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 6,994,472 people

    Navy strength: 1,741,750 people

    Marine Corps strength: 308,523 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 9,044,745 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 6.61%

    As U.S. involvement in WWII escalated, the government began rationing foods like sugar, meat, and coffee. On the war front, a group of four U.S. Army chaplains known as the Immortal Chaplains were struck by a German torpedo while traveling on the SS Dorchester, and U.S. and Australian troops sank Japanese ships in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Future President Dwight Eisenhower was chosen to lead the Allied Forces in Europe, which invaded Italy that year.


  • 1944
    29/ Female war correspondents during World War II—Public Domain


    Army strength: 7,994,750 people

    Navy strength: 2,981,365 people

    Marine Corps strength: 475,604 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 11,451,719 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 8.27%

    As WWII continued, U.S. troops engaged in the Battle of Anzio, which resulted in Rome’s capture by the Allied Forces. More famously, on June 6, the U.S. engaged in the Battle of Normandy, in which 155,000 Allied troops consisting of U.S., British, and Canadian soldiers arrived on the beaches of Normandy, France. This battle, also known as Operation Overlord, ultimately resulted in France’s liberation from Nazi occupation.


  • 1945
    30/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 8,266,373 people

    Navy strength: 3,319,586 people

    Marine Corps strength: 469,925 people

    Air Force strength: not yet formed

    Total strength: 12,055,884 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 8.62%

    The Western Allies invaded Germany toward the end of WWII, with soldiers crossing the Rhine River and eventually overtaking western Germany. The Battle of Iwo Jima was one of the more significant battles of WWII, during which the U.S. Marine Corps captured the Japanese island. After the invasion of Germany, WWII officially ended when President Truman ordered the atomic bombs to be dropped on Japan in August. Overall, the U.S. suffered 418,000 military and civilian casualties during the war, and the government spent about $4.1 trillion. Later that year, the U.S. government played a large role in establishing the United Nations in San Francisco.


  • 1946
    31/ World War II bond rally in 1945 at a naval shipyard—Public Domain


    Army strength: 1,435,496 people

    Navy strength: 978,203 people

    Marine Corps strength: 155,679 people

    Air Force strength: 455,515 people

    Total strength: 3,024,893 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 2.14%

    The U.S. military continued to demobilize, but slowed down the recovery of troops to fulfill outstanding obligations overseas. This decision resulted in protests from countries like China and France, which did not subside until more than half of American troops returned home. In October of 1946, the United Nations had its first meeting in Long Island, New York, with 51 countries represented. The U.S. granted independence to the Philippines, and Ho Chi Minh signed an agreement with France that deemed Vietnam an independent nation in the Indochinese Federation and the French Union. The U.S. also performed the first underwater test of the atomic bomb, sinking the USS Saratoga in the Pacific Ocean.  


  • 1947
    32/ President Harry S. Truman making his "Truman Doctrine" speech, 1947—Public Domain


    Army strength: 685,458 people

    Navy strength: 497,773 people

    Marine Corps strength: 93,053 people

    Air Force strength: 305,827 people

    Total strength: 1,582,111 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.1%

    As post-war demobilization continued, the conversation of how the military would organize itself helped create the National Security Council, which in turn created the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense. Post-war tensions between the Soviet Union and the U.S. had officially manifested as the Cold War. In an attempt to contain the spread of communism, President Truman facilitated the Truman Doctrine, which transferred $400 million to Turkey and Greece to aid in their fights against communism.


  • 1948
    33/ Tuskegee Airmen, active throuh 1948—Public Domain


    Army strength: 554,030 people

    Navy strength: 417,535 people

    Marine Corps strength: 84,988 people

    Air Force strength: 387,730 people

    Total strength: 1,444,283 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.98%

    As part of the National Security Act, the Army’s chief responsibilities were carrying out land operations, providing anti-aircraft units, and supplying occupation and security garrisons for use overseas. The Navy continued to control the Marine Corps, and the new Air Force commanded strategic air warfare and combat air backup for the Army. President Truman signed the Marshall Plan, which allowed the U.S. to provide more than $12 million to help rebuild western European economies. Congress passed a law declaring the Civil Air Patrol as the official civilian backup of the U.S. Air Force. Finally, Truman passed an executive order that terminated racial segregation in the American armed forces.


  • 1949
    34/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 660,473 people

    Navy strength: 447,901 people

    Marine Corps strength: 85,965 people

    Air Force strength: 419,347 people

    Total strength: 1,613,686 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.08%

    An amendment to the National Security Act transformed the National Military Establishment into an executive entity, also known as the Department of Defense, comprised of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The North Atlantic Treaty was signed, establishing the intergovernmental military alliance known as NATO. The Cold War installment known as the Revolt of the Admirals took place this year, during which retired and active Navy admirals alike publicly disagreed with President Truman on the subject of strategic nuclear bombing as the primary mode of national defense. Additionally, a “red scare” broke out in the U.S. during which several public figures were named in an FBI report as Communist Party members, including Helen Keller and Dorothy Parker.


  • 1950
    35/ A gun crew checks their equipment near Kum River during the Korean War, 1950—Public Domain


    Army strength: 593,167 people

    Navy strength: 380,739 people

    Marine Corps strength: 74,279 people

    Air Force strength: 411,277 people

    Total strength: 1,459,462 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.96%

    Upon North Korea’s invasion of the boundary between North and South Korea, U.S. military forces marked the start of what would be a three-year war in Korea. Back in America, Congress passed a new Uniform Code of Military Justice, which not only called for uniformity, but lessened the harshness of military discipline for the morale of the soldiers. President Truman gave the go-ahead for the development of the hydrogen bomb as a response to the Soviet Union having successfully tested its first atomic weapon the previous year.


  • 1951
    36/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 1,531,774 people

    Navy strength: 736,596 people

    Marine Corps strength: 192,620 people

    Air Force strength: 788,381 people

    Total strength: 3,249,371 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 2.1%

    As the Korean War waged on, United Nations soldiers liberated Seoul for a second time. Later that year, the U.N. and communist North Korean forces engaged in truce talks. A second Red Scare emerged when Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage, and were charged with the death penalty. The U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Forces and the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations started hearings into President Truman’s release of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. And as part of the Treaty of San Francisco, 48 countries signed a peace treaty with Japan, which officially ended the Pacific War.


  • 1952
    37/ Syngman Rhee, President of the Republic of Korea and Rear Admiral Ralph A. Ofstie, 1952—Public Domain


    Army strength: 1,596,419 people

    Navy strength: 824,265 people

    Marine Corps strength: 231,967 people

    Air Force strength: 983,261 people

    Total strength: 3,635,912 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 2.31%

    The Treaty of San Francisco went into effect this year, officially ending the U.S. occupation of Japan. As nuclear testing continued, the U.S. military successfully detonated the first hydrogen bomb as part of Operation Ivy. As the Korean War pressed on, President Eisenhower traveled to Korea to explore methods of ending the war.


  • 1953
    38/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 1,533,815 people

    Navy strength: 794,440 people

    Marine Corps strength: 249,219 people

    Air Force strength: 977,593 people

    Total strength: 3,555,067 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 2.22%

    The U.N., China, and North Korea collectively engaged in an armistice ending the Korean War, and troops pulled out of both countries. As part of the Cold War, the CIA, and the British Secret Intelligence Service collaboratively overthrew Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in a coup d’etat when they learned of his involvement with the communist pro-Soviet Tudeh Party. President Eisenhower approved the National Security Council’s secret document calling for the U.S. to expand its nuclear weapons depository in a continued effort to stem the flow of communism.


  • 1954
    39/ The U.S. National Archives // Flickr


    Army strength: 1,404,598 people

    Navy strength: 725,720 people

    Marine Corps strength: 223,868 people

    Air Force strength: 947,918 people

    Total strength: 3,302,104 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 2.03%

    Despite having authorized hundreds of millions of dollars of military budget aid to Vietnam, President Eisenhower advised against U.S. assisting the French in its continued conflict with Viet Minh. Eisenhower also approved the establishment of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. The U.S. Army was investigated by Senator Joseph McCarthy for allegedly not cracking down hard enough on communism.


  • 1955
    40/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 1,109,296 people

    Navy strength: 660,695 people

    Marine Corps strength: 205,170 people

    Air Force strength: 959,946 people

    Total strength: 2,935,107 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.77%

    As the conflict in Vietnam escalated, President Eisenhower sent U.S. advisors to South Vietnam when Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem received threats from multiple domestic sources. Also that year, the U.S. Navy helped the Republic of China evacuate Chinese Nationalist soldiers and residents from the Tachen Islands when the People’s Liberation Army overtook the area. The Formosa Resolution detailed U.S. protection of the Republic of China from the People’s Republic of China.


  • 1956
    41/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 1,025,778 people

    Navy strength: 669,925 people

    Marine Corps strength: 200,780 people

    Air Force strength: 909,958 people

    Total strength: 2,806,441 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.66%

    As the Cold War continued, tensions between the Soviet Union and NATO spawned such large supplies of nuclear weapons that both parties began to panic. After a meeting in Geneva the previous year, U.S. and Soviet representatives mutually decided that a full-blown nuclear war would do far more harm than good. Tensions had calmed by 1956, at least strategically. Nikita Khrushchev, a Soviet statesman, suggested that the U.S. and Soviet Union exist as peaceful competitors—though the two countries still would not be obliged to accept one another’s fundamental style of governing. In its fight against capitalist imperialism, the Soviet Union would engage in wars of independence.


  • 1957
    42/ U.S. Navy Photo


    Army strength: 997,994 people

    Navy strength: 676,071 people

    Marine Corps strength: 200,861 people

    Air Force strength: 919,835 people

    Total strength: 2,794,761 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.63%

    Although the U.S. and Soviet Union vowed to proceed in the Cold War without engaging in full-on nuclear confrontation, the U.S. partnered with Canada to create the Distant Early Warning radar network. This DEW network was able to detect early signs of missile or air attacks coming from the north. In August, President Eisenhower announced that the U.S. would place nuclear testing on a two-year hiatus.


  • 1958
    43/ Thomas J. O'Halloran // Wikicommons


    Army strength: 898,925 people

    Navy strength: 639,942 people

    Marine Corps strength: 189,495 people

    Air Force strength: 871,156 people

    Total strength: 2,599,518 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.49%

    The Lebanon Crisis broke out this year, caused by the threat of civil war between Maronite Christians and Muslims. U.S. Marines helped diffuse the situation as part of Operation Blue Bat, to help strengthen the pro-Western government under President Camille Chamoun and protect it from Syrian and Egyptian threats. President Eisenhower signed the Federal Aviation Act, which allowed the Federal Aviation Agency to assume all power over U.S. airspace. Although a revolution was taking place in Cuba this year, led by Fidel Castro, the U.S. chose not to intervene—instead maintaining a close eye on Castro, who eventually succeeded in overthrowing the government of Fulgencio Batista.


  • 1959
    44/ The first Air Force Academy Class, 1959—U.S. Air Force Photo


    Army strength: 861,964 people

    Navy strength: 625,661 people

    Marine Corps strength: 175,571 people

    Air Force strength: 840,435 people

    Total strength: 2,503,631 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.41%

    Cold War tensions continued to mount when a Communist group in Laos overtook several provinces bordering North Vietnam and China. Neither side prevailed, despite the U.S. military intervention. As the government grew concerned over a more prominent crisis between the East and West, some government officials suggested that Laos be neutralized.


  • 1960
    45/ U.S. Air Force Photo


    Army strength: 873,078 people

    Navy strength: 616,987 people

    Marine Corps strength: 170,621 people

    Air Force strength: 814,752 people

    Total strength: 2,475,438 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.37%

    The U.S. acknowledged Fidel Castro as the leader of Cuba. But as he increasingly nationalized U.S. companies and investments there, harsh penalties were enacted. The U.S. suspended sugar imports from Cuba in 1960, and in March of that year President Dwight D. Eisenhower directed the CIA to initiate training of Cuban exiles in order to overthrow Castro once and for all.

  • 1961
    46/ US Army tanks face off against Soviet armor in Berlin, 1961—Public Domain


    Army strength: 858,622 people

    Navy strength: 626,223 people

    Marine Corps strength: 176,909 people

    Air Force strength: 821,151 people

    Total strength: 2,482,905 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.35%

    Though the threat of nuclear war remained low, the newly appointed President John F. Kennedy nevertheless vowed to equip the U.S. military with the necessary means to retaliate in the event of an attack. Kennedy warned the Soviet Union against getting involved in the U.N. establishment of peace and independence in the Congo. The Bay of Pigs invasion took place in Cuba, during which the CIA tried and failed to overthrow Fidel Castro’s growing communist government.


  • 1962
    47/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 1,066,404 people

    Navy strength: 664,212 people

    Marine Corps strength: 190,962 people

    Air Force strength: 884,025 people

    Total strength: 2,805,603 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.5%

    When it was revealed that Cuba was in possession of Soviet ballistic missiles, the U.S. government set up a naval blockade in southern Florida, better-known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Kennedy warned the Soviet Union that if they launched missiles from Cuba against any country, the U.S would be forced to use nuclear weapons on Russia. Both countries resolved this issue a few days later, when Soviet leader Khrushchev called for the removal of the Soviet missiles from Cuba.


  • 1963
    48/ Inaugural parade for JFK, 1961—Public Domain


    Army strength: 975,916 people

    Navy strength: 663,897 people

    Marine Corps strength: 189,683 people

    Air Force strength: 869,431 people

    Total strength: 2,698,927 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.43%

    The U.S., U.K., and Soviet Union signed a treaty banning nuclear testing, except in underground sites, with responsible containment of radioactive material. The U.S. also continued to support anti-Communist efforts in Laos.


  • 1964
    49/ Project AGILE // Wikicommons


    Army strength: 973,238 people

    Navy strength: 665,969 people

    Marine Corps strength: 189,777 people

    Air Force strength: 856,798 people

    Total strength: 2,685,782 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.4%

    As Saigon’s government continued to decline, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent military advisors to South Vietnam to assist. When U.S. destroyers were supposedly attacked in the Tonkin Gulf, Congress drew up the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which gave the green light for any means necessary to stave off attacks and halt further violence.


  • 1965
    50/ manhhai // Flickr


    Army strength: 969,066 people

    Navy strength: 669,985 people

    Marine Corps strength: 190,213 people

    Air Force strength: 824,662 people

    Total strength: 2,653,926 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.37%

    As the Vietnam War continued, President Johnson increased the number of troops from 75,000 to 125,000. In August of that year, U.S. Marines executed Operation Starlite by taking down a Vietcong stronghold in Quang Ngai province, marking the first major ground battle of the Vietnam War. Later that year was the Battle of Ia Drang: The first example of a sizeable helicopter air assault, and the first instance of B-52 strategic bombers serving as tactical support.


  • 1966
    51/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 1,199,784 people

    Navy strength: 743,322 people

    Marine Corps strength: 261,716 people

    Air Force strength: 887,353 people

    Total strength: 3,092,175 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.57%

    The U.S. increased its presence in Vietnam once more, and the House Un-American Activities Committee began investigating American citizens who helped the Viet Cong. Anti-war protestors crashed the meeting, many of whom were arrested, and additional anti-Vietnam War demonstrations took place around the country. U.S. aircrafts dropped bombs on Hanoi and Haiphong in North Vietnam.

  • 1967
    52/ Battle of Dak To in 1967—Public Domain


    Army strength: 1,442,498 people

    Navy strength: 750,224 people

    Marine Corps strength: 285,269 people

    Air Force strength: 897,494 people

    Total strength: 3,375,485 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.7%

    U.S. Marines carried out Operation Swift, a military operation intended to free two Marine companies that had been waylaid by the Peoples Army of Vietnam, in September of 1967. The rescue mission took place in the Quang Nam and Quang Tin provinces, and resulted in the deaths of 376 North Vietnamese and 114 American soldiers.

  • 1968
    53/ manhhai // Flickr


    Army strength: 1,570,343 people

    Navy strength: 763,626 people

    Marine Corps strength: 307,252 people

    Air Force strength: 904,850 people

    Total strength: 3,546,071 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.77%

    The extensive war-related stress throughout the world inspired President Lyndon B. Johnson to issue an executive order for units of the Army’s Ready Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, and Ready Reserve of the Naval Reserve to report to active duty. That same year, Johnston would announce that the U.S. would partially halt bombing missions over Vietnam.

  • 1969
    54/ U.S. Navy Photo


    Army strength: 1,512,169 people

    Navy strength: 773,779 people

    Marine Corps strength: 309,771 people

    Air Force strength: 862,353 people

    Total strength: 3,458,072 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.71%

    Newly appointed President Richard Nixon established the Nixon Doctrine in 1969. That document established that the U.S. would rely on its Asian allies to take control of their own military defenses, while still receiving some support from their American neighbors.

  • 1970
    55/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 1,322,548 people

    Navy strength: 691,126 people

    Marine Corps strength: 259,737 people

    Air Force strength: 791,349 people

    Total strength: 3,064,760 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.49%

    As the Vietnam War started to wind down, U.S. troops invaded Cambodia to capture lingering Viet Cong forces. These activities were known as the "Menu" bombings


  • 1971
    56/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 1,123,810 people

    Navy strength: 621,565 people

    Marine Corps strength: 212,369 people

    Air Force strength: 755,300 people

    Total strength: 2,713,044 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.31%

    Army Lieutenant William Calley was convicted of the 1968 deaths of 22 civilians in the My Lai Massacre, when 500 people were killed. He was sentenced to life in prison, but President Richard Nixon reduced his sentence and Calley ended up serving just three years under house arrest.

  • 1972
    57/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 810,960 people

    Navy strength: 586,923 people

    Marine Corps strength: 198,238 people

    Air Force strength: 725,838 people

    Total strength: 2,321,959 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.11%

    The North Vietnamese launched the Nguyen Hue Offensive in April of 1972, which entailed carrying out a large-scale, three-part assault on South Vietnam. Hundreds of South Vietnamese civilians and soldiers were injured as a result, but the attack was ultimately stopped by South Vietnamese soldiers and U.S. advisers.

  • 1973
    58/ Prisoners of war celebrating leaving Vietnam in 1973—U.S. Air Force Photo


    Army strength: 800,973 people

    Navy strength: 563,683 people

    Marine Corps strength: 196,098 people

    Air Force strength: 691,182 people

    Total strength: 2,251,936 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.06%

    President Nixon announced progress in peace negotiations with Vietnam, and called for the cessation of offensive action in North Vietnam. A cease-fire was signed, but was violated by the communists in March of 1973. All-out war had resumed by 1974.

  • 1974
    59/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 783,330 people

    Navy strength: 545,903 people

    Marine Corps strength: 188,802 people

    Air Force strength: 643,970 people

    Total strength: 2,162,005 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 1.01%

    As President Nixon was embroiled in the final throes of the Watergate Scandal back home, Turkey invaded Cyprus in July of 1974. Following the invasion, the U.S. Navy swooped into evacuate American citizens from the island country to Beirut. Nixon resigned the following month from his presidency.

  • 1975
    60/ Fall of Saigon, 1975—manhhai // Flickr


    Army strength: 784,333 people

    Navy strength: 535,085 people

    Marine Corps strength: 195,951 people

    Air Force strength: 612,751 people

    Total strength: 2,128,120 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.99%

    The Vietnam War ended this year when communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops overtook Saigon, causing American and South Vietnamese forces to evacuate, and South Vietnam to surrender. This marked the official end to the Vietnam War.

  • 1976
    61/ Tommy Truong79 // Flickr


    Army strength: 779,417 people

    Navy strength: 524,678 people

    Marine Corps strength: 192,399 people

    Air Force strength: 585,416 people

    Total strength: 2,081,910 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.95%

    This year in military history was significant for female soldiers. This marks the first time service academies admitted women. More than 300 women entered, including 119 women at West Point alone.

  • 1977
    62/ President Jimmy Carter working at his desk, 1977—Public Domain


    Army strength: 782,246 people

    Navy strength: 529,895 people

    Marine Corps strength: 191,707 people

    Air Force strength: 570,695 people

    Total strength: 2,074,543 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.94%

    In response to President Jimmy Carter’s human rights policy, Nicaraguan military leader Anastasio Somoza rescinded a state of siege that had been enforced for the previous three years. This move paved the way for a $2.5 million military aid agreement between the United States and Nicaragua.

  • 1978
    63/ manhhai // Flickr


    Army strength: 771,624 people

    Navy strength: 529,557 people

    Marine Corps strength: 190,815 people

    Air Force strength: 569,712 people

    Total strength: 2,061,708 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.93%

    This year marked another big step for the integration of women into the army. The Women's Army Corps was dissolved, and all female soldiers were assigned to branches of the military. The incorporation of women into the armed forces did give way to some issues—but women were still banned from the combat arms: infantry, artillery, and cavalry.

  • 1979
    64/ American hostages in the Iran hostage crisis, 1979—Public Domain


    Army strength: 758,852 people

    Navy strength: 523,335 people

    Marine Corps strength: 185,250 people

    Air Force strength: 559,455 people

    Total strength: 2,026,892 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.9%

    Iranian students on Nov. 4, 1979, overtook the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took more than 50 Americans hostage. The Iran Hostage Crisis would go on to last an excruciating 444 days.

  • 1980
    65/ Iran Hostage Crisis protest—Trikosko, Marion S. // Wikicommons


    Army strength: 777,036 people

    Navy strength: 527,153 people

    Marine Corps strength: 188,469 people

    Air Force strength: 557,969 people

    Total strength: 2,050,627 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.9%

    In April of this year, several U.S. transport planes and helicopters tried unsuccessfully to rescue the American hostages, prompting President Carter to discontinue diplomatic relations with Iran. In June, Carter signed Proclamation 4771, which required men between 18 and 26 to "present themselves to register" for the military. Carter insisted this registration was not a draft.

  • 1981
    66/ U.S. Navy aircraft flying over Gulf of Sidra, 1981—Public Domain


    Army strength: 781,419 people

    Navy strength: 540,219 people

    Marine Corps strength: 190,620 people

    Air Force strength: 570,302 people

    Total strength: 2,082,560 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.91%

    During the Gulf of Sidra incident, Libya claimed the region as part of its territorial waters. In response, the U.S. engaged in the Freedom of Navigation operations around the gulf, on the grounds that it was legally considered an international body of water and forces shot down two Libyan fighter jets.

  • 1982
    67/ Dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 1982—Public Domain


    Army strength: 780,391 people

    Navy strength: 552,996 people

    Marine Corps strength: 192,380 people

    Air Force strength: 582,845 people

    Total strength: 2,108,612 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.91%

    Eight hundred U.S. Marines were sent to Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War, along with multinational forces, to take out members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington D.C., with thousands of former and current soldiers attending the event.

  • 1983
    68/ Soviet boat and submergence rescue vehicle salvaging Korean Air Lines Flight 007—Public Domain


    Army strength: 779,643 people

    Navy strength: 557,573 people

    Marine Corps strength: 194,089 people

    Air Force strength: 592,044 people

    Total strength: 2,123,349 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.91%

    In May of 1983, the U.S. signed an agreement requiring Israel to withdraw troops from Lebanon. As part of the ongoing Cold War, a Soviet jet fighter shot down Korean Air passenger flight 007 when it passed into Soviet airspace. All 269 passengers were killed, including a U.S. congressman, triggering large-scale animosity toward the Soviet Union.

  • 1984
    69/ U.S. Marine Corps tank in Beirut, Lebanon—Public Domain


    Army strength: 780,180 people

    Navy strength: 564,638 people

    Marine Corps strength: 196,214 people

    Air Force strength: 597,125 people

    Total strength: 2,138,157 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.91%

    Having aided Lebanon during its civil war, U.S. Marines withdrew from Beirut. As the Iran-Iraq War entered in its fourth year, U.S. aerial tanker planes assisted Iranian jets as they were attacked by Saudi Arabian fighter pilots. President Ronald Reagan expressed concern that the incident would worsen the war in the Persian Gulf.

  • 1985
    70/ Regan and Gorbachev—The Official CTBTO Photostream // Flickr


    Army strength: 780,787 people

    Navy strength: 570,705 people

    Marine Corps strength: 198,025 people

    Air Force strength: 601,515 people

    Total strength: 2,151,032 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.9%

    In October of 1985, four Palestinian terrorists hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, killing an American citizen. U.S. Navy pilots later intercepted the Egyptian airliner carrying the terrorists. As part of Cold War negotiations, Reagan met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva.

  • 1986
    71/ Airfact on its way to strike Libya—Public Domain


    Army strength: 780,980 people

    Navy strength: 581,119 people

    Marine Corps strength: 198,814 people

    Air Force strength: 608,199 people

    Total strength: 2,169,112 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.9%

    The West Berlin Discotheque was bombed in 1986. Two people were killed and more than 100 injured at the nightclub, which was a popular destination for U.S. soldiers. attack was traced back to Libyan terrorists. Nine days later, President Reagan approved a series of Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy air strikes on Libya. 

  • 1987
    72/ Reagan and Gorbachev signing the INF Treaty, 1987—Public Domain


    Army strength: 780,815 people

    Navy strength: 586,842 people

    Marine Corps strength: 199,525 people

    Air Force strength: 607,035 people

    Total strength: 2,174,217 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.9%

    As violence in the Persian Gulf continued, the U.S. upped its joint military presence in the area and established a policy of confronting passing Kuwaiti oil tankers and accompanying them through the Gulf. A cease-fire between Iran and Iraq later inspired the U.S. to dial down its presence. In December of this year, President Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in Washington D.C., terminating the use of intermediate and short-range missiles.

  • 1988
    73/ Operation Praying Mantis—Public Domain


    Army strength: 771,847 people

    Navy strength: 592,570 people

    Marine Corps strength: 197,350 people

    Air Force strength: 576,446 people

    Total strength: 2,138,213 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.87%

    As part of another installment in the Persian Gulf, the USS Samuel B. Roberts hit a naval mine while on a military operation. The U.S. Navy retaliated by carrying out Operation Praying Mantis, which entailed a series of hits on Iranian oil platforms and naval ships. In December of that year, Yasser Arafat publicly relinquished violence, inspiring the U.S. to initiate conversation with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

  • 1989
    74/ President Reagan, Vice President Bush, and General Secretary Gorbachev in 1988—Public Domain


    Army strength: 769,741 people

    Navy strength: 592,652 people

    Marine Corps strength: 196,956 people

    Air Force strength: 570,880 people

    Total strength: 2,130,229 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.86%

    In September of 1989, President George H.W. Bush called for military advisors and special forces teams to help shut down drug production and trafficking in Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru. Later that year, Bush met with Gorbachev off the coast of Malta, and announced that the Cold War might be coming to a close.

  • 1990
    75/ U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf War—Public Domain


    Army strength: 732,403 people

    Navy strength: 579,417 people

    Marine Corps strength: 196,652 people

    Air Force strength: 535,233 people

    Total strength: 2,043,705 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.82%

    As part of continued talks, Bush met with Gorbachev to sign the Chemical Weapons Accord, which terminated the production of chemical weapons and called for each party’s arsenal to be dismantled. In August of 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, sparking the Persian Gulf War. Bush called for a large percentage of the U.S. armed forces to the Persian Gulf to help Saudi Arabia fend off Iraqi forces. In November, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 678, which gave the green light for military intervention in Iraq if its government didn’t pull forces out of Kuwait by Jan. 15 of the following year.  

  • 1991
    76/ Oil fires in Kuwait—Public Domain


    Army strength: 710,821 people

    Navy strength: 570,262 people

    Marine Corps strength: 194,040 people

    Air Force strength: 510,432 people

    Total strength: 1,985,555 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.78%

    On Jan. 17 of 1991, President Bush instructed U.S. armed forces to execute airstrikes against Iraqi forces in both Iraq and Kuwait. Later that month, thousands of people convened in Washington D.C. to rally against the Persian Gulf War. The deadliest attack on the U.S. in this war came in late February when an Iraqi scud missile blew up a U.S. barracks in Dhahran, killing 29 soldiers and injuring 99 more. Before the month was over, Saddam Hussein announced that Iraqi soldiers had pulled out of Kuwait. The following day, Bush proclaimed that Kuwait had been liberated. Toward the end of the year, the Cold War officially ended when Mikhail Gorbachev stepped down, and the Soviet Union was no more.

  • 1992
    77/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 610,450 people

    Navy strength: 541,883 people

    Marine Corps strength: 184,529 people

    Air Force strength: 470,315 people

    Total strength: 1,807,177 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.7%

    When Iraq failed to recognize the new border established by the U.N., the U.S. executed a series of military exercises in Kuwait in preparation for another Iraqi threat. Later that year, the U.N. passed Security Council Resolution 794, ultimately forming the United Task Force, whose main responsibility was aiding Somalia in the wake of a humanitarian crisis.

  • 1993
    78/ United Nations inspections in Iraq, 1993—IAEA Image Bank // Flickr


    Army strength: 572,423 people

    Navy strength: 509,950 people

    Marine Corps strength: 178,379 people

    Air Force strength: 444,351 people

    Total strength: 1,705,103 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.66%

    In June, the U.S. Quick Reaction Forces responded to Somali faction attacks on U.N. forces, and more military operations ensued when U.N. attempts to deliver humanitarian aid were thwarted. That same month, President Bill Clinton called for a cruise missile attack on Iraqi headquarters in Baghdad, after attempts were made to assassinate the former President Bush during his trip to Kuwait a few months earlier.

  • 1994
    79/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 541,343 people

    Navy strength: 468,662 people

    Marine Corps strength: 174,158 people

    Air Force strength: 426,327 people

    Total strength: 1,610,490 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.61%

    In September of 1994, the Iraq disarmament crisis manifested as Iraq no longer cooperating with the United Nations Special Commission, sending troops near the Iraq-Kuwait border. In return, the U.S. sent soldiers to Kuwait. In October, Iraq pulled its troops out of Kuwait after the U.N. Security Council made further threats.

  • 1995
    80/ Captain Scott O'Grady at a press conference in Bosnia, 1995—Public domain


    Army strength: 508,559 people

    Navy strength: 434,617 people

    Marine Corps strength: 174,639 people

    Air Force strength: 400,409 people

    Total strength: 1,518,224 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.57%

    As U.S. aircrafts assisted in NATO’s enforcement of a no-fly zone above Bosnia-Herzegovina, Capt. Scott O’Grady was shot down in his aircraft and rescued about a week later. U.S. fighter planes engaged in NATO strikes against the Bosnian Serb Army, who were threatening areas the U.N. had established as safe zones.

  • 1996
    81/ NATO Implementation Force on its way to Bosnia, 1996—Public Domain


    Army strength: 491,103 people

    Navy strength: 416,735 people

    Marine Corps strength: 174,883 people

    Air Force strength: 389,001 people

    Total strength: 1,471,722 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.55%

    In the continuation of the Iraq disarmament crisis, Iraq upheld its decision to deny inspectors access to several sites, and the U.S. was unable to gain military support to solve the issue. President Clinton gave the go-ahead for U.S. forces to remain in Bosnia as part of NATO's Implementation Force, which sought to maintain peace in Bosnia. Clinton also signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which aimed to put a stop to all nuclear detonations for civil or military means.

  • 1997
    82/ SMA Gene McKinney circa 1997—Public Domain


    Army strength: 491,707 people

    Navy strength: 395,564 people

    Marine Corps strength: 173,906 people

    Air Force strength: 377,385 people

    Total strength: 1,438,562 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.53%

    U.S. troops remained in Bosnia to maintain peace, spearheaded by the NATO Stabilization Force. A few thousand U.S. soldiers were also deployed to nearby Hungary, Croatia, and Italy to provide backup for SFOR. Army Sergeant Major Gene McKinney was suspended due to accusations of sexual misconduct.

  • 1998
    83/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 484,928 people

    Navy strength: 381,336 people

    Marine Corps strength: 173,055 people

    Air Force strength: 367,468 people

    Total strength: 1,406,787 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.51%

    The U.S. Senate passed Resolution 71, which advised President Clinton to respond to Iraq’s noncompliance by any means necessary in curtailing its development of weapons of mass destruction. Shortly after, Saddam Hussein formed a deal with U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan, permitting weapons inspectors to enter Baghdad and avoiding military action from the U.S. and the U.K. In August, U.S. embassies in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, and Nairobi were bombed, killing 224 and injuring more than 4,000. The bombings were linked to Osama bin Laden. In retaliation, the U.S. military dropped cruise missiles on Afghanistan, targeting al-Qaida camps.

  • 1999
    84/ A soldier posing with Secretary of Defense William Cohen in Kosovo, 1999—Public Domain


    Army strength: 477,788 people

    Navy strength: 372,507 people

    Marine Corps strength: 172,635 people

    Air Force strength: 360,510 people

    Total strength: 1,383,440 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.5%

    President Clinton called for 7,000 U.S. military troops to assist the NATO security team in Kosovo, where the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia—comprised of the republics of Montenegro and Serbia—was in conflict with the Kosovo Liberation Army. Later that year, the U.S Senate dismissed the ratification of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty. As part of the no-fly zone over Iraq, the U.S. took retaliative and preventive measures against the threats of Iraqi military forces.


  • 2000
    85/ USS Cole after al-Qaida suicide attack, 2000—Public Domain


    Army strength: 483,115 people

    Navy strength: 371,543 people

    Marine Corps strength: 172,955 people

    Air Force strength: 355,601 people

    Total strength: 1,383,214 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.49%

    U.S. military forces in Kosovo dropped to 6,000. Two al-Qaida suicide bombers attacked the USS Cole. In response President Clinton approved 45 U.S. Naval personnel to contribute medical and security assistance. Navy combat ships were situated near Yemeni waters to provide additional support.


  • 2001
    86/ Michael Foran // Wikicommons


    Army strength: 482,655 people

    Navy strength: 377,312 people

    Marine Corps strength: 176,720 people

    Air Force strength: 363,692 people

    Total strength: 1,400,379 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.49%

    In February of 2001, U.S. and British forces executed bombing raids on Iraq in an attempt to take down its air defense system. On September 11, the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked by al-Qaida, killing almost 3,000 people. This event launched the worldwide “War on Terror.” As part of this effort, President George W. Bush approved an executive order permitting military tribunals against any foreign residents thought to have ties to terrorist groups. U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan later that year, with the intent of defeating al-Qaida.


  • 2002
    87/ Operation Anaconda, 2002—Public Domain


    Army strength: 488,631 people

    Navy strength: 385,009 people

    Marine Corps strength: 177,868 people

    Air Force strength: 369,112 people

    Total strength: 1,420,620 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.49%

    In January of 2002, the U.N. Security Council called for an arms embargo and the freezing of Osama bin Laden’s assets. In March, U.S. forces carried out Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, during which they killed 500 members of the Taliban and al-Qaida. In October, Congress passed the Iraq Resolution, which allowed the U.S. to take military action against Iraq. In November, President Bush passed the Homeland Security Act, which officially established the Department of Homeland Security.


  • 2003
    88/ Reporting of the Bagdhad bombing, 2003—magamaga13 // Youtube


    Army strength: 497,770 people

    Navy strength: 382,655 people

    Marine Corps strength: 181,166 people

    Air Force strength: 375,859 people

    Total strength: 1,437,450 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.5%

    The U.S. and U.K. invaded Iraq in late March of 2003, starting with a “shock and awe” campaign, using dramatic force to cripple the enemy. In April, U.S. soldiers defeated the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Republican Guard in the Battle of Baghdad. Later that year, President Bush confirmed that there was no evidence to substantiate Saddam Hussein’s involvement in the September 11th attacks.


  • 2004
    89/ Army soldiers in Mosul, 2004—Public Domain


    Army strength: 498,428 people

    Navy strength: 372,525 people

    Marine Corps strength: 177,021 people

    Air Force strength: 376,813 people

    Total strength: 1,424,787 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.49%

    In February of 2004, the CIA announced that there was no real threat of weapons of mass destruction prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq the previous year. In October, video footage of Osama bin Laden aired on Arab state-sanctioned television, in which he threatened to terrorize the U.S. and mocked President Bush over the World Trade Center attacks. In December, as U.S. forces continued to occupy Iraq, revolutionaries attacked a U.S. outpost in Mosul, resulting in 22 fatalities. Two days later, U.S. soldiers killed the revolutionaries in Fallujah.


  • 2005
    90/ Antiwar demonstrations, 2005—Adam Jones // Wikicommons


    Army strength: 490,632 people

    Navy strength: 362,239 people

    Marine Corps strength: 179,840 people

    Air Force strength: 353,696 people

    Total strength: 1,386,407 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.47%

    Early in 2005, North Korea claimed possession of nuclear weapons as a precautionary measure against “hostile” U.S. forces. Worldwide, citizens protests against the Iraq War—including more than 150,000 people who took to the street of Washington D.C. In December, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced the reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq.


  • 2006
    91/ President George W. Bush giving a statement on the death of terrorist al Zarqawi, 2006—George W. Bush White House Photo


    Army strength: 507,131 people

    Navy strength: 349,534 people

    Marine Corps strength: 180,252 people

    Air Force strength: 348,953 people

    Total strength: 1,385,870 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.46%

    U.S. forces killed Iraqi leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and seven of his aides in an air raid.


  • 2007
    92/ U.S. Army soldiers in Mosul, Iraq, 2007—Public Domain


    Army strength: 522,190 people

    Navy strength: 336,659 people

    Marine Corps strength: 186,425 people

    Air Force strength: 333,495 people

    Total strength: 1,378,769 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.46%

    Early in 2007, U.S. Air Force units carried out airstrikes in Somalia in the wake of suspected terrorist activity. President Bush took measures to deploy 21,500 additional U.S. soldiers to Iraq. In a battle involving Iraqi revolutionaries and U.S.-supported Iraqi troops, 300 alleged insurgents were killed in Najaf, Iraq. In December, the National Intelligence Estimate conveyed its confidence that Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities had been dormant since 2003.


  • 2008
    93/ Public Domain


    Army strength: 544,150 people

    Navy strength: 331,132 people

    Marine Corps strength: 198,415 people

    Air Force strength: 327,382 people

    Total strength: 1,401,079 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.46%

    The U.S Navy wiped out an American spy satellite in February of 2008, causing countries around the world to accuse the U.S. of testing its ability to compromise satellites belonging to other countries. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continued to proliferate.


  • 2009
    94/ Marco Schulze // Wikicommons


    Army strength: 553,579 people

    Navy strength: 328,751 people

    Marine Corps strength: 203,075 people

    Air Force strength: 333,408 people

    Total strength: 1,418,813 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.46%

    Newly appointed President Barack Obama gave the go-ahead to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and put a stop to the use of torture in interrogations. In April, Somali pirates hijacked the American freighter Maersk Alabama and kidnapped its captain. As the U.S. Navy engaged in a standoff, a sniper killed three pirates.


  • 2010
    95/ 2010 State of the Union Address—Public Domain


    Army strength: 566,045 people

    Navy strength: 327,697 people

    Marine Corps strength: 202,612 people

    Air Force strength: 334,198 people

    Total strength: 1,430,552 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.46%

    In his first State of the Union address, President Obama discussed abolishing the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy on homosexuality. Instituted in 1994, the policy banned military personnel from victimizing or harassing closeted gay and bisexual members of the military, and banned openly gay or bisexual people from serving in the military. In December of that year, Obama passed the repeal on “Don't Ask Don't Tell” into law. The U.S. Navy revoked its ban on women serving in submarines. The last U.S. troops start departing Iraq, and Obama announced that combat operations in Iraq would be discontinued.   


  • 2011
    96/ President Barack Obama shaking hands with Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after mission against Osama Bin Laden—Public Domain


    Army strength: 565,463 people

    Navy strength: 324,666 people

    Marine Corps strength: 201,026 people

    Air Force strength: 333,162 people

    Total strength: 1,424,317 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.46%

    In May of 2011, President Obama declared that U.S. military forces had killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. In June, modified U.S. military strategy was adjusted to reflect that a cyberattack would be legitimate reason to declare war. Shortly after, an FBI investigation revealed that Chinese hackers had tapped into American and Chinese Gmail accounts. In December, the last remaining U.S. soldiers left Iraq, definitively ending the Iraq War.


  • 2012
    97/ Secretary Hillary Clinton during the transfer of the remains of J. Christopher Stevens, 2012—


    Army strength: 550,063 people

    Navy strength: 318,818 people

    Marine Corps strength: 198,820 people

    Air Force strength: 332,834 people

    Total strength: 1,400,535 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.45%

    At the Chicago Summit, NATO leaders talked about nuclear weapons, the Middle East, Russia, and Afghanistan, including supporting an exit strategy from the country. On September 11th, members of Islamic militia group Ansar al-Sharia launched an attack on a U.S. diplomatic building in Benghazi, killing U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith. This prompted the U.S. to increase security measures on an international level.


  • 2013
    98/ Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta—Public Domain


    Army strength: 532,043 people

    Navy strength: 324,308 people

    Marine Corps strength: 195,848 people

    Air Force strength: 330,485 people

    Total strength: 1,382,684 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.44%

    In January of 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta revoked the ban on women serving in combat missions. Shortly after, the crisis in North Korea began to take form: threats of nuclear warfare were made against South Korea and the U.S. In August, the Syrian government was accused of killing more than 1,000 people with chemical weapons.


  • 2014
    99/ DVIDSHUB // Wikicommons


    Army strength: 508,210 people

    Navy strength: 326,054 people

    Marine Corps strength: 187,891 people

    Air Force strength: 316,332 people

    Total strength: 1,338,487 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.42%

    The Obama administration suggested decreasing the military budget to $522 billion, and to reduce the army to a size it had not been since before WWII. In June, Obama said that he would deploy up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to assist the Shiites when they were threatened by the Sunni militant group who would come to be known as ISIS. In November, 1,500 troops were sent to Iraq to further combat the Islamic terrorist organization. And in December, the U.S. and U.K. officially removed their military forces from major combat operations in Afghanistan.


  • 2015
    100/ Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter—Public Domain


    Army strength: 491,365 people

    Navy strength: 327,801 people

    Marine Corps strength: 183,417 people

    Air Force strength: 311,357 people

    Total strength: 1,313,940 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.41%

    In July of 2015, the U.S. and Iran agreed to remove most of the United Nations Security Council’s sanctions on Iran in exchange for imposing limits on Iran's nuclear programs for at least 10 years. Later that year, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter declared that women would be able to serve in all combat roles in the U.S. military by April 1 of the following year.


  • 2016
    101/ Secretary Kerry at the 2016 Nuclear Summit—Public Domain


    Army strength: 475,400 people

    Navy strength: 324,524 people

    Marine Corps strength: 183,501 people

    Air Force strength: 317,883 people

    Total strength: 1,301,308 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.4%

    In January of 2016, the U.S. government executed its promise to remove economic sanctions from Iran, in line with the agreement established the previous year. Sanctions related to violations of human rights, the use of missiles and support of terrorism stayed in effect. The 2016 Nuclear Summit took place in Washington D.C., during which a revised nuclear security agreement was drawn up. Since 2014, 10 countries have disposed of roughly 450 kilograms of highly enriched uranium. In July, the U.S. military removed its restriction on transgender people serving in the military.


  • 2017
    102/ Ted Eytan // Wikicommons


    Army strength: 476,245 people

    Navy strength: 323,933 people

    Marine Corps strength: 184,401 people

    Air Force strength: 322,787 people

    Total strength: 1,307,366 people

    Percent of population enlisted: 0.4%

    In January of 2017, President Donald Trump made the executive decision to deny refugees of the Syrian Civil War entry into the U.S., as well as citizens of Iran, Iraq, and several other Middle Eastern countries. After North Korea launched four ballistic missiles toward the Sea of Japan. President Trump vowed to ban transgender people from the military, enacting this regulation in March. In October, Trump outwardly criticized Iran, and suggested that he would put an end to the previous Iran Nuclear Deal unless serious revisions were made.


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