Ulysses S. Grant was miserable there, racking up a long list of demerits, and George Armstrong Custer finished a merry last in his class; Robert E. Lee was one of its most storied graduates, earning a spotless record and its highest rank of leadership. Modern generals from Douglas MacArthur and George Patton to Wesley Clark and David Petraeus have studied in its halls. For all of them, military leadership began with the Cadet Honor Code at West Point.
In 1802, it turned out an inaugural class of two; in recent years, the United States Military Academy at West Point has produced classes of close to a thousand graduates. In Honor Bright: History and Origins of the West Point Honor Code and System, Lewis Sorley uses the history of the Cadet Honor Code to describe the history of West Point itself. Founded at the urging of George Washington to develop officers and leaders of character for the fledgling nation's defense, West Point found its core in the Code of Honor of the Continental Army. But while its purpose has remained the same, its means of achieving that purpose has changed with the years.
Sorley chronicles the superintendents of West Point, the evolving curriculum of the academy and debate over what should be taught to a prospective officer, and the expectations held for cadets - not only by the faculty and alumni, but also by cadets themselves, who formed Honor Committees and fiercely policed their fellow classmates for adherence to the Code. Honor Bright is a detailed examination of the way many of America's future military leaders were taught about leadership, and how a historic tradition adapted to changing times.
Lewis Sorley is a third generation West Point graduate whose military career included a faculty assignment there and another at the Army War College. He also served as a senior civilian official at the Central Intelligence Agency. His books include Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the Army of His Times and A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam.
DVD 2008-10-09: Lewis Sorley
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