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Happy birthday, USACE

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

Cpl. Mel Brooks, USACE

Q: What do Gen. Robert E. Lee, comedian Mel Brooks and baseball Hall of Famer Warren Spahn all have in common?

A: All served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which commemorates its 235th year this week.

On March 11, 1779, Congress established the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).  Its mission: to help plan, design and prepare environmental and structural facilities for the U.S. Army.

Staff Sgt. Warren Spahn, USACE

For the past 235 years, the USACE’s mission has continued to evolve as the Army’s and the Nation’s needs changed.  During the 19th century, the Corps built coastal fortifications, surveyed roads and canals, and mapped the Western frontier.

During the 20th century, the Corps became the lead federal flood control agency and significantly expanded its civil water resources activities, becoming a major provider of hydroelectric energy. (For more about the Corps of Engineers’ history, click here.)

Col. Robert E. Lee, USACE

Perhaps the most important lesson from the Corps’ history is that engineers are essential if America is to have a sustainable future.  Without engineers – and certainly without the USACE – this simply will not happen.  Engineers translate needs, technology, resources and dreams into an enduring reality.

We do not do this alone, of course.  As we look to the future, it is crucial that the USACE leads by engaging actively in the political, economic, technical and social dialogues and decision processes.  We must help to set the new direction, not just follow.  We must actively influence public and private sector development decisions.

Incidentally, for the record, Mel Brooks was a member of the 1104th Engineer Combat Group, participating in the Battle of the Bulge.  Warren Spahn was assigned to the 276th Engineer Combat Battalion and earned a Bronze Star at the Battle of the Bulge.  Robert E. Lee spent 26 years as an officer in the Corps.

Lt. Gen. (Ret) Henry Hatch

Senior Advisor

Hank Hatch served as Commanding General and Chief of Engineers for the United States Army Corps of Engineers from June 17, 1988 to June 4, 1992.


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