In all, wartime contingencies and post-war adjustments resulted in ten classes, varying in length of study from two to four years, within a seven-year period before the regular course of study was fully resumed.Mac Arthur was a firm supporter of athletics at the academy, as he famously said "Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that, upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory." As World War II engulfed Europe, Congress authorized an increase to 2,496 cadets in 1942 and began graduating classes early.The academy was the only engineering school in the country until the founding of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1824.It was so successful in its engineering curriculum that it significantly influenced every American engineering school founded prior to the Civil War. Lee first distinguished themselves in battle in Mexico.Since 1959, cadets have also been eligible to "cross-commission," or request a commission in one of the other armed services, provided that they meet that service eligibility standards. The academy's traditions have influenced other institutions because of its age and unique mission.It was the first American college to have an accredited civil-engineering program and the first to have class rings, and its technical curriculum was a model for later engineering schools.Known as the "Father of the Military Academy," he is honored with a monument on campus for the profound impact he had upon the academy.Founded as a school of engineering, for the first half of the 19th century, USMA produced graduates who gained recognition for engineering the bulk of the nation's initial railway lines, bridges, harbors and roads.
Thayer instilled strict disciplinary standards, set a standard course of academic study, and emphasized honorable conduct.The upper class cadets saw it as their duty to "teach the plebes their manners." Hazing at the academy entered the national spotlight with the death of former cadet Oscar L. Congressional hearings, which included testimony by cadet Douglas Mac Arthur, investigated his death and the pattern of systemic hazing of freshmen.The demand for junior officers during the Spanish–American War caused the class of 1899 to graduate early, and the Philippine–American War did the same for the class of 1901.The Mexican–American War brought the academy to prominence as graduates proved themselves in battle for the first time. New barracks brought better heat and gas lighting, while new ordnance and tactics training incorporated new rifle and musket technology and accommodated transportation advances created by the steam engine.Nearly every general officer of note from either army during the Civil War was a graduate of West Point and a West Point graduate commanded the forces of one or both sides in every one of the 60 major battles of the war.