The point of most books written about the United States Military Academy has been the quality of its product. Bradley, Patton, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Abrams, Pershing, Grant, Lee, Schwarzkopf, and hundreds of other heroes of past wars in which Americans have fought have been the centerpiece of books on leadership in peace and war. Their formative years at West Point are always heralded as a key contributor to their success.
To the Point is not about its graduates but about the institution, the United States Military Academy, which will celebrate its two-hundredth birthday on March 16, 2002. It is an institution that had a marked influence on the development of a nation, the birth of an army, and the birth of a professional officer corps.
George Pappas tells us about the central role that Jonathan Williams and Sylvanus Thayer played in ensuring that West Point would become not only a military academy, but also a quality engineering school to provide for the growing needs of our nascent nation.
His vignettes of the interrelationship of the Superintendent of the Academy, the Secretary of War, and the President remind us of how small our nation was in the early 1800s. He also reminds us of the continuing confrontation between the Congress and the President, even in such a seemingly inconsequential issue as discipline at West Point.
His word pictures of the physical growth of West Point are a microcosm of the growth of cities throughout our nation. The first chapel, cadet barracks, the first hotel, the outdoor plumbing all reveal the struggle to grow in periods of little funding from Washington and form a picture of the challenges our forefathers faced throughout the nation.