Army Jag Corps
Army JAG lawyer writing briefing notes

Judge Advocates have served the country for more than 200 years, and have played an important part in many of the events that have helped the formation of the U.S. legal system. As the country grew, it also became more apparent that skilled lawyers were needed to interpret international laws and guide military policy.

The Army JAG Corps is born (1775)

On July 29, 1775, shortly after becoming the Commander of the Continental Army, George Washington founded the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps.

The Army's First Judge Advocate (1775)

The Second Continental Congress appoints 25-year-old Harvard graduate Colonel William Tudor as the first U.S. Army Judge Advocate General. Tudor was a Boston native and pupil of President John Adams.

JAG Corps temporarily abolished (1802)

Most staff positions in the active Army, including Judge Advocate, are eliminated. State militias assume Judge Advocate functions.

The return of the Judge Advocate (1849)

After a nearly 50-year interruption, Congress reestablishes the position of Judge Advocate General. John Fitzgerald Lee is appointed to this position during President Zachary Taylor's administration.

The Corps expands to the field (1862)

Judge Advocates officially become a Corps when congress authorizes the appointment of Judge Advocates in the field, with each assigned to a specific field commander.

Service on courts of inquiry (1865-72)

JAG Officers' responsibilities are expanded after the Civil War. For the first time, their legal expertise becomes an asset to courts of inquiry.

First JAG School established (1942)

Judge Advocate training moves from the National University Law School in Washington, D.C. to the Judge Advocate General's School at the Law Quadrangle of the University of Michigan Law School.

A greatly expanded role (1942-1945)

Judge Advocates take over jurisdiction of courts-martial. JAG Corps expertise expands beyond criminal law into legal assistance, contracts, claims, international, operational, and administrative law, along with other specialties.

Defense Department presents new challenge (1947)

The Department of Defense (DOD) is created in 1947. High on the DOD's agenda is the need for a unified criminal code that would apply to all military personnel—Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. The JAG Corps contributes greatly to the creation of this code over the next few years.

The Soldier's Bill of Rights: The Uniform Code of Military Justice (1951)

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is the most comprehensive change in military law in American history, affecting every individual in U.S. military service. Individual Soldiers receive important legal safeguards through a system of judicial review, similar to the civilian system.

For nearly 250 years, the JAG Corps has upheld the basic rules of conduct for Soldiers and continues to set precedent in international case law. Judge Advocates represented the United States against General Benedict Arnold, prosecuted John Wilkes Booth, investigated General Custer's defeat at Little Big Horn, prosecuted members of the Nazi Party at the trials of Nuremburg, and helped end ethnic warfare in Bosnia by drafting the Dayton Peace Accord.

General Lee vs. General Washington (1778)

During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington clashes with his second-in-command, General Charles Lee, who disobeyed an order to advance during the Battle of Monmouth. In the resulting court-martial, Lee is found guilty of disobeying orders, disrespecting the Commander-in-Chief, and ordering a retreat. He is suspended from the Army for one year.

Benedict Arnold (1779)

Benedict Arnold abused his position as a distinguished U.S. Army General for his own financial gain, and then conspired to switch allegiances and surrender West Point. Colonel John Laurance, the Judge Advocate General of the Army, leads both courts-martial of Benedict Arnold, one of the most notorious figures in American history.

Benedict Arnold's British co-conspirator (1780)

Major John Andre, the Adjutant General of the British Army, crossed American lines in disguise to conspire with U.S. General Benedict Arnold, offering him $10,000 pounds and a British Army commission in exchange for the surrender of West Point. Andre was captured, tried and sentenced to death.

Prosecuting Lincoln's Assassin (1865)

General Joseph Holt was tasked with prosecuting those who conspired to assissinate President Abraham Lincoln.

Inquiry into Custer's defeat at Little Big Horn (1876)

After the defeat and massacre of General Custer’s forces in the Dakotas, which is generally held as one of the U.S. Army's worst military disasters of the 19th century, Judge Advocate General William Dunn oversees a military Court of Inquiry into Custer’s decisions during the conflict.

JAG Corps creates first International War Crimes Tribunal (1945)

Responding to the heinous acts of World War II, U.S. Army Judge Advocates organize and supervise the prosecution of German and Japanese war criminals.

Justice at Nuremberg (1945)

Judge Advocates prosecute Nazi party and German military officials during the Nuremberg Trials. The atrocities of the Holocaust are brought to light for the first time.

Dayton Peace Accord ends five years of Bosnian war (1995)

Judge Advocates play a crucial role in helping Bosnia recover from a brutal ethnic war. They crafted the General Framework for Peace which created a single, peaceful Bosnian state. The following unprecedented legal challenges helped reinforce the rule of law in the fledgling nation.

Manual for Courts Martial United States

Prosecuting homegrown terrorists in United States v. Hasan K. Akbar (2005)

Judge Advocates prosecuted Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar (Mark Fidel Kools) for his 2003 attack of 16 U.S. Soldiers at Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait. In April 2005, Akbar was convicted and later sentenced to death for the murders of Capt. Christopher S. Seifert and Air Force Major Gregory L. Stone.

U.S. Army signing ceremony in Iraq

A NEW DAWN FOR IRAQ

After over two decades of conflict, the United States returned power back to a provisional Iraqi government. Judge Advocates were instrumental in helping to establish a framework that would provide for a self-governing Iraqi political body.

Depiction of courtroom proceedings for PVT Bradley Manning

The Wiki Leaks Case (2013)

Private Bradley Manning was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison for intentionally releasing more than 500,000 classified documents to the public on a website called Wiki Leaks. Judge Advocates argued against Manning’s claim that he did not intend to harm the United States by leaking the documents.

Depiction of courtroom proceedings for MAJ Nidal Malik Hasan

Prosecuting the “Fort Hood Shooter” in United States v. Nidal Malik Hasan (2013)

After fatally shooting 13 service members and injuring 30 others on November 5, 2009, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army Medical Corps officer, was tried and convicted by a general court-martial for his part in the shooting at Fort Hood. Hasan was sentenced to death later that year.

Military operations often present the JAG Corps with new legal challenges. Moving beyond the confines of internal military justice, Judge Advocates created the legal framework for the rebirth of Europe after World War II and helped to rebuild a nation after the Bosnian War.

The Revolutionary War (1775-1783)

Just 15 Judge Advocates served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. One of those attorneys, Captain John Marshall, later became the fourth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Civil War (1861-1865)

Judge Advocates and legal scholars served both the north and south during the Civil War. There were 33 Judge Advocates in the Union, and a former U.S. Supreme Court justice became a Judge Advocate for the Confederacy.

World War I (1914-1918)

The JAG Department (the old name for the Corps) expands to 426 Officers, and includes many Reserve Judge Advocates.

World War II (1939-1945)

Because of the war effort, officials expand the Corps to 2,800 Officers. While taking on the responsibility for general courts-martial, JAG practice expands into new, complex areas of post-war nation building: contracts, claims, real estate law, legal assistance and more.

The Korean War (1950-1953)

Judge Advocates help bring the war to a close. Judge Advocate Colonel Howard Levie helps draft the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement.

The Vietnam War (1957-1973)

Judge Advocates provide key counsel in establishing the status and treatment of enemy prisoners, reporting and investigating war crimes, and consulting the host nation on legal issues.

Invasion of Grenada (1983)

In both the combat and peacekeeping phases of Operation Urgent Fury, Judge Advocates prepare the rules of engagement, advise on treatment of captives, and work with the State Department to prepare the Status of Forces Agreement.

Invasion of Panama (1989)

During Operation Just Cause, Judge Advocates supply legal support and key advice during hostilities.

Persian Gulf War (1991)

Operation Desert Storm is a major milestone in the expansion from traditional military legal support to operational law. Judge Advocates expertise in all areas of the law becomes central to the Army mission of planning, training and fighting.

Operation Restore Hope, Somalia (1992-1994)

Somalia (1992-1994)

Operation Restore Hope poses a unique challenge: achieve humanitarian objectives when the rule of the gun has replaced the rule of law. Judge Advocates help commanders identify threats, and minimize damage to non-combatants and their property.

Haiti (1994-1995)

Operation Uphold Democracy reaffirms several decades of change in the JAG Corps. Judge Advocates continue provide legal and non-legal support.

Bosnia-Herzegovina (1996)

During Operation Determined Effort, the Army provides a stable environment for the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accord. Judge Advocates advised Bosnian commanders and worked to keep operations flowing smoothly.

Afghanistan & Iraq (2002-2013)

 Judge Advocates are currently deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else their expertise is needed.

The JAG Corps has been actively involved in humanitarian aid, disaster relief, nation building and peace operations. From the 1960s through the '90s, the JAG Corps undertook humanitarian and disaster relief missions from the Dominican Republic to Samoa to Central America.

Dominican Republic Intervention (1965)

After civil war broke out in the Dominican Republic, the U.S. military intervened to protect international diplomats, distribute humanitarian aid and mediate negotiations between the warring factions. Judge Advocates provided a full range of legal assistance, including military justice, international law, and claims.

Humanitarian & Nation-Building Missions (1989-2013)

Judge Advocates have served proudly in missions such as Hurricane Hugo relief (1989), Samoa (1989), Bangladesh (1991), Bosnia (1996), Hurricane Mitch relief (1998) and Afghanistan/Iraq (2002-2013).

Military Commissions are a form of military tribunal convened to try individuals for unlawful conduct associated with war. Though sometimes controversial, they are rooted in U.S. law and in the international laws of war. The term “military commission” first became common in the U.S. during the Mexican-American war. Subsequent practice, legislation, and U.S. Supreme Court precedents have shaped them. Today, a convening authority appointed by Secretary of Defense convenes military commissions under the Military Commissions Act of 2009, passed by the U.S. Congress, and signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 27, 2009.