Army Jag Corps
Army JAG lawyer writing briefing notes

Between 1802 and 1849 the Judge Advocate position was suspended, but since reinstatement, the JAG Corps has continually grown in size and in the scope of its expertise and support. Arguably, the most fundamental achievement of the modern JAG Corps is the creation of the Uniform Military Code of Justice (UCMJ, 1951), which applies one consistent code of conduct across the entire U.S. military while providing important judicial safeguards.

The Army JAG Corps is born (1775)

On July 29, 1775, shortly after becoming the Supreme Commander of the Continental Army, George Washington founds the U.S. Army JAG Corps. The nations oldest law firm begins serving the newly independent nation, and over two centuries grows to embody adherence to the laws of war, and the rule of law, all over the world.

The Army's First Judge Advocate (1775)

Colonel William Tudor of Boston is a 25-year-old graduate of Harvard and pupil of John Adams. The Second Continental Congress appoints him as the first Judge Advocate of the Army.

JAG Corps temporarily abolished (1802)

Most of the staff positions in the active Army—including Judge Advocate—are eliminated. JAG legal functions are assumed by the state militias.

The return of the Judge Advocate (1849)

After a nearly 50-year interruption, Judge Advocates resume their important work when Congress reestablishes the position—President Zachary Taylor is responsible for appointing this person.

The Corps expands to the field (1862)

Judge Advocates officially become a Corps for the first time: Congress authorizes the creation of Judge Advocates in the field, each reporting to a specific field commander, in addition to the Judge Advocate General in Washington.One such Judge Advocate in the field was Martin Welker of Ohio.

Service on courts of inquiry (1865-72)

Although their numbers decrease to six after the Civil War, JAG Officers expand their responsibilities. For the first time, their legal expertise becomes an indispensable 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 newly created Judge Advocate General's School at the Law Quadrangle of the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor.

A greatly expanded role (1942-1945)

Judge Advocates take over jurisdiction of courts-martial for the first time. And due to the upcoming post-war nation-building challenges, JAG Corps expertise expands beyond criminal law into contracts, claims, real estate law, legal assistance and other specialties.

Defense Department presents new challenge (1947)

The Department of Defense is created in 1947. High on the new department's agenda is the need for a unified criminal code that would apply to all military personnel—Army, Navy, Air Force or 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)

It's the most comprehensive change in military law in American history, affecting every person in U.S. military service: the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Individual Soldiers receive important legal safeguards through a system of judicial review similar to the civilian system.

The JAG Corps upholds the basic rules of conduct for our Soldiers'and also upholds the rule of law in the most important international cases. Judge Advocates made an example of the treacherous General Benedict Arnold; prosecuted Lincoln's Assassin; probed Custer's defeat at Little Big Horn; delivered justice for Nazi crimes at Nuremburg; and helped end the disastrous 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 during a pivotal battle. In the resulting landmark court-martial, Lee is found guilty of disobeying orders, disrespecting the Commander-in-Chief, and ordering a shameful retreat. He is suspended from the Army for one year.

The Infamous Benedict Arnold (1779)

He abused his position as a distinguished U.S. Army General for personal financial benefit, then conspired with a British General to switch allegiances and surrender West Point. Colonel John Laurance, the Jude Advocate General of the Army, leads both courts-martial of Benedict Arnold, the most notorious traitor in U.S. 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. Foiled in this plot, he is court-martialed and sentenced to die.

Prosecuting Lincoln's Assassin (1865)

After serving his Commander-in-Chief as a Judge Advocate during the Civil War, General Joseph Holt serves justice to the President's murderer as the Co-Prosecutor in the Lincoln Assassination Trials.

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

It was the U.S. Army's worst military disaster of the 19th century: the defeat and massacre of General Custer's forces in the Dakotas. Judge Advocate General William Dunn oversees a military Court of Inquiry into the orders, actions and decisions of the combatants.

JAG Corps creates first International War Crimes Tribunal (1945)

The atrocities committed by Axis forces during World War II are unprecedented in scale and audacity. Responding to the world's outrage, U.S. Army Judge Advocates organize and supervise the prosecution of Germany's and Japan's most infamous war criminals.

Justice at Nuremberg (1945)

JAG Attorneys immerse themselves in the task of bringing Nazi party and German military officials to justice for their crimes against humanity. As they research war crime law, collect and organize evidence, and assist in the Nuremberg trials, the enormity of the atrocities is brought to light for the first time.

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

Army JAG Attorneys play a crucial role in helping the new nation of Bosnia recover from a brutal ethnic war. They craft the General Framework for Peace which creates a single, peaceful Bosnian state, then take on an unprecedented variety of legal challenges to help reinforce the rule of law in the new nation.

Military operations large and small have driven JAG Corps growth while continually presenting new challenges, roles and responsibilities. There were 15 Judge Advocate Officers during the Revolutionary War, and today, there are more than 3,400. 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 and heal a nation after the Bosnian War.

The Revolutionary War (1775-1783)

About 15 Judge Advocates serve the Continental Army during the Revolution. One of these Attorneys, Captain John Marshall, later becomes Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The Civil War (1861-1865)

Judge Advocates and legal scholars serve both the North and South during the Civil War. There are 33 Judge Advocates in the Northern Army, and a former U.S. Supreme Court justice becomes a Judge Advocate for the South.

World War I (1914-1918)

The war brings another expansion: the JAG Department (the old name for the Corps) grows to 426 Officers, and includes many Reserve Judge Advocates.

World War II (1939-1945)

The massive, worldwide war effort results in the greatest expansion of 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 serve with distinction and help bring the war to a close: Judge Advocate Colonel Howard Levie is the key draftsman of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement.

The Vietnam War (1957-1973)

JAG Attorneys become even more crucial to mission success by integrating legal support into operations planning and execution at all levels. They 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 impact policy, strategy and tactical considerations. Their responsibilities include preparing the rules of engagement, advising on treatment of captives, and working with the State Department to prepare the Status of Forces Agreement.

Invasion of Panama (1989)

During Operation Just Cause, the focus changes to operational law. Judge Advocates deploy with military units sent to Panama, providing key advice and direct legal support during hostilities.

Persian Gulf War (1991)

Operation Desert Storm is a major milestone in the expansion from traditional military legal support to operational law. JAG Corps 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 rise to the challenge, using their legal expertise to help commanders identify threats, protect our Soldiers, 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 to enhance mission success by providing outstanding legal and non-legal support, going far beyond traditional combat legal services and military justice.

Bosnia-Herzegovina (1996)

During Operation Determined Effort, our military's mission is to provide a stable environment for the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accord. JAG Attorneys work diligently to keep operations flowing smoothly, and provide crucial, day-to-day advice on many levels to the Commanders in Bosnia.

Afghanistan & Iraq (2002-2004)

With the current urgency of the Global War on Terrorism, the JAG Corps is more important than ever. JAG Attorneys are currently deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else their expertise is needed to safeguard and expand democracy.

Sometimes the enemy isn't an armed opponent: it can be a force of nature, or the face of chaos. The JAG Corps has been actively involved in humanitarian aid, disaster relief, nation building and peace operations. In 1995, JAG Corps Attorneys helped to create a new Bosnian nation. 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 breaks out in the Dominican Republic, the U.S. military intervenes to protect international diplomats, distribute humanitarian aid and broker negotiations between the warring factions. JAG Attorneys provide a full range of expertise, including military justice, international law, claims and legal assistance.

Humanitarian & Nation-Building Missions (1989-2004)

Operations all over the world leverage the international law and civil law capabilities of the JAG Corps to help relieve suffering and create the conditions for stability and peace. JAG Attorneys serve proudly in such missions as Hurricane Hugo relief (1989), Samoa (1989), Bangladesh (1991), Bosnia (1996), Hurricane Mitch relief (1998) and Afghanistan/Iraq (2002-2004).