In 1898, the Spanish-American War exposed the U.S. military's weaknesses through uncoordinated Army units and internal issues of communication. Despite America's ultimate victory, Secretary of War Elihu Root and President Theodore Roosevelt called for a complete reorganization of military education. Thus, the idea for a "national war college" was born.
Congress officially approved funding for the Army War College in 1904, and by the 1910s the school had evolved into a model of military education. Built in 1907 on the site of the former Washington Arsenal (DC's main armory from 1790 through the War of 1812), the college is a captivating example of Neo-Classical Architecture. The building was designed by the renowned architectural firm McKim, Mead & White. The school relied on analysis of previous global conflicts, and the implementation of "war games" to teach tactical strategy. The Army War College also played a role in drafting national defense legislation prior to America's entry into World War I.
Despite the college's initial success, Congress disbanded the institution at the onset of World War II--yet the institution was re-established as the National War College in 1946. The name change was intended to indicate the "national" intelligence at the school, as individuals from the State Department and Central Intelligence Agency had been recruited as students and faculty. The National War College continues to operate as a military education institution, with the mission to "educate future leaders of the Armed Forces, Department of State, and other civilian agencies for high-level policy, command and staff responsibilities by conducting a senior-level course of study in national security strategy."
The college was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1972. It is inaccessible to the public, as it is located on an active military base, Fort McNair.
DC Register: November 8, 1964
National Register: November 28, 1972
National Historic Landmark: November 28, 1972