Although the Uniformed Services University was chartered by an act of Congress on September 21, 1972, the university story really begins decades earlier.
As the dust was settling on the battlefields of Okinawa and the American public was reveling in the fruits of victory, the Department of Defense acknowledged the end of World War II with the discharge of more than ten million men and women. This exodus had vast implications for the Military Health System because included in the turnover were many physicians who-having met their civic responsibilities-returned to their public and private practices. This massive departure left the armed forces with a dwindling medical corps.
Immediately following the war, policy leaders in Congress and the Defense Department discussed the establishment of a federally run medical school. They debated the merits of educating soldiers and sailors in the practice of medicine. Opposition was quick to point out the long lead time to organize such an academy, and there was of course the matter of cost. It would require considerable funding to see this idea to fruition. On the other hand, the services needed career physicians.
Discourse continued intermittently for years, but action did not ensue until President Nixon called for an end to the draft in 1970. The military could no longer rely on conscripts to provide medical care to our nation's soldiers and their families. The imminent end of a reliable supply of physicians in the uniformed services resulted in a renewed focus on the future of military medicine. And at the forefront was a leading democrat from Louisiana. Congressman F. Edward Hébert heavily championed what he called a "West Point for doctors". At the proposed Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, scholars would receive unparalleled education in the health sciences while the nation gained a strong cadre of medical officers.