The Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE), one of the programs in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III), has now completed its systematic, homogeneous spectroscopic survey sampling all major populations of the Milky Way. After a three year observing campaign on the Sloan 2.5-m Telescope, APOGEE has collected a half million high resolution (R~22,500), high S/N (>100), infrared (1.51-1.70 microns) spectra for 146,000 stars, with time series information via repeat visits to most of these stars. This paper describes the motivations for the survey and its overall design---hardware, field placement, target selection, operations---and gives an overview of these aspects as well as the data reduction, analysis and products. An index is also given to the complement of technical papers that describe various critical survey components in detail. Finally, we discuss the achieved survey performance and illustrate the variety of potential uses of the data products by way of a number of science demonstrations, which span from time series analysis of stellar spectral variations and radial velocity variations from stellar companions, to spatial maps of kinematics, metallicity and abundance patterns across the Galaxy and as a function of age, to new views of the interstellar medium, the chemistry of star clusters, and the discovery of rare stellar species. As part of SDSS-III Data Release 12, all of the APOGEE data products are now publicly available.
Submitted to The Astronomical Journal: 50 pages, including 38 figures, 4 tables, and 5 appendices