29 American Presidents Who Served in the Military

U.S. President John F. Kennedy, during his time in the Navy (image: John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)
U.S. President John F. Kennedy, during his time in the Navy (image: John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)

Serving in the military isn't a prerequisite for becoming president. Nonetheless, out of the 44 presidents of the United States, 29 had some military experience in their background, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs. This seems fitting, given that the president is the commander-in-chief of America's military.

Military service has also come up as a political issue over time. The military service of both George W. Bush and John Kerry received heavily scrutiny during the 2004 presidential campaign.

And, while observers have pointed out that US President Donald Trump has a fondness for military trappings and parades — even sparking anger by referring to his staff as "my generals," Business Insider's Mark Abadi reported — the medical deferment that kept him out of the Vietnam War is a source of controversy.

These are the presidents who served in the armed forces in some capacity, from the modern day to the American Revolution:

George W. Bush

George W. BushImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: Texas Air National Guard

Rank: First Lieutenant

Conflict: Stateside during the Vietnam War

George H. W. Bush

George H. W. Bush Image: U.S. Navy

Service: United States Naval Reserve

Rank: Lieutenant (junior grade)

Conflict: World War II

Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan Image: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Army Reserve, United States Army Air Corps

Rank: Captain

Conflict: Stateside during World War II

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter Image: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Navy

Rank: Lieutenant

Conflict: World War II and Korea

 

Gerald Ford

Gerald FordImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Naval Reserve

Rank: Lieutenant Commander

Conflict: World War II

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon Image: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Naval Reserve

Rank: Commander

Conflict: World War II

Awards: Two Service Stars

Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. JohnsonImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Naval Reserve

Rank: Commander

Conflict: World War II

Awards: Silver Star

John F. Kennedy

John F. KennedyImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Navy

Rank: Lieutenant

Conflict: World War II

Awards: Navy and Marine Corps Medal and a Purple Heart

 

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. EisenhowerImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Army

Rank: Army General during World War I, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II

Conflict: World War I and World War II

Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman Image: Wikimedia Commons

Service: Army Officer Reserve Corps

Rank: Colonel

Conflict: World War I

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore RooseveltImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Army

Rank: Colonel

Conflict: Spanish-American War

Awards: Medal of Honor (Roosevelt is the only US president to have received this award)

William McKinley

William McKinleyImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Army

Rank: Brevet Major

Conflict: American Civil War

 

Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison Image: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Army

Rank: Brigadier General

Conflict: American Civil War

Chester A. Arthur

Chester A. ArthurImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: New York State Militia

Rank: Brigadier General

Conflict: American Civil War

 

James Garfield

James GarfieldImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Army

Rank: Major General

Conflict: American Civil War

Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford B. Hayes Image: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Army

Rank: Major General

Conflict: American Civil War

 

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. GrantImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Army

Rank: General of the Army

Conflict: Mexican-American War and American Civil War

Andrew Johnson

Andrew JohnsonImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Army

Rank: Brigadier General

Conflict: American Civil War

 

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham LincolnImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: Illinois State Militia

Rank: Captain

Conflict: Black Hawk War

James Buchanan

James Buchanan Image: Wikimedia Commons

Service: Pennsylvania State Militia

Rank: Private

Conflict: War of 1812

Franklin Pierce

Franklin PierceImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Army

Rank: Brigadier General

Conflict: Mexican-American War

Millard Fillmore

Millard FillmoreImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: New York State Militia

Rank: Major

Conflict: American Civil War

 

Zachary Taylor

Zachary TaylorImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Army

Rank: Major General

Conflict: War of 1812, Black Hawk War, Second Seminole War, Mexican-American War

James K. Polk

James K. PolkImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: Tennessee State Militia

Rank: Colonel

Conflict: Did not see war service

 

John Tyler

John TylerImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: Virginia Militia

Rank: Captain

Conflict: War of 1812

William Henry Harrison

William Henry HarrisonImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Army

Rank: Major General

Conflict: Northwest Indian War and the War of 1812

 

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson Image: Wikimedia Commons

Service: United States Army

Rank: Major General

Conflict: American Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Creek War, and the First Seminole War

James Monroe

James MonroeImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: Continental Army

Rank: Major

Conflict: American Revolutionary War

George Washington

George WashingtonImage: Wikimedia Commons

Service: Virginia militia, Continental Army, United States Army

Rank: General

Conflict: French and Indian War and American Revolutionary War

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