Strategy 29 American presidents who served in the military

  • Published:

Out of the 44 presidents — also commanders-in-chief of the US military — more than half had some military experience. Not all saw active combat.

The majority of presidents have served in the military in some capacity. John F. Kennedy (right) with crew during World War II. play

The majority of presidents have served in the military in some capacity. John F. Kennedy (right) with crew during World War II.

(Wikpedia)

• The president is considered the commander-in-chief of the US military.

• A total of 29 US presidents have served in the American military in some capacity.

• The last president to see combat was George H. W. Bush.



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 also came 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 reportedthe 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. Bush play

George W. Bush

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: Texas Air National Guard

Rank: First Lieutenant

Conflict: Stateside during the Vietnam War



George H. W. Bush

George H. W. Bush play

George H. W. Bush

(U.S. Navy)

Service: United States Naval Reserve

Rank: Lieutenant (junior grade)

Conflict: World War II

Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross



Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan play

Ronald Reagan

(Wikimedia Commons)

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

Rank: Captain

Conflict: Stateside during World War II



Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter play

Jimmy Carter

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: United States Navy

Rank: Lieutenant

Conflict: World War II and Korea



Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford play

Gerald Ford

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: United States Naval Reserve

Rank: Lieutenant Commander

Conflict: World War II



Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon play

Richard Nixon

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: United States Naval Reserve

Rank: Commander

Conflict: World War II

Awards: Two Service Stars



Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson play

Lyndon B. Johnson

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: United States Naval Reserve

Rank: Commander

Conflict: World War II

Awards: Silver Star



John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy play

John F. Kennedy

(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. Eisenhower play

Dwight D. Eisenhower

(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 play

Harry S. Truman

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: Army Officer Reserve Corps

Rank: Colonel

Conflict: World War I



Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt play

Theodore Roosevelt

(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 McKinley play

William McKinley

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: United States Army

Rank: Brevet Major

Conflict: American Civil War



Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison play

Benjamin Harrison

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: United States Army

Rank: Brigadier General

Conflict: American Civil War



Chester A. Arthur

Chester A. Arthur play

Chester A. Arthur

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: New York State Militia

Rank: Brigadier General

Conflict: American Civil War



James Garfield

James Garfield play

James Garfield

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: United States Army

Rank: Major General

Conflict: American Civil War



Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford B. Hayes play

Rutherford B. Hayes

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: United States Army

Rank: Major General

Conflict: American Civil War



Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant play

Ulysses S. Grant

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: United States Army

Rank: General of the Army

Conflict: Mexican-American War and American Civil War



Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson play

Andrew Johnson

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: United States Army

Rank: Brigadier General

Conflict: American Civil War



Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln play

Abraham Lincoln

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: Illinois State Militia

Rank: Captain

Conflict: Black Hawk War



James Buchanan

James Buchanan play

James Buchanan

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: Pennsylvania State Militia

Rank: Private

Conflict: War of 1812



Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce play

Franklin Pierce

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: United States Army

Rank: Brigadier General

Conflict: Mexican-American War



Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore play

Millard Fillmore

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: New York State Militia

Rank: Major

Conflict: American Civil War



Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor play

Zachary Taylor

(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. Polk play

James K. Polk

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: Tennessee State Militia

Rank: Colonel

Conflict: Did not see war service



John Tyler

John Tyler play

John Tyler

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: Virginia Militia

Rank: Captain

Conflict: War of 1812



William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison play

William Henry Harrison

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: United States Army

Rank: Major General

Conflict: Northwest Indian War and the War of 1812



Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson play

Andrew Jackson

(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 Monroe play

James Monroe

(Wikimedia Commons)

Service: Continental Army

Rank: Major

Conflict: American Revolutionary War



George Washington

George Washington play

George Washington

(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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