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List of Presidents of the United States by military service

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The United States Constitution names the President of the United States the commander in chief of the US armed forces. However, previous service in the military is not a pre-requisite for the position of president. As of the 2008 presidential election, no member of the US Marine Corps or US Coast Guard has yet been elected President. The most frequent military experience is Army/Army Reserve with 15 presidents, followed by State Militias at 9, Navy/Naval Reserve at 6 and the Continental Army with 2 presidents serving. The following list outlines the military service of each president before becoming the commander in chief.

PresidentServiceRankActive Service
Barack ObamaNoneNoneNone

George W. Bush

Texas Air National GuardFirst LieutenantStateside service during Vietnam War (1968–1973).

Bill Clinton



George H.W. Bush

United States Naval ReserveLieutenantWorld War II (1942–1945) Distinguished Flying Cross

Ronald Reagan

United States Army Reserve, United States Army Air CorpsCaptain


Stateside service during World War II (1942–1945); Army Reserve (1937–1942) See also: List of United States Presidents by military rank and Ronald Reagan for more information on military service.


Jimmy Carter

United States NavyLieutenantWorld War II at the United States Naval Academy Sea duty and stateside service 1946-1953 during the Korean War


Gerald Ford

United States Naval ReserveLieutenant CommanderWorld War II (1942–1945; combat on USS Monterey, discharged in 1946)

Richard Nixon


United States Naval Reserve

CommanderWorld War II (1942–1945)
Lyndon B. JohnsonUnited States Naval ReserveCommander[1]


World War II received Silver Star medal after airplane he was riding in was attacked by enemy aircraft

 John F. Kennedy

United States NavyLieutenantWorld War II received Navy and Marine Corps Medal and Purple Heart
Dwight D. EisenhowerUnited States ArmyGeneral of the Army


Stateside service during World War I. Served as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II (1942–1945). Visited troops in Korea in December 1952. Entire active-duty career spanned from 1915 until 1969 (excepting his two terms as president and Commander-in-Chief).

Harry S. Truman[2]


United States Army, United States Army Reserve

ColonelWorld War I (1917–1918); was then transferred to the army reserve and retired in 1953.


Franklin D. Roosevelt

Navy (Civilian)Assistant SecretaryWitnessed World War I while serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in France


Herbert Hoover

NoneNoneNone; however he did help guide US Marines in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion


Calvin Coolidge



Warren G. Harding



Woodrow Wilson



William Howard Taft

NoneNoneNone; United States Secretary of War 1904-1908

 Theodore Roosevelt

United States NavyColonelSpanish–American War – only U.S. President to receive the Medal of Honor (awarded posthumously in 2001)
William McKinleyUnited States ArmyBrevet Major


American Civil War. Served in the 23rd Ohio Infantry under future President Rutherford B. Hayes; fought in the Battle of South Mountain, The Battle of Antietam, and in the Valley Campaigns of 1864.

Benjamin HarrisonUnited States ArmyBrigadier General


American Civil War; Commanded an Infantry Brigade at the battles of Resaca, New Hope Church, Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta, Peachtree Creek and Atlanta; also Commanded a Brigade during Sherman's March to the Sea.


Grover Cleveland



Chester A. Arthur

New York State MilitiaBrigadier GeneralServed as Quartermaster General before and during the American Civil War (1858–1865).
James GarfieldUnited States ArmyMajor General


American Civil War (1861–1863; commanded an Ohio Infantry Brigade at the Battles of Shiloh and Corinth; served as Chief of Staff for General William Rosecrans at the Battle of Chickamauga; left the army to serve in the United States House of Representatives).

Rutherford B. HayesUnited States ArmyMajor General


American Civil War. Served in the 23rd Ohio Infantry and commanded future President William McKinley; wounded at the Battle of South Mountain; also served at the Battle of Antietam and in the Valley Campaigns of 1864.


Ulysses S. Grant

United States ArmyGeneral of the ArmyMexican-American War and American Civil War; served 1843-1854 and 1861-1868.


Andrew Johnson

United States ArmyBrigadier GeneralAmerican Civil War; served as Military Governor of Tennessee in 1862.


Abraham Lincoln

Illinois State MilitiaCaptainBlack Hawk War (served three months in 1832); see Abraham Lincoln in the Black Hawk War.


James Buchanan

Pennsylvania State MilitiaPrivateWar of 1812

Franklin Pierce

United States ArmyBrigadier GeneralMexican-American War; commanded an Infantry Brigade at the Battle of Contreras (where he was wounded in the leg), Battle of Churubusco, and the Assault on Mexico City.


Millard Fillmore

New York State MilitiaMajorAmerican Civil War


Zachary Taylor

United States ArmyMajor GeneralWar of 1812, Black Hawk War, Second Seminole War, Mexican-American War; entire career spanned from 1808 until 1848.


James K. Polk

Tennessee State MilitiaColonelJoined local militia, but never fought in any war during his service


John Tyler

United States ArmyCaptainWar of 1812


William Henry Harrison

United States ArmyMajor GeneralNorthwest Indian War, War of 1812


Martin Van Buren



Andrew Jackson

North Carolina militia, United States ArmyGeneralAmerican Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Creek War, First Seminole War
John Quincy AdamsNoneNone


None; however he was a witness to Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775 and reportedly was a non-participant in a Naval Battle between a British ship and a US ship he was on with his father during the American Revolution.

James MonroeContinental ArmyMajor


American Revolutionary War; wounded at the Battle of Trenton; depicted holding the flag behind General George Washington in the famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware.


James Madison

Virginia militiaColonelAmerican Revolutionary War, did not see action

 Thomas Jefferson

Virginia militiaColonel


Administrative position, did not see action. As Governor of Virginia, fled during British raid to avoid capture

John AdamsNoneNone


Adams served as chairman of the Continental Congress's Board of War (1776–1777), making him the simultaneous equivalent of today's Secretary of Defense and Chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee; was a semi-participant in a naval engagement between a British and US ship during the American Revolution.

George Washington


Virginia militia, Virginia Regiment, Continental Army

General of the ArmiesFrench and Indian War, American Revolutionary War

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