List of Presidents of the United States by military service

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The United States Constitution names the President of the United States the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces. Previous service in the military is not a prerequisite for the position of president. As of the 2016 presidential election, no member of the U.S. Marine Corps or U.S. 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.

Eight presidents served during World War II, while seven served in the military during the American Civil War.

The following list outlines the military service of each president before becoming the commander in chief.

President Service Rank Active Service
Donald Trump None None None. Received four educational deferments and one 1-Y medical deferment during the Vietnam War.[1]
Barack Obama None None None
George W. Bush Texas Air National Guard First Lieutenant Stateside service as pilot during Vietnam War (1968–1973). Received early discharge in 1973.[2]
Bill Clinton None None None. Signed agreement to join Reserve Officer Training Corps at University of Arkansas during Vietnam War.[3] Subsequently withdrew and entered draft, but received high draft number and was not drafted.[4] (See Bill Clinton: Vietnam War opposition and draft controversy.)
George H. W. Bush United States Naval Reserve Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Navy pilot in World War II (1942–1945). Shot down and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Congressman during the Vietnam War. President during the Gulf War.
Ronald Reagan United States Army Reserve, United States Army Air Corps Captain Stateside service during World War II (1942–1945); Army Reserve (1937–1942).
Jimmy Carter United States Navy Lieutenant Served during World War II as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. Sea duty and stateside service 1946–1953 during the Korean War.
Gerald Ford United States Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander World War II (1942–1945); combat on USS Monterey, discharged in 1946.
Richard Nixon United States Naval Reserve Commander World War II (1942–1945); earned two battle stars for service in the Pacific.
Lyndon B. Johnson United States Naval Reserve Commander[5] World War II received Silver Star medal after observation mission in which aircraft he was on came under Japanese attack.
John F. Kennedy United States Naval Reserve Lieutenant Served in combat during World War II. Received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and the Purple Heart.
Dwight D. Eisenhower United States Army General 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). President during final months of the Korean War.
Harry S. Truman[6] Missouri Army National Guard
United States Army
United States Army Reserve
Colonel Stateside National Guard service in Missouri (1905–1911); served in combat in France during World War I (1917–1918); transferred to Army Reserve and retired in 1953.
Franklin D. Roosevelt None None None; Assistant Secretary of the Navy during World War I. Attempted to resign in order to enter uniformed service, but resignation not accepted. Visited France as part of Navy Department duties to observe military activities first hand. Was Commander in Chief of the Veteran Corps of Artillery of the State of New York while Governor of New York State.
Herbert Hoover None None None; helped guide US Marines in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion. Served as Food Administrator during World War I.
Calvin Coolidge None None None; was Commander-in-Chief of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts while Governor of Massachusetts. Served as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts during World War I.
Warren G. Harding None None None
Woodrow Wilson None None None; served as President of the United States during World War I.
William Howard Taft Connecticut Home Guard None None; United States Secretary of War 1904–1908. Enlisted in Connecticut Home Guard for World War I.
Theodore Roosevelt United States Army Colonel New York National Guard, 1882 to 1886, captain and company commander. Spanish–American War service as second in command and then commander of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry (Rough Riders). Only U.S. President to receive the Medal of Honor (awarded posthumously in 2001). Also a Navy Civilian, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy[7]
William McKinley United States Army Brevet 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. Served as President during the Spanish–American War and at the beginning of the Philippine–American War.
Benjamin Harrison United States Army Brigadier 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 None None Paid George Benninsky $150 to take his place after Cleveland was drafted during Civil War under Conscription Act of 1863. Was Commander in Chief of the Veteran Corps of Artillery of the State of New York while Governor of New York State.
Chester A. Arthur New York State Militia Brigadier General Judge Advocate General, Second Brigade of the New York Militia. Served as Engineer-in-Chief on the Governor's staff, Quartermaster General and Inspector General of the New York Militia before and during the American Civil War. Declined appointment as commander of the 9th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment and command of four New York City regiments organized as the Metropolitan Brigade when Governor requested he remain Quartermaster General.
James Garfield United States Army Major 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. Hayes United States Army Major 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 Army General of the Army Mexican–American War and American Civil War; served 1843–54 and 1861–68.
Andrew Johnson United States Army Brigadier General Served in Tennessee Militia in 1830s. American Civil War; served as Military Governor of Tennessee in 1862.
Abraham Lincoln Illinois State Militia Captain Black Hawk War (served three months in 1832); see Abraham Lincoln in the Black Hawk War.
James Buchanan Pennsylvania State Militia Private War of 1812
Franklin Pierce United States Army Brigadier General New Hampshire Militia, 1831–46; Mexican–American War; commanded Infantry Brigade at Battle of Contreras (where his leg was injured), Battle of Churubusco, and the Assault on Mexico City.
Millard Fillmore New York State Militia Major Served in New York Militia in 1820s and 1830s; Organized Union Continentals home guard unit in Buffalo, New York during the American Civil War.
Zachary Taylor United States Army Major General War of 1812, Black Hawk War, Second Seminole War, Mexican–American War; entire career spanned from 1808 until 1848.
James K. Polk Tennessee State Militia Colonel Joined cavalry unit in Tennessee Militia as a Captain. Subsequently appointed a Colonel on the staff of Governor William Carroll. Did not see war service. Served as President during the Mexican–American War.
John Tyler Virginia militia Captain War of 1812.
William Henry Harrison United States Army Major General Northwest Indian War, War of 1812.
Martin Van Buren None None None; as State Senator during War of 1812 worked to pass war measures, including bills to expand New York militia and increase soldier pay. Special Judge Advocate appointed to aid in prosecuting William Hull at Hull's court-martial after surrender of Detroit. Commander in Chief of the Veteran Corps of Artillery of the State of New York as New York State Governor.
Andrew Jackson Tennessee State Militia, Continental Army, United States Army Major General American Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Creek War, First Seminole War.
John Quincy Adams None None 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. Negotiated the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812.
James Monroe Continental Army Major American Revolutionary War; depicted holding the American flag behind General George Washington in the famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware; wounded at the Battle of Trenton, depicted in the painting The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton, December 26, 1776 by John Trumbull.
James Madison Virginia militia Colonel American Revolutionary War, did not see action.
Thomas Jefferson Virginia militia Colonel Commander of Albemarle County Militia at start of American Revolution, did not see action
John Adams None None Adams served as chairman of the Continental Congress's Board of War (1776–77), 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, United States Army General of the Armies French and Indian War, American Revolutionary War.


  1. ^ Steve Eder and Dave Philipps, "Donald Trump’s Draft Deferments: Four for College, One for Bad Feet," New York Times, 1 August 2016, accessed 8 February 2017,
  2. ^ Lechliter, Gerald A. (2004). "President George W. Bush's Military Service: A Critical Analysis" (PDF). New York Times. New York, NY. 
  3. ^ Benson, Michael (2004). Bill Clinton. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications. pp. 31, 34. ISBN 978-0-8225-0819-9. 
  4. ^ Gillon, Steven M. (2008). The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry that Defined a Generation. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-19-532278-1. 
  5. ^ President Lyndon B. Johnson's Military Service Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum
  6. ^ "Military Personnel File of Harry S. Truman". Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. Retrieved 1 January 2009. 
  7. ^