List of presidents of the United States by military service

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Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander of World War II, 34th President of the United States

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
45 Donald Trump None None None
44 Barack Obama None None None
43 George W. Bush Texas Air National Guard First Lieutenant Stateside service as pilot during Vietnam War (1968–1973).[1] (See George W. Bush military service controversy)
42 Bill Clinton None None None[2]
41 George H. W. Bush United States Naval Reserve Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Naval aviator in World War II (1942–1945). Shot down and received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
40 Ronald Reagan United States Army Reserve, United States Army Air Forces Captain Stateside service during World War II (1942–1945); Army Reserve (1937–1942).
39 Jimmy Carter United States Navy Lieutenant Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy,[3] followed by sea duty and stateside service from 1946 to 1953.[4] Inactive Navy Reserve from 1953 to 1961.[5] Received the American Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal for his stateside service during World War II.[3] Received the China Service Medal and National Defense Service Medal for sea duty off the coast of China during the Korean War.[3]
38 Gerald Ford United States Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander World War II (1942–1945); combat on USS Monterey, discharged in 1946.
37 Richard Nixon United States Naval Reserve Commander World War II (1942–1945); earned two battle stars for service in the Pacific.
36 Lyndon B. Johnson United States Naval Reserve Commander[6] World War II. Received Silver Star after observation mission in which aircraft he was on came under Japanese attack.[7] This was Johnson's only observation flight, and Johnson was the only individual on it to receive an award, leading many historians to conclude that Douglas MacArthur presented it to secure Johnson's political influence.[8]
35 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.
34 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). Entire active-duty career spanned from 1915 until 1969 (excepting his two terms as president).
33 Harry S. Truman[9] 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.
32 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.
31 Herbert Hoover None None None; helped guide US Marines in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion.
30 Calvin Coolidge None None None
29 Warren G. Harding None None None
28 Woodrow Wilson None None None
27 William Howard Taft Connecticut Home Guard None None; United States Secretary of War 1904–1908. Enlisted in Connecticut Home Guard for World War I. Was chairman of American Red Cross executive committee during World War I. President Wilson conferred military titles on Red Cross leaders to provide them authority to carry out their wartime responsibilities, and Taft was appointed a major general.
26 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[10]
25 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.
23 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.
22/24 Grover Cleveland None None None. Hired a substitute to serve in his place during the American Civil War.
21 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.
20 James A. 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).
19 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.
18 Ulysses S. Grant United States Army General Mexican–American War and American Civil War; served 1843–54 and 1861–68.
17 Andrew Johnson United States Army Brigadier General Served in Tennessee Militia in 1830s. American Civil War; served as Military Governor of Tennessee in 1862.
16 Abraham Lincoln Illinois State Militia Captain Black Hawk War (served three months in 1832); see Abraham Lincoln in the Black Hawk War.
15 James Buchanan Pennsylvania State Militia Private War of 1812, served during the defense of Baltimore, in a unit of yagers.
14 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.
13 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.
12 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.
11 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.
10 John Tyler Virginia militia Captain War of 1812.
9 William Henry Harrison United States Army Major General Northwest Indian War, War of 1812.
8 Martin Van Buren None None None.
7 Andrew Jackson Tennessee State Militia, Continental Army, United States Army Major General American Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Creek War, First Seminole War.
6 John Quincy Adams None None None
5 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.
4 James Madison Virginia militia Colonel Commander of Orange County Militia at start of American Revolution, did not see action. In the War of 1812, he commanded troops in the field during the Battle of Bladensburg.
3 Thomas Jefferson Virginia militia Colonel Commander of Albemarle County Militia at start of American Revolution, did not see action.
2 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.
1 George Washington Virginia militia, Continental Army, United States Army General of the Armies of the United States[11] French and Indian War, American Revolutionary War. Also, as President he led troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion, though the rebels dispersed rather than give battle.


  1. ^ Lechliter, Gerald A. (2004). "President George W. Bush's Military Service: A Critical Analysis" (PDF). New York Times. New York, NY.
  2. ^ "Bill Clinton's Vietnam Test". The New York Times. 14 February 1992. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Ocean Science News. Washington, D.C.: Nautilus Press. 1976. p. 109. The Naval Record of James Earl Carter Jr.: Medals and awards: American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, China Service Medal, and Natl. Defense Service Medal
  4. ^ Bourne, Peter G. (1997). Jimmy Carter: A Comprehensive Biography From Plains to Post-Presidency. New York: Scribner. pp. 77–81. ISBN 978-0-684-19543-8.
  5. ^ Eckstein, Megan (March 9, 2015). "From Ensign to Commander-in-Chief: A Look at the Presidents Who Served in the U.S. Navy Reserve". USNI News. Annapolis, MD: United States Navy Institute.
  6. ^ President Lyndon B. Johnson's Military Service Archived 2013-02-17 at Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum
  7. ^ Allen, Natalie (July 6, 2001). "CNN Live Today: The Truth Behind LBJ's Silver Star". CNN. Atlanta, GA. Retrieved June 7, 2018. Caro: The thing about the mission that convinces me that it was attacked is that five members of the crew are quoted saying that it is attacked. And they never denied the quotes. They had plenty of opportunity to do so. So what we have is five people on the same plane saying the same thing.
  8. ^ Langguth, A. J. (2000). Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. pp. 129-130. ISBN 978-0-7432-1244-1.
  9. ^ "Military Personnel File of Harry S. Truman". Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. Retrieved 1 January 2009.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Posthumous promotion to General of the Armies on March 13, 1978, with effective date from July 4, 1976