List of presidents of the United States by military service

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Military-veteran presidents of the United States are the men so elected who had prior service in the US military. These veterans comprise the majority of presidents: only 16 have had no prior military service versus the 29 who have.

History[edit]

Despite being commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces, prior military service is not a prerequisite for presidents of the United States.[1]

Civil War-veteran presidents[edit]

After the American Civil War, whether a politician had fought greatly influenced the public's perception of his appropriateness for the presidency. After a spate of such veteran-presidents, that influence diminished before being eliminated.[2]

World War II-veteran presidents[edit]

So great was the influence of World War II on US politics, Dwight D. Eisenhower won the 1952 presidential election without any political experience. This halo effect of the second world war benefited the successful political campaigns of John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter. After the 1988 United States presidential election however, the shine had dulled on military-veteran politicians, and through 2012, "the candidate with the better military record lost."[2] As of December 2018, George H. W. Bush was the last president to have served in combat (as an aircraft carrier-based bomber pilot in WWII).[3]

Vietnam-veteran presidents[edit]

The 48-year tenure of veteran presidents after World War II was a result of that conflict's "pervasive effect […] on American society."[2] In the late 1970s and 1980s, almost 60% of the United States Congress had served in World War II or the Korean War, and it was expected that a Vietnam veteran would eventually ascend to the presidency. Yet, in the chronology of "major conflicts" involving the United States, the Vietnam War is the first to not produce a veteran president, an event that veteran and author Matt Gallagher called "no small feat for a country spawned in armed revolution." By 2017, a "bamboo ceiling" was described as holding down and preventing those who served in Vietnam from becoming president.[4]

Donald Trump's election after his attacks on military veterans and families was seen as the nail in the coffin for the influence of the US military in presidential politics.

Barack Obama's 2006 book The Audacity of Hope argued that baby boomers never left behind the anti-military psychodrama of the 1960s, and that played out in national politics. During Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, James Carville succeeded in releasing Clinton's 1969 letter that "outlined his opposition to the [Vietnam] war and his decision to try his chances with the draft." The positive effects of this release evidenced the diminished cachet of military service in presidential politics.  Donald Trump's 2016 campaign further cemented this; Trump was elected that November despite bragging about evading the draft, slandering Senator John McCain and other prisoners of war, and publicly feuding with Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan. Of this discrepancy, Gallagher said, "What’d once been sacred territory in American politics is now anything but."[4]

In 2015, journalist James Fallows described the contemporary American's attitude toward their military as "we love the troops, but we’d rather not think about them".[5] Three years later, Gallagher noted that when given the opportunity to elect Vietnam veterans (Al Gore, McCain, and John Kerry), the US electorate declined. He called this emblematic of the public's "vague sense of gratitude for service members" that eschews interest or understanding: "'Thank you for your service,' but spare the details, please."[6]

Future[edit]

With the all-volunteer United States Armed Forces of 2018 comprising only 0.5% of the US populace, and "the inherent politicization of the wars [current and future politicians] fought in", Gallagher doubted the viability of future veteran-presidents; "If a Global War on Terror veteran does someday lead the White House, it’ll be in spite of their time in uniform, not assisted by it."[4]

Politics[edit]

Asset[edit]

George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight D. Eisenhower were all career soldiers who benefited from their popularity as successful wartime general officers.[7] Áine Cain with Military.com called veteran presidents "fitting", given their responsibility at the head of the military's command hierarchy.[1]

Detriment[edit]

Military service has also been a political millstone for individuals seeking the presidency.[1]

George W. Bush's service with the Air National Guard was a point of political contention in his 2000 and 2004 campaigns,[8][9] Kerry's tours in Vietnam were similarly questioned,[10] McCain's 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns saw the retired captain's service used against him,[6] and Donald Trump's five deferments from conscription during the Vietnam War dogged his first presidential campaign.[11]

Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Donald J. Trump all received criticism for deploying the military into combat while having not served in that capacity themselves.[12]

Policy[edit]

As noted in The Atlantic, presidents' military histories influence their policy-making in office.[12]

List of presidents[edit]

No. (Years) President (Lifespan) Highest rank Last service Ref.
1 (1789–1797) George Washington (1732–1799) General of the Armies United States Army [13][14]
2 (1797–1801) John Adams (1735–1826) N/A [15]
3 (1801–1809) Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) Colonel Albemarle County Regiment, Virginia Militia [16]
4 (1809–1817) James Madison (1751–1836) Colonel Orange County, Virginia militia [17]
5 (1817–1825) James Monroe (1758–1831) Colonel Virginia militia [18]
6 (1825–1829) John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) N/A [15]
7 (1829–1837) Andrew Jackson (1767–1845) Major general United States Army [19]
8 (1837–1841) Martin Van Buren (1782–1862) N/A [15]
9 (1841) William Henry Harrison (1773–1841) Major general United States Army [20]
10 (1841–1845) John Tyler (1790–1862) Captain Virginia militia [21]
11 (1845–1849) James K. Polk (1795–1849) Major Tennessee Militia [22]
12 (1849–1850) Zachary Taylor (1784–1850) Major general United States Army [23]
13 (1850–1853) Millard Fillmore (1800–1874) Major New York Militia [24]
14 (1853–1857) Franklin Pierce (1804–1869) Brigadier general United States Army [25]
15 (1857–1861) James Buchanan (1791–1868) Private Pennsylvania militia [26]
16 (1861–1865) Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) Captain Sangamon County State Militia, Illinois [22]
17 (1865–1869) Andrew Johnson (1808–1875) Brigadier general Union Army (Volunteers) [27]
18 (1869–1877) Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885) General of the Army Union Army [28]
19 (1877–1881) Rutherford B. Hayes (1822–1893) Major general Union Army (Volunteers) [29]
20 (1881) James A. Garfield (1831–1881) Major general Union Army [30]
21 (1881–1885) Chester A. Arthur (1829–1886) Brigadier general New York Militia [31]
22 (1885–1889) Grover Cleveland (1837–1908) N/A [15]
23 (1889–1893) Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901) Brigadier general Union Army [32]
24 (1893–1897) Grover Cleveland (1837–1908) N/A [15]
25 (1897–1901) William McKinley (1843–1901) Captain Union Army (Volunteers) [33]
26 (1901–1909) Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) Colonel United States Army (Volunteers) [34]
27 (1909–1913) William Howard Taft (1857–1930) N/A [15]
28 (1913–1921) Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924) N/A [15]
29 (1921–1923) Warren G. Harding (1865–1923) N/A [15]
30 (1923–1929) Calvin Coolidge (1872–1933) N/A [15]
31 (1929–1933) Herbert Hoover (1874–1964) N/A [15]
32 (1933–1945) Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) N/A [15]
33 (1945–1953) Harry S. Truman (1884–1972) Colonel United States Army Reserve [35]
34 (1953–1961) Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969) General of the Army United States Army [36]
35 (1961–63) John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) Lieutenant United States Navy Reserve [37]
36 (1963–1969) Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973) Commander United States Navy Reserve [38]
37 (1969–1974) Richard Nixon (1913–1994) Commander United States Navy Reserve [39]
38 (1974–1977) Gerald Ford (1913–2006) Lieutenant commander United States Navy Reserve [40]
39 (1977–1981) Jimmy Carter (born 1924) Lieutenant United States Navy [41]
40 (1981–1989) Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) Captain United States Army Reserve [42]
41 (1989–1993) George H. W. Bush (1924–2018) Lieutenant United States Navy Reserve [43]
42 (1993–2001) Bill Clinton (born 1946) N/A [15]
43 (2001–2009) George W. Bush (born 1946) First lieutenant Air National Guard [8]
44 (2009–2017) Barack Obama (born 1961) N/A [44]
45 (2017–2021) Donald Trump (born 1946) N/A [11]
46 (2021–present) Joe Biden (born 1942) N/A [45]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Cain, Áine. "29 American Presidents Who Served in the Military". military.com. Archived from the original on 1 January 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Toobin, Jeffrey (2 April 2012). "No Veteran in the White House". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. OCLC 320541675. Archived from the original on 5 December 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  3. ^ Stavridis, James (1 December 2018). "George H.W. Bush Was the Last President to Serve in Combat. America Could Use More Leaders Like Him". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. OCLC 1311479. Archived from the original on 13 December 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Gallagher, Matt (9 April 2017). "Will America Ever Elect Another Veteran President?". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on 16 April 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2019. The one thing Clinton, Bush, and Trump have in common? They all avoided hard military service. Could it be that after Vietnam, we just don’t care anymore?
  5. ^ Fallows, James (January–February 2015). "The Tragedy of the American Military". The Atlantic. ISSN 2151-9463. Archived from the original on 5 April 2019. Retrieved 8 November 2020. The American public and its political leadership will do anything for the military except take it seriously. The result is a chickenhawk nation in which careless spending and strategic folly combine to lure America into endless wars it can’t win.
  6. ^ a b Gallagher, Matt (28 December 2018). "The President's Field Trip to the Forever War". The New York Times. ISSN 1553-8095. OCLC 1645522. Archived from the original on 25 January 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2019. 'Thank you for your service,' but spare the details, please.
  7. ^ "From the Battlefield to the Oval Office: Presidents Who Were Veterans". National Archives and Records Administration. 7 November 2018. Archived from the original on 15 April 2019. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  8. ^ a b Jackson, Brooks (11 February 2004). "New Evidence Supports Bush Military Service (Mostly)". FactCheck.org. Archived from the original on 16 June 2017. Retrieved 8 April 2019. Newly released records reflect payments and credits for Air National Guard service meeting minimum requirements, despite a six-month gap.
  9. ^ Glass, Andrew (1 August 2013). "George W. Bush suspended from Texas Air National Guard, Aug. 1, 1972". Politico. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  10. ^ Kristof, Nicholas D. (18 September 2004). "A War Hero or a Phony?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  11. ^ a b Eder, Steve; Philipps, Dave (1 August 2016). "Donald Trump's Draft Deferments: Four for College, One for Bad Feet". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. Archived from the original on 5 April 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  12. ^ a b Graham, David A. (21 November 2018). "The Military Has Become Trump's Favorite Prop". The Atlantic. ISSN 2151-9463. Archived from the original on 5 December 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2019. President Trump sent troops to the border even though they’re prohibited by law from stopping immigrants. He still hasn’t visited U.S. troops in a combat zone.
  13. ^ Biaggi, Mario (11 October 1976). "H.J.Res.519 - Joint resolution to provide for the appointment of George Washington to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States". 94th United States Congress. Archived from the original on 23 March 2019. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  14. ^ Alexander, Jr., Clifford L. (13 March 1978), Orders 31-3, Washington, D.C.: United States Department of the Army
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Mitgang, Herbert (3 January 1993). "Hail to Chiefs Without Military Pasts". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. Archived from the original on 24 January 2018. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  16. ^ "Presidential Series - Thomas Jefferson". United States National Guard. Archived from the original on 30 March 2021. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  17. ^ Wills, Garry (2002). "Before the Constitution (1751–1785)". In Schlesinger Jr., Arthur M. (ed.). James Madison (first ed.). Fifth Avenue: Times Books. pp. 11–23. ISBN 978-0-8050-6905-1.
  18. ^ Preston, Daniel. "James Monroe: Life Before the Presidency". Miller Center of Public Affairs. Archived from the original on 6 April 2018. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  19. ^ "The War of 1812 and Indian Wars: 1812-1821". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 28 June 2017. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  20. ^ Freehling, William. "William Harrison: Life Before the Presidency". Miller Center of Public Affairs. Archived from the original on 16 November 2018. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  21. ^ Cain, Áine (19 February 2018). "29 American presidents who served in the military". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 13 July 2018. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  22. ^ a b "Presidential Militiamen". New York State Military Museum. New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs. 1 August 2012. Archived from the original on 29 June 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  23. ^ "Timeline, 1816-1847". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 1 October 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  24. ^ Skinner, Roger Sherman (1830). "Militia of the State". The New-York State Register, for the Year of Our Lord 1830, the Fifty-fourth Year of American Independence, with a Concise United States Calendar. New York: Clayton & Van Norden. p. 361.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. ^ Baker, Jean H. "Franklin Pierce: Life Before the Presidency". Miller Center of Public Affairs. Archived from the original on 6 March 2019. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  26. ^ Mattox, Henry E. (September 1996). "U. S. Presidents, Military Service, and the Electorate". American Diplomacy. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. ISSN 1094-8120. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  27. ^ Petersen, Hans (16 February 2015). "List of Presidents who were Veterans". Veterans Health Administration. United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Archived from the original on 15 August 2018. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  28. ^ "How many U.S. Army five-star generals have there been and who were they?". United States Army Center of Military History. Fort Lesley J. McNair: United States Army. 27 September 2017. Archived from the original on 25 July 2018. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  29. ^ "Biography - Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums". Fremont, Ohio: Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. Archived from the original on 6 March 2019. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  30. ^ Goodheart, Adam (13 August 2011). "Professor Garfield Goes to War". The New York Times. ISSN 1553-8095. OCLC 1645522. Archived from the original on 6 September 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  31. ^ "Chester A. Arthur | New York Legal History / Antebellum, Civil War, & Reconstruction: 1847-1869". The Historical Society of New York Courts. White Plains, New York: New York State Unified Court System. Archived from the original on 3 April 2019. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  32. ^ Spetter, Allan B. "Benjamin Harrison: Life Before the Presidency". Miller Center of Public Affairs. Archived from the original on 13 July 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  33. ^ "Presidential Series - William Mckinley, Jr". United States National Guard. Archived from the original on 5 April 2019. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  34. ^ Milkis, Sidney. "Theodore Roosevelt: Life Before the Presidency". Miller Center of Public Affairs. Archived from the original on 21 November 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  35. ^ "Truman Life and Times Exhibit". Independence, Missouri: Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  36. ^ Stone, Michael P. W. "Dwight David Eisenhower". United States Army Center of Military History. United States Army. Archived from the original on 28 March 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  37. ^ Fox, Elyse; Kintz, Laura; Mantzaris, Nicola (9 November 2017). "Veterans Day: Celebrating Veterans from the Kennedy Family Collection Nitrate Negatives". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. National Archives and Records Administration. Archived from the original on 8 April 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  38. ^ "LBJ Military Service". Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  39. ^ "Nixon, Richard M." Naval History and Heritage Command. Washington Navy Yard: United States Navy. Archived from the original on 8 April 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  40. ^ Barr, Sanjana (9 November 2016). "Gerald Ford: President and Veteran". National Archives and Records Administration. Archived from the original on 20 July 2017. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  41. ^ "James Earle Carter, Jr". Naval History and Heritage Command. Washington Navy Yard: United States Navy. Archived from the original on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  42. ^ "Military Service of Ronald Reagan". Simi Valley, California: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Archived from the original on 24 March 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  43. ^ "George Herbert Walker Bush". Naval History and Heritage Command. Washington Navy Yard: United States Navy. Archived from the original on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  44. ^ Harnden, Toby (7 September 2008). "Barack Obama 'wanted to join US military'". The Daily Telegraph. Washington, D.C. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Archived from the original on 24 November 2017. Retrieved 8 April 2019. Barack Obama has said he considered joining the United States military when he left school but decided not to because the Vietnam war was over and 'we weren't engaged in an active military conflict at that point'.
  45. ^ "Biden got 5 draft deferments during Nam, as did Cheney". Newsday. Dover, Delaware. 31 August 2008. ISSN 0278-5587. OCLC 5371847. Archived from the original on 19 September 2020. Retrieved 8 November 2020 – via Associated Press.