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List of Presidents who were Veterans

by Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer on February 16, 2015
 

A majority of America’s presidents came to office as Veterans.

Twenty-six of our 44 Presidents served in the military. Presidential Veterans often coincided with America’s military engagements. Until World War II, a majority of our presidents had served in the Army. Since then, most have served in the Navy.

Our ninth President, William Henry Harrison, embarked on his military career at age 18, enlisting 80 men off the streets of Philadelphia to serve in the Northwest Territory.

Civil War Veteran Ulysses S. Grant also gained national acclaim for his military service. Grant was a West Point graduate who fought in the Mexican War, but it was his calm, steely command of Union troops during the Civil War that earned Lincoln’s confidence. The Civil War produced seven Veteran presidents in the postwar period, all of them having served in the Union Army.

Harry Truman

 

The First and Second World Wars ushered in another series of Veteran Presidents, starting with Harry Truman and West Point graduate General Dwight Eisenhower. Both men exemplified the strengths of military training by proving themselves to be diplomatic, dynamic leaders in an unstable world.

The evolution of warfare has introduced many new tactical and technical dynamics to the U.S. military, but the core qualities of decision-making and inspiring leadership remain.

You can read about all the Presidents on the White House website.

Presidents who were Veterans

Highest rank held by Presidents in uniformed service.

George Washington
General and Commander in Chief, Continental Army
1775-1783

Thomas Jefferson
Colonel, Virginia Militia
1770-1779

James Madison
Colonel, Virginia Militia
1775-1781

James Monroe
Major, Continental Army
1775-1778

Andrew Jackson
Major General, U.S. Army
1814-1821

William Henry Harrison
Major General, Kentucky Militia
1812-1814

John Tyler
Captain, Virginia Militia
1812
James K. Polk
Colonel, Tennessee Militia
1821

Zachary Taylor
Major General, U.S. Army
1805-1815, 1816-1849

Millard Fillmore
Major, Union Continentals (home guard)
1861

Franklin Pierce
Brigadier General, New Hampshire Militia
1846-1848

James Buchanan
Private, Pennsylvania Militia
1814

Abraham Lincoln
Captain, Illinois Militia
1832

Andrew Johnson
Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)
1862-1865

Ulysses S. Grant
General, U.S. Army
1866-1869

Rutherford B. Hayes
Major General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)
1861-1865

James A. Garfield
Major General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)
1861-1863

Chester A. Arthur
Brigadier General, New York Militia
1858-1863

Benjamin Harrison
Brevet Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)
1862-1865

William McKinley
Brevet Major, U.S. Army (Volunteers)
1861-1865

Theodore Roosevelt
Colonel, U.S. Army (Volunteers)
1898

Harry S. Truman
Colonel, Army Officer Reserve Corps
1919-1945

Dwight D. Eisenhower
General of the Army, U.S. Army
1915-1948, 1951-1952

John F. Kennedy
Lieutenant, U.S. Naval Reserve
1941-1945

Lyndon B. Johnson
Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve
1940-1964

Richard M. Nixon
Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve
1942-1966

Gerald R. Ford, Jr.
Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve
1942-1946

Jimmy Carter
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
1946-1953

Ronald Reagan
Captain, U.S. Army
1942-1945

George Bush
Lieutenant (junior grade), U.S. Navy
1942-1945

George W. Bush
First Lieutenant, Texas Air National Guard
1968-1973

    

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