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 pre-requisite for the position of president. As of the 2012 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.

PresidentServiceRankActive Service
Barack ObamaNoneNoneNone
George W. BushTexas Air National GuardFirst LieutenantStateside service during Vietnam War (1968–1973). There are no records of his serving in active duty for multiple stretches of time.
Bill ClintonNoneNoneSigned an agreement to join Reserve Officer Training Corps at University of Arkansas during Vietnam War, but subsequently withdrew and entered the draft. Was not drafted and did not serve.
George H. W. BushUnited States Naval ReserveLieutenant (Junior Grade)World War II (1942–1945) Distinguished Flying Cross.
Ronald ReaganUnited States Army Reserve, United States Army Air CorpsCaptainStateside service during World War II (1942–1945); Army Reserve (1937–1942)
Jimmy CarterUnited States NavyLieutenantWorld War II at the United States Naval Academy Sea duty and stateside service 1946-1953 during the Korean War.
Gerald FordUnited States Naval ReserveLieutenant CommanderWorld War II (1942–1945); combat on USS Monterey, discharged in 1946.
Richard NixonUnited States Naval ReserveCommanderWorld War II (1942–1945); Earned two Service Stars.
Lyndon B. JohnsonUnited States Naval ReserveCommander[1]World War II received Silver Star medal after observation mission in which aircraft he was on came under Japanese attack.
John F. KennedyUnited States NavyLieutenantWorld War II received Navy and Marine Corps Medal and Purple Heart
Dwight D. EisenhowerUnited States ArmyGeneral of the ArmyStateside 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]Missouri Army National Guard
United States Army, United States Army Reserve
ColonelStateside National Guard service in Missouri (1905-1911); World War I (1917–1918); transferred to Army Reserve and retired in 1953.
Franklin D. RooseveltNoneNoneNone; Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 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.
Herbert HooverNoneNoneNone; helped guide US Marines in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion.
Calvin CoolidgeNoneNoneNone
Warren G. HardingNoneNoneNone
Woodrow WilsonNoneNoneNone
William Howard TaftConnecticut Home GuardNoneNone; United States Secretary of War 1904-1908. Enlisted in Connecticut Home Guard for World War I.
Theodore RooseveltUnited States ArmyColonelSpanish–American War – only U.S. President to receive the Medal of Honor (awarded posthumously in 2001). Also a Navy Civilian, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy[3]
William McKinleyUnited States ArmyBrevet MajorAmerican 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 GeneralAmerican 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 ClevelandNoneNonePaid George Benninsky $150 to take his place after Cleveland was drafted during Civil War under Conscription Act of 1863.
Chester A. ArthurNew York State MilitiaBrigadier GeneralServed as Quartermaster General of the New York Militia before and during the American Civil War (1858–1865).
James GarfieldUnited States ArmyMajor GeneralAmerican 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 GeneralAmerican 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. GrantUnited States ArmyGeneral of the ArmyMexican-American War and American Civil War; served 1843-1854 and 1861-1868.
Andrew JohnsonUnited States ArmyBrigadier GeneralServed in Tennessee Militia in 1830s. American Civil War; served as Military Governor of Tennessee in 1862.
Abraham LincolnIllinois State MilitiaCaptainBlack Hawk War (served three months in 1832); see Abraham Lincoln in the Black Hawk War.
James BuchananPennsylvania State MilitiaPrivateWar of 1812
Franklin PierceUnited States ArmyBrigadier GeneralNew Hampshire Militia, 1831-1846; 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 FillmoreNew York State MilitiaMajorServed in New York Militia in 1820s and 1830s; Organized Union Continentals home guard unit in Buffalo, New York during American Civil War
Zachary TaylorUnited States ArmyMajor GeneralWar of 1812, Black Hawk War, Second Seminole War, Mexican-American War; entire career spanned from 1808 until 1848.
James K. PolkTennessee State MilitiaColonelJoined cavalry unit in Tennessee Militia as a Captain. Subsequently appointed a Colonel on the staff of Governor William Carroll. Did not see war service.
John TylerVirginia militiaCaptainWar of 1812
William Henry HarrisonUnited States ArmyMajor GeneralNorthwest Indian War, War of 1812
Martin Van BurenNoneNoneNone; as State Senator during War of 1812 worked to pass war measures, including bills to expand New York militia and increase soldier pay. Prosecutor of William Hull at court-martial after surrender of Detroit.
Andrew JacksonTennessee State Militia, United States ArmyMajor GeneralAmerican Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Creek War, First Seminole War
John Quincy AdamsNoneNoneNone; 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 ArmyMajorAmerican Revolutionary War; wounded at the Battle of Trenton; depicted holding the American flag behind General George Washington in the famous painting Washington Crossing the Delaware.
James MadisonVirginia militiaColonelAmerican Revolutionary War, did not see action.
Thomas JeffersonVirginia militiaColonelCommander of Albemarle County Militia at start of American Revolution, did not see action
John AdamsNoneNoneAdams 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 WashingtonVirginia militia, Virginia Regiment, Continental Army, United States ArmyGeneral of the ArmiesFrench and Indian War, American Revolutionary War.


  1. ^ President Lyndon B. Johnson's Military Service Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum
  2. ^ "Military Personnel File of Harry S. Truman". Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. Retrieved 1 January 2009. 
  3. ^