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Which US Presidents Served in the Military?

Thelma Raker Coffone is an award winning non-fiction writer. She enjoys sharing information about America's presidents and their families.

Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of United States

Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of United States

31 US Presidents Are Military Veterans

Currently, the United States has had a total of 44 people serve as president of the country. There are 31 presidents who are veterans and 13 who never served in the military.

Who are the 31 veterans, which branch of service were they in, and which war, if any, did they fight in?

List of Veteran Presidents

PresidentMilitary BranchRankWar

George Washington

Continental Army

General

Revolutionary War, French & Indian War

Thomas Jefferson

Virginia Militia

Colonel

 

James Madison

Virginia Militia

Colonel

 

James Monroe

Continental Army

Major

Revolutionary War

Andrew Jackson

Army

Major General

Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Creek War, First Seminole War

William Henry Harrison

Army

Major General

NW Indian War, War of 1812

John Tyler

Virginia Militia

Captain

War of 1812

James K. Polk

Tennessee State Militia

Colonel

No War Service

Zachary Taylor

Army

Major General

War of 1812, Black Hawk War, 2nd Seminole War, Mexico American War

Millard Fillmore

NY State Militia

Major

Civil War

Franklin Pierce

Army

Brigadier General

Mexican American War

James Buchanan

Pennsylvania State Militia

Private

War of 1812

Abraham Lincoln

Illinois Militia

Captain

Black Hawk War

Andrew Johnson

Army

Brigadier General

Civil War

Ulysses S. Grant

Army

General

Mexican American War, Civil War

Rutherford B. Hayes

Army

Major General

Civil War

James A. Garfield

Army

Major General

Civil War

Chester A. Arthur

New York State Militia

Brigadier General

Civil War

Benjamin Harrison

Army

Brigadier General

Civil War

William McKinley

Army

Brevet Major

Civil War

Theodore Roosevelt

Army

Colonel

Spanish American War,

Harry S. Truman

Army Officer Reserve Corps

Colonel

World War I

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Army

General, Supreme Allied Commander

World War I, World War II

John F. Kennedy

Navy

Lieutenant

World War II

Lyndon B. Johnson

Naval Reserve

Commander

World War II

Richard M. Nixon

Naval Reserve

Commander

World War II

Gerald R. Ford

Naval Reserve

Lieutenant Commander

World War II

Jimmy Carter

Navy

Lieutenant

World War II, Korea

Ronald Reagan

Army

Captain

Stateside during World War II

George H. W. Bush

Navy

Lieutenant jg

World War II

George W. Bush

Texas Air National Guard

First Lieutenant

Stateside during Vietnam War

13 Presidents did not Serve in the Military

Of the 44 presidents, the following 13 are not veterans:

  1. John Adams
  2. John Quincy Adams
  3. Martin Van Buren
  4. Grover Cleveland
  5. William Taft
  6. Woodrow Wilson
  7. Warren Harding
  8. Calvin Coolidge
  9. Herbert Hoover
  10. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  11. William Clinton
  12. Barack Obama
  13. Donald Trump

Why Not 45 Presidents?

You may be wondering if President Trump is referred to as president #45 why is the list of presidents above showing 44 presidents? Grover Cleveland served two terms but not consecutively. He is known as president #22 and #24. Consequently, there are 44 people who are presidents.

Test Your Knowledge of Little Known Facts of Veteran Presidents

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which naval aviator president parachuted out of his plane after being shot down over the Pacific?
    • Jimmy Carter
    • George H. W. Bush
    • John F. Kennedy
  2. In 2001, which president posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his valor during the Spanish-American war?
    • Harry Truman
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt
    • Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt
  3. Who was the West Point graduate who became one of just a few soldiers to attain the rank of 5 Star General?
    • George Washington
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower
    • Ulysses S. Grant
  4. Who was the only president to receive the Purple Heart?
    • Abraham Lincoln
    • George H. W. Bush
    • Benjamin Harrison
  5. Which president served as a messenger during the Revolutionary War at the young age of 13?
    • George Washington
    • Andrew Jackson
    • James Madison
  6. This president had the very depressing job of burying the dead soldiers during the Black Hawk War?
    • Martin Van Buren
    • Abraham Lincoln
    • James Garfield
  7. Which president was still in the Army when he died?
    • Theodore Roosevelt
    • Andrew Jackson
    • George Washington
  8. Who only served 3 months in the military?
    • George W. Bush
    • Harry Truman
    • Abraham Lincoln
  9. Which president who was labeled a "draft dodger" received a pardon from President Jimmy Carter in 1977?
    • George W. Bush
    • Barack Obama
    • Bill Clinton

Answer Key

  1. Jimmy Carter
  2. Harry Truman
  3. George Washington
  4. Abraham Lincoln
  5. Andrew Jackson
  6. Martin Van Buren
  7. George Washington
  8. George W. Bush
  9. Bill Clinton

Do you Recognize These Presidents in Uniform?

Photo 1

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 3

Photo 4

Photo 4

Photo 5

Photo 5

Answers:

  1. Harry S. Truman
  2. Gerald R. Ford
  3. Lyndon B. Johnson
  4. John F. Kennedy
  5. George W. Bush

© 2019 Thelma Raker Coffone

Comments

Thelma Raker Coffone (author) from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA on January 23, 2020:

JC I didn't recognize Truman at first either. JFK was the easiest to recognize because I am old and I was alive during his presidency!

JC Scull from Gainesville, Florida on January 11, 2020:

Excellent article. I didn't recognize Truman at first. It took me a little while.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 17, 2019:

Interesting article. Nice reading. Thanks.

N E Wright from Dover, Delaware on July 06, 2019:

Thank you for this article. Now let me just say I shamed myself in front of my teenage son taking your quiz that I failed miserably. 33% bad. Someone needs to refresh herself on Presidential history. Lol. I did not cheat. I could have cheated when my son offered to look the info up for me. I did not need him to see how much I did not know about our presidents, but I did not need him to see me cheat either. I should have know these things. This is part of being American. My total bad. Thanks again for the article. Nice my son read with me. Lol.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on July 01, 2019:

Gee, Thelma, I don't know much although I have a minor in history. I scored 33% on your quiz, and I didn't recognize the young Harry Truman in the photos. But then history in my day didn't teach much about our presidents' military service, except for Washington, Jackson and Roosevelt. I love history, and this is a very informative well-written article. I enjoyed it very much.

Larry Slawson from North Carolina on July 01, 2019:

Very informative article. Thank you for sharing!

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 30, 2019:

This was wonderful to know and I did terrible on your quiz. I’d love to know if there have been any academic studies about military service and leadership and how well they performed as President.