Pres. Seal
Presidents’ Military Service

 
List of United States Presidents by Military Service

The United States Constitution names the President of the United States the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces. Although, previous service in the military is not a pre-requisite for the position of president, 15 presidents have experience in the Army/Army Reserve, 9 in the State Militias, 6 in the Navy/Naval Reserve, and 2 in the Continental Army.

 

The following list outlines the military service of each president before becoming the commander in chief.

President Service Rank Active Service
Barack Obama None
George W. Bush Texas Air National Guard First Lieutenant Stateside service during Vietnam War (1968-1973).
Bill Clinton None
George H.W. Bush United States Naval Reserve Lieutenant World War II (1942-1945)
Ronald Reagan United States Army Reserve, United States Army Air Corps Captain Stateside service during World War II (1942-1945); Army Reserve (1937-1942)
Jimmy Carter United States Navy Lieutenant World War II at the United States Naval Academy Sea duty and stateside service 1946-1953 during the Korean War
Gerald Ford United States Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander World War II (1942-1945; discharged in 1946)
Richard Nixon United States Naval Reserve Commander World War II (1942-1945)
Lyndon B. Johnson United States Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander World War II
John F. Kennedy United States Navy Lieutenant World War II (1941-1945)
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 career spanned from 1915 until 1952.
Harry S Truman United States Army, United States Army Reserve Colonel World War I (1917-1918); was then transferred to the army reserve and discharged in 1927.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Veteran Corps of Artillery of New York Commander in Chief {As New York Governor} FDR, however, did serve as Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1913-1920 and was a witness to 1918 fighting. In a post World War I publication "Harvard in the War" he is listed among the Harvard’s contributors to World War I effort.
Herbert Hoover None
Calvin Coolidge Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts Commander-in-Chief as Massachusetts Governor None
Warren G. Harding None
Woodrow Wilson None
William Howard Taft None
Theodore Roosevelt United States Army Colonel Spanish-American War – only U.S. President to receive the Medal of Honor (awarded posthumously in 2001)
William McKinley United States Army Brevet Major American Civil War
Benjamin Harrison United States Army Brigadier General American Civil War
Grover Cleveland Veteran Corps of Artillery of New York Commander in Chief {As New York Governor} None
Chester A. Arthur New York State Militia Brigadier General Served as quartermaster general before and during the American Civil War (1858-1865).
James Garfield United States Army Major General American Civil War (1861-1863; left the army to serve in the United States House of Representatives).
Rutherford B. Hayes United States Army Major General American Civil War
Ulysses S. Grant United States Army General of the Army Mexican-American War and American Civil War; served 1843-1854 and 1861-1868.
Andrew Johnson United States Army Brigadier General American Civil War; served as Military Governor of Tennessee in 1862; was Vice President in 1865.
Abraham Lincoln Illinois State Militia Captain, Private Black Hawk War
James Buchanan Pennsylvania State Militia Private War of 1812
Franklin Pierce United States Army Brigadier General Mexican-American War
Millard Fillmore New York State Militia Major American Civil War
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.
James K. Polk Tennessee State Militia Colonel None
John Tyler United States Army Captain War of 1812
William Henry Harrison United States Army Major General Northwest Indian War, War of 1812
Martin Van Buren Veteran Corps of Artillery of new York Commander-in-Chief {as New York Governor} None
Andrew Jackson Continental Army, United States Army General American Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Creek War, First Seminole War
John Quincy Adams None; 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 during the American Revolution.
James Monroe Continental Army Major American Revolutionary War
James Madison Virginia Militia Colonel American Revolutionary War
Thomas Jefferson Virginia Militia Commander None; during Raid by Banastre Tarleton he was forced to flee rather than be captured
John Adams None Adams 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; reportably was a near-participant in a Naval Battle between a British Ship and a US ship he was on during the American Revolution.
George Washington Virginia Militia, Virginia Regiment Continental Army General of the Armies French and Indian War, American Revolutionary War