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List of Presidents who were Veterans

Portrait of George Washington

George Washington set an important precedent by entering the Presidency as a civilian

By Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
Monday, 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.

Black and white photo of Harry Truman in a military uniform

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
Thomas Jefferson
Colonel, Virginia Militia
James Madison
Colonel, Virginia Militia
James Monroe
Major, Continental Army
Andrew Jackson
Major General, U.S. Army
William Henry Harrison
Major General, Kentucky Militia
John Tyler
Captain, Virginia Militia
James K. Polk
Colonel, Tennessee Militia
Zachary Taylor
Major General, U.S. Army
1805-1815, 1816-1849
Millard Fillmore
Major, Union Continentals (home guard)
Franklin Pierce
Brigadier General, New Hampshire Militia
James Buchanan
Private, Pennsylvania Militia
Abraham Lincoln
Captain, Illinois Militia
Andrew Johnson
Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)
Ulysses S. Grant
General, U.S. Army
Rutherford B. Hayes
Major General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)
James A. Garfield
Major General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)
Chester A. Arthur
Brigadier General, New York Militia
Benjamin Harrison
Brevet Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)
William McKinley
Brevet Major, U.S. Army (Volunteers)
Theodore Roosevelt
Colonel, U.S. Army (Volunteers)
Harry S. Truman
Colonel, Army Officer Reserve Corps
Dwight D. Eisenhower
General of the Army, U.S. Army
1915-1948, 1951-1952
John F. Kennedy
Lieutenant, U.S. Naval Reserve
Lyndon B. Johnson
Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve
Richard M. Nixon
Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve
Gerald R. Ford, Jr.
Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve
Jimmy Carter
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
Ronald Reagan
Captain, U.S. Army
George Bush
Lieutenant (junior grade), U.S. Navy
George W. Bush
First Lieutenant, Texas Air National Guard