Presidents Who Served in the Military

U.S. Presidents Who Served in the Military

Did you know that over half of U.S. presidents are veterans? To be exact, according to, 29 out of 45 presidents served in the military. Some of these outstanding individuals have combat experience, some served during peacetime, and some have been on both sides.

Why is this?

The military experience is one of a kind. No civilian job or employment can compare to the level of skills, leadership, and teamwork ability one gains in military service.

It is unmatched and every veteran should be proud of their time in service, no matter if the obligation lasted for 4 years or over 20 years.

Let’s look at our former commanders in chief who have dedicated their lives to the U.S. Armed Forces.

29 Commanders in Chief With Military Experience

Surprisingly, some of our nation’s presidents have played a significant role in military history.

In case you’d like to learn more about the presidents that served in the military, the Empire Resume team have included links from the History Channel.

Here’s a quick list of the presidents that served in the military:

1. George Washington

U.S. Presidents Who Served in the Military

Washington, the first U.S. President, was a General in the Virginia militia, the Continental Army, and the U.S. Army. He served during the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War.

2. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower a WestPoint graduate, served in the U.S. Army as a 5-star general and fought in World War I and World War II.

He was also supreme commander of Allied forces in Western Europe during World War II, where he led the invasion of Europe that began on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

3. Ulysses S. Grant

Grant served in the Civil War. For his service, he became recognized as a national hero and was appointed as a 4-star general of the U.S. Army by Andrew Johnson. He then became the 18th president of the nation.

4. Andrew Jackson

Jackson served in the Army as a major general in the War of 1812. His popularity led to his run for the white house, where he became the 7th president of the United States.

5. William Harrison

U.S. Presidents Who Served in the Military

The nation’s 9th president, served a one-month stint in office until pneumonia took his life. In his early years, he joined the U.S. Army and fought in the War of 1812, and the Northwest Indian War. He left the military at the rank of major general.

6. Zachary Taylor

Taylor served in the army for approximately 4 decades. He commanded troops in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War and the second Seminole Wars.

He’s noted as a hero through his service in the Mexican War. Shortly thereafter, he was elected the 12th president of the U.S.

He was the second president to die in office.

7. Rutherford B. Hayes

Hayes, a lawyer, and 19th president of the United States, signed up to fight for the Union in his early years.

He became a major in the 23rd Ohio Regiment. At the end of the Battle of South Mountain in Maryland, he had been promoted to brevet major general.

8. James A. Garfield

Garfield became the 20th president. He served in the Union, fought in the civil war and made the rank of major general.

9. Franklin Pierce

U.S. Presidents Who Served in the Military


Pierce served as a general in the Mexican War. He became the 14th president by election and only served one term.

10. Chester A. Arthur

President Arthur served in the New York State Militia as a brigadier general. He was the 21st President of the United States.

11. Andrew Johnson

The 17th president of the United States, Andrew Johnson, was the first to be impeached. Prior to his presidency, he was the governor of Tennessee and joined the Union.

He was given the rank of general when he was appointed as governor by Abraham Lincoln.

12. Benjamin Harrison

Harrison was a member of the Union Army as a lieutenant in the 70th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Later, he became the 23rd president.

13. James Madison

Madison was Commander of Orange County Militia at start of American Revolution. In the War of 1812, he commanded troops in the field during the Battle of Bladensburg.

14. James K. Polk

Polk was the nation’s 11th president. states that he served in the Tennessee State Militia with the rank of colonel.

15. Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt became the 26th president after the assassination of William McKinley. He served as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy

16. Harry S. Truman

Truman served in the Missouri National Guard during World War II ending with the rank of captain of artillery.

He wanted to attend West Point, but his eyesight kept him from gaining admittance. Later in life, he became the 33rd President of the United States after the passing of Franklin Roosevelt.

17. Lyndon B. Johnson

U.S. Presidents Who Served in the Military

Johnson, the 36th president who was sworn in after the assassination of J.F.K, in 1963, served in the Navy as a lieutenant commander in World War II. He was awarded the Silver Star.

18. Richard Nixon

Nixon, the 37th president, and the only president to resign from office, was in the Naval Reserve at the rank of commander and served in World War II.

19. Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore was a lawyer and was elected to the U.S. House of Representative for New York. He served in the New York State Militia with the rank of major and fought in the American Civil War.

20. William McKinley

McKinley served in the Union Army, where he earned the rank of brevet major of volunteers. He later served in U.S. Congress and governor of Ohio. 

21. Gerald Ford

U.S. Presidents Who Served in the Military

Ford, our nation’s 38th president, enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserves and served as a lieutenant commander in World War II.

22. Abraham Lincoln

We all know Lincoln for being the 16th president of the U.S, teaching himself how to be a lawyer, and for the Emancipation Proclamation.

But did you know he was also a captain in the Illinois State Militia and fought in the Black Hawk War?

23. Ronald Reagan

Regan, a former actor and California governor served in the Army Reserve as a captain. He was the 40th President of the United States from 1981 to 1989 and was known for having many inspirational quotes.

24. John F. Kennedy

U.S. Presidents Who Served in the Military

Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States was one of the youngest in presidential history to run the oval office. He served in the Navy during World War II and was awarded a Purple Heart.

25. Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, attended the U.S. Naval Academy. He completed his service in the Navy with the rank of lieutenant. He later became the governor of Georgia.

26. George H.W. Bush 

George H.W. Bush was in the Naval Reserves as a Lieutenant and served in World War II. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

27. George W. Bush

U.S. Presidents Who Served in the Military

G.W. Bush was in the Texas Air National Guard as a 1st Lieutenant. He served stateside during the Vietnam War.

28. James Buchannan

Buchannan was a private who served in the Pennsylvania National Guard and fought in the War of 1812. He was the only president to never marry.

29. James Monroe

U.S. Presidents Who Served in the Military

Monroe was the fifth president of the United States. He was also a member of the Continental Army with the rank of Major. He fought in the American Revolutionary War.

He was a delegate to the Continental Congress and served as U.S. senator and governor of Virginia.

Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.

U.S. Presidents Who Served in the Military

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