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24 Presidents who were War Veterans

 Compliments of: The Veterans Administration

Portion of the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River

A majority of America’s presidents came to office as Veterans.

The first President of the United States, George Washington, set an important precedent by entering the Presidency as a civilian, rather than as a commanding general with military forces at his disposal. Washington voluntarily resigned his commission as commander of the Continental Army in December 1783 before re-entering public service four years later. He presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and became the only president in American history to receive a vote from every elector.

Twenty-four 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.

Post-Revolutionary War America marked an era of constant conflict — skirmishes with native Americans, land disputes with the Spanish and French, another war with Great Britain — and the military offered an opportunity for a bright, aspiring man to make a name for himself. 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. Harrison quickly rose through the ranks and distinguished himself in battle during the Indian campaigns in what is now the Midwest.

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 six Veteran presidents in the postwar period, all of them having served in the Union Army.

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 Truman Doctrine, pledging American support for “free peoples” around the world, followed by Eisenhower’s enforcement of desegregation in U.S. schools, shaped America’s foreign and domestic policies.

The nation’s most recent Veteran President was George W. Bush, who served with the Texas Air National Guard. Bush presided over the most dramatic reorganization of the federal government since the beginning of the Cold War, reforming the intelligence community and establishing new institutions like the Department of Homeland Security in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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. It is probable that an OEF/OIF/OND Veteran will be among the next generation of Presidents to serve in America’s highest military office: Commander-in-Chief.

  • George Washington: Revolutionary War (Continental Army)
  • James Monroe: Revolutionary War (Continental Army)
  • Andrew Jackson: War of 1812 (Army)
  • William Henry Harrison: Indian campaigns (Army)
  • John Tyler: War of 1812 (Army)
  • Franklin Pierce: Mexican War (Army)
  • Abraham Lincoln meets with Civil War soldiers at a camp
  • Abraham Lincoln: Black Hawk War (Indian Wars) (Army)
  • Ulysses S. Grant: Mexican War and Civil War (Army)
  • Rutherford B. Hayes: Civil War (Army)
  • James A. Garfield: Civil War (Army)
  • Chester A. Arthur: Civil War (Army)
  • Benjamin Harrison: Civil War (Army)
  • William McKinley: Civil War (Army)
  • portrait of Theodore Roosevelt in military uniform
  • Theodore Roosevelt: Spanish American War (Army)
  • Harry Truman: World War I (Army)
  • Dwight Eisenhower: World War I and World War II (Army)
  • portrait of John F. Kennedy in military uniform
  • John F. Kennedy: World War II (Navy)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson: World War II (Navy)
  • Richard Nixon: World War II (Navy)
  • Gerald Ford: World War II (Navy)
  • Jimmy Carter: Cold War era (Navy)
  • portrait of Ronald Reagan in military uniform
  • Ronald Reagan: World War II (Air Force)
  • George H.W. Bush: World War II (Navy)
  • George W. Bush: Vietnam War era (Air Force Reserve)

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About Edited by Susan Bainbridge

At age 6, Susan was destined to be a journalist and photographer.  In 1980, Susan founded Bainbridge News and The Bainbridge Chronicle Newspaper. Bainbridge News specializes in Military and National Politics, including Military Funerals and Burials and Political Funerals and Burials.  Susan has covered the White House, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. She has covered every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Recognized for her versatility, Susan has also covered finance, crime, civil rights events, marches, sports, musical events and more. In 1990, she established Bainbridge Photography, an On-Location photography company. In addition to military and political events, including Military and Political funerals and burials, Bainbridge Photography expanded into covering ALL funerals and burials, receptions, weddings, real estate, inventory, insurance, portrait, head shot, pets, fire and Hazmat.  Miss Bainbridge believes in going the extra mile. "My Clients always come first." In 1980, Susan began her career in Washington, D.C., working for WMZQ Radio as a reporter and guest hostess from 1980 to 1985. Intrigued by radio, Susan wanted to write, freelancing for radio, television and print newspapers, including AP, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Northern Virginia Sun, The Press-Republican and The Bainbridge Chronicle (established by Susan Bainbridge). In 1986, Susan worked at WDCA-TV Channel 20 as a guest hostess for "Eye On Washington." From 1990 to 1994, Susan reported and anchored for "The Arlington Weekly News." Additionally, she produced a segment for the G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show. A prolific writer, while in high school in 1977, Bainbridge wrote an episode for NBC's "Little House on The Prairie" entitled "Laura's Best Friend." Though the show's producers did not use the script then, NBC producers encouraged Susan to pursue a writing and journalism career. Susan is a member of the National Press Club, the National Press Photographer's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Susan Bainbridge's recognitions include from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late actor Lorne Greene, among many others. BAINBRIDGE NEWS was founded in 1980 by Susan Bainbridge (a sixth generation writer), a third generation journalist, a first generation photographer and a fourth generation entrepreneur. She is the first generation to establish a news business. Bainbridge News is dedicated in honor of Miss Bainbridge's late grandfather and idol, Mark S. Watson (The Baltimore Sun editor and war correspondent from 1920 to his death in 1966).

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