Presidents throughout the history of the United States have often come from a military background. Of the 44 men who have held office, 31 held a military position.
Although not every president served to the same capacity, they all served honorably.
In order to commemorate their service, we have listed below the nine greatest war heroes who ever became president.
9. John. F Kennedy, Lieutenant, U.S. Naval Reserve
Despite a bad back, President Kennedy managed to enlist and serve in the Pacific during World War Two. While at the helm of a PT-109, the boat was sliced in half by a Japanese destroyer. Members of his crew were badly injured, but Kennedy managed to lead them in a three mile swim to a nearby island. For his heroics, Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroics, as well as Purple Heart for his own injuries.
8. Theodore Roosevelt, Colonel, U.S. Army
President Roosevelt was a larger than life figure in everything he undertook. Prior to the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt was the assistant secretary of the Navy. Once war broke out, he resigned from his post and volunteered for command of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, better known as the Rough Riders. Under his command, the Rough Riders charged up Kettle Hill, outside of Santiago, Cuba, and secured a victory.
7. Gerald Ford, Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve
President Ford, not waiting for the draft, enlisted with the U.S. Navy at the height of World War Two. During his time in the service, he was an assistant navigator, Athletic Officer, and antiaircraft battery officer on board Monterey. He took part in numerous campaigns against the Japanese Navy, and earned the Asiatic-Pacific campaign medal, nine engagement stars, the Philippine Liberation Medal, two bronze stars, and the American Campaign and World War Two Victory Medals.
6. George H.W. Bush, Lieutenant (junior grade), U.S. Navy
After hearing of the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Bush enlisted to be a naval aviator on his 18th birthday. At 19, he became a naval aviator, the youngest at the time. During the war, he flew 58 combat missions, as well as completing a mission under heavy fire which destroyed his plane. For his heroics, Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded San Jacinto.
5. Zachary Taylor, Major General, U.S. Army
President Taylor was praised during his service for serving beside his soldiers, enduring the same hardships they did. For this, he earned the nickname “Old Rough and Ready.” He participated in the Indian Wars, often protecting the Native Americans from expanding white settlement. He became truly famous in the Mexican-American war, when with just a force of 6,000 men he defeated Santa Anna’s army of over 20,000.
4. Andrew Jackson, Major General, U.S. Army
President Jackson fought tirelessly while in the military. He commanded forces against the Creek Indians in the War of 1812, and he won an overwhelming victory at the Battle of New Orleans against the British in 1815. In 1817, working as the commander of the military’s southern forces, Jackson ordered an invasion of Spanish held Florida, leading to the capture of Pensacola and St. Mark’s. These victories helped to set the stage for the future annexation of the state in 1821.
3. Ulysses S. Grant, General, U.S. Army
President Grant served in the Mexican-American War, but his biggest accomplishment was in keeping the United States together. During the Civil War, despite an early string of setbacks, Grant rose to the rank of General of the U.S. Army. Under his lead, the confederacy was put down and the Union was restored.
2. George Washington, General and Commander in Chief, Continental Army
President Washington had one of the longest military careers of any former elected official. He fought in the French and Indian Wars and was a commander of the Virginia Regiment. At the start of the American Revolution, Washington took control of the Continental Army, and played a key role to defeating the British, founding the United States.
1. Dwight D. Eisenhower, General of the Army, U.S. Army
President Eisenhower originally enlisted in the Army during World War One. Although he never made it to the front lines, he earned a Distinguished Service Medal for work at home. At the outbreak of World War Two, Eisenhower quickly worked his way through the ranks, eventually becoming the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Under Eisenhower’s command, the Allies successfully liberated Europe from the Axis Powers.
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