Serving as commander-in-chief, as well as the head of state and government, American presidents are granted tremendous power. As such, a track record of dedication to public service has been a prerequisite for nearly all those who successfully run for the highest office, with few exceptions. And no occupation better demonstrates a willingness to sacrifice for the country than military service.
Since America’s founding, a total of 45 men have served as president. Of them, all but 14 had a background of at least some military service.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the biographies of every American president to identify those who have served in the military. Presidents are listed in the order in which they served as president.
For many of the presidents on this list, military service was a small part of careers that also spanned other areas, such as business, law, or local or state politics. Men such as George H.W. Bush and John F. Kennedy, for example, enlisted in part because of the outbreak of World War II, and moved on to civilian careers at the war’s end. Here is a look at each president’s path to the Oval Office.
Less common are men whose careers were defined largely by the military, and whose distinguished service launched them into national politics. These former presidents include Dwight Eisenhower, a four-star general who served as supreme commander of allied forces in World War II, and most famously, George Washington, who led the Continental Army to victory over the British in the Revolutionary War. Here is a look at the most decorated war heroes in American history.
Notably, military service has not been a common credential among more recent American presidents. Of the last five presidents, from Bill Clinton to Joe Biden, only one – George W. Bush – served in the military. And though Bush was a trained fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, he was never sent into combat.
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