To become president of the United States, you don’t need to meet a lot of fancy prerequisites. You don’t need a record of military service of any kind, and when you’re elected, you’ll become the commander-in-chief of the most powerful armed forces the world has ever seen. That said, most of America’s presidents have served in some capacity … while others ran the other way screaming in hopes of avoiding combat. In this quiz, if we name a president, can you match him to the branch of the military in which he served?
Wartime heroism is sometimes a barometer for political greatness. Some leaders seem to seamlessly transition from actual combat to political battlefields in Washington D.C. Others would be more at home in their camo fatigues than in a power suit.
A few presidents did everything they could to avoid dodging bullets. Other ran toward danger like moths to a flame – Mr. Jackson and Mr. Roosevelt, we’re talking to you.
We’ll give you a vital clue before you begin -- U.S. presidents have emerged from just three of the five branches of the military. Lock and load in this presidential military service history quiz now!
In which branch did John Kennedy serve?
JFK was a lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve and saw action during WWII. In one widely recounted story, he survived a violent collision and had to swim miles to safety.
In which branch did Jimmy Carter serve?
Carter was a Navy man through and through. He served stateside during the Korean War.
In which branch did Dwight Eisenhower serve?
He didn't "serve" as much as he commanded. Ike was an Army general for the ages, a man who led Allied forces to their greatest victories of World War II. With that kind of resume, he was a shoo-in for president after the war.
In which branch did Ulysses S. Grant serve?
Abraham Lincoln leaned heavily on Grant, a Union Army general of the Civil War. Grant won some of the war's most important battles and then rode his heroism to the highest office.
In which branch did Franklin Roosevelt serve?
He was proof that you don't need military service to be an oustanding leader. Roosevelt not only didn't serve, but he was paralyzed through much of his presidency, and still he governed with might.
In which branch did Gerald Ford serve?
He looked a bit like a squinty-eyed troll in his later years, but as a young man, Gerald Ford was dashing Navy man. And unlike many of his peers, he saw real combat aboard a ship during World War II.
In which branch did Harry Truman serve?
Too impoverished for college, Truman served in the Army. Once ridiculed as an officer, he earned the respect of his men and led them courageously through the meatgrinder battlefields of the Great War.
In which branch did Warren Harding serve?
Harding was the guy who had zero military service but managed to create a stellar political career. And then, scandals -- professional and personal -- shredded much of his legacy.
In which branch did George W. Bush serve?
Although his military records are weird and spotty, to say the least, Bush was definitely part of the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. He remained stateside during the conflict.
In which branch did Richard Nixon serve?
Before he tarnished his own legacy with forehead-slapping criminal behavior, Nixon served honorably in the Navy, mostly as a very competent paperpusher.
In which branch did Barack Obama serve?
Barack Obama never served in the military. He's on the record as saying he wanted to join the military ... but the Vietnam War was pretty much much over so it seemed kind of pointless to him.
In which branch did George H.W. Bush serve?
Bush was a Navy pilot during WWII and graduated from Philips Academy on the day that he turned 18. He was shot down in combat and survived hours at sea before behind rescued by a submarine.
In which branch did Lyndon Johnson serve?
Johnson served in the Navy during WWII, on active duty until 1942. He won a Silver Star thanks to General MacArthur, although some historians have questioned the validity of this particular medal, saying it was a political move rather than a reward for true gallantry.
In which branch did Ronald Reagan serve?
Reagan was in the Army Reserve during WWII. But he had such terrible eyesight that he was exempted from serving overseas.
In which branch did Bill Clinton serve?
If women made up the majority of Army units, William Jefferson Clinton would've been first in line to enlist. As it stands, he did not.
In which branch did George Washington serve?
We know you know that George Washington was the leader of the Continental Army, and that he smote redcoats by the millions. At dinner, he preferred their flesh seared and served with a side of sauteed musket balls.
In which branch did James Garfield serve?
During the Civil War, Garfield was an officer in the Army. He was a part of the tragedies at places like Shiloh and Chickamauga.
In which branch did Andrew Jackson serve?
Andrew Jackson so loved war that the better question is, "in which branch did he NOT serve?" He was a veteran of the Revolution and a general in the War of 1812, and he once tore apart of pack of hungry wolves with his bare hands.
In which branch did Franklin Pierce serve?
Pierce was an Army general during the Mexican-American War. And he was no bystander -- he was thrown from his horse in battle and his knee was badly injured.
In which branch did Woodrow Wilson serve?
He played a lot of golf. Wilson sent hundreds of thousands of American troops into the cauldron of World War I. But the man himself never served.
In which branch did John Adams serve?
As part of the Continental Congress's Board of War, John Adams sent men to die. But he never risked his life in the service.
In which branch did Grover Cleveland serve?
During the American Civil War, men butchered each other with bullets and bombs. But not Grover Cleveland, because he hired a substitute to take his place -- a common practice for men of means in those days.
In which branch did Donald Trump serve?
As a young man, Donald Trump was too busy stacking bricks of gold and combing his hair to bother with military service. He received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War.
In which branch did Abraham Lincoln serve?
In 1832, Lincoln was part of the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War. He rose to captain but never saw a firefight.
In which branch did Benjamin Harrison serve?
Sure, he died a month into office, rendering his presidency almost as pointless as John Tyler's. But Harrison was a seasoned Army officer, one who saw real battle.
In which branch did Theodore Roosevelt serve?
He never, ever backed down from a fight. Roosevelt was a bona fide war hero and a commander of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry -- the Rough Riders.
In which branch did Thomas Jefferson serve?
There was really no Army in Jefferson's heyday. However, he was part of the Virginia militia when the Revolution broke out, but he didn't take part in combat.
In which branch did Zachary Taylor serve?
Zachary Taylor was a career Army man, one whose service spanned four decades. He was a soldier's soldier, one who saw plenty of blood during his time in uniform.
In which branch did Calvin Coolidge serve?
Calvin Coolidge didn't sign up for any sort of military service. And he didn't accomplish much as president, either.
In which branch did William Harrison serve?
Harrison was a general who served in both the Northwest Indian War and the War of 1812. And if you made it this far, you may be wondering -- has a Marine veteran ever been elected president? The answer is no.
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