How Much Do You Know About Past Presidents' Military Service?


By: Bambi Turner

6 Min Quiz

Image: Francis Bicknell Carpenter

About This Quiz

The president not only holds the top political spot in the United States -- he's also the Commander in Chief of the entire military, so it helps if he's had some experience. Take our quiz to see how much you know about the military service of past presidents.

Which of these presidents never served in the military?

As of President #45 Donald Trump's election, there have been 15 presidents (including Trump) who never served in the military. Barack Obama spent time in the Senate before being elected to the nation's top spot, but was never a military member.


How many past presidents served in the Air Force as of 2018?

The Army and Navy are by far the most popular choice of service branch among past presidents. Just two, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, served in the Air Force, with Bush part of the Air Force Reserve.


Which of these presidents did not fight in the Civil War?

More than half a dozen past presidents had Civil War service on their resumes, but not Harry Truman. Truman fought in WWI instead.


Who is the only president to have been awarded a Purple Heart as of 2018?

The U.S. military gives Purple Heart medals to servicemen who are injured or die in battle. John F. Kennedy is the only president to be awarded the honor as of 2018, thanks to his heroism in WWII.


Who is the only president to have fought in both World Wars?

Dwight Eisenhower is the only president to participate in both WWI and WWII. He spent the first war at home tackling training, and spent the second war managing the Allied attack on Europe -- including organizing the D-Day landing.


What was the name of the volunteer cavalry led by Theodore Roosevelt?

Before he became the 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt saw action in the Spanish-American War. He helped organize and lead a volunteer cavalry known as the Rough Riders, who became famous for their victory at the Battle of Kettle Hill in July 1898.


Which president led the Union Army during the Civil War?

West Point graduate Ulysses Grant not only fought in the Mexican-American War, but also led the Union Army to victory during the Civil War. He became so celebrated for his efforts during the war that he was elected the 18th president of the United States.


Who led the Continental Army during the American Revolution?

George Washington led a young Continental Army against the Brits during the American Revolution -- and won. He was later elected the nation's first president.


Who did Abraham Lincoln fight during his time in the Army?

Lincoln spent time in the Army, fighting against the Native Americans during the Black Hawk War in the summer of 1832. As the 16th president, he also led the nation through the struggles of the Civil War.


Which war did John F. Kennedy serve in?

Kennedy commanded PT-109 during WWII. When the boat was attacked, Kennedy helped save injured crew mates, earning heavy honors for his service. He later became the 35th U.S. president.


Which conflict made Zachary Taylor a war hero?

Zachary Taylor led 5,000 troops to victory over 20,000 Mexican troops at the Battle of Buena Vista in 1847. This victory in the Mexican-American War gave Taylor the reputation of a war hero, and helped him become elected as the nation's 12th president.


Which war saw Harry Truman sent to fight in France?

As part of the Army National Guard, Harry Truman was sent to fight in France during WWI. He later became the 33rd president, and made the difficult decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan to end WWII.


Which war did William McKinley fight in?

William McKinley enlisted as a private in the Army in 1861. He later became brevet major after leading a group of volunteers in battle during the Civil War. By the time of the Spanish-American War, he had become the nation's 25th president.


Which branch of the service did Jimmy Carter belong to?

Carter graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and went on to serve on Navy submarines from 1946 to 1953. He planned to train in the Navy's nuclear program, but decided to leave the service instead. He went on to become the 39th president.


George H.W. Bush was a naval aviator during this war.

George H.W. Bush enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday and served as a pilot in WWII. He was in the Battle of the Philippines, and bailed out of his plane and evaded capture after being hit by enemy fire. He went on to become the 41st U.S. president.


Andrew Johnson served as military governor of this state during the Civil War.

When Tennessee seceded from the Union, Abraham Lincoln named Andrew Johnson as military governor of Tennessee. Johnson was tasked with establishing a civil government in the state during the War and Reconstruction, and later went on to become the 17th president.


John Tyler organized a militia to defend Richmond during this war.

John Tyler organized a major militia known as the Charles City Rifles to defend Richmond from an attack during the War of 1812. Though the attack never came, Tyler's war efforts helped him become the 10th U.S. president.


Gerald Ford served in the Navy during this war.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ford enlisted in the Naval Reserve. He served in the Pacific during WWII on the USS Monterey, and later became the 38th president.


Rutherford Hayes was wounded at least five times during this war.

Hayes fought with the Army during the Civil War, and was injured at least five times. He later became a brevet major general, then the 19th President of the United States.


Chester Arthur belonged to this branch of the military.

Chester Arthur served in the Army during the Civil War. Though he never saw battle, he was celebrated for his efforts at organizing and outfitting troops in New York, and also traveled south to inspect battle sites. He later became the nation's 21st president.


Which 7th President was known as Old Hickory?

Steadfast in battle and office, Andrew Jackson earned the nickname Old Hickory. He served in the Army during the War of 1812, leading 2,000 volunteers to defend New Orleans from the British.


Franklin Pierce fought in the Battle of Contreras, which took place in the ending days of this war.

When Congress declared war on Mexico in 1846, Franklin Pierce became captain of the 9th infantry. He was injured in the Battle of Contreras, but managed to emerge victorious and become the 14th U.S. president.


Which war did Ronald Reagan serve in?

Ronald Reagan was enlisted in the Air Force during WWII, but was never sent overseas due to his poor eyesight. Instead, he filmed countless training videos back home, and later became the 40th president.


Benjamin Harrison fought in the Battle of Nashville during this war.

Benjamin Harrison recruited men during the Civil War, then spent two years on reconnaissance and railroad security missions. He saw combat in the Battle of Nashville before becoming the 23rd president.


Which branch of the service did George W. Bush belong to?

Bush belonged to the Air Force Reserve during the Vietnam War. He was suspended from flying in 1972 after missing a physical exam, and honorably discharged in 1974. He later became the 43rd U.S. President.


Which war did James Garfield serve in?

Garfield fought in the Battle of Middle Creek during the Civil War, then had a legendary, Paul Revere-like ride at the Battle of Chickamauga. After the war, he became the 20th president.


Lyndon Johnson earned a Silver Star for service in this war.

Johnson was in the Naval Reserve, and called to active duty just days after Pearl Harbor. He rode along on bombing missions near New Guinea, and earned a Silver Star before becoming the 36th president of the United States.


William Henry Harrison fought in this lesser-known war at the end of the 18th century.

Ninth President William Henry Harrison fought in the Army during the Indian campaigns. He led his troops to victory in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which helped to bring an end to the Northwest Indian War.


This president was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in WWII.

Eisenhower led the Allied attack on Europe as the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces. He was a five-star general in the Army before he became the 34th president.


Which war did James Monroe fight in?

James Monroe dropped out of college to fight in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He almost died in battle, and was commended by George Washington for his service before becoming the 5th U.S. president.


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