Every United States President from Franklin Delano Roosevelt through George H.W. Bush served in World War II.
Putting aside FDR and Harry S. Truman, who served as Presidents during the conflict, that leaves Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, And George Bush.
Dwight D. EisenhowerDwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th US President.
"Ike," as he was fondly called, became a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe; he had responsibility for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942–43 and the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944–45 from the Western Front. In 1951, he became the first supreme commander of NATO, and in 1953, US President.
|Dwight David Eisenhower is the only US President to serve in the military in both World War I and World War II.|
Ike is one of the few US Presidents, along with George Washington and US Grant, whose war exploits arguably overshadowed their fame as Presidents.
|Future President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a senior at West Point, after a knee injury ended his football career.|
|General Eisenhower speaking to paratroopers before the D-Day invasion. The photograph above was taken on June 5, 1944, one day before the Allied invasion of Europe on the beaches of Normandy.|
|Patton, Bradley, Hodges, and Eisenhower, Germany, March 28, 1945|
|Ike got a lot of publicity when Germany surrendered|
|Eisenhower, Patton, Truman|
|Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower and wife Mamie leaving the Capitol for the inaugural parade, January 20, 1953.|
|The 1962 Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of President John F. Kennedy and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower walking together at Camp David following the Bay of Pigs invasion.|
|Two US Presidents and WWII Vets|
John F. Kennedy
|John F. Kennedy, right, with his brother and sister in London on 1 September 1939, walking to attend a special session of Parliament.|
|JFK a few years later in the Solomons.|
Lt. (jg) John F. Kennedy aboard the PT-109, Solomon Islands, 1943|
JFK was a Lieutenant (jg) in the US Navy, a Senator, and US President.
Everybody loves and honors John F. Kennedy. Well, pretty much everybody. I don't think I've ever met anyone who didn't.
|JFK and sister Rosemary in the 1930s. Rosemary suffered a heinous fate at the hands of her father|
|A smiling JFK shortly before his night encounter with the Japanese|
|The boat JFK served on until it sank|
|JFK, lucky to be alive after the PT 109 adventure, 1944|
|A portrait of John F. Kennedy in uniform in World War II by Robert J. Donovan|
|JFK and Jackie, maybe the early 1950s? A standard photobooth shot, but JFK already has a larger-than-life look.|
|Not sure when this was, probably after attending Church during his Presidency|
|JFK driving to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. That is probably the Commandant of the Academy beside him, where Jackie normally would sit. That area in the distance beyond the trees and across the highway (unseen) is all built up now.|
|JFK visits the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, June 1963. He appears to be descending the steps at the famous AFA Chapel, though that is just a guess|
|JFK inspecting the new Air Force Academy. That appears to be the visitor's center in the background left.|
|JFK in Colorado Springs June 1963. Note the brass band and... the open convertible.|
Lyndon Baines JohnsonLyndon Baines Johnson, or LBJ, as he was universally known, was the 36th US President.
LBJ was an anomaly among Presidents who served during World War II. He was a Roosevelt Democrat who was a Congressman when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Johnson, still in Congress, became a commissioned officer in the Naval Reserve. He then asked Undersecretary of the Navy James Forrestal for a combat assignment, but was deemed too valuable to risk. Instead, LBJ was assigned to inspect shipyard facilities in Texas and on the West Coast.
In the spring of 1942, President Roosevelt sent LBJ to the Southwest Pacific in order to get unfiltered reports on conditions there. Forrestal suggested Johnson, who went on a three-man survey team to the Southwest Pacific. LBJ reported back that the Pacific had to be upgraded in budget and equipment allocations.
Soon after this report, Roosevelt ordered all active-duty Congressmen back to Washington.
|Lyndon B. Johnson in the uniform of a U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, March 1942|
|LBJ and President Kennedy|
|LBJ and Richard Nixon|
|LBJ driving his amphibious "Amphicar." He was a prankster who liked to pretend to lose control of the vehicle and plunge into the lake, scaring his unsuspecting passengers half to death.|
Richard NixonRichard Milhouse Nixon was the 37th US President.
"Dick" Nixon, as he liked to call himself, was a Quaker, and thus could have avoided serving during World War II had he applied for a deferment. However, to his credit he not only did not attempt to avoid service, he applied for acceptance to Officers Candidate School. Nixon was commissioned as an ensign in October 1942.
His first post during the war was as aide to the commander of the Naval Air Station Ottumwa in Iowa. Wishing to see action, Nixon requested sea duty and was reassigned as the naval passenger control officer for the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command, supporting the logistics of operations in the South West Pacific theater. This included some of the major battle zones of the war, including Guadalcanal. He spent much of his time checking manifests of cargo aircraft. He received an official letter of commendation for his service.
On October 1, 1943, Nixon was promoted to lieutenant after earning two service stars. He was appointed the administrative officer of the Alameda Naval Air Station in California, his home state, and then, in January 1945, he was transferred to the Bureau of Aeronautics office in Philadelphia. There, he helped to negotiate the termination of war contracts, and he received another letter of commendation for his service.
It is easy to denigrate President Nixon's service as purely bureaucratic and administrative. However, he served in active combat zones and did a job that needed to be done. He didn't have to be anywhere near the military had he so chosen, and then he could have spent his time in a backwater, but he actively chose otherwise. Among all of those who served, Richard Nixon deserves at least as much credit as anyone else for volunteering and serving, though he did not have any glamorous combat action.
After winning the Presidency, Nixon ended the Vietnam War, saw the first men land on the Moon, went to China, and signed into law major legislation to make the country's air and water cleaner. He was forced to resign for unlawful political activities in 1974, but staged one of the most remarkable comebacks in American life, becoming an elder statesman until his passing in the mid-1990s.
|Richard Nixon playing football, Whittier, California High School|
|Richard Nixon in his naval uniform, 1952|
|Sen. John F. Kennedy, left, and Vice President Richard Nixon made history by appearing in the first televised president debate, which took place on Sept. 26, 1960 at the WBBM studio in Chicago.|
|ALLAN GRANT :: Former VP Richard Nixon on the roof of his home in Los Angeles, trying to douse fires caused by a brush blaze, 1961. The kicker? He was renting.|
|Nixon had a playful side. Here, he is about to go out snowballing.|
|Appearance on "Laugh-In," 1968|
|Richard Nixon Telephones Neil Armstrong on the Moon.|
|"Only Nixon could go to China."|
|Nixon resigns, August 1974 - a traumatic event for a man and a nation, but both recovered nicely. The most devastating 6th year in office of any President in history|
|Richard Nixon with Robocop in the late 1980s|
|Obama: “In A Lot of Ways, Richard Nixon Was More Liberal Than I Was”|
|Richard Nixon has found unlikely posthumous fame in comics such as "Watchmen" and "X-Men."|
Gerald FordGerald Ford was the 38th US President.
President Ford was a most unusual President: he was never elected. Instead, he finished out the remainder of President Nixon's term after Nixon resigned. He lost an extremely close Presidential election to Jimmy Carter in 1976.
|Gerald Ford as a high school football player. He was offered contracts with the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions.|
|Gerald Ford as a Park Ranger before World War II|
|Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Ford in uniform, 1945 - served in the light aircraft Carrier Monterey in the Pacific war. Later promoted Lieutenant Commander USNR.|
|Gerald Ford using a sextant to take a siting to establish the ship's position|
|Harrison and Ford in the White House - along with Billy Preston and Ravi Shankar|
|Gerald Ford with soccer star Pele|
|Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon gather at the White House during funeral for Hubert Humphrey, 01/15/1978|
Jimmy CarterJames Earl Carter was the 39th US President.
"Jimmy," as he called himself in political races, enrolled at Georgia Southwestern College in Americus. Later, he applied to the United States Naval Academy and, after taking additional mathematics courses at Georgia Tech, he matriculated there in 1943. Carter graduated 59th out of 820 midshipmen at the Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree with an unspecified major, as was the custom at the academy at that time.
After serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific U.S. Submarine Fleets, Jimmy Carter attended graduate school at Union College, majoring in reactor technology and nuclear physics. While technically not on active service during World War II, Jimmy Carter was enrolled at the Naval Academy during the conflict and thus was in uniform during the last two years of the war. During his service after the war, Carter became an expert on nuclear propulsion systems for the Navy.
Ronald ReaganRonald Reagan was the 40th US President.
"Ronnie" Reagan, as he was nicknamed, was an established Hollywood star upon the outbreak of World War II. He was one of the very few celebrities who was a part of the military even before September 1, 1939. Reagan enlisted in the Army Enlisted Reserve on April 29, 1937, as a private assigned to Troop B, 322nd Cavalry at Des Moines, Iowa. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Officers Reserve Corps of the cavalry on May 25, 1937.
As a reserve, Reagan was eligible for activation, and indeed he was called up on April 18, 1942. He was classified as near-sighted, so Reagan had only limited service options. His first position was at the San Francisco Port of Embarkation at Fort Mason, California, as a liaison officer of the Port and Transportation Office. He then applied for, and was granted, a transfer from the cavalry to the Army Air Force on May 15, 1942. He was assigned to AAF Public Relations and subsequently to the First Motion Picture Unit (officially, the "18th Army Air Force Base Unit") in Culver City, California. On January 14, 1943, he was promoted to first lieutenant and promoted to captain on July 22, 1943. In 1945, Reagan was recommended for promotion to Major, but the war was winding down by that point and the promotion request was disapproved.
By the end of the war, Ronald Reagan's film units had produced some 400 training films for the AAF, of inestimable value to the Allied cause.
|Ronald Reagan as a young football player|
|Reagan as a young sports radio broadcaster|
|Ronald Reagan starred in many Westerns in the 1930s|
|Ronald Reagan ice-skating 1942|
|Ronald Reagan in a wartime film with Errol Flynn|
|Ronald Reagan's acting roles including acting with Bonzo the chimp|
|Ronald Reagan played Notre Dame legend George Gipp in a film, which led to his nickname of "The Gipper"|
|Ronald Reagan romance co-star Nancy Davis on the set of "Hellcats of the Navy"|
|Ronald Reagan wins his first primary for Governor of California|
|Ronald Reagan was twice elected Governor of California. Here he is with wife Nancy|
|Ronald Reagan's official Presidential portrait|
|President Reagan dancing with Princess Diana|
|Ronald Reagan liked to ride horses during his Presidency|
|Ronald Reagan statue. Freedom Square Szabadság tér, Budapest. Ronald Reagan to this day is revered around the world for his fight for national self-determination.|
|Statue of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II in Gdansk, Poland|
|Ronald Reagan in 1993, shortly before retiring from public life|
George H.W. BushGeorge Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st US President.
George Bush enlisted in the US Navy upon graduation from Phillips Academy in 1942 and became a Naval Aviator. After training, he was commissioned as an Ensign on June 9, 1943, the youngest ever up until that time.
Bush participated in the Battle of the Philippines Sea and received promotion to Lieutenant (junior grade) on August 1, 1944. He piloted a Grumman TBM Avenger aircraft from VT-51 that attacked the Japanese installations on Chichijima. His flight mates were shot down and beheaded by the Japanese on the island: Bush, engine on fire, managed to bail out over water and was rescued by a US submarine, the USS Finback, a lucky break.
He returned to service, then later became a trainer. Ultimately, Lt. Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to San Jacinto.
|That is George Bush in the life raft, the island in the background|
|George Bush in the cockpit of his TBM Avenger during World War II, ca. 1944. Note the plane's name.|
|George HW Bush meets ailing Babe Ruth in 1948, shortly before Ruth's passing|
|George HW Bush at his inauguration, with Barbara Bush, President Reagan and Nancy Reagan|
|George HW Bush with his son, President GW Bush|
|Former President George Bush received the Presidential Medal of Freedom 2012|