Presidents in the Navy



February 22 is George Washington’s birthday. The federal holiday we just experienced is officially called “George Washington’s Birthday.”

Not President’s Day.

The celebration has morphed over the years; first to include Abraham Lincoln, and eventually to acknowledge all forty-four Presidents. Thus, it has become known – unofficially – as Presidents’ Day.

In that spirit, I was curious as to which Presidents had served in the Navy. The U.S. Navy had that answer right at its fingertips (and Facebook page). Here they are:

(U.S. Navy)

That would be Presidents Bush (the elder), Ford, Nixon, Carter, Johnson, and Kennedy (not in chronological order).

Do you notice anything strange? All of the Navy veteran Presidents are from the modern era. In fact, most of those who are veterans served in the Army. Here is the total list, courtesy of the Veterans Administration:

Presidents who Served in the Military

George Washington: Revolutionary War (Continental Army)
James Monroe: Revolutionary War (Continental Army)
Andrew Jackson: War of 1812 (Army)
William Henry Harrison: Indian campaigns (Army)
John Tyler: War of 1812 (Army)
Franklin Pierce: Mexican War (Army)
Abraham Lincoln: Black Hawk War (Indian Wars) (Army)
Ulysses S. Grant: Mexican War and Civil War (Army)
Rutherford B. Hayes: Civil War (Army)
James A. Garfield: Civil War (Army)
Chester A. Arthur: Civil War (Army)
Benjamin Harrison: Civil War (Army)
William McKinley: Civil War (Army)
Theodore Roosevelt: Spanish American War (Army)
Harry Truman: World War I (Army)
Dwight Eisenhower: World War I and World War II (Army)
John F. Kennedy: World War II (Navy)
Lyndon B. Johnson: World War II (Navy)
Richard Nixon: World War II (Navy)
Gerald Ford: World War II (Navy)
Jimmy Carter: Cold War era (Navy)
Ronald Reagan: World War II (Air Force)
George H.W. Bush: World War II (Navy)
George W. Bush: Vietnam War era (Air Force Reserve)

But after some painstaking research (i.e. reading Wikipedia), I have found a curious and largely unknown fact. According to David McCullough’s outstanding novel John Adams, the future President, “…(took) an active part in a naval battle against the British merchantman, Martha, on March 10, 1778; while in transit to France aboard the 24-gun frigate Boston. The ship’s Captain, Samuel Tucker, later related the story that during the thick of the battle, he had discovered Adams “among my marines accoutered as one of them and in the act of defense.”

Close enough.

Happy President’s Day George Washington’s Birthday!


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