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These photos show what our veteran presidents looked like in uniform

Twenty-six of the 44 American Presidents served in the Armed Forces of the United States. Most served in the Army or Navy, and they all looked pretty sharp in uniform.


1. George Washington: Revolutionary War (Continental Army)

You wish you were that stoic.

Washington's greatness stems from his precedents. He set the standard for civilian control of the military by resigning as General of the Army before becoming President. Photography wasn't invented during Washington's lifetime, but you can rest assured that the image of the man was larger than life.

2. James Monroe: Revolutionary War (Continental Army)

President Monroe also served during the Revolution and was the last founding father to serve as president. Unfortunately, no photos of him exist, either in uniform or out. The foreign policy laid out by Monroe still bears his name. The Monroe Doctrine states that any effort by European nations to colonize or interfere with affairs in the Western Hemisphere would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention.

3. Andrew Jackson: War of 1812, Seminole War (Army)

This photo may not be of President Jackson in uniform, but is it not amazing that there is a photograph of Andrew Jackson at all? Jackson's legendary defeat of the British at the Battle of New Orleans propelled him into the White House.

4. William Henry Harrison: Indian Campaigns, War of 1812 (Army)

The same reason that a photo of President Jackson in uniform doesn't exist applies to William Henry Harrison, as well as President John Tyler. When they served, photography just wasn't invented yet. Harrison subdued the Shawnee chief Tecumseh. During the War of 1812, Harrison pushed the British out of Ohio and Indiana, recaptured Detroit and successfully invaded Canada.

5. John Tyler: War of 1812 (Army)

Amazingly, daguerreotypes (a kind of early photography which used silver and mercury) exist of some early presidents, including Harrison and Tyler. Tyler organized a militia to defend Richmond, Virginia during the War of 1812 if a British attack ever came. It didn't, but the British were in nearby Hampton, threatening Richmond.

6. Zachary Taylor: War of 1812, Black Hawk War, Second Seminole War, Mexican-American War (Army)

Gen. Taylor served the U.S. in a number of wars. It was almost a given that someone who served so masterfully that the press compared him to George Washington and Andrew Jackson would also be President like those generals before him.

7. Franklin Pierce: Mexican War (Army)

Pierce was a Brigadier General in Winfield Scott's army fighting in the Mexican-American War. His experience in the Battle of Contreras was less-than-stellar, however. His horse tripped and he was thrown groin-first into his saddle. The horse fell onto Pierce's knee, giving him a permanent injury.

8. Abraham Lincoln: Black Hawk War (Indian Wars) (Army)

Unfortunately, the nascent technology of photography couldn't capture Abraham Lincoln in his Illinois Militia uniform. He was 23 at the time. The first known photo of Lincoln is below. The then-36-year-old was just elected to a two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

9. Andrew Johnson: Civil War (Army)

Johnson was made a Brigadier General when President Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee. He did not have full control of the state until 1863. There are very few images of Johnson in uniform, and no photographs exist.

10. Ulysses S. Grant: Mexican War and Civil War (Army)

Grant was the architect of the Confederacy's final defeat. Just a year after President Lincoln gave Grant control of all Union Armies, Grant oversaw the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House. He gave generous terms to all rebels and began the long Reconstruction of the South.

11. Rutherford B. Hayes: Civil War (Army)

Hayes joined the Union Army after the shelling of Fort Sumter and was commissioned a Major. One of the Privates under his command was a young William McKinley. He served honorably throughout the war, garnering attention from General Grant, who wrote:

"His conduct on the field was marked by conspicuous gallantry as well as the display of qualities of a higher order than that of mere personal daring."

12. James A. Garfield: Civil War (Army)

Garfield had no military training but still received a colonel's commission and was tasked with raising a regiment of Ohioans to drive the Confederates out of Eastern Kentucky. Garfield was so successful, he was promoted to General and later fought at the Battle of Shiloh.

13. Chester A. Arthur: Civil War (Army)

Arthur was appointed Quartermaster General of the State of New York. He was in charge of provisioning and housing New York troops.

 

14. Benjamin Harrison: Civil War (Army)

Harrison was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in 1862 and rose to Brig. Gen. by 1865. He led armies with Gen. William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.

15. William McKinley: Civil War (Army)

McKinley, unlike most of the men on this list, started his career as an enlisted Private. He was promoted to Commissary Sergeant before his regiment was sent East. He fought at the Battle of Antietam, where his actions earned him a commission to 2nd Lieutenant.

16. Theodore Roosevelt: Spanish-American War (Army)

Theodore Roosevelt served in the New York National Guard, quickly becoming his unit's commanding officer. When war broke out in Cuba, Roosevelt resigned from his civilian job and quickly raised the 1st U.S. Volunteer Regiment. His actions in Cuba earned Roosevelt the Medal of Honor, the only president to receive it.

17. Harry Truman: World War I (Army)

Truman had poor eyesight and couldn't get into West Point, so he enlisted in the Missouri National Guard. He memorized the eye chart to pass the vision test. Eventually elected Lieutenant, Truman led men in battle in WWI Europe. During one encounter where his men began to run away, Truman let out a string of profanity so surprising his men stayed to fight.

18. Dwight Eisenhower: World War I and World War II (Army)

The Supreme Allied Commander and General of the Army never actually saw combat. He was masterful at strategy, planning, and logistics. It was almost a given that Ike would run for President.

19. John F. Kennedy: World War II (Navy)

After his PT boat was struck by a Japanese destroyer in WWII, he and his crew swam to an island three miles away. Kennedy, with an injured back, carried a wounded crewmember to the island via a life jacket strap clenched between his teeth.

20. Lyndon B. Johnson: World War II (Navy)

Johnson was on the Staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Australia in 1942. While there, he was also personally reporting to President Roosevelt on the status of the Pacific Southwest.

The White House released this photo October 14, 1966, showing Lt. Cmdr. Lyndon Johnson in the headquarters of Gen. Douglas MacArthur near Melbourne, Australia, in June 1942. The young Navy officer is pointing to New Guinea where he received the Silver Star on a bombing mission.

21. Richard Nixon: World War II (Navy)

Nixon was a birthright Quaker and could have been exempted from service and from the draft. Instead, Nixon joined the Navy in 1942. After some time in Iowa, he requested a transfer to the Pacific where he was made Officer in Charge of the Combat Air Transport Command at Guadalcanal and the Solomons.

22. Gerald Ford: World War II (Navy)

Ford signed up for the Navy after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He served aboard aircraft carriers in the third and fifth fleets. He fought at the Philippine Sea, Wake Island, and LeEyte landings, among other places.

23. Jimmy Carter: Cold War-Era (Navy)

President Carter is also a nuclear physicist who helped develop the U.S. Navy's nuclear submarine program. He worked on the USS Seawolf, the second nuclear submarine ever built. Carter is the only president to qualify for submarine duty, which is why the Navy deemed it appropriate to name a submarine the USS Jimmy Carter. 

Jimmy Carter is pictured in his 1947 class portrait from the U.S. Naval Academy yearbook, the "Lucky Bag." Carter completed the accelerated wartime program and graduated on June 5, 1946, with distinction and obtained his commission as ensign.

24. Ronald Reagan: World War II (Army Air Corps)

Originally landing in the Army Cavalry, he was transferred to the Army Air Forces' First Motion Picture Unit and sent to the Provisional Task Force Show Unit called "This Is the Army." He also managed the Sixth War Loan Drive in 1944.

No wonder we elected this guy twice.

25. George H.W. Bush: World War II (Navy)

Bush joined the Navy shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. At age 19, he was the youngest naval aviator to date. Bush was a brave bomber pilot and was shot down after hitting Chichijima. He flew 58 missions over the Philippine Sea and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to his ship, the USS San Jacinto.

Lt. George H.W. Bush

26. George W. Bush: Vietnam War era (Texas Air National Guard)

The younger Bush was commissioned in 1968. He flew F-102 Convair Delta Daggers. He was honorably discharged in 1974.

History

This pilot shot down an enemy fighter at Pearl Harbor in his pajamas

Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it's hot on the work site, it's important to stay cool. If it's hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.

Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army's aircraft on the ground.

Damaged aircraft on Hickam Field, Hawaii, after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.

By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.

Pearl Harbor pilots Harry Brown, Phil Rasmussen, Ken Taylor, George Welch, and Lewis Sanders.

They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.

The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol' martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.

Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.

There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A's fuselage.

Skillz.

Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

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