Thirty-one of the 43 men who’ve served as President of the United States also served in the military. Here are 14 military facts about men who rose to the rank of commander-in-chief.
The USO owes it’s creation to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who tasked six interested nonprofits to form a new organization to help America’s troops in the lead-up to World War II.
Teddy Roosevelt is the only president to receive the Medal of Honor. It was awarded 103 years after his actions in the Spanish-American War . On Jan. 16, 2001, then-President Bill Clinton held a ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to present the medal to Roosevelt’s relatives for his actions during the 1898 Battle of San Juan Hill. Roosevelt was installed as vice president in 1901 and ascended to the presidency just six months later when then-President William McKinley was assassinated.
Former-President George W. Bush christened the USO Warrior and Family Center at Bethesda, Maryland, last March. He also spoke at the USO Gala in Washington in 2008.
Of course, he wasn’t the first President Bush. Former President George H. W. Bush – a former Navy pilot – spoke fondly about the USO during a May 2010 forum for C-SPAN. "As a young Navy pilot, the USO was a home away from home for me,“ the 41st president said.
President Barack Obama and the National Endowment of the Arts presented the USO with the National Medal of Arts on Feb. 13, 2012, to mark the organization’s 70-plus years of providing excellence in entertainment to America’s troops and their families. The USO is the only military nonprofit to date to receive the honor.
Former President Ronald Reagan and fellow former President Gerald Ford bracket USO mainstay Bob Hope in this Oct. 17, 1981, photo at an event at the Washington Hilton marking the organization’s 40th anniversary. Reagan had survived an assassination attempt at the same hotel just seven months earlier.
James Buchanan is the only president to serve in the American military but never become an officer. He’s also the only president to date to be (1) a lifelong bachelor and (2) born in the state of Pennsylvania.
[caption id=“attachment_12808” align=“aligncenter” width=“450”] The pen and other items from then-President Jimmy Carter’s signing of the USO charter are displayed at the USO’s Arlington, Virginia, office. USO photo[/caption]
On Dec. 20, 1979, then-President Jimmy Carter – a Navy lieutenant from 1943-53 – signed the USO’s official Congressional charter. Among other operating provisions, the charter establishes the President of the United States as the USO’s honorary chairman.
Former President Bill Clinton hosted a USO care package assembly event in the spring of 2012 in Washington as part of the Clinton Global Initiative University program. The event brought out the 42nd president, his daughter, Chelsea Clinton, a few NFL players and hundreds of college students to assemble Operation USO Care Packages to send to troops.
Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower is one of 10 Americans who’ve been promoted to the rank of five-star general. He’s also the last person to be elected president without having been elected to any previous office.
Twelve generals have been elected president, including a string of five-consecutive men from 1865 to 1885: Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur. Eisenhower was the last general to be elected to the nation’s top office.
One of the USO’s newest centers is at the airport named for our 35th president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The USO opened its state-of-the-art center at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport last fall. Kennedy was a Navy lieutenant during World War II, receiving a Navy and Marine Corps Medal and a Purple Heart for his actions.
Then-President Harry S Truman gave the USO an honorable discharge on Dec. 31, 1947, formally shuttering the organization's centers around the world to coincide with the perceived lack of need after World War II. The USO was re-activated in January of 1951 – while Truman was still in office – to serve troops during the Korean War.
While most presidents who previously donned an American uniform were Army men (or members of militias), the Navy has dominated the White House the last 50-plus years. Six of the last 10 presidents have Navy ties, with four of them (Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and Ford) serving as officers in the Navy Reserve.