Can You Name These Famous American War Presidents?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki commons

About This Quiz

As of 2017, the United States has had 44 presidents (and 45 presidencies). Many of them have dictated America's course during major military conflicts. How much do you know about these U.S. wartime presidents?

Which man was president during the American Civil War?

Abraham Lincoln's rise to power coincided with a time of extreme conflict in the United States. By force of will -- and good fortune -- Lincoln was able to defeat the Confederacy and preserve the Union.


Which war president did his best to avoid American involvement in World War I?

For a time, Wilson did everything he could to preserve America's isolationist stance during WWI. But in the end, he committed troops to the cause and helped the Western Allies push back and defeat the Germans.


Which war president is the only man in history to unleash the power of nuclear weapons?

Harry Truman was rushed into office after the death of his predecessor. With Japan's attacks still taking a toll in the Pacific, Truman opted to drop two nuclear bombs, ushering the world into a new and scary age.


Which World War II veteran guided America through the Persian Gulf War?

Bush became the Navy's youngest pilot ever (age 18) during World War II and served through the entire war. In 1990, he was faced with a major choice -- confront Iraq's aggression or let Saddam Hussein run roughshod through the Middle East. He chose to fight.


Which war president is also called "The Father of the Constitution"?

James Madison wasn't just a Founding Father, he was also a major contributor to drafts of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. After the U.S. struggled during the War of 1812, Madison championed a stronger national military.


The Tet Offensive effectively destroyed which presidency?

During the slog of the Vietnam War, North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive, a massive strike that took the American public by surprise. It stole so much confidence from Johnson's administration that the president announced his retirement just two months later.


Which American president led the country through most of World War II?

When the Japanese decided to bomb Pearl Harbor, America could no longer dodge World War II. Roosevelt, or just "FDR," endured most of the epic era with resolve and courage, but the stress eventually took a toll on his health.


Which president was at the helm when the Iraq War began in 2003?

On the heels of the 9/11 attacks, Bush and his men rationalized that Saddam Hussein was a sponsor of terror... and thus, he should be toppled. A coalition force invaded and overthrew Hussein, who was executed.


Which of the following men was NOT president during the Vietnam War?

Wilson wasn't president during Vietnam. The Vietnam War was active during five presidential terms, including the Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Nixon, and Eisenhower administrations.


Who led America through the Philippine-America War, which started in the late 1800s?

In 1899, the Filipino people were tired of being subjected to the rule of Spanish and then American leaders. They decided to revolt against the Americans, sparking the short-lived Philippine-America War, which was won by President McKinley.


When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, which American president responded with military force?

George H.W. Bush and other Western allies saw Iraq's aggression as a clear threat to international peace. A huge coalition force threw Iraq out of Kuwait and set the stage for a much bigger confrontation that would play out in later years.


Which president died during a major war?

Lincoln was assassinated at the end of the Civil War. Roosevelt, too, died just as his war (WWII) was drawing to a close, leaving major decisions to his successor.


Who was president during the War of 1812?

Britain still seethed about its losses in the American Revolution, and hostilities broke out during the War of 1812. James Madison and America survived a serious existential threat during this war, which lasted until 1815.


Which president was an ardent believer in the "domino theory" of stopping or containing Communism during the Vietnam War?

The "domino theory" posited that if Vietnam fell to Communism, then Communism would spread throughout the region. President Kennedy resolved to stop the contagion before it could multiply.


Who was president when the Korean War broke out?

When North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, the world held its collective breath, hoping that it wasn't the start of World War III. Dwight Eisenhower sent American troops to the Korean Peninsula, where they helped other United Nations troops push back the North.


Following the death of America's commander-in-chief, which vice president was forced into action during WWII?

WWII ravaged President Roosevelt's health, and he died in the war's waning days. Harry Truman succeeded him and had to make some of the most consequential decisions in history.


Which president fought two successive wars in the Philippines?

McKinley successfully concluded the Spanish-American War by ousting the Spanish from the Philippines. Then he was forced to immediately put down unrest caused by Filipino nationalists during the Philippine-American War.


Which American president responded to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident by escalating the Vietnam War?

In 1964, American ships reported an attack committed by North Vietnamese forces near the Gulf of Tonkin. The event, which may have been exaggerated or invented, was used by President Johnson as a reason to escalate American forces in Vietnam.


Which president tried to buy some land from Mexico but was rejected ... which resulted in an escalating conflict?

In 1845, Mexico and America were squabbling over Texas, and the U.S. offered to buy a chunk of land ... but Mexico wasn't selling. James Polk responded by sending American troops to the Southwest, and they invaded Mexico, too.


Which president was in power when the British needlessly invaded Louisiana in 1815?

At the end of the War of 1812, the American president James Madison and Britain agreed to the terms of a peace treaty. There was just one catch -- the British fleet sailing for New Orleans didn't get the news in time, and then suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of inferior American forces.


Which war president guided America through the Vietnam War with the strategy of, "ending the war and winning the peace"?

Regardless of how you feel about Nixon, he was handed a raw deal with Vietnam. There was no way to win the war, so instead he reframed the conversation and spoke of "winning the peace."


Which president finally laid to rest the debacle of the Vietnam War?

American military involvement in Vietnam dragged on and on, beginning with military advisors, escalating to full-scale war and then retreating with a whimper. It was Gerald Ford who announced the official end of America's Vietnam misadventure.


Which president used the specter of weapons of mass destruction as a reason to start a war?

After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush Administration claimed that it had evidence of Iraq's ability to store and potentially use weapons of mass destruction. That rationale provided a (rather unsubstantiated) reason to invade Iraq and kill Saddam Hussein.


Which Civil War hero wound up leading American through another major war?

William McKinley rose through the ranks of the Union Army to become a true American hero. Then, he successfully navigated the treacherous waters of the Spanish-American War.


Which war president inherited a war but DID NOT initiate one?

Wilson and Roosevelt didn't really have any choice but to join the World Wars. Barack Obama didn't have any say in the Iraq War -- he inherited that conflict from George Bush.


Which American president put down the Whiskey Rebellion?

In 1791, George Washington was forced to a deal with a rebellion over taxation of whiskey. Washington led thousands of men to put a stop to the rebellion. Only a handful of men died.


Which sitting president visited the front lines of the war repeatedly in an effort to gain an upper hand in the conflict?

During the Civil War, Abe Lincoln traveled to the front at least 11 times, gathering information from his generals in hopes of better understanding the country's predicament. As the legend goes, he was even potentially within range of Confederate guns at least once.


Which president won reelection by promising America's neutrality ... and then, after winning the vote, immediately plunged into war?

Wilson pledged time and again to keep the U.S. out of World War I, and his stance helped him win reelection in 1916. No sooner had the votes been counted than he began initiating plans to dive into the European conflict.


During a major war, which president created the Secret Service?

Just before he was assassinated during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln authorized the creation of the Secret Service. But the original goal of the service wasn't to guard the president's life -- it was to stop counterfeiting.


Which war president's political fortunes took a dramatic turn thanks in part to the heroics of General William Sherman?

In 1865, the Union was suffering in the Civil War and Lincoln's reelection prospects looked dire. But then Sherman captured Atlanta and the Union scored other timely victories, and suddenly Lincoln went from failed Civil War leader to political icon.


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