Presidents' Sons at War: 13 Service Records, from the Mediocre to the Ultimate Sacrifice

Categories: Whatever

Julie Nixon and her Fortunate Son
Being the parent of someone fighting in a war is no picnic, even if you're a president.

In the modern era, several future or incumbent presidents had sons in the military in wartime. Some of those sons did much, some very little, one paid the ultimate price.

Let's look, building up to that ultimate sacrifice, in a list that's heavy with Roosevelts of one sort or another.

13. David Eisenhower
Son-in-law to Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, Eisenhower -- grandson of Ike -- served stateside in the Navy Reserves. His service was inspiring only in the sense that a great song came out of it.

Creedence Clearwater Revival's John Fogerty said of writing "Fortunate Son": "Julie Nixon was hanging around with David Eisenhower, and you just had the feeling that none of these people were going to be involved with the war. "

12. George W. Bush
Geroge H.W. Bush wasn't a president, but he had enough pull to get his son assigned to the Texas Air National Guard at Ellington. There's plenty of controversy about how much effort the young Bush put into things such as showing up, but the bottom line is clear -- he kept Texas free from any Viet Cong MiGs.

And sometimes he showed up!
11. Beau Biden
Vice President Joe Biden's son served a year in an army lawyer. The tour nicely coincided with the campaign, and he was able to get a pass to attend his father's inauguration activities. And yeah, he's not the son of a president....yet. Biden 2016!!!

10. Kermit Roosevelt
The second-oldest of Teddy Roosevelt's four sons, Kermit bravely signed up to fight for Britain before the U.S. entered either World War. He fought in what is now Iraq, but by the time America entered WWII he was fighting alcoholism and depression. FDR had him assigned to a desk job at an army base in Alaska, where he committed suicide.

9. John Eisenhower
Ike's son graduated from West Point on D-Day and served in both World War II and the Korean War. In both cases, though, the brass was so worried about exposing him to danger -- as the son of the Allied forces' supreme commander and then the son of a presidential candidate -- that his combat time was limited.

8. John Roosevelt
FDR's youngest son served as a logistics officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Wasp and received a Bronze Star.

7. FDR Jr.
He was a Naval officer in WWII, and was cited for bravery in action. He also famously questioned Hubert Humphrey's war record when he was brought in by JFK for the crucial 1960 primary in West Virginia, where his father was adored.

6. Archie Roosevelt
Third-oldest TR son is the only person to be declared totally incapacitated in the two world wars from the same injury. He hurt a knee in the Great War, where France awarded him the Croix de Guerre, and while he was commanding troops in the South Pacific in WWII, a grenade hit the same knee.

5. Chuck Robb
LBJ's son-in-law won a Bronze Star during his two Vietnam tours, something conveniently forgotten by Oliver North when he campaigned against him for the U.S. Senate seat from Virginia. North, who exaggerated his own Nam experience on occasion, said Robb was only an "8th & I Marine," meaning one who served at the Corps' D.C. headquarters.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

David Eisenhower's military service trumped John Fogerty's. Fogerty served less than one year stateside in the Army Reserve during Vietnam. Who was the fortunate son again?


What a great article.  The references to the sons of Theodore Roosevelt should surprise no one.  I am currently reading "Colonel Roosevelt", the third in the Edmund Morris trilogy about the first President Roosevelt.  Poor Kermit.  He never really found his place in life, and suffered mightily from being the son of his father, who set an almost impossible standard without meaning to do so.  That his other male children all served their country in combat is no great shock.  Things were different then, with a different set of values and expectations for personal behavior, even for the children of elites.

We've come a long way as a society and a country since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, and I would never want to return to that era, but Colonel Roosevelt would heap immeasurable scorn upon the idea that the children of the rich shouldn't be called upon to make the same sacrifices as the children of the poor.  


Whoah-ho! You might want to change those pee pee diapers before you get a rash.

Now Trending

Houston Concert Tickets

From the Vault