Has every US President used military force at some point in their Presidency?

Not necessarily engaging in war, or long term conflict. I’m simply asking about the use/deployment of the federal military (for this purpose, I would include any nationalizing of state level militias).

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any:
GW Bush, obviously, has gone to war (even if not technically) in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Clinton had Bosnia
Bush, Sr. had Iraq
Reagan had Grenada
Carter tried to rescue hostages in Iran
Ford was in office while we were in Vietnam, right?
Nixon, LBJ, and JFK = Vietnam
Ike had Korea (and federal support of desegregation in the South)
Truman and FDR had WWII

So, did any US President NOT use militaty force (I suppose I should except William Henry Harrison, since he died a month into his term, although I’d be delighted if even he managed to order an attack on someone)?

Actually, the Korean conflict began under Truman. It was nearly over by the time Ike was sworn in.

OK, fair enough. But I’m not asking if every President initiated conflict. I’m just wondering if there was even 1 President who didn’t utilize the military during his time in office.

Perhaps William Henry Harrison?

Maybe you shouldn’t be so glad all the time.

Well, Taft came damn close - he was something of a pacifist. He did send the Marines into Nicaragua, though.

Harding didn’t do anything with the military, so far as I know. Or anything else, sadly. Okay, that’s not fair - the Washington Naval Conference took place on his watch. That was the world’s first major strategic arms limitations conference, limiting battleship construction.

Coolidge signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact, meant to end war. As we all know, it succeeded fabulously, and we haven’t had a war since. Huzzah!

It depends what you mean by “military force.” There are numerous uses of the armed forces to attack pirates or do some kind of show of force to compel some sort of diplomatic outcome.

But the answer is… almost, but not quite. Using rather liberal criteria, I can’t find a foreign conflict that Washington got us into. William Harrison barely had a chance to do a damn thing before he died. Nothing pops up for Rutherford Hayes or James Garfield.

Check out this.


The OP didn’t stipulate “foreign”, simply use of military force. The Whiskey Rebellion happened during Washington’s presidency. In fact, he invoked martial law and took personal command of the militias used to quell the insurrection.

They had Indian Wars in which Federal troops would have been used: Hayes’s term saw conflicts with Apaches, Souix, Utes and others. Geronimo was active during Garfield’s term, though I’m not certain there were any actual fights involving Federal troops.

I think that Ford was not involved in Vietnam, but he did have his Mayaguez thing.

All the 20th century ones that spring to mind did; Hoover had the Bonus Army, Coolidge had the US occupation of Haiti and Nicaragua, Taft had marines landing in Nicaragua…can’t see anything to do with Harding actually employing the military either overseas or in the US, just signing treaties and creating policies relating to it, so maybe he counts.

For Harding:

Both Cuba and Haiti were under US occupation during the Harding administration, although in both cases, it had inherited the occupation from the Wilson administration.

Dang. Looking down that list it appears the answer to the OP is a resounding ‘no’. Although the gap between 1876 and 1882 leaves Garfield (in office March 4, 1881 – September 19, 1881) scott free before his assassination, and of course old Harrison didn’t get the chance to do anything.

Note that the list linked by mlees says that U.S. troops often pursued “thieves and brigands” into Mexico between 1873 and 1896, which covers Hayes, Garfield (as well as Grant, Arthur, Cleveland, and B. Harrison.)

I would also like to point out that the list I linked above is not all inclusive.

I found some use of Federal troops used in settling (or breaking up) labor disputes not listed there.

Wait, what about John Adams? Don’t think he used them at all.

The Quasi-War, aka, the Undeclared Naval War with France. France and Britain were at war, and French ships started seizing American merchant ships. That led to the whole “XYZ Affair” and “Millions for defense, but not one cent in tribute!”, and the US navy attacking French privateers.

Thanks for the answers. I had a really long day at work today, or I would have been quicker to respond.

I find questions about American history interesting, and the results of this one are similarly so. Much appreciated to all.

(Oh, and P.S., I like the screenname Gladtobeblazed, FWIW)