Who Served Longest As Commander In Chief At War?

Saturday, November 05, 2005
The answer is Richard M. Nixon who was CIC at war from the time he took office on January 20, 1969 until he left 0n August 8, 1974. He was, therefore CIC at war for nearly five years and 8 months. He beats Lyndon Johnson who took office November 22, 1963 and served until January 19, 1969, a period of almost five years and two months.

Unless something unexpected happens over the next year and a half, that record will be surpassed by George W. Bush. He has served as a CIC at war from September 11, 2001 until today, a period of four years and two months. He has more time in service in that capacity than Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, or Abraham Lincoln.

Only Johnson served out the two terms of office during which he was a CIC at war, leaving office at age 59. Wilson completed his second term, but was not at war in his first. Roosevelt was CIC at war during his third term, but died at age 62 after one month of his fourth. Lincoln was killed at age 56 one month into his second term. Nixon resigned at age 62, one year and eight months after his second term began. Wilson had a stroke at age 63 when he was midway through his second term, was incapacitated, but survived until age 66 after leaving office.

George W. Bush is 59, and in apparent good health, but history has not been kind to his predecessor CICs at war.


Rick Ballard said...


How would you fit Truman into that equation? He was in office for seven years nine months and a case can be made that we were engaged in conflict of varying intensity for the entire time - although it would be a weak case for '46-'47.

Is 'hot' war really more stressful on the CIC than 'cold' war? I'm honestly not sure. I believe that Truman faced as many difficult challenges as CIC as any man who has held the office and I believe that he handled all of them very well. He was also one of the toughest, meanest partisan pols to ever hold the office. I'd rate him as the best Democrat president of the 20th century. He also retired in good health and lived a long life.

The stress that Bush faces is qualitatively similiar to that which Lincoln faced although the Civil War was a much greater challenge. Lincoln was not a particularly popular president during his tenure and faced a disloyal opposition, negative press and a divided cabinet containing individuals who possessed a certainty that they were better qualified to be in charge than the oaf who happened to have won the election.

It is interesting to speculate about what Bush might consider to be the most important tasks before him. I believe that regime change in Iran probably tops the list. Solidification of Republican control of the legislature would be in there somewhere. He is actually much better at getting Republicans elected than Reagan ever thought of being. If those were his two main objectives then the stress would come from determining how best to move public sentiment concerning the use of force on Iran to the point where its use would not be necessary. That's going to be rather difficult given the size of the Copperhead faction in the opposition and the makeup of the fifth column masquerading as a fourth estate.

terrye said...

I think Bush will make it and set the record.

I realize the Democrats are in the midst of a collective wet dream in which America gets to play out the happy days of Watergate and the collapse of South Viet Nam but I am not sure the rest of America wants to take that stroll down memory lane.

vnjagvet said...


I agree with your assessment of Truman. A man's man, a tough, savvy pol, a good husband and father and a devoted son and son-in-law. Truman was an excellent wartime CIC, both in the few months after he took office until the end of WWII, and the two years he served during the Korean War. He took on MacArthur and won that battle, which was not easy. He also made sure that MacArthur was dead meat as presidential material.

Those things said, I do not think he had troops under his command who were dying on a daily basis (my definition of a wartime CIC) for more than three years total.

I should have included him in the discussion, however, and am sorry for the omission.

I agree that Bush's true priorities are different than those of many of his supporters or of his opponents. That makes for tough sledding.

When he said he had earned political capital and intended to spend it, that was not an offhand remark.

markg8 said...

Yep this far after Pearl Harbor Hitler
and Tojo were dead. This far after the
attack on Ft. Sumpter Atlanta was in ruins and Robert E. Lee had turned over his sword.

This far after 9/11 Osama is still issuing instructions even though Porter Goss says he has a pretty good idea where he is and we're bogged down in Baghdad. What's wrong with that picture?