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Military Heroes


Abraham Lincoln and General George McClellan
During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, frustrated by the slow advance of General George McClellan's Union forces, personally scouted river landings into Virginia. Lincoln is shown here in 1862, reviewing the troops at Antietam, Maryland.

While the commander in chief is expected to set strategic military goals and approve major tactical decisions, military leaders discourage presidents from meddling in day-to-day operations. Several presidents, however, have felt the urge to command.

Courtesy of Library of Congress

Lyndon B. Johnson and General William Westmoreland
One hundred years after the Civil War, President Lyndon B. Johnson selected bombing targets during the 1964 Rolling Thunder campaign of the Vietnam War. In this picture, Johnson is at Cam Ranh Bay with General William Westmoreland, October 26, 1966.

Courtesy of Lyndon Baines Johnson Library

  As commander in chief, presidents have been able to implement social policies not otherwise available to them. A striking example of this was in 1948 when Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 desegregating the armed forces. The order stated "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin."
George Bush in Saudi Arabia
Most Americans do not welcome the idea of becoming policemen around the globe. But as world leaders, U.S. presidents are taking on more international responsibilities than ever before.

Following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August of 1990, President George Bush, through personal diplomacy, brought together a coalition of thirty nations to restore Kuwaiti sovereignty. With the success of Operation Desert Storm, Bush hoped to demonstrate the possibilities for collective security in what he called a "New World Order."

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