Jimmy Carter served as the 39th president of the United States from 1977 until 1981. And while much is known about Carter’s political career and his dedication to solving the most difficult military disputes, Carter’s life before his presidentship is rarely discussed. This leads to the question: Was Jimmy Carter ever in the military?
Before becoming president, Jimmy Carter did indeed serve as a navy submarine officer during World War II and the Korean War. After retiring from his naval career, Carter remained dedicated to tackling and resolving military conflicts throughout his presidency.
Read more about Carter’s career in the US military, why he ultimately left the navy submarine and how his passion for the military continued into his presidentship.
Jimmy Carter was born on October 1, 1924, in Plains, Georgia, into a family of cotton and peanut farmers.
The Carter’s owned a successful local business, and Carter’s father in particular, Earl Carter, was a well-known investor in farmland.
As Carter had however always dreamed of pursuing a career in the submarine, he decided to leave the family farm to study engineering at Georgia Southwestern College.
Followingly, he transferred to the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he then finally earned admission to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1943.
While at the academy, Carter married his wife Rosalynn Smith. After graduating, Carter and Rosalynn lived in Virginia, Hawaii, Connecticut, New York and California, during Carter’s early deployment in the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets between 1946 and 1953.
In 1952, Carter was promoted to lieutenant junior grade and started serving in the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarine programme. This is where where he worked on the design and development of nuclear propulsion plants for naval vessels under Captain Hyman Rickover.
Carter later on described his experience of working in the nuclear submarine under Captain Rickover as very impactful, saying it shaped his views on atomic energy and eventually made him cease development of a neutron bomb.
In 1953 Carter began working on USS Seawolf, which was planned to be one of the first two U.S. nuclear submarines. However, in the same year, Carter’s father died unexpectedly.
As a result, Carter decided to release himself from active military duty so that he could return to Georgia with his family and take over his family’s peanut farming business.
In October 1953 Carter left the service with the rank of lieutenant.
For his service, he was awarded a number of medals, including the American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, China Service Medal, and National Defense Service Medal.
After working on his family farm for a few years, Carter began his rapid ascent to political power, which saw him serving as Governor of Georgia first, before ultimately becoming President in 1977.
During his presidentship, Carter maintained a steady dedication to swiftly tackling the political and military disputes of his time: For example, only on his second day in office, he pardoned all the Vietnam War draft evaders by issuing Proclamation 4483.
He furthermore established a national energy policy, which included conservation and price control and pursued a number of far-fetching and impactful negotiations of the Cold War, such as the second round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.
Proving his military interest in nuclear energy, Carter also resolved the 1979 Energy Crisis and the Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident.
Carer lost his reelection to Ronald Reagan in 1980, but continued to work politically even after his tenureship. Most notably, in 1982, he established the Carter Center to promote and expand human rights.
Carter remains remembered for his rigorous and passionate commitment to solving military disputes head-on until today. And one can thus only wonder whether he learned this during his time in the military.