Pay rate for privates in each of America’s wars

Portrait of a squad of uniformed World War 2 American combat soldiers. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Pay for American soldiers during each major war is provided by We Are the Mighty.

Their article, This is how much troops were paid in every major American war, provides the pay for a private in the major wars fought by the U.S. The then-current pay is also adjusted to an equivalent amount of money in 2016. Don’t know how they made the conversion to 2016 dollars. I usually want to look at the conversion rates, but won’t dive deeper for this post.

This info does provide some way of comparing pay rates across time.

Here is the great info they provide:

pay for a private, first year of service
current 2016 equivalent
Revolutionary War             6          158
War of 1812, start             5
War of 1812, end of 1812             8          136
War of 1812, bounty, low range, one time           31          528
Mexican-American War             7          210
Civil War, Union           13          237
Civil War, Confederate           11  A
Civil War, black Union soldier  B  B
Spanish-American War           13          356
World War 1           30          558
World War 2           50          677
Korean War, over 4 months service           83          748
Vietnam War, over 4 months service           83          686
Persian Gulf War, over 4 months          754       1,318
Afghanistan & Iraq War       1,151       1,489
  • A – Conversion of the pay rate for a private in the Confederate army would be a challenge given the severe inflation during the war.
  • B – Black soldiers were paid far less than white soldiers. Near the end of the war, they were paid $10 a month and also charged $3 for clothing, resulting in net pay of $7 per month.
Equipment for WWII American paratrooper on display at 2012 Chino Air Show. Photo by James Ulvog.

Another web site, Navy CyberSpace, provides 1942-1946 U.S. Military Pay Charts. This lists the rate of pay for all officer and enlisted ranks, ranging from less than 3 years service to over 30 years.

Pay rates start at $50 per month for privates and $150 for 2nd Lieutenant under three years service up to max of $207 per month of what would now be an E-8 over 30.

For officers, maximum pay was:

  • $665.67 for O-8 all years service
  • $500 for O-7, all years service
  • $500 for O-6 and O-5 at over 30 years
Soviet weapons from WWII displayed at 2012 Chino Air Show. Photo by James Ulvog.

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