In today’s post, I am stepping into a debate that has been going on for years upon years. Everyone who considers military strategy will probably be prejudiced to their own culture. I am attempting to not allow that to play a roll in this post.
Military strategy is a major component in the education of officers at such places as the United States Military Academy, the Army War College and many others. It is through learning from previous strategies, both successful and failures, that military leaders can develop new strategies as well as employ ancient ones.
I am open for debate, but before you offer your opinion, please read this post in-depth and try to understand why I put each individual in the spot they are. No, I am not necessarily agreeing with their methods or the carnage they committed with their armies, but that still doesn’t mean they were not great at military strategy. Just because someone is on the list does not mean I condoned their ways.
Now that I have explained that, let’s look at my opinion of the top 20 military strategists of all time:
Hammurabi was a King of the 1st Babylonian empire. His reign started as peaceful, and he developed a code of law. The key to Hammurabi’s military tactics was strategic alliances. While enemies attempted to turn certain powers against Hammurabi, he allied with them and ended up controlling all of Mesopotamia.
19: Isoroku Yamamoto
This is where I had to put my feelings to the side. Yamamoto was one of the primary strategists who planned and instituted the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was Commander-in-Chief of the combined fleet during World War II as a Japanese Marshall Admiral.
Yamamoto studied U.S. war strategies and developed his own Naval strategy that kept our forces in check for a long time. Yamamoto was the primary person who declared to Japanese leaders that an attack on U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor was a perfect military move. If they would have listened to him further. The attacks would have come to the West coast also.
18: Cyrus The Great
Cyrus The Great was a mighty force in that he conquered and ruled one of the largest kingdoms ever. He conquered the Medians, the Lydians and the Neo-Babylonians. His military skill was uncanny, and I could write a book just on the military strategy of Cyrus The Great.
The main strategy that I see is his respect of the religions and cultures of the lands he conquered. By doing so, the people were subdued, and many even became warriors in his armies.
17: Sam Manekshaw
This military genius was a part of bringing independence to India. He showed magnificent battle strategies in World War II against the Japanese. But, Field Marshal Manekshaw showed his greatest strategic moves against Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, which created Bangladesh. Asked what would have happened if he would have sided with Pakistan, he declared “I guess Pakistan would have won.”
He was the Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and it was his military strategies that allowed Muslim victory against the Crusaders in Levant. He conquered Palestine and even captured Jerusalem. He was a leader that soldiers would do anything for. Also, he was wise in defending what was already taken and knew how to move troops to key points.
I have heard many people claim that Ghengis Khan was a great strategist, but the man behind the Khan was Subutai. Before radios and such, Subutai controlled armies many miles apart from each other. He is known for conquering more territory than any other commander in all of history.
Subutai was known for using engineers in wars. If Ogedei Khan would not have died, Subutai would have probably conquered the Roman Empire.
14: Horatio Nelson
Admiral Lord Nelson was a leader of the British Royal Navy. His strategies in naval warfare have been studied and used by Naval leaders for years. Nelson was wise in ship movement and when to attack and when to retreat.
The sailors led by Nelson had great respect for his leadership abilities. His strategies were fearless and wise.
13: Vasily Chuikov
This Russian Lieutenant General used what he called “Hugging the Enemy” as one of his main military strategies. What that meant were guerrilla warfare tactics. It is how he used these techniques in the Battle of Stalingrad against the Nazis that drove back German forces.
The best-selling book of all time is the Bible. The book is full of military strategy if you look closely, and one who was a great strategist was Joshua. Joshua was known for using ambushing tactics. Against the city of Ai, he chose warriors to go around the back side, and he and his warriors went towards the city and drew them out. As Joshua and his forces ran, the forces he sent behind attacked the armies of Ai from behind, and Joshua turned his forces and they destroyed them which allowed them to take the city.
Besides, believe or not, Joshua had the greatest weapon of all…God.
11: Scipio Africanus
He was a Roman warrior who actually defeated the #1 strategist that is on this list. He is also known for great victories all throughout Africa, hence his name. Using great strategic moves against armies using elephants, Scipio used unique means that Roman soldiers did not do in normal warfare. He also used the Roman trumpets to frighten the huge beasts.
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10: Dwight Eisenhower
While D-Day was deadly for allied forces, it was a move that Eisenhower was a major planner in that turned the tide of World War II. His military strategy was so great that the American people made him our President.
9: Carl von Clausewitz
This Prussian General was a strategic marvel. As many others, a book could be written on Clausewitz’s military strategies and ideas. To put everything in a simple summary, he believed that subordinate leaders of troops must make quick and decisive decisions, and he believed in giving them the power and ability to do so, even if they went against a primary plan.
8: Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson
If you study military strategy, you can never leave out one of the greatest Confederate Generals, Stonewall Jackson. Jackson, even when outnumbered used techniques of guerrilla warfare that both surprised and frightened Union forces.
Many claim that if Jackson did not die, the Confederates might have won the war.
7: Julius Caesar
Caesar was a master of using reverse psychology with his troops. Other leaders were in the rear and on horseback, he walked and was near the front. He respected his soldiers and showed them so. He also punished them in severe ways.
His battle strategy was one at a time. He took and either allied the armies or destroyed them.
Quite simply…Caesar did what had to be done to win.
6: Erich von Manstein
Hitler listened to the battle strategies of von Manstein consistently. He used the Sickle Cut maneuver to cut off the French and allied forces by cutting through the Ardennes. His tactics against the Russians were wisdom at its finest, but when Germany started losing, Hitler put blame on von Manstein. He was captured by the British and ended up spending 4 years in prison. After his release, he helped the rebuilding of West Germany’s system.
5: Erwin Rommel
Known as the “Desert Fox,” Rommel demonstrated suburb military strategies in desert warfare in Africa. He was skilled at moving soldiers through the midst of the enemy in the cover of night and at using flanking maneuvers to attack from both front and rear.
It is claimed that Rommel was a part of the plan to assassinate Hitler. He was forced to commit suicide.
4: Sun Tzu
This ancient Chinese military master wrote the book, “The Art Of War.” That book is still considered mandatory reading by military leaders going through the Army War College.
Some may wonder why he isn’t first. I must say that 1-4 are all so close, they all are tops in my book.
3: Alexander The Great
One of the main strategies of Alexander The Great was relying on his skilled soldiers. He put his trust and faith in them. He also was a leader who anticipated enemy movements. And, he would study the possibilities the enemy may attempt, and he would counter them. This is how he built one of the largest kingdoms in the world.
2: Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon was a great military strategist who used prior strategies designed for his own use. It is just what we should be doing. Napoleon was not fond of new technologies, but using old ones redesigned to meet the needs of he and his troops.
Napoleon was a master of the divide and conquer philosophy. He used this many times against enemies with larger forces. He would find a way to split them, and then defeat the smaller forces one by one.
He was also a pro at outflanking the enemy. The few times when the enemy beat him to the flank, Napoleon’s forces were defeated.
1: Hannibal Barca
Hannibal from Carthage is my choice for the greatest military strategist of all time. His skill at reading the strengths and the weaknesses of the enemy were amazing. Even Hannibal’s greatest enemy, Rome learned from his war strategies.
As strong as Rome was, the people and the soldiers feared Hannibal. His cunning mastery of war was second to none.
This is my opinion of the top 20 military strategists of all time. I dare you to tell me yours, but please tell us why.
If you have comments or questions, please post them below. Thank you.