Top 17 Army Chiefs Of Staff Of All Time

Since 1903, the United States Army has had 39 Army Chiefs of Staff.

While a quite difficult chore, I have decided to list the top 17 Army Chiefs of Staff of all time.

I am using various means to determine this order:

  • Time served
  • Decisions made
  • Wars and confrontations
  • Etc…

You may or may not agree with my list.

I will say that some of these men made decisions that did not necessarily set well with some people, but I am considering their complete leadership abilities and feats.

If you have a different view, feel free to share your comments at the end of this post.

What the Army Chiefs of Staff do

The Army Chief of Staff is the senior uniformed officer in the United States Army.

The Army Chief of Staff is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He is the primary advisor to the Secretary of the Army, and also deputy to that office.

In most cases, the Army Chief of Staff is the highest ranking officer in the Army unless the Chairman or Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are Army officers.

The Army Chief of Staff also advises:

  • The National Security Council
  • The Secretary of Defense
  • and the President of the United States

The Army Chief of Staff’s office is located at the Pentagon.

How does the Army Chief of Staff get that position?

The Army Chief of Staff is a four-star general and is appointed to the position by the President of the United States, but must have consent from the United State’s Senate.

The Senate also normally advises the President on possible appointments.

The Army Chief of Staff serves for a 4 year term but can be renewed if the President so chooses.

The first Army Chief of Staff was appointed in 1903.

Before that time, the senior Army official was the Commanding General.

The top 17 Army Chiefs of Staff

chiefs of staff

Top 5 Army Chiefs of Staff. All are courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Now, starting with #17 and working up to #1, here are the top 17 Army Chiefs of Staff.

#17: General Edward Meyer

General Meyer served as the 29th Chief of Staff from 1979 to 1983.

General Meyer was born in 1928.

He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1951.

From 1952 through 1953, he served as a platoon leader during the Korean War.

After that, Meyer served as an instructor and various command and leadership positions and started proceeding through the Army ranks.

When Vietnam opened up, Meyer commanded 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry until 1966 and he came back to the States to attend and graduate from the National War College.

He returned to Vietnam as a top leader and was there until 1970.

As a great leader, Meyer made his way to the Pentagon as a deputy Chief of Staff and quickly rose in rank and stature.

Meyer’s primary achievement as Chief of Staff was modernization and quality over quantity.

General Edward Meyer retired in 1983 and was awarded:

  • Silver Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Defense Distinguished Service Medal
  • Legion of Merit with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Distinguished Flying Cross
  • and many more.

#16: Major General Hugh Scott

Major General Scott served as the 7th Chief of Staff from 1914 to 1917.

Born in 1853, Scott graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1876.

Scott was well known for his diplomacy with Native Americans.

He was a great military leader throughout the Indian Wars.

Scott learned much of the Native American language structures and was instrumental in recruiting soldiers from various tribes.

As Chief of Staff, Major General Scott kept good relations with the Indians as well as seeing the U.S. Army’s entry into World War I.

He even served as interim Secretary of War.

In 1928, Scott published Some Memories of a Soldier.

Major General Hugh Scott passed away in 1934.

His awards include:

  • Distinguished Service Medal
  • Silver Star
  • Indian Campaign Medal
  • and more.

#15: General Charles Summerall

General Summerall served as the 12th Chief of Staff from 1926 to 1930.

Summerall was born in 1867 and he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1892.

Throughout his military career, Summerall led and favored artillery divisions, and during World War I, Summerall was one of the first commanders of the 1st Infantry Division.

Summerall was commended for his leadership abilities by General John Pershing, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and others.

During his time as Chief of Staff, General Summerall he saw to it the forming of a mechanized force.

General Charles Summerall passed away in 1955.

His awards include:

  • Distinguished Service Cross
  • Distinguished Service Medal
  • Silver Star with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • and more.

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#14: General Joseph Collins

General Collins served as the 18th Chief of Staff from 1949 to 1953.

Collins was born in 1896 and he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1917.

He was a member of a well-known class of graduates that included Matthew Ridgway, Mark Clark, Norman Cota and more.

He served in leadership positions Stateside during World War I, but when World War II commenced, Collins was a leader in both the Pacific and European theaters.

He gained huge respect for his leadership abilities and the Germans even admitted his cunning processes.

General Collins was Chief of Staff during the Korean War.

He ensured a trained and capable force was entering the Korean War zone.

He was instrumental in bringing Special Forces into battle, and was also a key figure in the Army’s involvement with NATO.

General Joseph Collins passed away in 1987.

His awards include:

  • Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Silver Star
  • Legion of Merit with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • and many more.

#13: General Raymond Odierno

General Odierno served as the 38th Chief of Staff from 2011 to 2015.

Born in 1954, Odierno graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1976.

A great leader, Odierno was a primary Army leader in both the invasion of Iraq and the pulling of all troops from Iraq by order of President Obama.

As Chief of Staff, General Odierno focused on building strong Army leadership and keeping an ample budget to maintain a strong military force.

In 2015, Odierno retired from the Army.

His awards include:

  • Defense Distinguished Service Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Distinguished Service Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Defense Superior Service Medal
  • Legion of Merit with a silver Oak Leaf Cluster
  • and many more.

#12: General William Westmoreland

General Westmoreland served as the 25th Chief of Staff from 1968 to 1972.

Born in 1914, Westmoreland graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1936.

While some of you may think General Westmoreland does not deserve this place, I feel he does.

Westmoreland was a leader of leaders.

He was a leader in World War II and Korea, and when Vietnam commenced, his tactics were wise, but political agendas did not meet his tactics.

Personally, I believe if the political leaders who sat in Washington would have let Westmoreland lead the troops the way he saw fit, Vietnam would have been a U.S. victory.

As Chief of Staff, he had a tough situation.

With the draft over, he must keep a volunteer force, so he allowed a more liberal aspect which was frowned upon by many.

General Westmoreland passed away in 2005.

His awards include:

  • Distinguished Service Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Legion of Merit with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Bronze Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • and more.

#11: General Maxwell Taylor

General Taylor served as the 20th Chief of Staff from 1955 through 1959.

He was born in 1901 and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1922.

Taylor played a very important role in Italy during World War II.

Wearing his uniform, he was a long distance in enemy territory meeting with Italians.

He called off the Rome air drop that would have been disastrous for American troops.

He later commanded the 101st Airborne Division in the Normandy invasion.

As Chief of Staff, Taylor was a huge critic of President Eisenhower’s reliance on nuclear weapons.

President Kennedy deeply respected and trusted Taylor’s views and as such, he was made Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the Kennedy administration.

General Taylor passed away in 1987.

His awards include:

  • Distinguished Service Cross
  • Distinguished Service Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Silver Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Legion of Merit
  • and many more.

#10: General George Casey Jr.

General Casey served as the 36th Chief of Staff from 2007 to 2011.

Born in 1948, Casey was commissioned into the U.S. Army via ROTC.

He proved his leadership in Bosnia and when Iraq was in swing, he served as the senior coalition commander.

Casey was adamant about training Iraqis so that we would give their defense back.

When General Casey took the position of Chief of Staff, he had a huge chore.

Coming out of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army force and budget was larger than anytime in history.

Casey pushed for family programs and retention bonuses for young officers.

Casey showed he cared.

General Casey retired from the Army in 2011.

His awards include:

  • Defense Distinguished Service Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Distinguished Service Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Legion of Merit with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Defense Meritorious Service Medal
  • and many others.

#9: Major General Leonard Wood

Major General Wood was the 5th Chief of Staff from 1910 to 1914.

Born in 1860, Wood entered service as a surgeon in 1886.

He had graduated from Harvard Medical School.

As a medical officer, Wood was stationed in Western territories during the Indian Campaigns.

Wood was side by side with Roosevelt in organizing the Rough Riders.

As Chief of Staff, Major General Wood was a huge part in the beginning of ROTC, and he helped to develop a mobile Army that made American involvement in World War I a success.

Major General Leonard Wood died in 1927.

His awards include:

  • The Medal of Honor
  • Distinguished Service Medal
  • and more.

#8: General Matthew Ridgway

General Ridgway served as the 19th Chief of Staff from 1953 to 1955.

Born in 1895, he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1917.

Ridgway started his officer career on the U.S./Mexican border.

He was an excellent leader during World War II.

He and his subordinates participated in many key operations.

He also played a key role as commander of the 8th Army in Korea.

As Chief of Staff, General Ridgway continually collided with President Eisenhower over nuclear power versus mobile ground forces.

It was because of his vocal disagreements that he only served 2 years.

General Ridgway passed away in 1993.

His awards include:

  • Distinguished Service Cross with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Distinguished Service Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Silver Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Legion of Merit with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • and many more.

#7: Lieutenant General Adna Chaffee

Lieutenant General Chaffee served as the 2nd Chief of Staff from 1904 to 1906.

Born in 1842, Adna enlisted in the Army as a private in 1861.

As the Civil War raged on, Adna quickly rose through the ranks.

In 1863, he was commissioned as an officer in the field because of his leadership skills.

He was captured once and wounded several times.

After the Civil War, Chaffee stayed in the Army and was a part of the Indian Wars.

He also participated in the Spanish/American War and the Boxer Rebellion.

As Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Chaffee helped to instill a tighter Army doctrine.

He passed away in 1914.

#6: General Creighton Abrams

General Abrams served as the 26th Chief of Staff from 1972 to 1974.

Born in 1914, Abrams graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1936.

During World War II, General Patton claimed Abrams was as good, if not better armor commander.

Abrams was best known for his tactics in Vietnam to win the hearts of the civilian population.

President Richard Nixon highly respected Abrams.

As Chief of Staff, Abrams instituted the formation of Ranger Battalions.

Abrams died while serving as Chief of Staff in 1974.

Abrams was awarded:

  • Distinguished Service Cross with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Defense Distinguished Service Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Distinguished Service Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Silver Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Legion of Merit with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • and more.

#5: General George Marshall

General Marshall was the 15th Chief of Staff from 1939 to 1945.

He was born in 1880 and graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1901.

During World War I, Marshall worked closely with General John Pershing.

Marshall became Chief of Staff on the same day the Germans invaded Poland.

Marshall was a key element in the modernization and deployment of American forces.

He also recommended some of the great World War II leaders including:

  • Omar Bradley
  • Dwight Eisenhower
  • Mark Clark
  • George Patton
  • and others.

General Marshall passed away in 1959.

His awards include:

  • Distinguished Service Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Silver Star
  • and many more.

#4: General Dwight Eisenhower

General Eisenhower was the 16th Chief of Staff and served from 1945 to 1948.

Born in 1890, he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1915.

Much to Eisenhower’s displeasure, he never saw action in World War I.

When World War II commenced. Ike had plenty of leadership experience.

His first major mission was Operation Torch in Northern Africa where he gained a lot of respect.

In 1943, he was made Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

He was the primary commander in Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy.

As Chief of Staff, he oversaw the demobilizing efforts of millions of soldiers.

As we all know, he became President of the United States.

Dwight Eisenhower passed away in 1969.

His awards include:

  • Distinguished Service Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • The Navy Distinguished Service Medal
  • Legion of Merit

#3: General Douglas MacArthur

General MacArthur served as the 13th Chief of Staff from 1930 to 1935.

Born in 1880, he graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1903.

MacArthur immediately showed his leadership abilities and began a steady climb to the top of the Army chain.

MacArthur was a great leader in World War I and he was the nation’s youngest ever Major General in the U.S. Army.

As Chief of Staff during the Great Depression, MacArthur kept the number of Army officers intact even though the politicians wanted deep cuts.

His wildest moment during his tenure ads Chief of Staff is when he accompanied troops against demonstrators in Washington D.C.

The demonstrations were cleared and Republicans considered General MacArthur a hero.

General Douglas MacArthur died in 1964.

His awards include:

  • Medal of Honor
  • Distinguished Service Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Distinguished Service Medal with a Silver Oak Leaf Cluster
  • Navy Distinguished Service Medal
  • Silver Star with 2 Silver Oak Leaf Clusters
  • and many more.

#2: General Omar Bradley

General Bradley was the 17th Chief of Staff from 1948 to 1949.

He was born in 1893 and graduated from West Point in 1915.

Bradley played a major role in the Louisiana Maneuvers that prepared troops for World War II.

During World War II, Bradley led many important operations and both Patton and Eisenhower respected his leadership abilities.

His demeanor was quite different than other military leaders and everyone loved and respected Omar Bradley.

Some may wonder why I put Bradley so high on this list since his time was so short.

He did suggest a complete reorganization of the U.S. Army and said that at his appointment as Chief of Staff that, “The United States Army could not now fight its way out of a paper bag.”

Why was his time so short?

Because he was such a great leader that President Harry Truman appointed him Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

General Bradley passed on in 1981.

His awards include:

  • Defense Distinguished Service Medal
  • Distinguished Service Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
  • Navy Distinguished Service Medal
  • Silver Star
  • Legion of Merit with an Oak Leaf Cluster
  • and many more

#1: General Of The Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing

General of the Armies Pershing served as the 10th Chief of Staff from 1921 to 1924.

Born in 1860, he graduated from West Point in 1886.

Pershing was one of the greatest military leaders ever serving in the ferocious Indian Wars, along with the Spanish/American War and the Philippine/American War.

And, World War I was his for the taking.

He did make some mistakes, but quickly mended them and led officers in major victories.

The rank of General of the Armies was made especially for Pershing.

As Chief of Staff, Pershing created the Pershing map.

It was proposed highways and interstates.

The interstate system we now know bears a great resemblance to the Pershing map.

General of the Armies John Pershing died in 1948.

One of the greatest military leaders this country has ever known, he has gained many awards but the fact is, the U.S. gained the award of having Pershing as one of our leaders.

Final Thoughts

This is the list I believe to be the top 17 Army Chiefs of Staff.

Let’s hear your thoughts.

Do you agree or disagree?

Just post your comments below.

Thank you.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_of_Staff_of_the_United_States_Army
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