Reply Wed 15 Sep, 2010 03:02 pm
Thanks! I used to work for AT&T. I was told that the company's structure had been affected by the world wars. Each time a war ended, the company absorbed men with previous military experience. So I think I may have had contact with the structure you're describing.
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Reply Wed 15 Sep, 2010 06:03 pm
By the way, one of the reasons i consider so much of the response here bullshit is because it displays such a limited grasp of history. Oda Nobunaga, Takeda Shingen, Takeda Katsuyori, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Uyesugi Kenshin--the best of the very good crop of Japanese military leaders from the Sengoku period in Japanese history are not mentioned.

No mention is made of Pyrrhus, the King of Epirus, who was contracted by the Greek city states of southern Italy to fight the Romans. He consistently defeated them, and was adjudged brilliant, even by his Roman enemies. But his victories were costly, due to the excellent Roman militay system, which made even a mediocre Romann general a formidable foe. It is said that after the battle of Asculum, Pyrrhus looked on the thousands of Roman dead, who lay in their lines where they fell fighting, and wept to think that he had defeated them, but still they had destroyed his army. That is the origin of the term a "Pyrrhic victory" which means a victory won at too high a cost.

Incredibly, no one mentioned Gustatvus Adolphus until i showed up, and he was considered the greatest general of his age by his contemporaries, and the great commanders who came after him for centuries. No one has mentioned Frederick II of Prussia. No one has mentioned Prince Eugene of Savoy, or the Duke of Marlborough. No one has mentioned Alexander Suvorov, who is in that tiny fraternity of commanders who never lost a battle (bet you've never even heard of him). No one has mentioned Kutusov, nor Timoshenko and Zhukov in Russia's modern history.

There are so many names which deserve to be here, and each man was a great leader for his own reasons. Yamamoto Isoruku, who came up with the brilliant operation to attack Pearl Harbor was one of Japan's greatest leaders, and so powerful a force in himself, that the Americans assassinated him in the air. But he did not plan the Pearl Harbor operation--that was done by Commanders Genda and Fuchida--and Genda deserves the credit for brilliant operational planning.

So, what you have here are people repeating a handful of well-known names, without really being well versed in military history, and without considering what makes a great commander. As i've already pointed out, Napoleon was a disaster as a tactical commander on the field of battle, but was a brilliant leader. Douglas MacArthur was a brilliant field commander and operational genius who was hopeless as a leader of men. (His troops in the First World War loved him, and he went out in the field with them when they fought; in the Second World War, although he shared their dangers with them, his troops despised him and called him "Dugout Doug," as though he cowered in battle, when nothing could have been further from the truth.)

So a question such as this is too vague, and the terms too nebulous. Someone mentioned Tsun Szu, but he really had no influence on European military circles, because he was unknown there in the formative period of modern warfare in the era from Gustavus Adolphus to the French Revolution. That is why someone like Maurice de Saxe was more important. Some contemporary historians claim Tsun was a major influence on Napoleon, but if that were so, Napoleon ignored a significant amount of Tsun's advice--and the claim is dubious because the text was still obscure then, and no contemporary sources report that Napoleon had read him. Napoleon was obsessed with history, and it was one of his two best subjects at Brienne. It is odd that he never metioned him if the work were so important to him.

Unless and until you more clearly define exactly what qualities you refer to, and the scope of action to which you refer, the exercise is rather pointless.
Reply Wed 15 Sep, 2010 06:04 pm
GoshisDead wrote:

For most successful Philosophical General I would nominate Sun Tzu. Unlike the rest of the people discussed here, His military philosophy is still actively read, pursued, and adapted to new situations to this day.

Sun Tzu gets my vote, too. Not only did he overcome an enemy as much as 10 times the size of his own army, he innovated maneuvers, tactics and strategies that affected the way war was conducted throughout Asia for many centuries. Gen. Giap in North Vietnam studied and applied the principles Sun Tzu laid out in The Art of War and used them to oust the Americans, who were numerically and technically vastly superior. If you analyze the way al Qaeda and other such groups operate in terms of Sun Tzu's principles, it's clear as to why they can be so successful against the conventional strategies of the West.
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Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 11:53 am
Nice to see you again, Set. Wonderful synopsis on French military organization.

Note below a series of metrics that can be used to access generalship qualities.

There are five main levels of command with which we can judge a general’s relative abilities. Grand Strategy, Strategy, Operations, Grand Tactical and Tactical. These have remained constant throughout history and technological advances so it is possible to make a determination based on these. They can be broadly defined as follows:

Grand Strategy is the highest level of waging war; it includes influencing national policy, and objectives.

Strategy is the planning of operations and objectives for a campaign and includes elements like logistical planning.

Operations is the actual movement of troops during a campaign in order to achieve an objective set at a higher level.

Grand Tactics are the pre-battle manoeuvres to gain advantage and post battle manoeuvres to minimise a defeat or exploit a victory.

Tactics are the methods used to win a battle.

btw the art of battle; antimated battle maps.

ps: Gustavus Adolf the Great does seem to be respected by those who know better, as is my own selection, Khalid Ibn Walid.
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 12:05 pm
One trait to hich people here do not seem to have given much thought is leadership. Napoleon was not a competent battlefield commander, but his leadership was magnificent. Arthur Wellesley (the Duke of Wellington) said that Napoleon's presence on a battlefield was worth 40,000 troops.

Washington usually gets treated pretty roughly by historian for a lack of military skill. While it is true that he had no formal training, and no long service in a professional army, he learned a great deal from this early blunders, and from Braddock's disastrous campaign--lessons he learned well enough never to repeat them. But there have been few leaders in history who commanded the respect of their soldiers and the people of their nations to the extent that Washington did. Washington was one of history's great leaders.

That's not to say that great leaders have to be nice guys. Napoleon didn't givce a rat's ass if his men had shoes or decent medical care--but they loved him anyway. Petr Alexeevitch (known to history as Peter the Great) was not loved by his men, and never showed great military skill. But he so thoroughly dominated the Russian people, at all levels from the highest to the lowliest serf that he, too, was one of history's great leaders.
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 12:40 pm
You have illustrated the many diverse and distinct components of "generalship" and criteria that could justifiably be applied to the selection. The issue is complex and full of contradictions. Some of the notable candidates here had brief, brilliant careers that ended in disaster - Napoleon is a prime example. It is very hard to praise the generalship of a French leader who chose to invade Russia, with a largely Polish army and no real strategic goal, while unresolved struggles, just short of war, continued behind him with Britain and Austria. That said, I agree with your commentary about 18th century French military development.

Indeed there are so many tempting but often distracting subjective criteria that I am inclined to instead look for demonstrated continuous success over time and against formidable opposition as the ultimate criteria. On that basis I believe Tamerlane and the Byzantine General Belisarius rank at the top. Unfortunately I don't know enough about the Japanese and Chinese contenders.
Reply Thu 16 Sep, 2010 01:11 pm
How does Julius Ceasar rate?
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Reply Sat 21 Jan, 2012 01:05 pm
Top 3 Generals in History on 100 Points Scale:

1: Khalid ibn Al-walid: 100 points.

1: Genghis Khan: 100 points.

3: Alexander the Great: 77 points.
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Reply Sat 21 Jan, 2012 04:35 pm
Cao Cao, the imperial general at the end of the second century and the beginning of the third century probably ought to qualify, as he came back from defeat to ultimate victory more than once, although his defeat at the battle of the Red Cliffs could be seen as relegating him to a lower status. However, given that he had started with a demoralized imperial army during the collapse of the latter Han dynasty, and faced powerful enemies, his mere survival was quite an accomplishment. China went into the three kingdoms period after that, and Cao Cao had managed to hang on to his territory in the north, which became one of the three kingdoms. Red Cliffs was a naval battle, which he lost while employing and army of infantry and cavalry with no naval exparience.

Among the Japanese, Oda Nobunaga should rate highly, but so would his erstwhile friend and ally, Tokugawa Ieyasu. They both flourished during the Sengoku, or warrring states period of the late 16th century. Tokugawa ( Matsudaira) defeated the army of Takeda Katsuyori (himself an accomplished officer) in about 1600, finally ending the long strife which had lasted since about 1560. That era saw the collapse of the Ashikaga shogunate, and eventually resulted in the foundation of the Tokugawa shogunal dynasty, which would rule Japan for the next two centuries. It was the beginning of the Edo period, referring to Tokugawa moving the capital from Kyoto to Edo, modern day Tokyo. Both Oda and Tokugawa employed large numbers of firearms, and both were brilliant at manipulating the constantly shifting loyalties of other Daimyos ("great lords") in Japan. Oda Nobunaga, for example, destroyed the Mt. Hiei Buddhist monastery near Kyoto, ending the more than two centuries of domination of the Imperial bureaucracy by the monks--this period, in addition to being called the Ashikaga shogunate, was known as the Muromachi bakufu, referring to the district in Kyoto where the monks had their offices.

Oda was sufficiently adroit that, although having destroyed their home monastery, he employed a large force of those monks as sohei, warrior monks, to fight for him against the Ikko Ikki, another Buddhist sect which constantly fomented peasant uprising, and bitterly opposed the introduction of western arms and technology. Finally cornered in their castle-monastery at Honganji, and supported by the militarily powerful Mori clan, Oda used the Mt. Hiei sohei as shock troops and assault troops to finally bring them down. Oda subsequently drove from Kyoto the puppet Ashikaga Shogun whom he had installed eight years earlier, ending the Ashikaga or Muromachi period.

It is a toss-up which one would choose. Neither Oda nor Matsudaira/Tokugawa came from powerful clans, and in fact Nobunaga was the despair of the Oda clan before he emerged as a warlord. Tokugawa took many pages from Oda's book, but was otherwise a largely conventional leader--after the establishment of his shogunate, western firearms were banned in Japan, the Christians were driven from Japan and western trade was restricted to a small, set number of ships at Nagasaki each year.

Oda Nobunaga probably deserves the most credit. He so effectivly tread the treacherous path of clan loyalties and daimyo ambitions in 16th century Japan, and rose from almost nothing to the very height of power. He frequently instigated petty, local warfare which weakened his enemies, and he frequently employed other people's private armies (or, for example, the sohei) to do his fighting for him--but is that also not a measure of great leadership? Oda was assassinated by Akechi Mitsudhide, one of his retainers, plunging the country into another round of wars which lasted a generation, from which Tokugawa Ieyasu emerged victorious.
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