Best American Generals?

In contrast to this thread, I thought we should acknowledge some of the best military people around. As you can see I used the plural so we can agree on more than one.

This extends to equivalent ranks in the Air Force and Navy.

Again, I’ll leave a loose definition of “best”. And also, it’s not Great debates so I don’t think there will be singular views on any person.

I believe there are some obvious candidates like Nimitz and Eisenhower (whether or not you agree).

I think my first offering would be Alexander Vandergrift for his leadership at Guadalcanal in dreadful conditions. he was an inspiration to his men.

Over to you guys. (BTW - healthy debate is encouraged).

At what level? A good division commander is not necessarily a good corps commander. William Sherman was a lousy division commander, a okay corps commander a good Army commander and an excellent theater commander, while Longstreet was quite bad at anything above a Corps command.

And in what areas? Tactics? Strategy? Logistics? Grants was excellent in all three. Lee was excellent, mediocre and a failure respectively. Tommy Franks was good, atrocious and very good.

Not quite up to your usual standards with the OP Cicero.

However a general overall impression? Or isn’t that “in depth” enough for the experts on the board? :rolleyes:

AK84, I deliberately left it open to encourage debate. Obviously Eisenhower was a good or great administrative General but unproven as a Field General.

I think if I asked “Who was the best tactical general general in 1844” it would be a short thread.

As for not being up to my normal standards, I’d disagree. I think most of mine are crap :slight_smile:

“Bull” Halsey has to be thrown into the mix even though, IMHO, there were a couple of blunders. The first was sailing his fleet into a typhoon which cost three(?) ships and numerous lives. And the second was being drawn off his anticipated role at Leyte Gulf to chase the Japanese decoy carriers. On the other hand he was a dynamic motivator at a time when one was needed. His men loved him for it.

Courtney Hodges was probably the best Army commander on the US side in Europe in WWII.

Matthew Rigdeway stood up to Ike and stopped a paratroop assault on Rome that would have been a massacre, then later cleaned up MacArthur’s mess in Korea. He also advised we stay out of Vietnam.

Chesty Puller is a god to the Marine Corps, and deservedly so. The man won five Navy Crosses.

Gotta go with Chesty.

For a general of an earlier time, I’d nominate Pershing. The job he did in managing American troops in WWI was exemplary. By refusing to knuckle under to the British demands for more cannon fodder in the trenches, he kept a lot of them from dying. He was mentor to some of the greats, including Patton, Ike, Bradley and others who would play such important roles in WWII.

Does Washington count? If so, I’m voting for him!

Daniel Morgan - Revolutionary War

Ulysses Grant - Civil War

John J. Pershing - WW1

Chester Nimitz - WW2

Chesty Puller - Korea

The guys served under him, but was he really a mentor?
I’m not trying to be clever, but how was he a great General? He did well insisting his troops fight as a US force rather than be absorbed into the British/ French forces but was there much else. (I would add that US troops did actually fight for a short while under the command of Monash).

As I see it he did nothing wrong, but did nothing great. Not that he was ever in a position to make a place in history.

General Curtis LeMay.
He did what he was ordered to do, in efficient fashion, with the least expenditure of lives possible.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve read quotes from those generals praising Pershing’s leadership and guidance, but can’t provide any cites for you. Pershing, as you probably know, was the head of the American Expeditionary Forces, a huge responsibility and not a lot different from what Ike had to do in WWII. The difference being that Pershing had actually commanded field troops in the Spanish-American War and in the Philippines. Even Teddy Roosevelt thought highly of him. MacArthur disliked him, which is almost reason enough to propel him to the head of the pack.

I think the USA has benefitted from a lot of very competent generals, starting with Washington, who actually learned immediately from his mistakes as a general. See withdrawal from Long Island and never repeating what got him in that. When the going got tough, America’s flag commanders have an excellent record. Even MacArthur, who in disobeying Truman was a disgrace, was a truly gifted commander up until that fiasco.

Chesty Puller if I have to pick just one. In the dictionary next to “one tough son of a bitch” is his picture.

As for the questions about Pershing above, he was very instrumental in keeping the best commanders after WWI. In WWI he was chewing out a commanding officer in front of his men, and one of the men, a Lt., stepped forward and told him why he was wrong to do that, and that it was Pershing’s fault. Pershing took that Lt. with him and they became lifelong friends, and that Lt. later was known as Chief of Staff General George Catlett Marshall, whose skills as a headhunter of commanders populated virtually every general’s position in WWII. Marshall never had a field command as a general, but he was a very damn good general. He really wanted to command D-Day, but Roosevelt wouldn’t allow it because he was so deeply respected in Washington D.C. that Roosevelt could not spare him, despite the fact that Roosevelt felt that Marshall deserved and was owed the D-Day command.

Strictly speaking, John Buford doesn’t belong on this list because his career as a general was too short; but officers in the corresponding thread have been excoriated based on a single action, so I’m going to throw his name into the hat based on his decision to defend Seminary Ridge. This enabled the Union to establish itself on Cemetery Ridge at the end of the first day despite being attacked from the west and north*.

Had Buford decided otherwise, either the armies would have clashed elsewhere — with the Confederates already concentrated, and perhaps Stuart back from Harrisburg — or (more likely) Meade would have bowed to pressure from Washington to attack the entrenched Confederates on Cemetery Ridge. In the latter case, I would imagine the results would have resembled Fredericksburg.

*I’m leaving Ewell out of the equation because his (in)actions are not related to Buford’s decision. If Buford had withdrawn, Lee could have occupied Cemetery Ridge whatever Ewell did or did not do.

Washington was also a brilliant spymaster.

Admirals should also get their due–Nimtiz.

Second Stone, yes I have read a little of Pershing and he did a great job in really organising an American Army very quickly out of very little. He was also pretty well regarded for his command of African American troops earlier on (Hence Black Jack- or worse).

With Chesty Puller, he was undoubtedly one tough guy and inspirational. However, did he really do enough as a General to be considered a great General. I’m not disputing, just asking.

Also, with Eisenhower, I wonder if I’ve been selling him a bit short. I’ve always considered him more of an administrative type Commander, but he did take over control of the ground forces in Europe from Montgomery (pre arranged). Was his role that far removed from (say) Haig for the British in WW 1?

I was going to say John Buford. Of course someone would have beat me to it.