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Top 10 Greatest American Military Leaders

The United States is a country that has long been wrought with conflict after conflict. This, fortunately, has decorated a great number of famous military leaders. Today, we take a look at some of the most famous generals in history, as well as some who broke down social barriers. We owe these people a great debt of gratitude.

10. George Patton

When even Hitler notes that you’re a wild, crazy cowboy, you know you’re something special. Patton was one of the driving forces behind several conflicts, but the most notable was World War 2. The man’s thirst for battle and blood earned him a number of nicknames, including Old Blood and Guts. He was known for a number of stirring, profanity-filled speeches pre-battle that turned his soldiers into a force to be reckoned with.

Though one would assume that Patton would pass on the battlefield or somewhere at war, he died due to a car accident involving his vehicle and a military truck. He was interred next to some of the men that lost their lives under his direction in battle, as was his request.

9. Sitting Bull

Though he did not serve the United States military forces, who could be more American than a Native American? Sitting Bull lived and died at the service of his people and in attempts to slow the painful process of Native Americans moving into reservations during the 19th century. An incredible military leader, Sitting Bull showed great promise from the tender age of 16. Throughout many raids, attacks, and a variety of other measures he found to be necessary, Sitting Bull cemented a legacy as one of the most important military leaders of his time.

Sitting Bull died during his refusal to cooperate with police in 1890 at Standing Rock, upon which he was unarmed. He was shot and killed by LT Bullhead and another Lakota community member, Red Tomahawk.

8. Frank E. Petersen

Serving as an African-American in the civil rights era was a hard, sometimes precarious place to be in. Frank E. Petersen enlisted in 1950 with the Navy. 29 years later, Petersen became the first African-American Brigadier General in the Marines, breaking down walls for others to follow after him. Petersen served in both Vietnam and Korea.

Petersen retired after 38 years in the military. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 83 in his Maryland home with friends and family.

7. Chester Nimitz

Another Navy alumni, Nimitz was a key player in both World War 1 and World War 2 and a key part of United States victories in both nightmarish and chaotic wars. With a military career spanning more than 40 years, he became so synonymous with naval excellence that, upon Nimitz’s death, a supercarrier was named for him. Today, the USS Nimitz still serves the US Navy.

And if Chester Nimitz was still alive, there is no doubt that he would be too. Nimitz served as Fleet Admiral until his death in 1966.

6. George Custer

Ah, Custer. One of the most famous American generals to serve in the wild, wild area that was the American West during his era. Though he served a shorter term than most of the other leaders on this list, only 17 years, Custer had become a Major General at the time of his death. However it should be noted that his rank was changed to Lieutenant Colonel shortly before his death due to a change in the military.

Despite Little Bighorn, Custer was an incredible asset in the Civil War and provided Grant with the successes necessary to push the rebel forces back. Without Custer, the outcome of the Civil War becomes somewhat questionable.

5. Anna Mae Hays

The first female General in the United States Armed Forces, General Hays started her career as a nurse during World War 2. She enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps in 1942, only to become a Brigadier General in 1970 after 28 years of work in various medical areas within the Army.

General Hays would retire a year later with a plethora of military awards under her name. She passed away in January of 2018, denying her option to be interred at Arlington and preferring to allow her remains to be placed with those of her parents.

4. Ulysses S. Grant

Not just a president, but an impressive general as well. During the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant proved to be one of the greatest American military leaders in the history of the country. Through his leadership, the Union troops managed to win a war that divided the United States.

As President, Grant cemented his resolve for a unified America and pushed for a future of equality that we enjoy today.

3. Douglas MacArthur

From the Mexican Revolution to the Korean War, Douglas MacArthur was a constant in the United States military war theater no matter where conflict broke out. Whether he was busy tending to the troops from home or overseas, MacArthur is a name so well known that we can only add so much.

Douglas MacArthur was noted once as stating that he grew up in the military, it was all he knew, and all he wanted to know. A good thing he was so great at it.

2. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Everyone liked Ike! A five-star general and commander of multitudes of forces throughout the middle 20th century, Einsenhower was a powerhouse and another President on our list. Though he was renowned for his military efforts, he also brought Hawaii and Alaska into the United States as full states during his era.

His military career spanned several decades, ending only when he passed in 1969. An impressive run for any member of the armed forces.

1. George Washington

Doubtless, we all knew who would top this list. Washington was an inspiration to a young America and to his troops. He asked nothing of them that he would not do himself, and demonstrated that mannerism time and again.

A trend-setter and visionary, Washington’s legacy still lives on today within our military community.

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