Politics The Most Important Military Leaders In US History  

Mike Rothschild
Originally by
22.2k votes 2.4k voters 42.6k views 76 items

List Rules American military leaders only. Vote based on their military leadership only, not other political achievements.

America's legendary military history is dotted with some of the greatest generals and admirals to ever put on a uniform. While there have been thousands of high-ranking U.S. Army generals and and military leaders in American history, only a few have truly changed the world with their bravery, intelligence, strategic planning ability, and the way they look wearing a uniform full of medals. Some of the best American generals are also the top military leaders in history. 

The army leaders and generals in the US Army on this list all either held the most important positions in the US military or were immortalized in the history books for their actions in war. To be a great US Army officer takes great courage and leadership. Who has had the most impact and led his men and women to historic triumphs? Leading the ranks of the army is no easy feat, but throughout army history, many great men have made a name for themselves.

Vote for who you think are the most important leaders from the United States Army, armed forces, and other military branches on this list, and vote down the ones you think might be a little overrated. And feel free to add generals and admirals who you feel were unfairly forgotten.

1
863 199
George Washington is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
George Washington Died at 67 (1732-1799) - George Washington was the first President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and one of the Founding Fathers of the ...more

2
832 300
George S. Patton is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
George S. Patton Died at 60 (1885-1945) - George Smith Patton, Jr. was a United States Army general, who commanded the Seventh United States Army in the Mediterranean and European Theaters of World War II, but is best known for his ...more

3
709 275
Dwight D. Eisenhower is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Dwight D. Eisenhower Died at 79 (1890-1969) - Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as ...more

4
675 257
Ulysses S. Grant is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Ulysses S. Grant Died at 63 (1822-1885) - Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States. As Commanding General, Grant worked closely with President Abraham Lincoln to lead the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy in ...more

5
473 175
Chester W. Nimitz is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Chester W. Nimitz Died at 81 (1885-1966) - Chester William Nimitz was a fleet admiral of the United States Navy. He played a major role in the naval history of World War II as Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, for U.S. ...more

6
776 279
Robert E. Lee is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
slaft added Robert E. Lee Died at 63 (1807-1870) - Robert Edward Lee was an American soldier best known for commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War from 1862 until his surrender in 1865. The son of ...more

7
453 169
George Marshall is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
George Marshall Died at 79 (1880-1959) - George Catlett Marshall, Jr. was an American soldier and statesman famous for his leadership roles during World War II and the Cold War. He was Chief of Staff of the United States Army, ...more

8
508 184
William Tecumseh Sherman is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
William Tecumseh Sherman Died at 71 (1820-1891) - William Tecumseh Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War, for which he received recognition for ...more

9
414 130
Stonewall Jackson is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
icoachfb added Stonewall Jackson Died at 39 (1824-1863) - Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was a Confederate general during the American Civil War, and the best-known Confederate commander after General Robert E. Lee. His military career ...more

10
413 180
John J. Pershing is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
John J. Pershing Died at 88 (1860-1948) - John J. Pershing appeared in the 1942 film For Me and My Gal.

11
563 308
Douglas MacArthur is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Douglas MacArthur Died at 84 (1880-1964) - Douglas MacArthur was an American five-star general and Field Marshal of the Philippine Army. He was Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the ...more

12
417 226
Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. Died at 78 (1934-2012) - H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. was a United States Army general. While serving as Commander-in-Chief, United States Central Command, he led all coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War. Born in ...more

13
406 200
Omar Bradley is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Omar Bradley Died at 88 (1893-1981) - Omar Nelson "Brad" Bradley was a United States Army field commander in North Africa and Europe during World War II, and a General of the Army. From the Normandy landings through the ...more

14
358 174
Andrew Jackson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
RobLein added Andrew Jackson Died at 78 (1767-1845) - Led U.S. troops to victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812.

15
277 107
John Paul Jones is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
RobLein added John Paul Jones Died at 45 (1747-1792) - Best-known naval leader for the U.S. in the Revolutionary War.

16
442 242
Theodore Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
RobLein added Theodore Roosevelt Died at 61 (1858-1919) - Led American troops, the Roughriders, up San Juan Hill for decisive victory. Was eventually awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, in 2001, for his actions.

17
300 143
William Halsey, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
William Halsey, Jr. Died at 77 (1882-1959) - Fleet Admiral William Frederick Halsey Jr., GBE —known as Bill Halsey or "Bull" Halsey—was an American fleet admiral in the United States Navy. At the start of the War in the Pacific ...more

18
260 134
Winfield Scott is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Winfield Scott Died at 80 (1786-1866) - Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852. Known as "Old Fuss and Feathers" and the "Grand Old Man of the ...more

19
274 98
Nathanael Greene is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
grady-edward-loy added Nathanael Greene Died at 44 (1742-1786) - Sent by Washington to replace Gates in the South and drive Cornwallis out of South Carolina.  He was called the Fighting Quaker and had been Washinton's Quartermaster.  

20
208 95
Henry H. Arnold is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Henry H. Arnold Died at 64 (1886-1950) - Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold was an American general officer holding the grades of General of the Army and General of the Air Force. Arnold was an aviation pioneer, Chief of the Air ...more

21
216 107
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Michael Grylls added Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben Died at 64 (1730-1794) - Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand Steuben, also referred to as the Baron von Steuben, was a Prussian-born American military officer. He served as inspector general and Major General of ...more

22
156 44
Chesty Puller is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Nathan Simcox added Chesty Puller Died at 73 (1898-1971) - Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller was a United States Marine Corps lieutenant general and one of the most decorated members of the Marine Corps. Puller is one of two servicemen to ever be ...more

23
205 125
Philip Sheridan is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Philip Sheridan Died at 57 (1831-1888) - Philip Henry Sheridan was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War. His career was noted for his rapid rise to major general and his close association ...more

24
154 46
Jim Mattis is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
TobiasFloydBaker added Jim Mattis age 67 - James Norman Mattis (born September 8, 1950) is a retired United States Marine Corps general who is the 26th and current United States Secretary of Defense, serving in the Cabinet of Donald ...more

25
178 107
David Farragut is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
David Farragut Died at 69 (1801-1870) - David Glasgow Farragut was a flag officer of the United States Navy during the American Civil War. He was the first rear admiral, vice admiral, and admiral in the United States Navy. He is ...more

26
177 106
Matthew Ridgway is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Matthew Ridgway Died at 98 (1895-1993) - Matthew Bunker Ridgway was a United States Army general. He held several major commands and was most famous for resurrecting the United Nations war effort during the Korean War. Several ...more

27
110 38
James Longstreet is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
null98Jeff added James Longstreet Died at 83 (1821-1904) - James Longstreet was one of the foremost Confederate generals of the American Civil War and the principal subordinate to General Robert E. Lee, who called him his "Old War Horse." He ...more

28
95 30
Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de ... is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
null98Jeff added Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette Died at 77 (1757-1834) - Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, Marquis de Lafayette, in the U.S. often known simply as Lafayette, was a French aristocrat and military officer who fought for the ...more

29
174 127
Zachary Taylor is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
RobLein added Zachary Taylor Died at 66 (1784-1850) - Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States, serving from March 1849 until his death in July 1850. Before his presidency, Taylor was a career officer in the United States Army, ...more

30
194 169
Curtis LeMay is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Curtis LeMay Died at 84 (1906-1990) - Curtis Emerson LeMay was a general in the United States Air Force and the vice presidential running mate of American Independent Party presidential candidate George Wallace in 1968. Curtis LeMay ...more

31
122 82
Oliver Hazard Perry is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
RobLein added Oliver Hazard Perry Died at 34 (1785-1819) - United States Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry was an American naval commander, born in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. He was the son of USN Captain Christopher Raymond Perry and Sarah Wallace ...more

32
137 98
Winfield Scott Hancock is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
slaft added Winfield Scott Hancock Died at 62 (1824-1886) - Winfield Scott Hancock was a career U.S. Army officer and the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 1880. He served with distinction in the Army for four decades, including ...more

33
42 4
Raymond A. Spruance is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Elliot S. Goldman added Raymond A. Spruance Died at 83 (1886-1969) - Raymond Ames Spruance was a United States Navy admiral in World War II. Spruance commanded US naval forces during two of the most significant naval battles that took place in the Pacific ...more

34
148 115
George Dewey is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
George Dewey Died at 80 (1837-1917) - George Dewey was Admiral of the Navy, the only person in U.S. history to have attained the rank. Admiral Dewey is best known for his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay during the ...more

35
94 47
J.E.B. Stuart is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
null98Jeff added J.e.b. Stuart Died at 31 (1833-1864) - James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart was a United States Army officer from the U.S. state of Virginia who later became a Confederate States Army general during the American Civil War. He was ...more

36
207 218
Colin Powell is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
johannes-vaneyck added Colin Powell age 81 - Colin Luther Powell is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under U.S. President George W. ...more

37
118 84
Alexander Vandegrift is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Alexander Vandegrift Died at 86 (1887-1973) - General Alexander Archer Vandegrift, USMC was a General in the United States Marine Corps. He commanded the 1st Marine Division to victory in its first ground offensive of World War II, the ...more

38
121 91
Creighton Abrams is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Creighton Abrams Died at 60 (1914-1974) - Creighton Williams Abrams, Jr. was a United States Army general who commanded military operations in the Vietnam War from 1968–72. He served as Chief of Staff of the United States Army from 1972 ...more

39
98 97
Carl Andrew Spaatz is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Carl Andrew Spaatz Died at 83 (1891-1974) - Carl Andrew "Tooey" Spaatz was an American World War II general and the first Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force.

40
87 65
Nathan Bedford Forrest is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
null98Jeff added Nathan Bedford Forrest Died at 56 (1821-1877) - Nathan Bedford Forrest was a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. He is remembered as a self-educated, brutal, and innovative cavalry leader during the war ...more

41
106 94
Ernest King is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Ernest King Died at 78 (1878-1956) - Fleet Admiral Ernest Joseph King was Commander in Chief, United States Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations during World War II. As COMINCH-CNO, he directed the United States Navy's operations, ...more

42
33 15
Oliver P. Smith is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
1510716806079 added Oliver P. Smith Died at 84 (1893-1977) - Marine general who heroically commanded the 1st Marine Division during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. The marines (and nearby Army units) became surrounded, he led the breakout and ...

43
109 102
Joseph Stilwell is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Joseph Stilwell Died at 63 (1883-1946) - General Joseph Warren Stilwell was a United States Army four-star general known for service in the China Burma India Theater during World War II. His caustic personality was reflected in the ...more

44
121 145
Horatio Gates is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Horatio Gates Died at 79 (1727-1806) - Horatio Lloyd Gates was a retired British soldier who served as an American general during the Revolutionary War. He took credit for the American victory in the Battles of Saratoga — a matter of ...more

45
44 29
Casimir Pulaski is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
null98Jeff added Casimir Pulaski Died at 34 (1745-1779) - Kazimierz Michał Władysław Wiktor Pułaski of Ślepowron coat of arms was a Polish nobleman, soldier and military commander who has been called with his fellow Hungarian friend Michael Kovats de ...more

46
85 102
William Henry Harrison is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
slaft added William Henry Harrison Died at 68 (1773-1841) - William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States, an American military officer and politician, and the last President born as a British subject. He was also the first ...more

47
45 32
Anthony Wayne is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
null98Jeff added Anthony Wayne Died at 51 (1745-1796) - Anthony Wayne was a United States Army officer, statesman, and member of the United States House of Representatives. Wayne adopted a military career at the outset of the American Revolutionary ...more

48
107 139
Mark W. Clark is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Mark W. Clark Died at 88 (1896-1984) - Mark Wayne Clark (May 1, 1896 – April 17, 1984) was an American general during World War II and the Korean War and was the youngest lieutenant general (three-star general) in the U.S. Army.

49
18 7
Arleigh Burke is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
Elliot S. Goldman added Arleigh Burke Died at 95 (1901-1996) - Admiral Arleigh Albert '31-knot' Burke was an admiral of the United States Navy who distinguished himself during World War II and the Korean War, and who served as Chief of Naval Operations ...more

50
55 50
George Meade is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Most Important Military Leaders In US History
null98Jeff added George Meade Died at 57 (1815-1872) - George Gordon Meade was a career United States Army officer and civil engineer involved in the coastal construction of several lighthouses. He fought with distinction in the Second Seminole War ...more