Military Theorists Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

An annotated list of prominent military theorists.

Although weaponry has changed substantially, some of the fundamental military tactics remain the same. Essentially generals have learned to choose their own battlefield, if possible, and to disengage if they face inevitable defeat. Over history, various generals have tried to adapt these and other tactics, and theoreticians have refought battles to identify the causes of victory and defeat, as well as plan future strategies. The ancient Daoist general Sunzi wrote the oldest surviving manual on military tactics, and the books by Julius Caesar are the oldest surviving accounts of battles by a commander. The works of Caesar and later Carl von Clausewitz were heavily studied in Europe, and many of the recommendations by all three are still followed, albeit with changes to incorporate new technologies, such as cannons, guns, machine guns, tanks, and aircraft.

Abd el-Krim

(Moroccan, 1880-1963): Abd el-KrimAbd el-Krim Abd el-Krim led the Rif Revolt against the French and the Spanish, managing to wage an effective guerrilla war against two major European powers with very little outside help.

Afonso de Albuquerque

(Portuguese, 1453-1515): Albuquerque, Afonso deAlbuquerque, Afonso deAlbuquerque employed a system of strategically placed forts to expand Portuguese control of the trade route from the Red Sea along the coasts of India and Indonesia to Macao on the Chinese coast. Eventually Portuguese control was undermined by rival European powers and the Ottoman Empire.

Alexander the Great

(Macedonian, 356-323 b.c.e.): Alexander the GreatAlexander the GreatPerhaps history’s most famous conqueror, Alexander used a well-disciplined army inherited from his father, Philip II (382-336 b.c.e.), to dismantle the vast Persian Empire. Eventually his overreaching exhausted both his troops and himself; he died in Babylon returning from India. Alexander proved that smaller, better-trained armies with motivated troops could consistently defeat larger, more unwieldy forces. When asked to whom he would bequeath his empire, he replied simply to the strongest.

Alfred the Great

(Anglo-Saxon, 849-899): Alfred the GreatAlfred the Great (king of Wessex)The Anglo-Saxon king of Wessex defeated the Vikings on several occasions and established the English navy, which became the Royal Navy, later dominating much of the world from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. He is quoted as saying, “A King’s raw materials and instruments of rule are a well-peopled land, and he must have men of prayer, men of war, and men of work.”

Ardant du Picq, Charles Jean Jacques Joseph

(French, 1821-1870): Ardant du Picq, Charles Jean Jacques JosephArdant du Picq, Charles Jean Jacques JosephKilled during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), Ardant du Picq is known for his posthumous work Études sur le combat: Combat antique et combat moderne (1880; Battle Studies: Ancient and Modern Battle, 1914), which stressed the importance of morale in war. He believed that officers must instill confidence in their troops, especially given the impersonal nature of the modern battlefield. In his book, he stated, “Man does not enter battle to fight, but for victory. He does everything he can to avoid the first and obtain the second.”

Ashurnasirpal II

(Assyrian, c. 915-859 b.c.e.): Ashurnasirpal IIAshurnasirpal II (emperor of Assyria)[Ashurnasirpal 02]As creator of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Ashurnasirpal established the traditions of military excellence and unrelenting cruelty that made Assyria a dominant and feared power from the Euphrates Valley to the Mediterranean. On one of his inscriptions, he exhorted his armies, “If it pleases, kill! If it pleases you, spare! If it pleases you, do what you will!”


(Hunnic, 406?-453): AttilaAttila (king of the Huns)By uniting all the Hunnic tribes from the northern Caucasus to the upper Danube, Attila led his armies on a swath of conquest that took them to the gates of Rome itself. Attila’s tactics relied on the speed, skill, and savagery of his troops, as well as the terror they inspired.


(Roman, 63 b.c.e.-14 c.e.): AugustusAugustus (Roman emperor)After defeating Marc Antony at the great Battle of Actium, as first emperor of Rome, following the loss of three legions to German forces in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 c.e., Augustus fixed the boundaries of the Roman Empire along strong defensive lines. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, in De vita Caesarum (c. 120 c.e. ; History of the Twelve Caesars, 1606), notes that, obviously fearing mutiny, “he never kept more than three companies on duty at Rome, and even these had no permanent camp, but were billeted in various City lodging houses.”


(Burmese, r. 1551-1581): BayinnaungBayinnaung (king of Burma)As king of Burma (now known as Myanmar), Bayinnaung unified the country and made it the most powerful in Southeast Asia, dominating its neighbors and imposing Buddhism throughout the region.


(Byzantine, c. 500-565): BelisariusBelisarius (Byzantine general)The greatest of Byzantine generals, Belisarius served on all imperial frontiers as well as crushing the Nika Uprising (532) that nearly toppled the emperor Justinian I (483-565). Belisarius wrested North Africa from the Vandals, conquered Sicily, and expelled the Ostrogoths from southern Italy–victories achieved with probably never more than about 18,000 troops at any one time. In one speech, he is quoted as saying, “Ours is a real enemy in the field; we march to a battle, and not to a review.”

Ben Boulaid, Mustapha

(Algerian, 1917-1956): Ben Boulaid, MustaphaBen Boulaid, MustaphaBenboulaid served in the French army and then used French tactics against the French during the Algerian War of Independence, coordinating many attacks on that colonial power until his death. The French would withdraw from Algeria four years later.

Bolívar, Simón

(Colombian, 1783-1830): Boívar, SimónBoívar, Simón[Bolivar, Simon]Bolívar led the South American independence movement against the Spanish, which saw the formation of Gran Colombia and later the independent nations of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Panama. He is reported to have said, “The army is a sack with no bottom.”

Braun, Wernher von

(German American, 1912-1977): Braun, Wernher vonBraun, Wernher vonA pioneer in German rocketry and a visionary of space flight, von Braun helped develop the German rocket program during World War II, which included the V-2, the first large military rocket. After the war he was a key member of the American space program.

Briggs, Sir Harold

(British, 1894-1952): Briggs, Sir HaroldBriggs, Sir Harold[Briggs, Harold]In 1950, Briggs devised the plan that bears his name, the Briggs Plan, which allowed the British to win the Malayan Emergency by the establishment of so-called new villages. The success led to the Strategic Hamlets program in South Vietnam, which was a dismal failure.

Bywater, Hector

(British, 1884-1940): Bywater, HectorBywater, HectorAs a spy in World War I and then as a British diplomat, Bywater recognized the importance of the emerging power of Japan, warning that the Japanese navy could dominate the Pacific during a European war. Most British experts ignored his book The Great Pacific War (1925), which, however, was avidly read by the Japanese. In 1920, Maurice Prendergast (who illustrated R. H. Gibson’s 1931 The German Submarine War, 1914-1918) summed up Bywater’s ideas: “Naval policies still appeared to revolve, but in a dull and unnatural manner, round that vacuum where once the German Fleet had existed. The magnetic pole of maritime affairs had not vanished with German sea power; it had only altered its position and required re-discovery.”

Cabral, Amilcar

(Cape Verdean, 1921-1973): Cabral, AmilcarCabral, AmilcarHe helped plan the defeat of the Portuguese by training people in Guinea-Bissau against the colonial power, using a trade-and-barter system in parts of the country his forces had taken, and using political ideology as well as nationalism to hold together his supporters.

Caesar, Julius

(Roman, 100-44 b.c.e.): Caesar, JuliusCaesar, JuliusA nephew of the Roman general Marius, Julius Caesar rose rapidly in public life and in 60 b.c.e. was elected consul. The following year he was named governor of Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul and seized the opportunity to conquer the whole of Gaul. Caesar next marched into Italy, precipitating a civil war with his rival, Pompey the GreatPompey the GreatPompey the Great (106-48 b.c.e.). In a whirlwind campaign, Caesar pushed Pompey out of Italy, captured Spain, and defeated Pompey at Pharsalus (48 b.c.e.). Master of the Roman world, Caesar was preparing for a campaign against the Parthian Empire when he was assassinated. He was bold to the point of rashness, but his brilliant mind and swift reactions made him master of any battlefield. He recorded his Gallic and civil war campaigns in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico (52-51 b.c.e. ) and Commentarii de Bello Civili (45 b.c.e. ), collectively translated as Commentaries (1609). Plutarch quotes Caesar as telling his men during the civil war, when sailing from Italy to modern-day Albania, “Go ahead my friends. Be bold and fear nothing. You have Caesar and Caesar’s fortune with you in your boat.”

Castro, Fidel

(Cuban, born 1926): Castro, FidelCastro, FidelAs leader of the Cuban revolutionaries, he not only led his insurgents to victory in Cuba against the Batista government but also proved to be an inspiration to many other Latin American revolutionaries. After his rise to power in Cuba, he supported revolution elsewhere in the world, notably in Angola. A keen reader, he wrote, “When I read the work of a famous author, the history of a people, the doctrine of a thinker, the theories of an economist or the theses of a social reformer, I am filled with the desire to know everything that all authors have written, the doctrines of all philosophers, the treatises of all economists, and the theses of all apostles.”


(Frankish, 742-814): CharlemagneCharlemagneKing of the Franks and, after 800, Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne returned a strategic vision to European warfare. Thanks to an effective system of communications with his subordinate commanders, Charlemagne directed independent campaigns that established a large, relatively stable state in Western Europe.

Chin Peng

(Malayan, born 1924): Chin PengChin PengAs the leader of the Malayan Communist Party, Chin Peng succeeded in hit-and-run tactics based on heavy use of sympathizers, which nearly caused him to win the Malayan Emergency despite being outnumbered fifty to one. In his memoirs, My Side of History (2003), he summed up his strategy: “Our hit-and-run tactics, though more often than not devoid of centralized control, had been successful to the point that public morale on the enemy side had clearly deteriorated. In order to maintain this trend we resolved to hit the British even harder with the specific aim of racking up a higher killing rate among government security forces.”

Churchill, John, first duke of Marlborough

(English, 1650-1722): Churchill, JohnChurchill, JohnDuring the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), Marlborough made effective use of the allied forces through a blend of battlefield brilliance, logistical thoroughness, and diplomatic skills.

Churchill, Winston S.

(British, 1874-1965): Churchill, Winston S.Churchill, Winston S.A British soldier and politician who planned the ill-fated Gallipoli operation in 1915, Churchill displayed skill and tenacity during World War II, as well as doggedness, which contributed to Britain’s triumph in 1945. Although some of his speeches are well known, his determination was best summed up by this famous quotation: “[W]e shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. . . .”

Clausewitz, Carl von

(German, 1780-1831): Clausewitz, Carl vonClausewitz, Carl vonAlthough he served as general in the Prussian army and fought against Napoleon in the Russian campaign of 1812, Clausewitz made his most important contribution when he wrote the posthumously published book Vom Kriege (1832-1834; On War, 1873). His representation of war as an instrument of the state to coerce an enemy into desired action is often paraphrased as “the continuation of politics by other means.” Warfare, therefore, should be guided by political leaders who understand it. Political leaders and generals alike must also recognize what is known as the “Clausewitzian trinity” of violence, chance, and reason, represented in war respectively by the people, the military, and the government. Finally, war brings uncertainty–the “fog of war” and “friction”–in the context of which military decisions must be made and executed. Clausewitz thought commanders should reduce uncertainty, noting that courage and self-confidence are absolutely essential, especially for the general who seeks the most effective way to victory, that of destroying the enemy army in a single, decisive battle. Initially Clausewitz was regarded as a lesser military thinker, subordinate to his near-contemporary Antoine-Henri Jomini, and some have faulted him for not presenting specific rules or principles for waging war. Although historical and technological changes have made parts of his work less relevant today, Clausewitz remains one of the few essential military theorists in the history of warfare.

Colt, Samuel

(American, 1814-1862): Colt, SamuelColt, SamuelColt invented the revolver that continues to bear his name, a pistol with a rotating cylinder holding six bullets that could all be fired before reloading. It proved a success in the Mexican War (1846-1848), and by 1855 Colt had built the world’s largest private gunmaking facility in Hartford, Connecticut, where he improved mass manufacturing through the use of assembly lines and interchangeable parts.

Crazy Horse

(Native American, 1842?-1877): Crazy HorseCrazy HorseChief of the Oglala Sioux, Crazy Horse joined with Sitting Bull (1831-1890) to use mobile warfare to destroy the forces under General George A. Custer (1839-1870) at the Battle of the Little Bighorn (1876). At that battle he rallied his warriors before battle, telling them, “Come on, it is a good day to die!”

Cromwell, Oliver

(English, 1599-1658): Cromwell, OliverCromwell, OliverThe eventual commander of the Parliamentarian forces during the English Civil War, Cromwell recognized the importance of training and of professional soldiers through the creation of the New Model Army. He was also to establish an English Republic. After he dissolved the Parliament in 1649, a Presbyterian cleric said to him, “’Tis against the will of the nation: there will be nine in ten against you,” to which Cromwell replied, “But what if I should disarm the nine, and put a sword in the tenth man’s hand?”

Cyrus the Great

(Persian, c. 601 to 590-530 b.c.e.): Cyrus the GreatCyrus the Great (king of Persia)Founder of the Persian Empire, Cyrus was the world’s first great cavalry commander and an expert at siege warfare. His conquests stretched from modern Turkey to the Persian Gulf, and the Greek writer Xenophon quoted him as telling his soldiers, “Remember my last saying: show kindness to your friends, and then shall you have it in your power to chastise your enemies.”

Darius the Great

(Persian, 550-486 b.c.e.): Darius I the GreatDarius I the Great (king of Persia)[Darius 01]Darius established a strong central government in Persia with excellent roads and a powerful army. He extended the empire into northern India and conquered Thrace and Macedonia in Europe and Libya in Africa. Around 500 b.c.e., Ionian Greeks revolted, beginning the Greco-Persian Wars (499-448 b.c.e.). Darius died before he could mount his invasion of the Greek mainland.

Dayan, Moshe

(Israeli, 1915-1981): Dayan, MosheDayan, MosheAs Israel’s minister of defense, Dayan’s rapid strike at his country’s opponents led to victory in the Six-Day War in 1967. In an interview with the British newspaper The Observer in 1972, he said, “War is the most exciting and dramatic thing in life. In fighting to the death you feel terribly relaxed when you manage to come through.”

Douhet, Giulio

(Italian, 1869-1930): Douhet, GiulioDouhet, GiulioOriginally an artillery officer, Douhet commanded Italy’s Aeronautical Battalion from 1912 to 1915 and became convinced of the superiority of airpower. Like the American William “Billy” Mitchell, Douhet argued with such vehemence that he was court-martialed and forced into retirement. However, Italy’s poor performance in World War I brought about his recall. Douhet’s Il dominio dell’aria (1921; The Command of the Air, 1921) argued for an independent air force capable of strategic bombing. In his book, he wrote, “Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war, not those who wait to adapt themselves after they occur.”

Drake, Francis

(English, c. 1540-1596): Drake, FrancisDrake, FrancisDrake combined the roles of pirate, privateer, and admiral in England’s struggle against Spain. He contributed to the tactics of fast, hard-hitting raids on Spanish ports and shipping. His concentration of the English fleet in the western entrance to the English Channel was a key factor in the defeat of the Armada in 1588. Although the most famous statement ascribed to him was made when he was playing bowls and said of the Spanish Armada, “There is time enough to finish the game and beat the Spaniards too,” his 1587 letter to Lord Walshingham is more prescient: “There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.”

Eisenhower, Dwight D.

(American, 1890-1969): Eisenhower, Dwight D.Eisenhower, Dwight D.Eisenhower oversaw the D day Operation in June, 1944, one of the best-planned and -executed military operations and one of the most difficult yet successful seaborne invasions during World War II. In an address in London in June, 1945, he said, “Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.”


(Greek, c. 410-362 b.c.e.): EpaminondasEpaminondas (Theban commander)Commander of the Theban army at the Battle of Leuctra (371 b.c.e.), Epaminondas defeated a much larger Spartan force by concentrating his forces on his left wing and overwhelming the enemy’s right. This use of the “oblique order” was an important development in phalanx warfare. He described the battlefield as “the dance floor of Aries,” referring to the god of war.

Eugène of Savoy

(French, 1663-1736): Eugène of SavoyEugène of Savoy[Eugene of Savoy]Although French-born, Eugène was rejected by King Louis XIV (1638-1715) and became instead an Austrian general and statesman. He was a master of coalition warfare and cooperated successfully with the duke of Marlborough in victories over the French at Blenheim (1704), Oudenarde (1708), and Malplaquet (1709). He wrote, “I never saw better horses, better clothes, finer belts and accoutrements; but money, which you do not want in England, will buy fine clothes and horses, but it cannot buy the lively air I see in every one of these troopers.”


(Roman, c. 275-203 b.c.e.): Fabius the DelayerFabius the DelayerCalled to defend Rome during Hannibal’s invasion of Italy, Fabius was nicknamed “the Delayer” for his refusal to meet his Carthaginian opponent in open battle. Instead, he wore down his foes by harassing them in their movements and denying them supplies, a logistical approach to warfare that had great implications for future commanders.

Fisher, John “Jackie”

(English, 1841-1920): Fisher, John “Jackie”Fisher, John “Jackie”Fisher revolutionized naval warfare with the introduction of the HMS Dreadnought in 1906, the first all-big-gun battleship, which began a new arms race. Fisher instituted other sweeping changes in British naval policy, including concentrating the Royal Navy in home waters for quicker mobilization against a European enemy.

Foch, Ferdinand

(French, 1851-1929): Foch, FerdinandFoch, FerdinandA supporter of the offensive and the power of morale, Foch believed a defeat to be final only when an army lost the will to fight. In the last year of World War I, the Allies named Foch as supreme commander, and his positive attitude, along with the arrival of American troops, brought an end to the war. In Des principes de la guerre (1903; The Principles of War, 1918), he wrote, “A battle won is a battle in which one will not confess himself beaten.”

Franco, Francisco

(Spanish, 1892-1975): Franco, FranciscoFranco, FranciscoAs commander of the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War, Franco devised a system of war by attrition in which he saw his role as to destroy all opposition in areas captured before advancing any farther. He was to become the longest-serving European dictator during the twentieth century.

Frederick the Great

(Prussian, 1712-1786): Frederick II the GreatFrederick II the Great (king of Prussia)[Frederick 02]With the hope of promoting Prussia to great-power status, Frederick relied upon both his superb army and his ability to draw the maximum from his troops. At battles such as Leuthen (1757), he used the famous “oblique order,” massing troops on one flank to achieve a decisive local superiority. Even more important was his genius at combining his arms, as at Rossbach (1757). The result was to establish the Prussian army as the most powerful in Europe, a position that remained unchallenged more than a decade after Frederick’s death. In one letter, he noted, “The lifetime of one man is not sufficiently long to enable him to acquire perfect knowledge and experience; theory helps to supplement it; it provides youth with early experience and makes him skilful through the mistakes of others.” In his Die Instruktion Friedrichs des Grossen für seine Generale (1747; Military Instructions, Written by the King of Prussia, for the Generals of His Army, 1762; also known as Instructions for His Generals, 1944), he noted that “battle is lost less through the loss of men than by discouragement.”

Fuller, J. F. C.

(British, 1878-1966): Fuller, J. F. C.Fuller, J. F. C.During World War I, Fuller planned the Battle of Cambrai (1916-1917), the first to employ tanks. As both an author and an instructor at the British Staff College, he strenuously advocated the extensive use of armor and airpower. In his book The Reformation of War (1923), he noted, “I have not written this book for military monks, but for civilians who pay for their alchemy and mysteries. In war there is nothing mysterious, for it is the most common-sense of all sciences.”

Genghis Khan

(né Temüjin; Mongol, between 1155 and 1162-1227): Genghis KhanGenghis Khan (Mongol king)Genghis Khan united the Mongol tribes and organized the Mongolian army into a powerful force. After his conquests of northern China and central Asia, he established a vast empire that was peaceful, well administered, and strategically positioned. He encouraged trade and opening routes between Europe and China. Genghis Khan’s military skill in battle was matched by his attention to organization and administration. His armies were highly disciplined and well supplied. Campaigns were carefully prepared using intelligence gathered by spies and scouts. His reputation and that of his army were his most powerful weapons. He is quoted as saying, “The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.”


(Native American, 1829-1909): GeronimoGeronimoWith only a handful of supporters, Geronimo managed to evade capture by the U.S. forces for decades, preventing them from taking control of the Apache lands for much of that period.

Goddard, Robert H.

(American, 1882-1945): Goddard, Robert H.Goddard, Robert H.The “father of modern rocketry,” Goddard developed rockets using liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as fuels and invented steering systems, multistage rockets, and other technologies that allowed rockets to be used in modern warfare. From 1930 until the mid-1940’s, Goddard conducted much of his research in Roswell, New Mexico.

Gribeauval, Jean-Baptiste Vacquette de

(French, 1715-1789): Gribeauval, Jean-Baptiste Vacquette deGribeauval, Jean-Baptiste Vacquette deAs inspector general of French artillery, Gribeauval significantly modernized that military arm. By making cannons bored instead of cast, he improved range, power, and accuracy. His cannons were smaller, lighter, and exceptionally mobile when harnessed to a new design of gun carriage.

Grotius, Hugo

(Huigh de Groot; Dutch, 1583-1645): Grotius, HugoGrotius, HugoThe “father of international law,” Grotius developed the first systematic set of laws to govern warfare. His masterpiece, De iure belli ac pacis libri res (1625; On the Law of War and Peace, 1654), became the foundation for international law regarding the conduct of warfare.

Guderian, Heinz

(German, 1888-1954): Guderian, HeinzGuderian, HeinzA combat officer in World War I, Guderian recognized early the value of motorized armor. His book Achtung-Panzer! Die Entwicklung der Panzerwaffe, ihre Kampfstatik, und ihre operative Möglickeiten (1937; Achtung-Panzer! The Development of Armoured Forces, Their Tactics, and Operational Potential, 1937) outlined the tactics he and other German commanders would use in World War II. He condemned aspects of the Nuremberg war crimes trials in his book Erinnerungen eines Soldaten (1950; Panzer Leader, 1952), arguing, “All the reproaches that have been leveled against the leaders of the armed forces by their countrymen and by the international courts have failed to take into consideration one very simple fact: that policy is not laid down by soldiers, but by politicians. This has always been the case and is so today.”

Guevara, Che

(Argentine/Cuban, 1928-1967): Guevara, CheGuevara, CheGuevara gained legendary status in Cuba after the victory of Fidel Castro in his Cuban Revolution. Guevara planned to extend the revolution to all of Latin America. Although this plan failed and Guevara himself was killed, he proved an inspiration to revolutionaries not only in Latin America but also throughout the world. In his book La guerra de guerrillas (1960; Guerrilla Warfare, 1961), he noted, “Guerrilla warfare incites no nuclear retaliation. It avoids the troops-cross-border criterion needed to activate our defensive treaties. For the aggressor, guerrilla warfare has none of the heavy costs of all-out warfare. It exploits the Communists’ long experience in revolutionary activities. It can be conducted in countries not contiguous to the Communist land mass. The aggressor merely finds a suitably vulnerable nation, then supplies a few catalysts.”

Gustavus II Adolphus

(Swedish, 1594-1632):Gustavus II AdolphusGustavus II Adolphus (king of Sweden)[Gustavus 02]Called the “father of modern warfare,” Swedish king Gustavus II Adolphus improved infantry by mixing pikemen and musketeers in battalions. His lighter cannons introduced mobile field artillery that could support infantry on the battlefield. He also reintroduced cavalry, especially heavy cavalry, as a major element in warfare, giving it a critical role to play. Ironically, he was killed leading a cavalry charge in his victory at the Battle of Lützen (1632). His religious beliefs led him to explain in 1632, “My lord God is my armour.”


(Roman, 76-138): HadrianHadrianAs Roman emperor, Hadrian helped strengthen the borders of the Roman Empire. He is most remembered for the construction of one of the most massive military structures of his time, Hadrian’s Wall (c. 122-136 c.e.), in northern England.


(Carthaginian, 247-182 b.c.e.): Hannibal BarcaHannibal BarcaHannibal BarcaHannibal was a brilliant battlefield commander, and his victory at Cannae (216 b.c.e.) remains the standard by which all battles are judged. Hannibal’s contribution to military theory comes mainly from his invasion of Italy during the Second Punic War. Hannibal cast himself as a “liberator” of the Italian cities and sought to detach them from Rome. When this proved unsuccessful, his unbroken string of tactical victories proved strategically useless. In Ab urbe condita libri (c. 26 b.c.e. -15 c.e. ; The History of Rome, 1600; also known as Annals of the Roman People), Livy quoted Hannibal as telling Scipio Africanus just before the Battle of Zama in 202 b.c.e. , “It is difficult for a man to whom fortune has never proved false to reflect upon its uncertainties.”

Henry V

(English, 1387-1422): Henry VHenry V (king of England)[Henry 05]In his victory at Agincourt in 1415, Henry skillfully employed the long-range firepower of English archers and mobile field fortifications, consisting of sharpened stakes driven into the ground, to defeat a larger army of mounted French knights, thus undermining the basis of traditional feudal military theory. In a play named for him, William Shakespeare has Henry heroically ordering his soldiers at Harfleur, “Once more into the breach dear friends,/ or close up the walls with our English dead.”


(Byzantine, c. 575-probably 641): HeracliusHeraclius (Byzantine emperor)Threatened along his borders, Byzantine emperor Heraclius reformed the Byzantine military and administrative system by establishing the “theme system,” in which military commanders were placed in complete control of provinces, or “themes.”

Hideyoshi, Toyotomi

(Japanese, 1537-1598): Toyotomi HideyoshiToyotomi HideyoshiA peasant who rose to command armies and ultimately Japan itself, Hideyoshi combined military ability, diplomacy, and political skills to unite the island. His career is an excellent example of the interrelated nature of warfare and politics.

Hitler, Adolf

(German, 1889-1945): Hitler, AdolfHitler, AdolfInfluenced by his experience in World War I and his own racist views, Hitler believed that Germany must conquer both Western Europe, to gain security, and Eastern Europe, especially the Soviet Union, to secure Lebensraum, or “living room,” for Germany’s population. He was successful in wedding traditional military strategy to this malign political theory and in maintaining the support of the German people and military throughout most of World War II. Hitler was a supporter of new weaponry, such as the Luftwaffe’s tactical bombers and fighters, the V-1 and V-2 rockets, and advanced submarines. He also encouraged innovative military techniques such as the Blitzkrieg. In a 1942 speech to the Reichstag, the German parliament, he said of World War II, “This war is one of those elemental conflicts which usher in a new millennium and which shake the world.”

Jomini, Antoine-Henri de

(French, 1779-1869): Jomini, Antoine-HenriJomini, Antoine-HenriA French general, Jomini entered Russian service after being denied a promotion. Jomini’s Précis de l’art de la guerre (1838; Summary of the Art of War, 1868) was a systematic distillation of his thoughts on military science. He emphasized the immutable principles of war and the importance of maneuvering the mass, or main portion, of an army to make it most effective. He thought the mass should be concentrated at the decisive theater of war, threatening the enemy’s communications if possible; that a commander should place the mass of his entire army against a part of his opponent’s forces; that the mass of the army should concentrate on the decisive point on the battlefield; and that attacks should be coordinated for maximum impact. Jomini’s ideas were highly influential, especially among commanders in the American Civil War (1861-1865). In his book he wrote, “A general thoroughly instructed in the theory of war but not possessed of military coup d’oeil, coolness and skill, may make an excellent strategic plan and be entirely unable to apply the rules of tactics in the presence of an enemy. His projects will not be successfully carried out, [and] his defeat will be probable. If he is a man of character he will be able to diminish the evil results of his failure, but if he loses his wits, he will lose his army.”

Juárez, Benito

(Mexican, 1806-1872): Juárez, BenitoJuárez, Benito[Juarez, Benito]As leader of the Indians and poor in Mexico, Juárez managed to wage a successful guerrilla war against the Mexican government and then against the Royalists under Emperor Maximilian.


(K’ang-Hsi; Chinese, 1654-1722): KangxiKangxiThe fourth emperor of the Qing (Ching) Dynasty (1644-1912), who ruled China from 1669 to 1722, Kangxi consolidated Manchu power and legitimized Manchu rule in China. He defended his realm against incursions from the Russians to the north, seized the island of Taiwan, and overcame a serious internal revolt. In these efforts he made great use of Western technology, particularly cartography and cannons.

Khair ed-Dīn

(Ottoman, 1483-1546): BarbarossaBarbarossaKhair ed-Dīn[Khair ed Din]Creator of the Ottoman navy, Khair ed-Dīn was also known as Barbarossa because of his red beard. In 1533 Turkish sultan Süleyman I the Magnificent (1494/1495-1566) ordered him to reorganize the imperial navy, a task he accomplished with speed and ability. The new galleys were used in raids on Christendom and in the conquest of Tunis and Nice in France. Khair ed-Dīn used galleys to evacuate the Spanish Moors from Spain in 1533, a task of great logistic complexity. He noted, “He who rules on the sea will very shortly rule on the land also.”

Krupp family

(German, 1587-1968): Krupp familyKrupp familyThe Krupp family was for four centuries the premier weapons manufacturer in Germany and perhaps the world. Alfred Krupp (1812-1887) perfected techniques to manufacture modern weapons and was known as “the cannon king.” Krupp guns contributed to Prussia’s victory in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) and were important to Germany’s efforts in World War I. The Krupp family supported Adolf Hitler, and a second Alfred Krupp helped devise the 88-millimeter gun, one of the most deadly artillery weapons of World War II. In 1968, following financial reverses, the Krupp family left the armaments business.

Lawrence, T. E.

(British, 1888-1935): Lawrence, T. E.Lawrence, T. E.Part military adviser, part visionary, Lawrence directed operations of Arab irregular forces during World War I desert campaigns in 1917 and 1918 and helped the Arabs liberate themselves from the Ottoman Empire.

Lee, Robert E.

(American, 1807-1870): Lee, Robert E.Lee, Robert E.Offered command of the Union armies at the start of the American Civil War, Lee sided with his native state of Virginia and rose to command the Army of Northern Virginia. He was noted for his aggressiveness, ever willing to defy military convention and divide his smaller forces in the face of the enemy to achieve a devastating flank attack. At the Battle of Gettysburg (1863), he said, “To be a good soldier, you must love the army. To be a good commander, you must be able to order the death of the thing you love.” Later he said to Lieutenant General James Longstreet, “We are never quite prepared for so many to die. Oh, we do expect the occasional empty chair; a salute to fallen comrades. But this war goes on and on and the men die and the price gets ever higher. We are prepared to lose some of us, but we are never prepared to lose all of us. And there is the great trap General. When you attack, you must hold nothing back. You must commit yourself totally. We are adrift here in a sea of blood and I want it to end. I want this to be the final battle.”

Lettow-Vorbeck, Paul von

(German, 1870-1964): Lettow-Vorbeck, Paul vonLettow-Vorbeck, Paul von[Lettow Vorbeck, Paul von]As commander of the German forces in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), Lettow-Vorbeck developed a system of guerrilla warfare that allowed him to avoid defeat by the British throughout World War I. In his memoirs, Meine Erinnerungen aus Ostafrika (1920; My Reminiscences of East Africa, 1920; also known as East African Campaigns, 1957), he wrote, “There is almost always a way out, even of an apparently hopeless position, if the leader makes up his mind to face the risks.”

Liddell Hart, Basil Henry

(British, 1895-1970): Liddell Hart, Basil HenryLiddell Hart, Basil HenryLiddell Hart’s contributions to military theory include his concept of the “expanding torrent” of armed forces through the enemy’s line, which was a precursor of the later German Blitzkrieg. He also advocated attacking key aspects of the enemy’s civilian sector. In 1929, he wrote in the Encyclopedia Britannica, “In war, the chief incalculable is the human will.” In his Thoughts on War (1944), he noted, “Those who are naturally loyal say little about it, and are ready to assume it in others. In contrast, the type of soldier who is always dwelling on the importance of loyalty usually means loyalty to his own interests.”

Louvois, marquis de

(French, 1639-1691): Louvois, marquis deLouvois, marquis deAs war minister under Louis XIV, Louvois strengthened the French army, making it possible for Louis to wage his numerous wars. Louvois also supported Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban and others who helped modernize the French military.

Lumumba, Patrice

(Congolese, 1925-1961): Lumumba, PatriceLumumba, PatriceTrained in Moscow, Lumumba led the Congolese to independence from Belgium and became a hero to many African revolutionaries.

MacArthur, Douglas

(American, 1880-1964): MacArthur, DouglasMacArthur, DouglasFrom a family of career soldiers, MacArthur was defeated in the Philippines by the Japanese in early 1942 but became the author of the island-hopping strategy that would lead to the defeat of Japan in August of 1945. He later commanded U.S. forces (and others serving as part of the United Nations) in the Korean War. At the Republican National Convention in 1952, he said, “It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

Machiavelli, Niccolò

(Italian, 1469-1527): Machiavelli, NiccolòMachiavelli, NiccolòBest known for Il principe (1532; The Prince, 1640), Machiavelli also wrote Dell’arte della guerra (1521; The Art of War, 1560). Machiavelli looked to Republican Rome to argue that a truly stable and secure nation required a disciplined, well-trained citizen army instead of mercenaries. Machiavelli directly linked politics and war, anticipating the simplification of Carl von Clausewitz that “war is the continuation of politics by other means.” The Art of War was held in high regard by readers such as Frederick the Great, Napoleon, and Clausewitz. Machiavelli wrote from experience: He drafted the Florentine Ordinanza of 1505, a military law to end use of mercenary troops. In The Art of War, he wrote, “It is better to subdue an enemy by famine than by sword, for in battle, fortuna has often a much greater share than virtu.”

Maginot, André

(French, 1877-1932): Maginot, AndréMaginot, AndréMaginot, French minister of defense, advocated the building of forts on France’s eastern border to protect France from invasion by Germany. Built during the 1930’s, these became known as the Maginot line during World War II.

Mahan, Alfred Thayer

(American, 1840-1914): Mahan, Alfred ThayerMahan, Alfred ThayerAn American naval officer, Mahan published The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783 in 1890, arguing that sea power was the decisive factor in national strength. The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793-1812 (1892) extended and solidified his influence. Both books were widely read and studied in Great Britain and Germany prior to World War I and contributed to the naval arms race, which helped spark that conflict. In his book Naval Strategy Compared and Contrasted with the Principles and Practices of Military Operations on Land (1911), he wrote, “Where evil is mighty and defiant, the obligation to use force that is war arises.”

Mahan, Dennis Hart

(American, 1802-1871): Mahan, Dennis HartMahan, Dennis HartInstructor at West Point and writer, Mahan published editions of his An Elementary Treatise on Advanced-Guard, Out-Post, and Detachment Service of Troops and the Manner of Posting and Handling Them in Presence of an Enemy in 1847, 1853, and 1863. Out-Posts, as it came to be known, was a comprehensive review of strategy and tactics. Mahan helped teach Civil War generals to believe in an active offensive campaign of maneuver as a means of victory. He wrote, “How different is almost every military problem except in the bare mechanism of tactics. In almost every case the data on which a solution depends is lacking.”

Mao Zedong

(Mao Tse-tung; Chinese, 1893-1976): Mao ZedongMao ZedongAs a military and revolutionary theorist, Mao believed that the countryside, not the city, was the seedbed of a people’s revolution. He stated that “political power comes out of the barrel of a gun” and that “all reactionaries are paper tigers.” He advocated a small but dedicated revolutionary force that would move among the general population until it could seize total control of the nation. His most famous comments on fighting were published in Six Essays on Military Affairs (1971).

Marius, Gaius

(Roman, 157-86 b.c.e.): Marius, GaiusMarius, GaiusGaius Marius was the prime mover behind the second century b.c.e. evolution of Roman armies from groups of citizens serving for limited periods to standing armies raised and paid by their commander, to whom they were therefore loyal. He also instituted the cohort as the principal unit of the Roman army and improved training and discipline. In one battle, his opposing commander is said to have claimed, “If you are a great general, come down and fight me,” to which Marius replied, “If you are a great general, come and make me fight you.”

Maurice of Nassau

(Dutch, 1567-1625): Maurice of NassauMaurice of NassauCommander of the Dutch forces in their revolt against Spain, Maurice introduced drill, discipline, organization, standardized equipment, and clear command structure. He drew upon classical examples to make his troops more flexible and responsive, and he effectively utilized artillery and engineers.

Maxim, Hiram Stevens

(British, 1840-1916): Maxim, Hiram StevensMaxim, Hiram StevensBorn in the United States, Maxim became a British subject in 1900. He invented the automatic machine gun, the basis for one of the most important of modern weapons.

Mehmed II

(Ottoman, 1432-1481): Mehmed IIMehmed II (Ottoman sultan)[Mehmed 02]The sultan Mehmed II completed the defeat of the Byzantine Empire with the Siege of Constantinople (1453), in which he used the largest cannons yet known, specifically cast for the purpose. After capturing Constantinople, he famously is reported to have said, “The city and the buildings are mine, but I resign to your valor the captives and the spoil, the treasures of gold and beauty; be rich and be happy.”

Minié, Claude-Étienne

(French, 1804-1879): Minié, Claude-ÉtienneMinié, Claude-Étienne[Minie, Claude Etienne]In 1849, MiniéMinié balls[Minie balls], a French officer, invented a bullet with a conical point and an iron cup at the bottom. When the “Minié ball” was fired from a muzzle-loading rifle, the cup caused the bullet to expand and fit snugly against the rifling grooves of the barrel, increasing the accuracy. The Minié ball was quickly adopted by Western armies.

Mitchell, William “Billy”

(American, 1879-1936): Mitchell, William “Billy”Mitchell, William “Billy”An advocate of airpower in armed forces and of the creation of a separate air force, Mitchell commanded the U.S. Army Air Service in Europe during World War I. He was a friend of British air corps commander Hugh Trenchard, an equally strong proponent of airpower. Mitchell’s forceful arguments that airpower would be the decisive factor in warfare and his attacks on his superiors led to his court-martial and resignation. In his book Winged Defense: The Development and Possibilities of Modern Air Power–Economic and Military (1925), he noted, “It is probable that future war will be conducted by a special class, the air force, as it was by the armored knights of the Middle Ages.”

Monash, John

(Australian, 1865-1931): Monash, JohnMonash, JohnAs a commander in World War I, Monash oversaw the broad attack at Villers-Bretonneux in 1918 that forced the German to retreat, the first major defeat for the Germans after four years of trench warfare. In spite of his success in the war, he did say, “I do not regard and have never regarded permanent soldiering as an attractive proposition for any man who has some other profession at his command. I would recommend to him to stick to private practice every time.”

Napoleon I

(Napoleon Bonaparte; Corsican French, 1769-1821): Napoleon INapoleon I (Bonaparte)[Napoleon 01]Napoleon’s rise from a position of relative obscurity to that of French emperor in 1804 and his final defeat at Waterloo (1815) and ensuing exile to the barren island of St. Helena are romantic aspects of his life. His reputation rests solidly on his reforms of the French legal and administrative system and, especially, his military genius. Napoleon inherited an army that had made major improvements in artillery, infantry tactics, and organization, and he incorporated these into a coherent system that improved the army’s logistics, speed, and fighting power. He evolved a command system that allowed him to control operations in an extensive battlefield so he could menace one portion of an enemy’s line and at the decisive moment strike at the most vulnerable point. With this flexibility, he won complex battles at Castiglione (1796) and Austerlitz (1805), both of which relied upon careful timing. Above all, Napoleon brought a vision to warfare that moved beyond the immediate battle to a strategic plan to win the war. He commented, “In war, everything depends on morale; and morale and public opinion comprise the better part of reality.”

Nasution, Abdul Haris

(Indonesian, 1918-2000): Nasution, Abdul HarisNasution, Abdul HarisThis Indonesian general developed the concept of territorial warfare and also the tactics of guerrilla warfare against the Dutch during the Dutch-Indonesian War. In his book Pokok-Pokok Gerilya (1953; Fundamentals of Guerilla Warfare, 1953), he argued, “The guerrilla should be a revolutionary vanguard; this was our ideal in the past and should be our ideal in the future.”

Nelson, Horatio

(British, 1758-1805): Nelson, HoratioNelson, HoratioDuring the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815), Nelson’s victories at the Battle of the Nile (1798), Copenhagen (1801), and Trafalgar (1805) ensured English naval domination. Nelson’s tactics, never formalized and always open to innovation, consisted of breaking the line of enemy ships and then concentrating on the scattered elements. At the Battle of Trafalgar, he noted, “England expects every man to do his duty.”

Nimitz, Chester W.

(American, 1885-1966): Nimitz, Chester W.Nimitz, Chester W.Commander in chief of the United States Pacific fleet during World War II, Nimitz used an “island-hopping” strategy that seized key points and left Japanese forces isolated. He combined airpower and military intelligence to win the decisive Battle of Midway in 1942. In March, 1945, he noted of his soldiers, “Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Oppenheimer, J. Robert

(American, 1904-1967): Oppenheimer, J. RobertOppenheimer, J. RobertAs director of the Los Alamos Laboratories during World War II, Oppenheimer was in charge of the team of scientists who developed the nation’s first nuclear weapons, a program called the Manhattan Project. An excellent administrator as well as a scientist, he also was a member of the scientific panel that supported the use of the atomic bomb against Japan.

Philip II

(Macedonian, 382-336 b.c.e.): Philip II of MacedonPhilip II of Macedon[Philip 02 of Macedon]As king of a marginal state on the edge of the Greek world, Philip transformed the Macedonian army into his era’s most potent force, largely through effective use of the military formation known as the phalanx. He was preparing an invasion of the Persian Empire when he was assassinated by a Macedonian youth. He was then succeeded in rule, ambition, and achievement by his son, Alexander the Great, who would go on to conquer much of the known world.

Qi Jiguang

(Ch’i Chi-Kuang; Chinese, 1528-1587): Qi JiguangQi JiguangQi Jiguang incorporated the precepts in Sunzi’s (Sun Tzu’s) Bingfa (c. 510 b.c.e. ; The Art of War, 1910) in reforms that allowed large Chinese armies to cross the steppes and fight against mounted, more mobile opponents. He thereby made China a more unified and stable nation.


(Seljuk Turk, c. 1137-1193): SaladinSaladin (sultan of Egypt and Syria)As leader of the Seljuk Turks, he led his troops to victory at the Battle of Hattin, and he managed to destroy the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and blunt the Crusades;Third (1187-1192)Third Crusade, holding together an Empire which included modern-day Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

San Martín, José

(Argentine, 1778-1850): San Martín, JoséSan Martín, José[San Martin, Jose]San Martín managed to rally Latin Americans who supported independence from Spain, lead them across the Andes, and attack Spanish-dominated Peru, thereby ensuring independence for Argentina, Chile, and Peru.

Schlieffen, Alfred von

(German, 1833-1913): Schlieffen, Alfred vonSchlieffen, Alfred vonThe German chief of staff from 1891 to 1905, Schlieffen devised an intricate plan for Germany to strike first against France and then move against the slower Russian armies. The plan was the supreme example of war by timetable and went through more than fifty revisions. When war finally came, however, it failed.

Schwarzkopf, H. Norman

(American, born 1934): Schwarzkopf, H. NormanSchwarzkopf, H. NormanSchwarzkopf oversaw the victory of the U.S.-dominated coalition forces in the Gulf War of 1991 with relatively few casualties. His role was not only to lead a sometimes uneasy coalition but also to use the media to make the Iraqis believe that he was about to launch a seaborne invasion instead of attacking on land. In an interview in 1991, he said, “It is very important that if we commit again to any kind of battle we are sure to understand the ramifications of what happens if we do accomplish our objectives,” an observation that appeared prescient following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq mounted in 2003.

Scipio Africanus

(Roman, 235-183 b.c.e.): Scipio AfricanusScipio Africanus (Roman general)During the Punic Wars, Scipio Africanus managed to defeat Hannibal by embarking on a risky invasion of North Africa and forcing the Carthaginians to leave Italy in order to save their capital. His dislike of politicians was shown when he was later tried for bribery. Warning the Roman people against politicians, Scipio exclaimed, “Ungrateful country, you will not possess even my bones.”

Scott, Winfield

(American, 1786-1866): Scott, WinfieldScott, WinfieldA veteran of the War of 1812, a victor in the Mexican War (1846-1848), and a long-serving army commander, Scott instilled professionalism in the new American nation’s army. His amphibious expedition against Mexico in 1847 used maneuvering more than frontal assault to achieve victory. In 1861, in his mid-seventies, he proposed the Anaconda Plan, which eventually defeated the Southern Confederacy by blockade, driving down the Mississippi River into the heart of the South.

Servius Tullius

(Roman, 578-534 b.c.e.): Servius TulliusServius TulliusServius was a possibly fictitious Etruscan king credited with revising the Roman state, including its military. His army was organized around “centuries” of one hundred men capable of providing their own arms and armor. Servius is said to have built the first walls around Rome, the first bridge across the Tiber, and Rome’s seaport at Ostia. During his reign (or during this time), Rome emerged as the leading power in central Italy.

Severus, Lucius Septimius

(Roman, 146-211): Severus, Lucius SeptimiusSeverus, Lucius SeptimiusSeverus restored military strength to the Roman Empire after a period of civil war. He increased the number of Roman legions, created a mobile reserve, used native troops, and tied the army to the throne by increased pay. His dying words to his sons were, in effect, “Be generous to the soldiers and don’t care about anyone else.”


(Zulu, c. 1787-1828): ShakaShaka (Zulu king)Founder of the Zulu Empire in southern Africa, Shaka introduced the assagai, or the short stabbing spear, and organized disciplined units that could be effectively commanded on the battlefield. The empire he founded resisted European control until 1897.

Sherman, William Tecumseh

(American, 1820-1891): Sherman, William TecumsehSherman, William TecumsehThe commander of Union armies in the western theater during the American Civil War, Sherman declared that “war is hell and you cannot refine it,” believing that the morale of an enemy civilian population was as much a target as its armies in the field. He employed this doctrine during his devastating March to the Sea (1864) and his subsequent advance across the Carolinas. Looking back on the war, in 1880 he said, “There is many a boy here to-day who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.”


(Shih Huang-ti; Chinese, 259-210 b.c.e.): Qin ShihuangdiQin ShihuangdiShihuangdiThe first emperor (also known as Qin Shihuangdi) to rule a unified China, Shihuangdi came to power in 246 b.c.e. as ruler of Qin (Ch’in), a feudal state that unified China in 221 b.c.e. He centralized government and military administration. He divided the country into thirty-six military districts and standardized weights, measurements, and even the axle lengths of carts to make roads more uniform. He built much of the Great Wall.

Shrapnel, Henry

(British, 1761-1842): Shrapnel, HenryShrapnel, HenryAn English artillery officer, Shrapnel developed an artillery projectile with many small metal pieces. When exploded, these were effective against enemy troops. The name for his device, first used in 1804 and known as “shrapnel,” has come to be used for similar fragments from artillery shells or bombs.


(Albanian, 1405-1468): SkanderbegAs prince of Albania, Skanderbeg was able to lead a spirited resistance against the Ottoman Turks for two decades, developing a system of hit-and-run raids yet managing to maintain some strategic strongholds.

Slim, Viscount

(Sir William Slim; British, 1891-1970): Slim, ViscountSlim, ViscountA commander of guerrilla groups harassing the Japanese in Burma (now called Myanmar) in World War II, Viscount Slim noted in 1957, in Courage and Other Broadcasts, “The more modern war becomes, the more essential appear the basic qualities that from the beginning of history have distinguished armies from mobs.”


(Sun Tzu; Chinese, fl. c. fifth century b.c.e.): SunziSunziLittle is known about the author of Bingfa (c. 510 b.c.e. ; The Art of War, 1910) except that he was active in military affairs during the Zhou (Chou) Dynasty (1066-256 b.c.e. ) and had a profound influence on Asian military thought. He was largely unknown in the West until the eighteenth century, and he received widespread appreciation only in the twentieth. Sunzi stressed moral more than physical force, seeing defeat as a psychological condition that a successful commander imposes upon an opponent. A proponent of Daoist thought, Sunzi preached that a commander must use the natural flow of conditions–terrain, weather, enemy strength, and morale–to shape the battle plan. To dominate an enemy morally, one must understand the enemy completely, necessitating the use of intelligence gathering, deception, and trickery. In Sunzi’s concept of warfare, the ultimate goal is to make the enemy’s plans fit one’s own strategy so that his strengths become weaknesses and lead to his ultimate defeat. A quote he ascribed to Wu Ch’i was “The troops must have confidence in the orders of their seniors. The orders of their superiors [form] the source whence discipline is born.”

Templer, Gerald

(British, 1898-1979): Templer, GeraldTempler, GeraldAs commander of the British in Malaya, Templer managed to use intelligence and strong-arm tactics to win the Malayan Emergency, in one of the most successful counterinsurgency campaigns in the twentieth century. When asked how he won the conflict, he said, “It all depended on intelligence.”


(Greek, c. 524-c. 460 b.c.e.): ThemistoclesThemistoclesAfter the Greek victory over the Persians at Marathon (490 b.c.e.), Themistocles established a strong Athenian navy. In 480 b.c.e., the combined Greek fleet defeated the Persians at Salamis. Although Themistocles was exiled from Athens, he laid the foundation for the Athenian Empire.

Thompson, Robert

(British, 1916-1992): Thompson, RobertThompson, RobertA leading British counterinsurgency expert, Thompson advised the British military in Malaya and later the Americans in Vietnam. He started his book No Exit from Vietnam (1969) by noting that war as a continuation of politics is comprehensible only in relation to the achievement of its political aim.

Tiglath-pileser III

(Assyrian, r. 745-727 b.c.e.): Tiglath-pileser IIITiglath-pileser III (king of Assyria)[Tiglath Pileser 03]Assyrian ruler Tiglath-pileser III established a strong, centralized government and army that allowed the Assyrian Empire to conquer Syria, Phoenicia, Israel, and much of the Middle East.


(Josip Broz; Yugoslav, 1892-1980): TitoTito (Josip Broz)As leader of the Partisans, Tito managed to defeat the Germans in Yugoslavia and outmaneuver the Yugoslav Royalists. In 1942 he wrote that success would come from “swift, surprise assaults, night forays, surrounding the enemy and regularly attacking him from the rear.”

Torstenson, Lennart

(Swedish, 1603-1651): Torstenson, LennartTorstenson, LennartA Swedish general and artillery commander, Torstenson served under Gustavus II Adolphus and was expert in the use of the new mobile field artillery. After rising to the command of the Swedish army in 1641, he won a series of victories that relied on his skillful use of field artillery.

Trenchard, Hugh

(British, 1873-1956): Trenchard, HughTrenchard, HughAfter serving in the British Army, Trenchard became the Royal Flying Corps’ field commander in 1913. In 1918 he established the Independent Air Force as a separate branch. He supported strategic bombing and instituted its first use against Germany in the closing days of the war.

Trotsky, Leon

(Russian, 1879-1940): Trotsky, LeonTrotsky, LeonKnown as a political leader of the Bolshevik Revolution (1917-1921), Trotsky was the creator of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War (1918-1921). As the first modern military force motivated and guided by ideology, the Red Army preserved the Soviet revolutionary government against its internal and external enemies. In 1921, Trotsky wrote, “If we happen to be too weak for attack, then we strive to detach ourselves from the embraces of the enemy in order later to gather ourselves into a gist and to strike at the enemy’s most vulnerable spot.” This and other comments were published as Military Writings (1969). As his long-term strategy, he noted, “First of all you must build the morale of your own troops. Then you must look to the morale of your civilian population. Then, and only then, when these are in good repair, should you concern yourself with the enemy morale. And the best way to destroy the enemy morale is to kill him in large numbers. There is nothing more demoralizing than that.”

Tsuji, Masanobu

(Japan, 1902-1961): Tsuji, MasanobuTsuji, MasanobuTsuji was a Japanese army officer who helped plan the invasion of Malaya, oversaw the war in Malaya, and later served in Burma and Guadalcanal. His book Shingapōru: Unmei no tenki (1952; Singapore: The Japanese Version, 1960) is one of the few accounts in English by a senior Japanese officer. He noted famously, “Patience is a virtue in staff discussions.”

Vauban, Sébastien Le Prestre de

(French, 1633-1707): Vauban, Sébastien Le Prestre deVauban, Sébastien Le Prestre deVauban is chiefly remembered as Europe’s best and most prolific military Engineers;Frenchengineer at a time when siegeworks and fortifications were crucial to the art of military affairs. He developed a system of geometric, angular, defensive works that were mutually reinforced by firepower and difficult to attack. Vauban was equally adept using counterwalls or circumvallations; indirect approaches, such as zigzagging trenches; and explosives, such as mines, in capturing enemy fortresses.

Vegetius Renatus, Flavius

(Roman, fifth century c.e.): Vegetius Renatus, FlaviusVegetius Renatus, FlaviusVegetius’s De Re Militari (383-450 c.e. ; The Fovre Bookes of Flauius Vegetius Renatus: Briefelye Contayninge a Plaine Forme and Perfect Knowledge of Martiall Policye, Feates of Chiualrie, and Vvhatsoeuver Pertayneth to Warre, 1572; also translated as Military Institutions of Vegetius, 1767) provided an excellent description of Roman infantry doctrine, especially its emphasis on drill and maneuver. This work was consulted as a practical manual on military matters well into the nineteenth century.

Vo Nguyen Giap

(Vietnamese, born 1911): Vo Nguyen GiapVo Nguyen GiapViet Minh general Giap believed revolutionary warfare should follow a three-step progression: guerrilla fighting, equality with the opponent, and final victory. During the long struggle in Vietnam, he employed this strategy against the French, South Vietnamese, and Americans, leading to military victories, such as that at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, as well as politically beneficial military defeats, such as the 1968 Tet Offensive. Commenting on his military tactics, in 1982 he said famously, “There is only one rule in you: you must win.”

Wallenstein, Albrecht Wenzel von

(Bohemian, 1583-1634): Wallenstein, Albrecht Wenzel vonWallenstein, Albrecht Wenzel vonAs a general in the forces of the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), Wallenstein raised his own armies and provided for them from the lands of his opponents. His maxim was that “war must feed war.”

Washington, George

(American, 1732-1799): Washington, GeorgeWashington, GeorgeAs commander of the American forces during the American Revolution, Washington transformed the militia into the Continental Army after training them at Valley Forge. In 1796 he stated, “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world.”

Weinberger, Caspar

(American, 1917-2006): Weinberger, CasparWeinberger, CasparAs U.S. secretary of defense (1981-1987), Weinberger oversaw the massive expansion of the U.S. military, including nuclear submarines, that prompted the Soviet Union to compete, bankrupting itself in the process. In 1990 he published an account of his time in the Pentagon, Fighting for Peace: Seven Critical Years in the Pentagon.

Wellington, duke of

(Arthur Wellesley; British, 1759-1852): Wellington, duke ofWellington, duke of (Arthur Wellesley)As commander of the British forces in the Peninsular War and then at Waterloo, Wellington invoked planning, shrewdness, and conservatism to achieve many victories against Napoleon. In 1810 he said of the French, “They won’t draw me from my cautious system. I’ll fight them only where I am pretty sure of victory.”

Wet, Christiaan de

(South African, 1854-1922): Wet, ChristiaanWet, Christiaan[Wet, Christiaan de]As commander of the Boer guerrillas, de Wet was able to wage a long war against a massively superior British army during the Boer Wars (1880-1902)Second Boer War. In his book De strijd tusschen Boer en Brit (1902; Three Years’ War, 1902), he said, “[W]e had always felt that no one is worthy of the name of man who is not ready to vindicate the right, be the odds what they may.”

Whitney, Eli

(American, 1765-1825): Whitney, EliWhitney, EliAmerican inventor Whitney perfected the manufacture of interchangeable parts in 1798, standardizing the machine-made parts of a musket to predetermined specifications and bringing mass production to warfare.

Yamamoto, Isoroku

(Japanese, 1884-1943):Yamamoto, IsorokuYamamoto, IsorokuJapan’s most successful admiral during World War II, Yamamoto devised the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He forced the “decisive battle” with the American fleet at Midway; the American victory there was the turning point in the Pacific war. In 1937 he urged that “Japan should never be so foolish as to make enemies of Great Britain and the United States.”

Yi Sun-sin

(Korean, 1545-1598):Yi Sun-sinYi Sun-sin[Yi Sun sin]Yi developed probably the first ironclad battleship, the kobukson or “turtle ship,” whose upper deck was covered with iron plates and with cannons mounted along the sides and stern. When the Japanese invaded Korea in 1592, Yi’s fleet cut them off from supplies and reinforcements. His naval victories are ranked with those of the Battle of Lepanto (1571) and the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588).

Zhukov, Georgy

(Soviet, 1896-1974): Zhukov, GeorgyZhukov, GeorgyA Red Army commander during World War II, Zhukov earned a reputation for tenacity and planning, which led to the destruction of the Axis forces at Stalingrad and later their defeat in Europe.

Žižka, Jan

(Bohemian, c. 1360-1424): Žižka, JanŽižka, Jan[Zizka, Jan]Military leader of the Hussites, Žižka used linked, stoutly built wagons filled with troops and small cannons as mobile field fortifications known as Wagenburgs. Žižka was never defeated in battle, despite the fact that he was, for much of his life, blind.

Books and Articles
  • Alexander, Bevin. How Wars Are Won: The Thirteen Rules of War from Ancient Greece to the War on Terror. New York: Crown, 2002.
  • Haas, Jonathan, ed. The Anthropology of War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
  • Lider, Julian. Military Theory: Concept, Structure, Problems. Aldershot, Hampshire, England: Gower, 1983.
  • Montgomery of Alamein, Viscount. A History of Warfare. London: Collins, 1968.
  • Murray, Williamson, and Richard Hart Sinnreich, eds. The Past Is Prologue: The Importance of History to the Military Profession. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Tsouras, Peter G. Changing Orders: The Evolution of World Armies, 1945 to the Present. New York: Facts On File, 1994.
  • Tsouras, Peter G., ed. The Greenhill Dictionary of Military Quotations. London: Greenhill Books, 2000.
Categories: History