Most Famous U.S. Generals

The Military Commanders That Forever Shaped U.S. History



What does it mean to be a great leader? The best ones lead by example, displaying courage and strength even when they face brutal conditions and slim odds. America was won on the battlefield, whether it was defeating the British at sea or at home, refusing to let the South secede, or keeping foreign powers at bay. These five generals managed to succeed despite an onslaught of challenges. Take a moment to remember these famous U.S. military generals for their leadership and their smarts when America was in crisis.

George Washington

Best remembered as being the father of our country, George Washington earned a place in American politics after helping the country win the Revolutionary War. Washington began his military career during the French and Indian War. With France and England duking it out over territory in the Midwest, Washington served as a major for the British army and proved to be a powerful asset to the royal crown.

As the Revolution was getting underway in 1775, Washington was commissioned to serve as the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s Continental Army. The high point of his career came when he led his men across the Delaware River during the dead of winter, taking out his British foes at the Battle of Trenton, and restoring faith in the rebels’ cause.

George S. Patton

A military figure for the ages, George S. Patton played an instrumental role in helping the Allies secure victory during WWII.  Patton was already a distinguished officer when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. He helped amass and train an army as the U.S. watched the growing conflict in Europe from afar. As U.S. involvement in the war became more certain, Patton quickly rose through the ranks and became the Commanding General of the Third Army.

After the Allies managed to land and invade Normandy, Patton and his men arrived on the scene to take control of Germany-occupied France. He sent scouts to find and record Germany’s position. Patton used a combination of heavily armored vehicles and tactical air support to break through enemy lines, forcing the Germans to recede. Patton used this strategy to push U.S. troops all the way into Nazi Germany, bringing the war to a dramatic end.

Douglas MacArthur

While Patton and the Allies were storming Europe, Douglas MacArthur was wrapped up in his own crucial standoff known as the Pacific Theater of War. After becoming the Army’s youngest major general, MacArthur was promoted to lieutenant general of the U.S. Armed Forces in the Far East, a military outfit that was tasked with defending the Philippines from a Japanese invasion. Things took a turn for the worst when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Just a few hours later, Japanese fighter pilots started firing on the Far East Air Force base in the Philippines.

After enduring so much damage in the Pacific, MacArthur, his family, and his men had to retreat to nearby Australia. MacArthur solemnly swore to return to the Philippines. The war raged on for another two years until the Japanese finally surrendered on September 2nd, 1945. MacArthur made his triumphant return to the Philippines and received the Medal of Honor for his service.

Ulysses S. Grant

We know him as the prevailing general during the U.S. Civil War. Ulysses S. Grant started rising through the ranks when he first started organizing and training volunteers after the Confederate Army launched an attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. After being promoted to Brigadier General, Grant took a leap of faith and decided to attack Confederate soldiers in Belmont, Missouri without instruction or approval from his commanding officers. The move resulted in an early victory for the North, ensuring Grant’s value in the war.

Grant moved forward and took on the Confederate Army at Vicksburg, a key piece of territory for its control over the Mississippi River. Yet again, Grant emerged victorious, leading President Lincoln to promote him to Commanding General of the United States Army in 1864. Thanks in large part to the massive size of his army, Grant emerged victorious over the course of the Civil War, taking out his rival Robert E. Lee in a series of bloody battles. Grant went on to serve as the 18th President of the United States.

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