July 2008 Mailbag
Shame on you for cheating! Hal Moore and Chesty Puller certainly were great battle leaders, but their battle prowess was only tested while in command at the battalion and regimental level, not as generals. Putting them on your list among the top generals in the modern era is unfair to the many other “great” generals who actually proved their mettle and generalship in battle while actually serving as generals – men such as James Van Fleet and Oliver P. Smith during the Korean War; Israel Tal and Ariel Sharon during the Six Day War; Rafael Eitan, Dan Laner, Moshe Peled, Avraham Adan, and Ariel Sharon (again) during the Yom Kippur War, and Norman Schwartzkopf [sic] during Operation Desert Storm.
Thanks very much. The original title of our “Greatest” article was “History’s 100 Greatest Commanders,” but was changed to “Generals” during final layout of the article (hence, Moore, Puller, Mao and many of the ancients who were not technically “generals” being on the list).
Fans of Gen. James Van Fleet will be interested in reading our History’s Mysteries article in the May 2008 ACG – we reveal the “mystery man” whom Gen. George C. Marshall confused for many years with Van Fleet and explain why Marshall blocked Van Fleet’s promotion to general until the confusion finally was cleared up in mid-1944. Van Fleet was promoted rapidly after that, reaching the rank of 4-star general and leading US forces during the Korean War.
We have featured the exploits of Israeli commanders Peled and Adan in previous ACG articles (Battlefield Leader and You Command departments) and both clearly were outstanding leaders as you pointed out.
We will reserve comment on Gen. Schwarzkopf, but would point out that the stunning success of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm was chiefly due to the largely unheralded accomplishments of numerous subordinates, including: Gen Chuck Horner, USAF, leader of the devastating air campaign; Gen Gus Pagonis, the logistical genius who accomplished the Herculean task of moving half a million troops and all necessary supplies and tools of war to the theater of war; and outstanding ground commanders such as Gen. Walter Boomer, USMC, Gen. Gary Lucks, Gen. Fred Franks, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, and aggressive young colonels such as Monty Meigs, Tom Hill, Jim Riley and Don Holder (all later generals). Other unsung heroes of the Gulf War who, unlike Schwarzkopf, did not hog the public limelight during the war, include the so-called “Jedi Knights” (the Army majors who were graduates of the Command & General Staff College’s Advanced Military Studies Program) who developed the Coalition’s brilliantly successful plan of attack, and a civilian (although a West Point graduate), Mr. Robert Kimmitt, the US State Department undersecretary who virtually single-handedly put together the Allied coalition of European and Arab nations that made the entire operation possible. All of the above deserve the credit for the success of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm that was instead heaped upon “Stormin’ Norman.”
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