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Greatest military/political leaders in history?

 
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Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/2/2007 6:24:43 AM   
Halsey


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My list...

Cyrus the Great
Alexander
Julius Caesar
Charlemagne
William of Normandy
Genghis Khan
Frederick the Great
George Washington
Napoleon


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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/2/2007 6:49:28 AM   
ilovestrategy


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Your list pretty well sums up how I feel. Cyrus and Alexander were both top notch!

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/2/2007 7:31:00 AM   
Michael Dorosh


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"Show me a hero, and I'll prove he's a bum." - Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, Baa Baa Black Sheep

George Washington - Privately emancipated slaves but never expressed opposition to slavery publicly. Had 317 slaves on the rolls at the time of his death. Of nine major battles he fought as a military commander, he lost six of them - a 66.67% loss rate. Of course, most influential figures - "great men" if you will - are generally more than a sum of their individual achievements.


< Message edited by Michael Dorosh -- 9/2/2007 7:39:25 AM >


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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/2/2007 2:09:15 PM   
Halsey


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Leaders that have both political and military skills are very rare for humanity.

I would have loved to have lived during the reign of Octavian/Augustus.
As long as I was a Roman Citizen, and not a slave.

Any others that need to be included, or discarded from the list?



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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/2/2007 2:18:21 PM   
freder

 

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Suleiman the Lawgiver/Magnificent

Oh, and Marcus Aurelius, off course!

< Message edited by freder -- 9/2/2007 2:23:34 PM >

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/3/2007 1:42:24 PM   
SireChaos

 

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On the political side, Otto von Bismarck (the "Iron Chancellor") was quite a ruthless bastard, but I´ll have to admit he was extraordinarily competent.
Besides that... Cardinal Richelieu, Emperor Constantine, Churchill...

On the military side, I think the Byzantine general Belisarius needs to be mentioned. In the early 6th century he re-conquered much of the former West Roman Empire from the barbarians.
Others... Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Rommel (as with Bismarck, you don´t have to LIKE him...) ...

As for people with military AND political skills, there are indeed few. Gaius Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great come to mind. Maybe Charlemagne, Gustav Adolph II, Arminius...

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/3/2007 9:21:10 PM   
Michael Dorosh


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quote:

ORIGINAL: SireChaos
Others... Rommel (as with Bismarck, you don´t have to LIKE him...) ...



That was the same Rommel who lost the entire African continent, battered his brains out at Tobruk, basically used up his Italian allies in order to preserve his ethnic German forces, never set foot in the big league (Eastern Front), was proven completely wrong in his concept of defending Normandy (only one amphibious assault in the history of warfare was ever turned back at the water's edge, and it certainly wasn't in France), and then took the coward's way out in hopes of sparing his place in history?

I guess Rommel was an okay infantry company commander and did well as a headquarters guard, and as an armoured division commander did well in France - but was obviously promoted past his level of competence since he doesn't seem to have accomplished too terribly much after 1941 except when his opposition was inexperienced or completely outclassed as at, say, Kasserine.



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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/3/2007 11:53:49 PM   
ezz

 

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I always thought Runstead { and Hitler even more so  } was proved wrong at Normandy.
Rommel knew the reserves would never make it to the beaches due to Allied airpower { wasn't it 200:1 in fighter superiority alone on day 1 ?}

Rommel believed that if the Allies got ashore then they would never be dislodged, and he was right. And Omaha shows what can happen on the beaches.

Try wargaming d-day youself as the Axis. You can't win it whatever tactics or strategy you try. 
Overrated he my be but 'taking the cowards way out' was to spare his family the concentation camps, not his own  reputation.


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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/4/2007 12:51:07 AM   
KG Erwin


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I'll add Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

I'm a Democrat, but Ronald Reagan earns kudos for his contributions in ending the Cold War and bringing down the Soviet Union.

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/4/2007 3:58:47 AM   
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I'll agree with FDR (despite the fact his programs were semi-facist and nearly socialist, it was what was needed at the time). I would like to argue John Locke, who may not have been a traditional "leader" but whose political ideology is the basis for most of the modern world.

Also, how about Philip II Augustus of France and Louis XIV (Sun-King). These guys basically built absolutism and Divine Right, and Philip Augustus managed to boot much of England out of France. I would also say Justinian (the Byzantine emperor), despite what Procopius has to say.

Saladin was pretty great too, managed to save the Islamic empires from the Crusaders.

I would add Pope Gregory I "The Great" to the political list, and the architect of the 4th Lateran council Innocent III. These guys made the Catholic Church have real political power.

One shouldn't forget Vladimir Lenin either. Just because he is one of the "bad boys," he was very effective and making change and taking the reigns of a gigantic country, switching it over to control by his own Communist party.

You know, these "greatest generals/leaders/etc..." are getting a bit formulaic, we need a "worst, most tragic, or unintentionally funny" leaders thread. My first vote would go to Maximilian Robespierre, who literally got people so riled up that he lost his head. And James II Stuart of England, who fled from a bloodless coup in the Glorious Revolution led by a (probably homosexual) William of Orange and his own daughter Mary (not to mention the whole "warming pan baby" incident). King John springs to mind, and the Magna Carta. Not to mention about 100 Roman emperors, like Commodus, Marcus Aurelius's son, who (unlike the movie) was an actual Gladiator in the arena from time to time. Caligula is an obvious choice, since he had statues of sexual positions to refer to when he had a conquest in his bedroom (and the business about his horse). And lets not forget everyone's favorite guy to hate, George McClellan.

SoM


< Message edited by Son_of_Montfort -- 9/4/2007 4:02:12 AM >


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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/4/2007 4:35:08 AM   
Zap


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I agree Son of Monfort, we need other examples. You mentioned the worst or most tragic, or funny. Add to that another, how about, most virtuous. King Stephen of Hungary 998 AD comes to mind. Brought civility to his country. Was loved by his people for his goodness.

Example of a letter of advice to his son. " My beloved son, delight of my heart, hope of your posterity, I pray, I command, that at every time and in everything, strengthened by your devotion to me, you may show favor not only to relations and kin, or to the most eminent, be they leaders or rich men or neighbors or fellow-countrymen, but also to foreigners and to all who come to you. By fulfilling your duty in this way you will reach the highest state of happiness. Be merciful to all who are suffering violence. Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak.

Finally be strong lest prosperity lift you up too much or adversity cast you down. Be humble in this life, that God may raise you up in the next. Be truly moderate and do not punish or condemn anyone immoderately. Be gentle so that you may never oppose justice. Be honorable so that you may never voluntarily bring disgrace upon anyone. Be chaste so that ;you may avoid all the foulness of lust like the pangs of death.

All these virtues I have noted above make up the royal crown, and without them no one is fit to rule here on earth.

from Stephen's advice to his son


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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/4/2007 5:06:39 AM   
Michael Dorosh


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quote:

ORIGINAL: ezz

I always thought Runstead { and Hitler even more so } was proved wrong at Normandy.
Rommel knew the reserves would never make it to the beaches due to Allied airpower { wasn't it 200:1 in fighter superiority alone on day 1 ?}

Rommel believed that if the Allies got ashore then they would never be dislodged, and he was right. And Omaha shows what can happen on the beaches.

Try wargaming d-day youself as the Axis. You can't win it whatever tactics or strategy you try.
Overrated he my be but 'taking the cowards way out' was to spare his family the concentation camps, not his own reputation.




von Runstedt also said "Make Peace, You Fools" which was the only way out of the Normandy predicament. There were no easy solutions; a reading of John Ellis' facts and figures in "Brute Force" suggests the matter was probably decided by June 1944 but for actually doing the thing.

Point taken on Rommel's reputation. Put me down as one of those who "don't like him" as mentioned up above.


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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/4/2007 8:00:23 PM   
sulla05

 

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Absent to the discussion so far are.

Timur ( Tamerlane ) greatest conqueror of all times ( in area )

Cromwell, Marlborough. Both came to warfare later in life and both never lost. Malpaquet being a Pyrrhic victory but a victory none the less.

Pompey, I believe as a younger man would have had no trouble with Caesar. 




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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/4/2007 8:05:28 PM   
HansBolter


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quote:

ORIGINAL: sulla05


Timur ( Tamerlane ) greatest conqueror of all times ( in area )





Strange, I always thought that was Queen Victoria.

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/4/2007 9:14:23 PM   
morvwilson


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Had a similar thread on this a while back and learned about a new guy I did know of prior.
Duke of Marlburough, one of Winston Chruchill's ancestors.
Think both of these guys deserve mention.

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/4/2007 9:24:54 PM   
Arkady


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Scipio Africanus

Hannibal was maybe better tactician (bu not so much and later Scipio defeat him on the battlefield anyway), Scipio understand strategic situation more clearly. He cut H. forces in Italy from his bases in Spain and later move to Africa to force H. out of Italy.
After war he proposed only moderate terms to Carthagians to avoid future wars (something what french never understand after WWI)


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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/4/2007 10:17:40 PM   
Son_of_Montfort


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quote:

ORIGINAL: sulla05
Cromwell...


See, I would put Cromwell on the worst list. Militarily he was good, but politically he was such a dictator that he had much of the English populace crying for a return of the monarch (even slightly Catholic Charles II) within a generation. And his son was just terrible.

SoM

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/4/2007 10:35:20 PM   
ezz

 

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Top 5 Military and political leaders
one of these is the odd one out... can you guess ?

Napoleon
lincoln
Eisenhower
Bismark
Bush

Top arogant / meglomaniacs

Hitler
Stalin
Mao
Kim Jong-il
Saddam
Caligula
Napoleon

and some lesser ones
all the 'macs'

McClellan
Macarthur
Macbeth
Mcdonalds
MC Hammer




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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/5/2007 1:12:21 AM   
IronDuke

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Michael Dorosh


quote:

ORIGINAL: SireChaos
Others... Rommel (as with Bismarck, you don´t have to LIKE him...) ...



That was the same Rommel who lost the entire African continent, battered his brains out at Tobruk, basically used up his Italian allies in order to preserve his ethnic German forces, never set foot in the big league (Eastern Front), was proven completely wrong in his concept of defending Normandy (only one amphibious assault in the history of warfare was ever turned back at the water's edge, and it certainly wasn't in France), and then took the coward's way out in hopes of sparing his place in history?

I guess Rommel was an okay infantry company commander and did well as a headquarters guard, and as an armoured division commander did well in France - but was obviously promoted past his level of competence since he doesn't seem to have accomplished too terribly much after 1941 except when his opposition was inexperienced or completely outclassed as at, say, Kasserine.




I'd have to agree with Ezz on this one. Of all the Commanders in the Wehrmacht by early 1944, none had experience of the debilitating effects of Allied airpower like Rommel did.

von rundstedt may have wanted a war of movement in the french interior, but moving only at night with uncertain fuel supplies and little or no chance of operational surprise was no way to actually win such a fight.

It may be that there was little chance of stopping the Allies whatever you did, but then that doesn't mean Rommel's strategy was poor.

I've always wondered at the war game that would have 12th SS garrisoned and on full alert in and around St Lo on 6th June.

Regards,
IronDuke

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/5/2007 11:45:56 AM   
freder

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: ezz

Top 5 Military and political leaders

Napoleon
lincoln
Eisenhower
Bismark
Bush




Yeah, thousands of years of history and it all boils down to . . Bush (jr. or sr. whatever)!

quote:

Top arogant / meglomaniacs

Hitler
Stalin
Mao
Kim Jong-il
Saddam
Caligula
Napoleon


Yeah, thousands of years of history and all I see are our well known 20th century contemporaries!


< Message edited by freder -- 9/5/2007 11:49:34 AM >

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/5/2007 12:54:54 PM   
SireChaos

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: IronDuke


quote:

ORIGINAL: Michael Dorosh


quote:

ORIGINAL: SireChaos
Others... Rommel (as with Bismarck, you don´t have to LIKE him...) ...



That was the same Rommel who lost the entire African continent, battered his brains out at Tobruk, basically used up his Italian allies in order to preserve his ethnic German forces, never set foot in the big league (Eastern Front), was proven completely wrong in his concept of defending Normandy (only one amphibious assault in the history of warfare was ever turned back at the water's edge, and it certainly wasn't in France), and then took the coward's way out in hopes of sparing his place in history?

I guess Rommel was an okay infantry company commander and did well as a headquarters guard, and as an armoured division commander did well in France - but was obviously promoted past his level of competence since he doesn't seem to have accomplished too terribly much after 1941 except when his opposition was inexperienced or completely outclassed as at, say, Kasserine.




I'd have to agree with Ezz on this one. Of all the Commanders in the Wehrmacht by early 1944, none had experience of the debilitating effects of Allied airpower like Rommel did.

von rundstedt may have wanted a war of movement in the french interior, but moving only at night with uncertain fuel supplies and little or no chance of operational surprise was no way to actually win such a fight.

It may be that there was little chance of stopping the Allies whatever you did, but then that doesn't mean Rommel's strategy was poor.

I've always wondered at the war game that would have 12th SS garrisoned and on full alert in and around St Lo on 6th June.

Regards,
IronDuke


Rommel did very well, considering the resources at his disposal and the enemies he was facing.
And, considering he had a part in the July 20th conspiracy, he even - belatedly - came to this ethical senses, sort of.

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/5/2007 1:15:34 PM   
Mart

 

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As much as I would like, as a Brit, to think of the heroics of the Battle of Britain, D-Day, The Convoys and so on, it's easy to forget that the the war was really won (possibly on both fronts) by the Soviet Union. I'm not good on military leaders but I think if your looking for good military leaders during WW2, you might have to look in that vast country.

Just a thought.

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/5/2007 4:07:42 PM   
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It's hard to really throw the accolades on Soviet commanders, though, as their doctrine often consisted of "Throw another wave of infantry in to the meat grinder."


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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/5/2007 9:03:15 PM   
Mart

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Arctic Blast

It's hard to really throw the accolades on Soviet commanders, though, as their doctrine often consisted of "Throw another wave of infantry in to the meat grinder."


As far as I know, recent research by the like of Glantz suggest that this is only partially the case, and that the quality of Soviet leadership has not been appreciated because, until peple like Glantz started doing serious, source material research, nearly all the accounts of the war are based on German accounts, and one-side biographies. This may have been inevitable before the opening of the Soviet archives, but is now considered highly biased. Unfortunately the notion that masses of Russians threw themselves like lemmings at the Nazis, has become so entrenched that it's hard to dislodge. This bias still continues despite the work of Glantz, Overy, Erickson and the like If you look at the much feted book Hell's Gate, which claims in the "bumbf" to be a balanced account of the Korsun Pocket, it is nearly all about the Nazis, is very sympathetic to their "plight" and draws conclusion which are almost propaganda. The author also has current photographs of himself with the survivors of the pocket, all of whom were ex-members of SS Viking. When you're up against that, it's no wonder that the bias continues. As for the East, I imagine there is at least a case that Japan had to keep a large number of troops in Manchuria, because of the potential Russian threat, hence keeping them from engaging in the conflict in the Pacific against US and Commonwealth forces. When the Russians did turn their attentions to the Japanese (even if it was for political advantage, they swept up the Japanese in a matter of days.


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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/5/2007 9:41:39 PM   
Son_of_Montfort


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I still like the unintentionally funny list:
Louis the Fat (France's Louis VI)
Charles the Bald
Cheng Ho (funny name, and the fact that he was a Eunuch)

Also, this looks like a list put together by the Village People. There are effective WOMEN in history:
Eleanor of Aquitaine (the REAL brains behind Richard the Lionheart - also his mommy)
Queen Boudicca
Victoria
Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc)
Queen Isabella of Castille (and later Spain)

SoM


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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/5/2007 11:23:42 PM   
IronDuke

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Mart


quote:

ORIGINAL: Arctic Blast

It's hard to really throw the accolades on Soviet commanders, though, as their doctrine often consisted of "Throw another wave of infantry in to the meat grinder."


As far as I know, recent research by the like of Glantz suggest that this is only partially the case, and that the quality of Soviet leadership has not been appreciated because, until peple like Glantz started doing serious, source material research, nearly all the accounts of the war are based on German accounts, and one-side biographies. This may have been inevitable before the opening of the Soviet archives, but is now considered highly biased. Unfortunately the notion that masses of Russians threw themselves like lemmings at the Nazis, has become so entrenched that it's hard to dislodge. This bias still continues despite the work of Glantz, Overy, Erickson and the like If you look at the much feted book Hell's Gate, which claims in the "bumbf" to be a balanced account of the Korsun Pocket, it is nearly all about the Nazis, is very sympathetic to their "plight" and draws conclusion which are almost propaganda. The author also has current photographs of himself with the survivors of the pocket, all of whom were ex-members of SS Viking. When you're up against that, it's no wonder that the bias continues. As for the East, I imagine there is at least a case that Japan had to keep a large number of troops in Manchuria, because of the potential Russian threat, hence keeping them from engaging in the conflict in the Pacific against US and Commonwealth forces. When the Russians did turn their attentions to the Japanese (even if it was for political advantage, they swept up the Japanese in a matter of days.




But Soviet tactical abilities are not necessarily the same thing as Soviet Leadership. It is possible to appreciate the operational art but still recognise the tactical shortcomings. You can find plenty of examples of Russian huiman waves. The trick is recognising that once those waves had done their job, there was a growing operational competence driving the Operational Maneuver Groups passing through them.

Regards,
Ironduke

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/6/2007 2:39:18 PM   
Mart

 

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Hi Ironduke,

Thanks for that. I'm sure you know more than I do (that wasn't meant sarcastically, by the way) , and that what you say is right. I think I was simply making the point that recent authors suggest that the the traditional view of Russian's approach had become a bit one-sided and stereotyped. I also get the impression that the Russian had to face a really steep learning curve, and that their approach eventually became much more sophisticated. A far as I can tell, there seem to be people who are for or against this viewpoint, but I have to admit that my knowledge isn't good enough to know. I do hope though that maybe a few Russians could be chucked into the list of the "greats".

Anyway, thanks again

Martin

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/6/2007 4:41:39 PM   
105mm Howitzer


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They weren't the only ones who had a steep learning curve to master. Most of the Allies had to as well. Althought Britain and France both had overwhelming numbers of troops in the beginning, ( tanks, at guns, aircraft, ships, etc..) it was the way these were used that proved hardest to learn. What Germans generals did was to instill a new ( maybe even revolutionary) way to employ these weapons for maximum effectiveness. So I would say, yeah, that IS a pretty steep curve.
AS for Russian greats, I would include Zhukov ( savior of Moscow)Voroshilov ( soviet breakthrough on the Southern Front) and Rokkosovsky ( unsure of spelling, my apologies)
quote:

ORIGINAL: Mart

Hi Ironduke,

Thanks for that. I'm sure you know more than I do (that wasn't meant sarcastically, by the way) , and that what you say is right. I think I was simply making the point that recent authors suggest that the the traditional view of Russian's approach had become a bit one-sided and stereotyped. I also get the impression that the Russian had to face a really steep learning curve, and that their approach eventually became much more sophisticated. A far as I can tell, there seem to be people who are for or against this viewpoint, but I have to admit that my knowledge isn't good enough to know. I do hope though that maybe a few Russians could be chucked into the list of the "greats".

Anyway, thanks again

Martin




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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/6/2007 6:36:27 PM   
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Without doubt, Yogi the Great

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RE: Greatest military/political leaders in history? - 9/6/2007 11:11:36 PM   
HansBolter


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As much as I will never be a fan of southeast asian communist tactics of political "persuasion" (ie...join us or die), nor of their preferred military tactics there can be no denial that Ho Chi Minh stands out in the crowd.

(in reply to Yogi the Great)
Post #: 30
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