Famous 20th Century Military Leaders

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Douglas MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur.
15
Birthdate: January 26, 1880
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Little Rock
Died: April 5, 1964
American five-star general Douglas MacArthur was the field marshal of the Philippine Army. He and his father were the first father-son duo to win the Medal of Honor. after World War II, he became the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Japan and contributed to Japan’s reconstruction.

 2 Erwin Rommel

Erwin Rommel.
12
Famous As: General
Birthdate: November 15, 1891
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Heidenheim an der Brenz, Germany
Died: October 14, 1944

Known as The Desert Fox, Nazi field marshal Erwin Rommel led the Axis forces during World War II. For his plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944, he was given a choice to either commit suicide by consuming a cyanide pill or face a trial and execution. He chose the former.

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 3 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
7
Famous As: Founder of the Republic of Turkey,
Birthdate: May 19, 1881
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Thessaloniki
Died: November 10, 1938
Kemal Atatürk, known as the founding father of the Republic of Turkey, was its first president. He unified Turkey into a secular country and invested in education and women’s rights. He also popularized the Latin-based Turkish alphabet and made minorities speak Turkish in public. His policies are known as “Kemalism.” 

 4 T. E. Lawrence

T. E. Lawrence.
4
Famous As: Archaeologist
Birthdate: August 16, 1888
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Tremadog, Wales
Died: May 19, 1935
T. E. Lawrence was a British army officer who participated in the Arab Revolt, against the Ottoman regime, during World War I. Nicknamed Lawrence of Arabia, he inspired a movie of the same name. His treatise of his war experiences was published as Seven Pillars of Wisdom, his best-known work.

 5 George Patton

George Patton.
23
Famous As: Military Officer
Birthdate: November 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Gabriel, California, United States
Died: December 21, 1945

George Patton was a general of the US Army, remembered for his work as a commander of the Seventh United States Army during World War II. He is also remembered for commanding the Third Army in the Western Front in June 1944 after the Allied invasion of Normandy. His life and work inspired the 1970 epic biographical war film Patton.

 6 Georgy Zhukov

Georgy Zhukov.
5
Famous As: Military Commander
Birthdate: December 1, 1896
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Zhukov, Kaluga Oblast
Died: June 18, 1974

Soviet general and Marshal of the Soviet Union, Georgy Zhukov, is remembered for overseeing some of the Red Army's most decisive victories during the Second World War. As a young man, he served in the First World War and the Russian Civil War. The recipient of four Hero of the Soviet Union awards, he was made the defence minister.

 7 John J. Pershing

John J. Pershing.
4
Famous As: US Army Officer During WW I
Birthdate: September 13, 1860
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Laclede, Missouri, United States
Died: July 15, 1948

John J. Pershing was a senior United States Army officer who served as the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I. In his later years, he mentored generals who led the United States Army during World War II.  He was promoted to General of the Armies rank, the highest possible rank in the United States Army. 

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 8 Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein

Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein.
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Famous As: Allied Commander in World War II
Birthdate: November 17, 1887
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kennington
Died: March 24, 1976

Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, was a British Army officer who played important roles in World War I, World War II, and the Irish War of Independence. He commanded the British Eighth Army during the Second World War and also oversaw the operations during the Battle of Normandy. Bernard Montgomery has a couple of statues dedicated to him.

 9 Chester W. Nimitz

Chester W. Nimitz.
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Famous As: Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in World War II
Birthdate: February 24, 1885
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Fredericksburg, Texas, United States
Died: February 20, 1966

Chester W. Nimitz was part of the United States Navy where he served as a fleet admiral. He played a key role during World War II, commanding the US Pacific Fleet and the Allied air, sea, and land forces. He also played a crucial role in acquiring approval to develop USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine in the world.

 10 Chesty Puller

Chesty Puller.
4
Famous As: United States Marine Corps lieutenant general
Birthdate: June 26, 1898
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Virginia
Died: October 11, 1971
Chesty Puller was a U.S. Marine Corps officer who was part of the Banana Wars in Haiti and Nicaragua, and later served in World War II and the Korean War. He became the most decorated U.S. Marine, winning five Navy Crosses and an Army Distinguished Service Cross.

 11 Moshe Dayan

Moshe Dayan.
5
Famous As: Israeli Military & Political Leader
Birthdate: May 20, 1915
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Degania Alef, Israel
Died: October 16, 1981

Born to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, military leader/politician Moshe Dayan, grew up to be an revered for his exploits against Israel’s Arab neighbors. His invasion of the Sinai peninsula is etched in his memoir, Diary of the Sinai Campaign. Following his death, his eye patch was sold on eBay for US$75,000.

 12 Heinz Guderian

Heinz Guderian.
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Famous As: German General
Birthdate: June 17, 1888
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chełmno
Died: May 14, 1954

German military general Heinz Guderian was part of World War II and led the successful invasions of Poland and France. He was dismissed after the failed Operation Typhoon. He used the blitzkrieg approach and was in charge of training the panzer forces. He wrote a bestselling memoir, following the war.

 13 Isoroku Yamamoto

Isoroku Yamamoto.
8
Famous As: Japanese Naval Officer Who Conceived The Pearl Harbor Attack in 1941
Birthdate: April 4, 1884
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nagaoka, Niigata, Japan
Died: April 18, 1943
Isoroku Yamamoto was a Marshal Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy. During World War II, he served as the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet and oversaw operations such as the Pearl Harbor attack. He died when his fighter plane was shot down by the U.S. Air Forces

 14 Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong.
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Famous As: Communist Leader of China
Birthdate: December 26, 1893
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Shaoshan, Xiangtan, China
Died: September 9, 1976

One of the most significant and controversial leaders of the 20th century, Mao Zedong was a communist revolutionary and the founding father of the People's Republic of China which he governed as the chairman of Chinese Communist Party. He is appreciated for numerous development work but is criticised for his authoritarian regime and policies which resulted in millions of deaths .

 15 Che Guevara

Che Guevara.
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Famous As: Revolutionary
Birthdate: June 14, 1928
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Rosario, Argentina
Died: October 9, 1967

Argentine Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara, was a major figure of the Cuban Revolution. A physician by profession, he developed radical views upon witnessing the injustices in the world and joined Fidel Castro’s revolutionary 26th of July Movement. Assassinated in 1967, he remains both a revered and reviled historical figure.

 16 Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler.
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Famous As: Nazi Leader, German Dictator and Chancellor of Germany
Birthdate: April 20, 1889
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Braunau am Inn
Died: April 30, 1945

One of the most powerful leaders of the 20th century, Adolf Hitler was a German dicator whose policies started the WWII that resulted in the death of millions of people. He had a visceral hatred for Jews and during his regime nearly six million Jews were killed in Holocaust.

 17 Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower.
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Famous As: 34th U.S. President
Birthdate: October 14, 1890
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Denison, Texas, United States
Died: March 28, 1969

The 34th president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower held office from 1953 to 1961. An army officer During World War II, he was part of many successful operations. He signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, and his two terms as president saw widespread economic prosperity in USA. He is ranked high among American presidents.

 18 Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim

Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim.
4
Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: June 4, 1867
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Askainen, Finland
Died: January 27, 1951

Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim was a Finnish statesman and military leader who served as the leader of the White Guard during the Finnish Civil War of 1918. He also played a key role during World War II where he served as the Chief of Defense of Finland's defense forces. Thanks to his achievements, Mannerheim is regarded as Finland's greatest statesman.

 19 Karl Dönitz

Karl Dönitz.
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Famous As: Naval Officer
Birthdate: September 16, 1891
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Grünau, Berlin, Germany
Died: December 24, 1980
Karl Dönitz was the supreme commander of the German Navy and played a crucial role in World War II. Hitler made Dönitz his successor before committing suicide. Dönitz officially surrendered after Germany’s loss in World War II and was convicted as a war criminal at the 1946 Nuremberg Trials.

 20 Geronimo

Geronimo.
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Famous As: Leader
Birthdate: June 16, 1829
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New Mexico
Died: February 17, 1909
Native American hero Geronimo is remembered for his heroics in the Apache Wars against the U.S. and Mexico. After his surrender in 1886, he lived as a U.S. prisoner of war and spent the rest of his life being exhibited at various events and selling his belongings for money.

 21 Claus von Stauffenberg

Claus von Stauffenberg.
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Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: November 15, 1907
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Jettingen-Scheppach, Germany
Died: July 21, 1944

German army officer Claus von Stauffenberg, a significant figure of the German Resistance Movement within the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany, attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler in July 1944, but failed. He was executed by a firing squad soon after Operation Valkyrie. He had earlier actively participated in World War II.

 22 Billy Mitchell

Billy Mitchell
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Famous As: Military General
Birthdate: December 29, 1879
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Nice, France
Died: February 19, 1936

 23 Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller
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Famous As: Trombonist
Birthdate: March 1, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Clarinda, Iowa, United States
Died: December 15, 1944

 24 Vasili Arkhipov

Vasili Arkhipov.
5
Famous As: Naval Officer
Birthdate: January 30, 1926
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Zvorkovo, Russia
Died: August 19, 1998

Vasili Arkhipov was a Soviet Navy officer who played a crucial role in the Cuban Missile Crisis. He prevented a Soviet nuclear strike, which could’ve easily caused an all-out nuclear war. He refused to authorize the use of nuclear torpedoes, for which he was posthumously honored with the Future of Life Award by the Future of Life Institute in 2017.

 25 Enoch Powell

Enoch Powell.
4
Birthdate: June 16, 1912
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Birmingham
Died: February 8, 1998

Enoch Powell was a British politician, linguist, classical scholar, philologist, and poet. Also a soldier, Powell served in World War II, reaching the rank of brigadier. His political career is remembered for his iconic and infamous Rivers of Blood speech, which was interpreted as a demonstration of racism. The speech became the subject of a play titled What Shadows.

 26 Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn.
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Famous As: Former United States National Security Advisor
Birthdate: November 30, 1958
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Fort Meade, Maryland

Michael Flynn is a retired US Army lieutenant general who played a key role in dismantling insurgent networks in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He also helped shape the US counterterrorism strategy in the wars. He also played a major role in the 2016 US presidential election, serving as Donald Trump's senior advisor throughout the latter's presidential campaign.

 27 Herbert Sobel

Herbert Sobel.
5
Famous As: U.S. Army Officer
Birthdate: January 26, 1912
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: September 30, 1987

Herbert Sobel was an American military man who commanded Easy Company during World War II. Although he played a key role during the war, Sobel was despised by his soldiers due to his arrogance. In the 2001 war drama miniseries Band of Brothers, Herbert Sobel was portrayed by David Schwimmer.

 28 Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon.
4
Famous As: Prime Minister of Israel
Birthdate: February 26, 1928
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: British Mandate of Palestine
Died: January 11, 2014

Ariel Sharon was the Israeli prime minister from 2001 to 2006. As a commander of the Israeli Army, he had participated in the Palestine War of 1948 and the 1967 Six-Day War. He was removed as the defense minister after he led the massacre of Palestinians in the Lebanon War.

 29 Jack Churchill

Jack Churchill.
5
Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: September 16, 1906
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Died: March 8, 1996

Better known as Mad Jack or Fighting Jack, British Army officer Jack Churchill was an iconic example of a person fighting wars on his own terms. He popularized carrying swords and bagpipes to battles and killed his enemies with his longbow. He inspired a comic strip and several books, too.

 30 Sam Manekshaw

Sam Manekshaw.
3
Birthdate: April 3, 1914
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Amritsar, Punjab
Died: June 27, 2008
Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was the Indian Army’s Chief of the Army Staff during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, in which India emerged victorious. He had started his military career with the British Indian Army during World War II. He had also been awarded the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan.

 31 James R. Jordan, Sr.

James R. Jordan, Sr.
6
Birthdate: July 31, 1936
Sun Sign: Leo
Died: July 23, 1993

 32 William H. McRaven

William H. McRaven
5
Famous As: Officer
Birthdate: November 6, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Pinehurst

 33 Konstantin Rokossovsky

Konstantin Rokossovsky.
3
Famous As: Soviet Officer
Birthdate: December 21, 1896
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Warsaw, Poland
Died: August 3, 1968

Konstantin Rokossovsky was a Soviet and Polish officer. One of the most important Red Army commanders during the Second World War, Rokossovsky also served as Poland's Defence Minister from 1949 to 1956. He also served as the Marshal of Poland and as the Marshal of the Soviet Union.

 34 Stanislav Petrov

Stanislav Petrov
5
Famous As: Military officer
Birthdate: September 7, 1939
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Vladivostok, Russia
Died: May 19, 2017

 35 Sir Arthur Harris, 1st Baronet

Sir Arthur Harris, 1st Baronet
3
Famous As: Military officer
Birthdate: April 13, 1892
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cheltenham, England
Died: April 5, 1984

 36 Jimmy Doolittle

Jimmy Doolittle.
4
Famous As: Military General
Birthdate: December 14, 1896
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Alameda, California, United States
Died: September 27, 1993

Jimmy Doolittle was an American aviation pioneer and military general. Apart from winning many flying races, Doolittle also helped develop instrument flying. He was the brains behind the Doolittle Raid, the air raid that served as retribution for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. His work during the raid earned him the prestigious Medal of Honor.

 37 Rick Rescorla

Rick Rescorla.
6
Famous As: Army Officer
Birthdate: May 27, 1939
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Hayle, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Died: September 11, 2001

 38 Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina

Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina.
4
Famous As: Former President of the Dominican Republic
Birthdate: October 24, 1891
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Cristóbal Province, Dominican Republic
Died: May 30, 1961

Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina was a Dominican dictator. He ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961, serving as president for 18 years and as an unelected military strongman for the rest of the time. While he was in power, the Dominican Republic witnessed large-scale violence and his 31-year-rule is regarded as one of the bloodiest eras in the Americas.

 39 Vidkun Quisling

Vidkun Quisling.
4
Famous As: World war II Norwegian Politician & Military Officer
Birthdate: July 18, 1887
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Fyresdal
Died: October 24, 1945
Military leader and Norwegian minister president Vidkun Quisling's betrayal during Norway’s invasion by the Nazis, by siding with the Germans, during World War II, made him a national traitor. His actions gave rise to the word quisling, which is a synonym for the word traitor in several languages.

 40 Georg von Trapp

Georg von Trapp
4
Famous As: Naval officer
Birthdate: April 4, 1880
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Zadar, Croatia
Died: May 30, 1947

 41 Friedrich Paulus

Friedrich Paulus.
6
Famous As: Military Officer
Birthdate: September 23, 1890
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Guxhagen, Germany
Died: February 1, 1957

Friedrich Paulus was a German field marshal who played a major role in World War II. He is best remembered for his role in the Battle of Stalingrad, where he commanded the 6th Army. As German General Staff's deputy chief, he also helped plan Operation Barbarossa, the code name for the invasion of the Soviet Union.

 42 Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
4
Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: September 13, 1887
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, USA
Died: July 12, 1944

 43 Norman Schwarzkopf Jr.

Norman Schwarzkopf Jr.
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Famous As: General
Birthdate: August 22, 1934
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Trenton, New Jersey, United States
Died: December 27, 2012

 44 Ahmad Shah Massoud

Ahmad Shah Massoud.
4
Famous As: Former Afghan Military & Political Leader
Birthdate: September 2, 1953
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Bazarak, Panjshir, Afghanistan
Died: September 9, 2001

Ahmad Shah Massoud was an Afghan military commander and politician. From 1979 to 1989, he played an important role in the Soviet-Afghan War, where he served as a powerful guerrilla commander. He was nicknamed Lion of Panjshir for his role in the war. Massoud was assassinated by Al-Qaeda in 2001. His death anniversary is observed as a national holiday in Afghanistan.

 45 Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn

Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn
4
Famous As: Military officer
Birthdate: May 1, 1850
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Buckingham Palace, England
Died: January 16, 1942

 46 Pervez Musharraf

Pervez Musharraf.
4
Birthdate: August 11, 1943
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Daryaganj, New Delhi

Pervez Musharraf is a former Pakistani President and army chief who overthrew his country’s elected government in a coup to assume power as its chief executive. Kargil infiltration, confrontation with India and a steep rise in Pakistan’s GDP marked the presidency of the now-retired four-star general. He was awarded capital punishment for treason, but the court order was annulled later.

 47 Gerd von Rundstedt

Gerd von Rundstedt.
4
Famous As: Military Officer
Birthdate: December 12, 1875
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Aschersleben, Province of Saxony, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died: February 24, 1953

Gerd von Rundstedt was a Nazi field marshal during World War II. His army was part of the German campaigns in France and Russia. He was defeated at the Battle of Normandy. Following the war, he was charged with war crimes but was not tried due to old age.

 48 Witold Pilecki

Witold Pilecki.
4
Famous As: Nazi-era Polish Army Officer
Birthdate: May 13, 1901
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Olonets
Died: May 25, 1948

Known as prisoner number 4859 at the Auschwitz concentration camp, Witold Pilecki voluntarily got himself arrested to be sent to the camp, so that he could start an anti-Nazi resistance movement. He set up the underground campaign ZOW and was eventually able to escape. Nevertheless, he was executed by communists.

 49 Erich Hartmann

Erich Hartmann
4
Famous As: Aviator, Officer
Birthdate: April 19, 1922
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Weissach
Died: September 20, 1993

Remembered as the most successful fighter pilot in the history of aerial warfare, Erich Hartmann completed 1,400 missions in his Messerschmitt Bf 109 and shot down 352 Allied planes. Known for his dogfighting strategy, he inspired the popular biography The Blond Knight of Germany and became a flight instructor post-retirement.

 50 Porfirio Díaz

Porfirio Díaz.
6
Famous As: Military General, Politician
Birthdate: September 15, 1830
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oaxaca, Mexico
Died: July 2, 1915

Porfirio Díaz was a Mexican politician and general. He served as president of Mexico for 31 years, which included seven terms between 1876 and 1911. The entire period of his presidency is referred to as the Porfiriato. His life inspired the 1944 Mexican historical film, Porfirio Díaz. Over the years, he has also been depicted in other films like Juarez.