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
19
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
13
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.

 3 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
13
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.” 
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 4 George Patton

George Patton
25
Famous As: Military General
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.

 5 T. E. Lawrence

T. E. Lawrence
5
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.

 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: Military officer
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 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

 9 Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein

Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
8
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.

 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
5
Famous As: Chief of the General Staff of the German Army High Command (1944-45)
Birthdate: June 17, 1888
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chełmno, Poland
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 Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong
10
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 .

 14 Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower
3
Famous As: 34th President of the United States
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.

 15 Erich Ludendorff

Erich Ludendorff
9
Famous As: General of German Army (1916-18)
Birthdate: April 9, 1865
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kruszewnia, Poland
Died: December 20, 1937

German military leader Erich Ludendorff gained fame with the victories at Liège and Tannenberg during World War I. He promoted the theory that Marxists, Jews, and Freemasons were responsible for Germany’s defeat in the war. He later became a military theorist, writing books such as The Total War.

 16 Che Guevara

Che Guevara
15
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.

 17 Richard Winters

Richard Winters
8
Famous As: Army officer
Birthdate: January 21, 1918
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New Holland, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: January 2, 2011
Richard Winters is best remembered for his act of parachuting into Normandy on D-Day. He was recalled to the army from the inactive list during the Korean War. Following his retirement, he started selling Hershey Company by-products to animal-feed manufacturers and also taught at the U.S. Military Academy.

 18 Colin Powell

Colin Powell
11
Famous As: 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005)
Birthdate: April 5, 1937
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, United States
Died: October 18, 2021

A veteran politician who served as the 65th United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell was the first African-American Secretary of State. A member of the Republican Party, he was an army man prior to entering politics. He was a  four-star general at the time of his retirement. After leaving politics, he pursued a career as a public speaker.

 19 Karl Dönitz

Karl Dönitz
4
Famous As: President of Germany (1945)
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
5
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 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.

 22 Jim Mattis

Jim Mattis
12
Famous As: Former United States Secretary of Defense
Birthdate: September 8, 1950
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Pullman, Washington, United States

Jim Mattis is a retired American Marine Corps general and served as the Defense Secretary from January 2017 to January 2019. He avowed the commitment of US to defending South Korea and was a known opponent of China and Russia. He was also known to disagree with certain policies of the Trump administration which finally led to his departure.

 23 Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller
5
Famous As: Trombonist
Birthdate: March 1, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Clarinda, Iowa, United States
Died: December 15, 1944

 24 Stanley A McChrystal

Stanley A McChrystal
4
Famous As: Retired Armed Force Officer
Birthdate: August 14, 1954
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, United States

Retired United States Army general, Stanley A McChrysta,l is best known for his command of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during the 2000s. He was described as "perhaps the finest warrior and leader of men in combat I ever met" by Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Following his retirement, he began teaching courses in international relations at Yale University.

 25 Jack Churchill

Jack Churchill
5
Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: September 16, 1906
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Died: December 21, 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.

 26 Muhammadu Buhari

Muhammadu Buhari
5
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: December 17, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Daura, Nigeria

Muhammadu Buhari is a Nigerian politician and the current president of Nigeria. Since becoming the president, Buhari has introduced many social welfare programs that address unemployment and poverty. The programs were mainly introduced to help increase economic development in the country.

 27 Curtis Lemay

Curtis Lemay
4
Famous As: General
Birthdate: November 15, 1906
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio, United States
Died: October 1, 1990

 28 Võ Nguyên Giáp

Võ Nguyên Giáp
3
Famous As: Officer
Birthdate: August 25, 1911
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lệ Thủy District, Vietnam
Died: October 4, 2013

Võ Nguyên Giáp was a politician who also served in the Vietnam People's Army as an army general. Regarded as one of the 20th century's greatest military strategists, Giáp played key roles as a military commander in the First Indochina War and in the Second Indochina War. He is also credited with laying the foundation for the Annamite Range trail.

 29 John F. Kelly

John F. Kelly
5
Famous As: Former White House Chief of Staff
Birthdate: May 11, 1950
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
John F. Kelly served as the White House Chief of Staff from 2017 to 2019, and as the Secretary of Homeland Security in 2017. He is part of the board of Caliburn International. The former U.S. Marine Corps general has also won awards such as the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.

 30 Claus von Stauffenberg

Claus von Stauffenberg
4
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.

 31 Bobby Lashley

Bobby Lashley
8
Famous As: Professional Wrestler, Mixed Martial Artist
Birthdate: July 16, 1976
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Junction City, Kansas, United States
Wrestler and MMA legend Bobby Lashley has won titles such as the ECW World Championship, the TNA/Impact World Heavyweight Championship, and the WWE US Championship. He currently plays for Raw under WWE, as part of stable The Hurt Business. He has headlined events such as Bound for Glory.

 32 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.

 33 Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn
13
Famous As: Former United States National Security Advisor
Birthdate: December 1, 1958
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Fort Meade, Maryland, United States

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.

 34 Rudolf Höss

Rudolf Höss
4
Famous As: German Nazi Officer
Birthdate: November 25, 1901
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Baden-Baden, Germany
Died: April 16, 1947

Rudolf Höss was a German SS officer who was convicted of war crimes after the defeat of Nazi Germany. The longest-serving commandant of the Auschwitz extermination camp, Höss implemented means to accelerate the Final Solution, a Nazi plan for the genocide of Jews. Upon his order, pesticide Zyklon B was used in gas chambers, killing millions of people.

 35 Billy Mitchell

Billy Mitchell
4
Famous As: Military General
Birthdate: December 29, 1879
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Nice, France
Died: February 19, 1936

 36 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.

 37 Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
5
Famous As: President of Egypt
Birthdate: November 19, 1954
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cairo, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is the incumbent president of Egypt. He has also served as the director of military Intelligence and the minister of defense. He has had a long stint with the Egyptian Army and led the coup that ousted President Mohamed Morsi. He has established a dictatorial regime.

 38 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.

 39 H. R. McMaster

H. R. McMaster
5
Famous As: Former US National Security Advisor
Birthdate: July 24, 1962
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Herbert Raymond McMaster is a former U.S. army lieutenant general and has previously also been the U.S. national security advisor. He is renowned for his participation in the Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. He now teaches at Stanford and has authored the book Dereliction of Duty.

 40 Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon
5
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.

 41 James R. Jordan, Sr.

James R. Jordan, Sr.
7
Birthdate: July 31, 1936
Sun Sign: Leo
Died: July 23, 1993

 42 James Hewitt

James Hewitt
6
Famous As: Military Leaders
Birthdate: April 30, 1958
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Londonderry, Northern Ireland, UK

James Hewitt is a British retired cavalry officer who served in the British Army. He achieved international recognition in the mid-1990s when he claimed that he had an affair with Diana, Princess of Wales. The affair was confirmed by Diana in an interview in 1995. The relationship inspired a book titled Princess in Love, which was adapted into a film.

 43 Joachim von Ribbentrop

Joachim von Ribbentrop
4
Famous As: Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nazi Germany (1938-45)
Birthdate: April 30, 1893
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Wesel, Germany
Died: October 16, 1946

German politician Joachim von Ribbentrop was Nazi Germany’s minister of foreign affairs from 1938 to 1945. He let Hitler use his summer house, Schloss Fuschl, for secret Nazi meetings. Ribbentrop was eventually convicted of war crimes and became the first Nuremberg defendant to be hanged to death.

 44 William H. McRaven

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

 45 Jimmy Doolittle

Jimmy Doolittle
5
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.

 46 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.

 47 Reinhard Heydrich

Reinhard Heydrich
14
Famous As: Nazi Official
Birthdate: March 7, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Halle
Died: June 4, 1942

Reinhard Heydrich was a Nazi police officer and a high-ranking SS. Heydrich is widely regarded as one of the main architects of the Holocaust, a World War II genocide that killed some six million Jews. Described by Adolf Hitler as the man with the iron heart, Heydrich is regarded as the darkest figure of the Nazi era by many historians.

 48 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

 49 George Lincoln Rockwell

George Lincoln Rockwell
4
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: March 9, 1918
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bloomington, Illinois, United States
Died: August 25, 1967

George Lincoln Rockwell was an American politician. A neo-Nazi, Rockwell was discharged from the US Navy due to his political views. He denied the Holocaust and considered Hitler 'the White savior of the 20th century'. He also joined hands with other neo-Nazi groups and led the World Union of National Socialists. He is credited with founding the American Nazi Party.

 50 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.