We’ve all heard of military leaders in American history who are totally rock. Washington, Stonewall Jackson and Ike are certainly among them.
But it is worth noting some military commanders who did not receive the accolades, but really should have.
Some you may know a little about, and others you may never have heard of before.
Let’s see who could need more compliments for their military prowess.
1. Raymond A. Spruance
Samuel Eliot Morison called Raymond Ames Spruance “the victor over Midway” in his “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II”.
Morison noted that Spruance, after reviewing the text, requested that “the winner of Midway” be replaced with “who was in command of an aircraft carrier task force at Midway.” Morison refused to make the change, but it shows the modest character of Spruance, who was arguably the best U.S. naval combat commander in the Pacific theater.
Look at his results.
At Midway, the Spruance smashed and sank four Japanese aircraft carriers. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, his fleet withdrew the Marianas Turkey Shoot, then sank an aircraft carrier and two tankers (US submarines sank two other aircraft carriers). Here’s how well Spruance beat the Japanese: At the start of the battle, CombinedFleet.com noted that the Japanese had 473 planes on their aircraft carriers. After the battle, WW2DB.com noted that the Japanese aircraft carriers had a total of 35 planes among them.
In the Navy, it is an honor to have a ship named after you. When your name is on the lead ship of a destroyer class, it says a lot about how you did it.
Spruance’s name appeared on the USS Spruance (DD 963), the first of 31 Spruance-class destroyers. An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer (DDG 111) also bears his name.
2. John Buford
We may very well owe the fact that the Union won the Civil War to John Buford. Everything that happened at Gettysburg was due to Buford’s actions on June 30 and July 1, 1863. An excerpt from a US Army training manual notes: The Battlefield. “
He identified the terrain that mattered, then bought time for the Union Army to arrive and finally regroup on Cemetery Ridge. The US Army manual says that, “[H]These morning actions allowed the army of the Potomac to secure the heights. Over the next two days, General Lee’s army would shatter in repeated attacks on these heights. The Battle of Gettysburg very much reflected the defining influence of Buford’s Cavalry Division.
3. Ulysses S. Grant
Butcher. Drunk. These are common perceptions of Ulysses S. Grant, but they miss the point.
If Robert E. Lee’s biggest fault was his failure to keep in mind the comparative strengths and weaknesses of both sides of the Civil War, Grant was someone who fully understood them. Yes, Union troops suffered heavy casualties in battles like Cold Harbor or Wilderness, but where other generals retreated, Grant advanced.
Edward H. Bonekemper noted at the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable that in the Overland Campaign, “Grant pushed his aggressiveness and persistence beyond the levels he had demonstrated in Western and middle theaters.” Bonekemper also expressed his belief that if Petersburg had not held up, Grant’s campaign would have won the war in two months.
Ultimately, he shattered Lee’s army, and with it, Confederacy.
4. Daniel Callaghan
Like John Buford, Callaghan really had a great time. But what a moment it was.
Against all odds, Daniel Callaghan saved Henderson Field from a massive bombardment, making the ultimate sacrifice. Yet far too many historical accounts, such as Richard Frank’s Guadalcanal (see pages 459 and 460), suggest that Callaghan engaged in combat.
On the contrary, Callaghan, by forcing a melee, gained enough time that the Japanese would have to postpone a battleship bombardment on Henderson Field for two critical days – enough time for the fast American battleships to arrive.