A number of top military leaders surfaced during the WWII era, and though many opinions exist as to the top ten, below is a list that certainly should be considered.
In the early 1940s, the world was at war and military tactics and advancements in technology and warfare mandated the best of the best be at the forefront of this epic war. Below is one possible list of the top ten WWII officials along with a few brief prominent facts about their long standing careers. They are presented in alphabetical order.
Sir Winston Churchill: In May of 1940, Churchill was elected Prime Minister. A Nobel Prize recipient, Sir Winston Churchill is one of the most well-known British Prime Minister. Prior to the onset of WWII, Churchill began a movement warning of Nazi Germany. Part of this movement included a plea for rearmament. During World War II, he played a prominent role in planning the infamous D-Day Invasion. While the invasion was taking place, Churchill did not hide. He chose, instead, to walk up and down the streets, even as raids were in progress. As Prime Minister, he refused to entertain any thoughts of being defeated by the Axis and was adamant that surrendering was not an option. His stance served as encouragement for the British resistance, especially in the early days when Britain was the only active resistance against Hitler. He was well-known for his radio broadcasts throughout the war, which served as inspiration for the people of Britain.
Dwight D. Eisenhower: Eisenhower was known for leading the Allied troops in Europe during WWII. He graduated from West Point in 1915 and by September, 1941, he had been promoted to brigadier general. Within nine months, General Eisenhower became Commander of US forces in the European theater and was instrumental in planning the D-Day Invasion of Normandy. Within a few months, he was promoted to a newly created rank – General of the Army, making him the third first five star general of the US Army. Eisenhower would later be elected and serve as President of the United States from January 20, 1953 to January 20, 1961.
Hirohito: Emperor of Japan from 1926 through 1989, Hirohito was actually known as “Showa” during his reign. He opposed military aggression. His advisors were able to successfully shield him from conflict with those who did not agree. He was greatly influenced by his advisors who recommended certain decisions which led into WWII. When the war was over, Hirohito managed to escape judgment on war crimes. Many high ranking officials and military officers in Japan’s government did not escape being tried for their crimes.
Adolf Hitler: Hitler was dictator of Germany from 1933 – 1945. Humanity was forever altered by the beliefs and tactics of this horrific leader. Hitler gained much of his power through propaganda tactics, slowly winning the support and belief of the German citizens. Once Hitler gained control of the mindset of the citizens, he pushed forward and began organizing a huge military force. During this time, concentration camps were created and filled with Jews, gypsies and other groups Hitler viewed as inferior. By the end of WWII, 6 of the 11 million slain were Jewish. On April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide.
General Douglas MacArthur: Douglas MacArthur graduated from West Point in 1910 with one of the highest academic records in the history of the school. MacArthur participated in WWI, during which time, he became chief of staff of the 42nd division. In July, 1941, MacArthur was given the title Commander of US forces in the Far East by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The successful defense led by MacArthur in the Philippines earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. In October, 1944, Douglas MacArthur was promoted to a five-star general. His service continued long after the end of the war, overseeing the occupation of the Allies in Japan. He was also involved from 1947 – 1951 as leader of the U.S. Far East Command.
Benito Mussolini: Mussolini was the ruler of Italy for 21 years. His fascist beliefs led way to the founding of his fascist political group in 1919. Within three years, the group gained both support and power, at which time, King Victor Emmanuel III placed Mussolini in charge of the Italian government. Upon this appointment, Mussolini erased all political parties in Italy, except the fascist. Mussolini was responsible for invading France during WWII. In 1943, the Fascist Grand Council overthrew and imprisoned Mussolini. However, the Germans eventually rescued him from imprisonment. At that time, Mussolini went into hiding, but was eventually spotted, captured and executed.
General George S. Patton: Referred to as “Old Blood and Guts”, General George S. Patton, along with his armored tank division, played a key role in halting the German’s counterattack at The Battle of the Bulge. He was the only known US General feared by Rommel, his German counterpart, during the North African Campaign of WWII. General George S. Patton died on December 21, 1945, 12 days after receiving life threatening injuries in a relatively minor car accident.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: During his 12 year service as President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt had a number of notable accomplishments. During his early political years, FDR was the assistant to the Secretary of the Navy. As president, FDR is noted for his New Deal legislation which was instrumental in bringing the United States out of the Great Depression. He is remembered for his valiant fights in an effort to secure better jobs and improve the economy through his belief in the American people. President Roosevelt declared war on Japan the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and shortly thereafter began implementing his overall war strategy which resulted in the defeat of the Axis Powers. FDR also approved the study and development of the atomic bomb. However, he died on April 12, 1945, four months prior to the US dropping the newly developed nuclear bomb on Hiroshima.
Joseph Stalin: Joseph Stalin was dictator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1929 thru 1953. As a ruler, Stalin used fear tactics, which became contagious during his reign. Before his death in 1953, communist rule had spread to 11 different countries as a result of Stalin’s dictatorship. He is most noted for transforming the USSR through industrialization and military strength. Stalin never showed remorse for any of his actions or his brutality and was known for betraying his own allies and the people of his country. He even went so far as to have the Soviet’s history rewritten in part to exaggerate his role in past events.
Harry S. Truman: Harry S. Truman assumed the role of President of the United States just after 83 days of service as Vice President under Franklin Roosevelt. With Roosevelt’s sudden death, Truman was placed in office and forced into WWII. Within his first two weeks as President, Allies were declaring victory in Europe. In the Pacific, however, Truman gave the go ahead to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This move was the decisive factor in ending WWII. After WWII, President Truman faced additional conflicts - the Korean War and the Cold War. Truman was known for being a straight forward individual who often used blunt language.
The number of combinations of top ten military figures in World War II is as large as there are people with opinions on the subject matter. The most noted epic in the history of the world, the WWII era, brought forth strengths in the both the “good” and the “bad” and no doubt, any combination of the key military figures of this time era could be justified as a validated list for the Top Ten Military Figures in WWII.