Great Military Leaders vs Military Education


Active member
I don't know too much about Western military leaders, but I do know:
Hitler was a great military leader, but Hitler didn't enjoy serious military education at all. Because I always think I can be a great military leader (don't blame the shame of me :D) therefore I assert:
a military education is not a MUST for a great military leader.

Chenghis Khan even didn't know how to read/write, yet he is a great military leader.

Chairman Mao Zedong didn't attend any military school, yet he is a great military leader.

Maybe you can list many other examples of Western great military leaders too who didn't enjoy any military education.

My question is:
A military education is not a MUST for a great military leader. A great leader is BORN to be a great leader, not educated to be.
Of course this leader guy must be a smart one.
Much is born, but not all of it. But before I add my 2 cents, lets make a distiction. There are Great Military Leaders- (people who can do things with armies that boggle the mind) throughout history and there are Great Leaders of Nations -(charismatic leaders who have the ability to unite nations and make great things happen). There are cases of people who were both.

Chingis/Ghegis Khan was a great military mind, and that was forged in a culture of almost non-stop inter-tribal warfare. He managed to become a Great Leader of Nations because there was some level of brilliance in him above that of his fellows Mongols. His greatest gift was his ability to unite, motivate and influence people. He was also a brilliant battlefield commander, though some of his generals were likely better than him in this area. So Ghengis Khan is both.

Hitler was one of the most brilliant Great Leaders of Nations ever in history. He knew how to manipulate and influence people on an individual level and was even more brilliant influencing the masses. He was not very bright as a military leader, but was blessed with an astounding number of Great Military Leaders under him. He would have been nothing without them.

Mao Zedong definitely distinguishes himself as being one of the Great Leaders of Nations in history. He functioned more than adequately as a Military leader, but I have yet to see anything that would lead me to qualify him as a Military Genius. The Long March would be an exception of course, but I believe it was his charisma more than his battlefield genius at work there.

If you want examples of Western examples, well, here's a few: Heinz Guderian creator of Germany's Blitzkrieg. Admiral Nelson who pulled off an unlikely victory at Trafalgar and kept Napoleon from invading Great Britain. Alexander the Great was one of the most successful military leaders ever in history. You could list a very large number of Romans, but the one's that stand out for me are Hadrian, Julius Caesar, and Octavius/Augustus. Hannibal of Carthage was an amazing military genius. Atila the Hun merits much mention. I could go on and on, but that's definitely a start.

As far as "not being militarily educated" and ending up as a Military Genius, there are PLENTY of great examples of that. The most lopsided example I can think if is the US Civil War. The Confederate States had only 1 of the generals who had graduated from West Point. The North had NUMEROUS West Point graduates. You will never, ever find an American who knows their history claiming that the North had the best military minds of the war. The South had all the brilliant ones and the North only won by shear numbers and supplies.
Thanks God, that's a brilliant post! I will definitely read it again :D

I almost have NO objection to any points in your post :evil:
godofthunder9010, I have one objection to your otherwise excellent post. You said "The Confederate States had only 1 of the generals who had graduated from West Point." In fact they had many including, Lee, Jackson, Longstreet, Ewell, Beauregard, Early, Bragg, Pickett, Stuart, and Johnston. The (arguably) greatest general of the North (Grant) graduated 21st. in his class of 39.
I agree with your point, but your example is poor.
Damn I hate it when I get fed wrong information. Point conceded, but you do agree that the vast majority of the West Point graduates were on the Union side, correct?
Hitler was no military genius at all! Only his generals in the OKW made alle the victorys in beginning possible.

After he took the command on Spetember 9th, 1942, sh*t really hit the fan. He was a brillaint speeker and he knew how mobilize the masses but after all he still was just a Private 1st Class.
yeah i think they are born to lead. Education can't teach you everything.
and hitler was an idiot. as was said, the generals he had under his command
were brilliant, he was not militarily, only with gathering the country together.

and yes, the confederates had some of the best generals of the war, but
im no expert on why they lost, i just know they had some great west point
graduates and military commanders.
Hitler was no military genius at all! Only his generals in the OKW made alle the victorys in beginning possible.

After he took the command on Spetember 9th, 1942, sh*t really hit the fan. He was a brillaint speeker and he knew how mobilize the masses but after all he still was just a Private 1st Class.

Maybe a bad military commander but certainly not a bad leader. And he did have a good idea of what was going to work well for the army and not ect. I mean, Hitler was pretty much the only person in his military command that saw any good in the tank and guess what, he made the best tank division the world has ever seen!

To answer your question? Yeah some people are born to lead while others aren't. I personally love to take command. Being taught can give you slight advantage but alot of it just comes from who you are.
Concerning the Great Helmsman (barf), he was like many Chinese kids who knew or read The Three Kingdoms. It the classic Chinese story of three warring kingdoms, their generals, their strategy and how they fought one another. The other classic that we all read today is Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Mao also read that.

One of the best military leaders in American history who was completely unschooled is Nathan Bedford Forrest. He had a fifth grade education and rose to become one of the best cavalrymen in the Confederacy. Of course, his reputation is tarnished for having been the head of the KKK.

Even before Forrest, a self-taught (he read a lot of books) officer who lost every battle but won the campaign was Nathaniel Greene. He was sent to take over the Department of the Carolinas after Benjamin Lincoln surrendered one army at Charleston and his successor, Horatio Gates outran his defeated army at Guilford Court House. Greene was sent down with little resources and had to rebuild the Southern Army. He did, but lost every battle. Despite this, he managed to recapture North & South Carolina for the Colonies. Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah! Washington choose wisely.
I'm not nearly as history savvy as I would like to be, but I have seen some awesome military leaders up close - it was their ability to inspire soldiers to go beyond whatthey thought was possible, their knowledge of technology and how to use it and their uncompromising belief in getting the job done ahead of schedule that made them stand out to me (they are not name, nor will you find them in any history books, they are simply professional soldiers).

One thing I've always enjoyed pondering is how some of the historical leaders would do out of their time - can you imagine Genghis Khan at the head of SS Liebstandarte, or Nelson at Salamis, the possibilities are endless. I should take to writing a book about this stuff, get it out of my head and on paper.
I shouldn't forget Daniel Boone's cousin, Daniel Morgan. As a teamster during the French & Indian War, he was whipped for striking a British officer. He led a rifle company at the Siege of Boston and after the 1st Pennsylvania was disbanded (their term of enlistment had expired), Morgan was asked by Washington to raise a rifle corps. He selected marksmen from various regiments to form Morgan's Rifle Corps. They fought successfully at the two battles at Saratoga and were instrumental in helping defeat Burgoyne. Morgan was later sent south to help Greene and at Cowpens, he took an inferior force onto unfavorable grounds and defeated the supposedly superior British Legion of Banastre Tarleton. Morgan was a natural fighter who knew how to inspire and lead men.
"Hitler was a great military leader,"

Tell me you're joking. Please. Look at every military decision Hitler made as he was TRYING to be a military leader, and you'll see that in most of the important decisions, he was wrong. Hitler was about as great a military leader as Saddam Hussein was.:viking: