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Strategy: Theorist, Philosopher, and Practitioners: Practitioners

How to out plan, out execute and defeat your opponents

The Practioners

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson

Few historical personages are known to posterity primarily by a nickname, but Confederate general Stonewall Jackson is a notable exception. He earned the name by which he is known and became a legend in his own time...Ironically, it was not as a “stone wall” but primarily as a lightning marcher, tactical and operational genius, and hard-striking offensive master that Jackson achieved greatness. In his “valley campaign” in 1862—still studied by military officers today—he eluded, then defeated, superior federal forces; in August of the same year, he first marched entirely around the Union army of General John Pope, then stood on the defensive, luring Pope to the attack, until the rest of the Confederate army could join in a crushing counterattack and victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas).

"Jackson, Thomas J. “Stonewall”." The Reader's Companion to Military History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Credo Reference. Web. 14 January 2013.


Heinz Guderian

Heinz Guderian had served as an officer in World War I and in the 1920s. In the years after 1933 he pushed for the creation of separate armored units. After a period in charge of all German armor, he commanded a corps in the invasion of Poland.

Guderian played a key role in the armored thrust through the neutral Low Countries in May 1940 and the subsequent breaching of the French line south of the breakthrough. Promoted to full general, Guderian commanded the German Second Panzer Army on the central portion of the Eastern Front (see Operation Barbarossa). A man who held and voiced fixed ideas, he was frequently in conflict with his superiors. Though an admirer of National Socialism and an extreme nationalist, his conflicts with his army group commander, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge, as well as with Adolf Hitler, contributed to his relief during the German defeat before Moscow in December 1941.

"Guderian, Heinz." The Reader's Companion to Military History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Credo Reference. Web. 14 January 2013


George S. Patton

George Smith Patton, Jr., who was born in San Gabriel, California, the grandson of ancestors who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War, was one of the most flamboyant, controversial, and exceptional officers ever to serve in the U.S. Army.

George S. Patton was the most outstanding American combat general of World War II. Known as much for his showmanship and eccentric behavior as for his boldness, Patton was an extraordinarily intellectual and cultured man who mastered his profession and employed his encyclopedic knowledge of history to fight his battles. Behind his profane public persona, Patton was intensely private; he wrote poetry, was obsessed with death, and overcame his own low self-esteem to become one of the most highly regarded generals in U.S. Army history. What separated Patton from his peers was an intangible, special genius for war that has been granted to only a select few, such as Robert E. Lee and German field marshal Erwin Rommel. The Germans feared him more than any other Allied general.

"Patton, George S., Jr.." The Reader's Companion to Military History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Credo Reference. Web. 14 January 2013.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Writing about Corsica, political philosopher JeanJacques Rousseau predicted, “One day this small island will astonish Europe.” The speculation came true in the person of Napoleon Bonaparte, born on August 15, 1769, in Ajaccio, Corsica. He first set foot on French soil on Christmas Day in 1778, a nine-year-old aspirant headed for language training (he had previously spoken Italian) at Autun. He went on to a military preparatory school, was disappointed in an early desire to join the navy, and went on to the prestigious École Militaire, graduating with high honors in just one year.

Commissioned into an artillery regiment as a result of his proclivity for science and mathematics, Napoleon absorbed the theories of French military reformists, some of the best of whom were of the artillery branch of service. He spent time in Paris at the outset of the French Revolution, went for a time to Corsica in an effort to advance revolutionary precepts there, and returned to France in time to participate in a siege of Toulon in 1793, where French Royalists holding a base for a British fleet were beset and ultimately overwhelmed. Napoleon’s handling of the revolutionary artillery in the siege earned him promotion from captain to brigadier general.

"Napoleon Bonaparte." The Reader's Companion to Military History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Credo Reference. Web. 14 January 2013.

Mao Tse-tung

Unlike Napoleon, Mao Tse-tung never directly commanded a decisive battle, and he therefore cannot be classed as one of the world’s great generals. Nonetheless, if Mao’s contributions to Marxist theory and his performance as ruler have been disparaged, his reputation as a thinker about military affairs has remained intact. It was Mao who elaborated the principles of revolutionary war and provided the Chinese Communist Party with a strategy to seize power.

Mao’s awakening to the importance of military power came in the late 1920s. Having grown up in comfortable rural circumstances, Mao attended a modern school in Changsha, the provincial capital of his native province of Hunan in south-central China. He became involved in radical student activities in the late 1910s and 1920s and was present at the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. Like all early Chinese Communists, he initially did not question that revolutions were brought about by uprisings in urban centers, as was true for the October Revolution in Russia. In 1926 and 1927, at the closure of a period of large-scale civil war when Chiang Kai-shek, who had succeeded Sun Yat-sen as Nationalist leader, had deployed modern armies to seize power and crush the Communists with whom he had first cooperated, Mao first concluded that China’s countryside, and not its cities, was where China’s revolution should begin. He also decided that “power comes out of the barrel of a gun.” This opened the door to a strategy of Communist revolution integrated with military conquest.

"Mao Tse-tung." The Reader's Companion to Military History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Credo Reference. Web. 14 January 2013.

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