Not always the prosperous and wealthy families produce great men who very often had come from unimpressive family backgrounds. The making of a general requires lot of time, effort, intelligence, and a bit of luck. ‘Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow,’ as we can see it more often in going through the lives of great generals. Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov was born in a peasant family and became a marshal in the Soviet Army.
1. General Dwight D. Eisenhower
David Dwight Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, U.S. on October 14, 1890 and died at Washington D.C., U.S. on March 28, 1969 at the age of 78. He was the third of the seven sons of David and Ida Stover Eisenhower. He got his professional education from the United States Military Academy at West Point, United States Army Command, General Staff College, and the United States Army War College. Just five days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Brigadier General Dwight D. Eisenhower was summoned by the chief, General George C. Marshal, and Eisenhower was transferred to the War Plans Division in Washington where, having been tested for his capabilities, he was promoted to Major General in March, 1942. He served in the United States Army 1915 to 1953 then from 1961 to 1969 as a Five Star General of the Army. He fought in World War II.
2. General George Churchill Kenny
George Churchill Kenny was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada on August 6, 1889 and died on August 9, 1977 in Bay Harbor Islands, Florida at the age of 88. From 1907 to 1911 he studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was commissioned in December, 1917. In January, 1941 he was promoted to Brigadier General and to Major General in the next month. He was promoted to Lieutenant General in October, 1942. Kenny planned the attack of B-17 bombers in March, 1943 during the classic Battle of Bismarck and sank 16 Japanese vessels in a convoy. He was promoted to full general on March 9, 1945.
3. Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery
Popularly known as ‘Monty’ and the ‘Spartan General,’ Bernard Law Montgomery was born on November 17, 1887 in Kennington, London and died at Alton, Hampshire on March 24, 1976 at the age of 88. He was buried in the Holy Cross Churchyard, Binsted. He fought in the first and second World Wars. He commanded the Battle of El Alamein and the Eighth Army in Sicily. He was responsible for planning the D-Day Invasion in Normandy. On May 4, 1945 he took the German surrender at Luneburg Heath in Germany. He became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and was later raised to the rank of Chief of the Imperial General Staff.
4. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur
Commonly known by his nicknames; Gaijin Shogun, Dugout Dough, and Big Chef, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was born on January 26, 1880 in Little Rock, Arkansas and died at Washington D.C. on April 5, 1964 at the age of 84. He is the only Field Marshal of the Philippines and one of only five in the U.S. Army raised to the rank of General of Army. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for defending the Philippines. He officially accepted the Japanese surrender in September, 1945 and functionally ruled it from 1945 to 1951. He fought many battles in Mexican Revolution, the First World War, the Second World War, and the Korean War.
5. Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel
Famously known as General Rommel and the Desert Fox (Wustenfuchs), Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel was born on November 15, 1891 in Heidenhein, Kingdom of Wurttemburg, German Empire and died on October14, 1944 in Herrlingen, Nazi Germany. Rommel is distinguished as a humane officer as he ignored the orders to kill the commandos, Jewish soldiers, and the captured civilians. His Afrika Korps was never accused of war crimes. Rommel was allegedly involved in a conspiracy to kill Hitler, but on account of Rommel’s fame, Hitler decided to eliminate him quietly, and Rommel agreed to commit suicide against the assurances given by Hitler to spare the lives of his family. The Desert Fox: The story of Rommel is a film on the bibliography of Rommel in the last stages of the Second World War.
6. General Charles de Gaulle
Charles AndrÃ© Joseph Marie de Gaulle, the famous French Premier, President, and General was born on November 23, 1890 at Lille, France and died at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, France. He entered the elite military academy of Saint-Cyr. In 1909 where the future marshal of France, Alphonse Juin was his classmate and recalled the nicknames of de Gaulle as The Grand Constable and The Big Asparagus on account of his height (six feet five inches). In the First World War, he led the frontline company as Captain and was cited thrice for his bravery. After driving back the Germans at Normandy, de Gaulle emerged as unrivalled leader. He defended France with the influence the strong allies; Joseph Stalin of Russia, Winston Churchill of Great Britain, and Franklin Roosevelt of the United States of America.
7. General Wladyslaw Eugeniusz Sikorski
General Wladyslaw Eugeniusz Sikorski was born in Tuszow Narodoway, Poland on May 20, 1881. His father died when he was only four years old. He entered the military and achieved positions of General of the Infantry from 1923 to 1924, Minister of Foreign Affairs (1924-25) and Commander of the Military Corps Sixth District. Compelled by the German invasion in 1939, he fled to Paris where he established a government in exile and acted as Commander in Chief and Prime Minister simultaneously. During the Second World War, he tried to organize the Polish Army and negotiated with Churchill and Roosevelt. During a plane crash at Gibraltar on July 4, 1943, General Sikorski was killed along with his only daughter.
8. Marshal Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov
Marshal Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov was born in a poor family on December 1, 1896 at Strelkovka, Russian Empire, and died on June 18, 1974 at the age of 77 in Moscow, Russia. He joined the Russian Empire Army in 1915, and was awarded the Cross of St. George during the First World War. In the Second World War he applied special techniques against the Germans. And in 1954, at the age of 60, he was awarded the Fourth Hero of the Soviet Union title. He rejected the resolution against Khrushchev saying, ‘The Army went against this resolution and not even a tank will leave its position without my order.’ In consequence, he was removed from the presidium of the party’s Central Committee as well as from the Ministry of Defense and was forced to retire at the age of 62.
9. General Hideki Tojo
General Hideki Tojo was born on December 30, 1884 in the Himachi District of Tokyo, Empire of Japan, and was executed by hanging at the age of 63 on December 23, 1946 in Tokyo, occupied Japan. He got his military education at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy and Army War College. He was promoted to Major General in 1933. In 1945, after the unconditional surrender of Japan, General Douglas MacArthur ordered the arrest of 40 war criminals, including Tojo. On being besieged, Tojo attempted a failed suicide and was arrested with a bleeding chest saying, ‘I am very sorry; it is taking me so long to die.’ In November, 1948 he was hanged after he apologized for the atrocities he committed and urged the U.S. Army to show compassion for the Japanese who had suffered two atom bomb attacks.
10. General Vittorio Ambrosio
The Italian general Vittorio Ambrosio was born in Turin in 1879 and died in 1958. When suddenly asked by Mussolini about his thoughts, Ambrosio suggested to lighten the organization of Commando Supremo, bring back to the homeland the greatest possible number of Italian divisions, and stand up to the Germans. Mussolini exclaimed in affirmation on his last point. Ambrosio disliked the Germans.
Not only have they lived great lives, but the great men have also reflected their greatness in the moment of truth while nearing death. General Hideki Tojo asked the Americans to show compassion, not for himself, but for his fellow Japanese who had suffered the destruction caused by two atom bombs. Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel consented to commit suicide against Hitler’s assurance to spare the lives of his family members.