10 Brilliant Military Commanders You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

10 Brilliant Military Commanders You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Patrick Lynch - March 18, 2018

I have previously written two articles on great unknown commanders but the truth is, there are hundreds more that have achieved great things but barely receive a cursory mention in the average history book. Previous editions focused on legends such as Belisarius, Suvorov, Narses, and Khalid ibn Al-Walid. In the second article, there were complaints about its Eurocentric nature and while there will be a few European commanders in Part III, I also look at great military minds from all over the world.

There are many things that make a great commander; ranging from innovative tactics to earning the trust of your men. However, the true legends find a way to win when their backs are against the wall and defeat seems certain. It is in these moments when the best commanders come to the fore, rally their troops, and spot an enemy mistake in the heat of battles. As you’ll see in this article, some of these great military minds also used their abilities to gain supreme power.

10 Brilliant Military Commanders You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Hammurabi and Shamash – Ancient History Encyclopedia

1 – Hammurabi (1810 – 1750 BC)

During his 42-year reign, the Babylonian king, Hammurabi, conquered Mesopotamia. Along with his military brilliance, he is also known for the Code of Hammurabi, a set of laws once believed to be the oldest in human history. He became the sixth king of Babylonia in 1792 BC and while his father, Sin-Muballit, was unable to expand the kingdom, Hammurabi, succeeded where his predecessor had failed and transformed Babylonia into one of the greatest kingdoms in the ancient world.

Sin-Muballit was desperate to conquer the city of Larsa but was defeated by King Rim-Sin I. It is likely that the monarch was ‘encouraged’ to abdicate in favor of his son. Hammurabi initially didn’t give Larsa any reason for concern as he spent the first years of his reign continuing his father’s successful public works program. The new king also oversaw a new project which increased the size and height of the city’s walls. The Code of Hammurabi was introduced in 1772 BC and the king ensured that his people were well taken care of with an improvement in the irrigation of fields.

What his rivals didn’t know was that Hammurabi was biding his time. As well as improving the city’s defenses, the king was strengthening his army and getting ready for a campaign south to conquer Mesopotamia. This campaign probably started in around 1787 BC and he conquered the cities of Erech and Isin which were previously held by Rim-Sin. He fought Larsa the following year but instead of pushing on, Hammurabi seemed content with his initial conquests south because from 1784 BC onwards, he focused on the east and northwest.

A stalemate of sorts remained in place for approximately 20 years. While rival kingdoms such as Ashur, Mari, and Eshnunna went through periods of changing government, Babylon remained stable and Hammurabi used the time to fortify a number of cities north of the kingdom. From 1764 BC until his death, King Hammurabi was involved in almost constant warfare, and it was then when he showed his military prowess. He conquered Larsa within a couple of years and turned his attention to the east.

Hammurabi attacked and destroyed long-time ally, the state of Mari, in 1761 BC and Babylon defeated Ashur a few years later, followed by Eshnunna in 1755 BC. While he absorbed conquered cities into the kingdom, Hammurabi elected to destroy Mari because it was a rival for the title of ‘greatest Mesopotamian city’. The king became sick in his later years and by the time of his death in 1750 BC, his son, Samsu-Iluna, was effectively the leader of the Babylonian kingdom. During his reign, Hammurabi turned Babylon from a thriving city-state into the undisputed leader of ancient Mesopotamia.

10 Brilliant Military Commanders You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Tiglath-Pileser III – Ancient History Encyclopedia

2 – Tiglath-Pileser III (? – 727 BC)

This military genius was the King of Assyria for 18 years and is credited with the most crucial phase of Assyrian expansion. During the reign of Adad-nirari III (810 – 783 BC), Assyria was a weak nation both politically and militarily. The state of Urartu, which lay north of Assyria, was the most dominant region at the time. The kingdom continued to flounder until 745 BC when the governor of Calah led a rebellion against the weak King Ashur-nirari V. The governor became the new king and proclaimed himself Tiglath-Pileser III in honor of the illustrious Tiglath Pileser I who reigned from 1115 BC to 1077 BC.

The new king wasted no time in stamping his authority and by 744 BC, he had founded two new provinces in a region that was controlled by Medes. The Urartian army was alerted to the presence of this new threat and returned to the Euphrates River in 743 BC. Tiglath defeated the Urartu in the Battle of Arpad and chased the enemy all the way back to its capital, Turuspa. It was a clear sign that Assyria was no longer a docile state run by incompetent rulers.

The kingdom of Arpad had assisted the Urartu and the angry Tiglath responded by severely punishing it during a three-year war. When the Assyrians were victorious, Tiglath divided Arpad into two provinces and transformed it into a permanent part of his fledgling empire. However, he was far from being satisfied and continued marching west; his next target was Arpad’s ally, the influential kingdom of Hamat. Within a few years, Tiglath’s army destroyed the Hamat resistance and the north-western parts of the kingdom also became Assyrian provinces. Tiglath also conquered the kingdom of Ungu during this campaign.

Assyria took full control of Hamat in 732 BC and soon, Tiglath turned his attention to the Bit-Amukani whose leader, Mukin-zeri, became king of Babylon in 731 BC. Tiglath viewed this as a direct provocation and decided to attack Mukin-zeri. The Assyrians were once again victorious and Tiglath ruled as the king of Assyria and Babylon for the rest of his life. He did not enjoy his new-found power for too long because he died in around 727 BC. Tiglath was succeeded by his son Ululaya who became Shalmaneser V and defeated Egypt and Samaria during his reign.

Tiglath is unquestionably one of the greatest military leaders of the ancient world. When he took the throne by force, Assyria was on its knees, a weak and feeble kingdom. Within 20 years, he had turned the army into one of the most feared fighting units in ancient history. He created a professional army by replacing conscripts with specialized soldiers. Tiglath bolstered his army by using soldiers from defeated kingdoms along with mercenaries from Babylonia, Anatolia, and the Zagros Mountains. The Neo-Assyrian Empire he left behind lasted for another 118 years when an Assyrian-Egyptian alliance was defeated by Medes and Babylonia at the Fall of Harran in 609 BC.

10 Brilliant Military Commanders You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Wu Qi – Wikimedia Commons

3 -Wu Qi (440 – 381 BC)

This military leader often ranks #2 in lists of the greatest Chinese military commanders behind the incomparable Sun Tzu. He was a prominent general during the Warring States period and was renowned not only for being an exceptional leader of men, but also an incredible military strategist. A number of Chinese military experts believe Wu Qi was a better commander than Sun Tzu and he also has the city of Wu Cheng named after him. He is sometimes referred to as ‘The Flawed Perfect General’ because despite his dubious character, Wu Qi was a feared and respected general who won an extraordinary amount of battles.

Wu Qi grew up in the village of Way in China’s Central East region and showed little sign of his later military prowess as a child. Legend has it that young Wu bit his arm and swore a blood oath to leave his village and not return until he had become famous with a carriage of riches and honor. His initial aim was to become a courtier and he studied Confucian classics. His hard work soon paid off as a minister of the Qi kingdom visited Wu’s school and was so impressed by the young man that he gave one of his daughters to Wu to be his wife.

A few years later, Wu became a minister of the Court in the Lu Kingdom under the watch of Duke Mu. Meanwhile, the prime minister of the Qi Kingdom, Tien He, usurped the throne and became king. Tien He was related to Wu Qi by marriage, a fact that concerned Mu who questioned his minister’s loyalty. Wu responded by presenting the duke with the severed head of his wife. He received command of the Lu Kingdom army and so began a brilliant military career. He gained the loyalty and respect of his men by walking beside his troops, eating with soldiers and sleeping on the ground. The general even carried his own rations and equipment while marching.

Wu’s Lu army destroyed the Qi forces and the general’s reputation as a great leader was sealed. However, he switched sides and joined the Qi court soon after. When Duke Hei of the Ch’in kingdom died, Wu captured five Ch’in cities and blocked the kingdom’s eastward expansion. He was apparently the first person ever to create a national system for training and maintaining a standing army of professional troops. He demanded the best from his troops and would-be recruits had to pass a series of grueling physical tests. For example, prospects had to carry several weapons, armor, and three days of dried rations while marching 40 kilometers in half a day.

One of his most famous triumphs occurred at Yin Ghin in 389 BC where he defeated a Ch’in army despite being hugely outnumbered. However, prime minister Gong Zu was afraid that Wu Qi would try and seize power so he was kicked out of the Qi court. He ended up fighting for the Chu Kingdom and changed their military system. Alas, King Diao, the man who hired Wu Qi, died in 381 BC and during a court revolt in the aftermath of the king’s death, many of the men removed from the positions during Wu’s tenure in Chu chased him into the royal palace where arrows killed him.

According to legend, Wu pulled out some of the arrows and stuck them into King Diao’s body which lay in state. Diao’s successor, his son Shu, hunted down the rebels who had ‘desecrated’ his father’s body. Even in death then, Wu Qi gained revenge on those who assassinated him. In the field, he was an all-time great commander and had Diao lived a decade longer, Wu Qi could have helped the Chu Kingdom dominate China.

10 Brilliant Military Commanders You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Chandragupta Maurya – Wikipedia

4 – Chandragupta Maurya (340? – 297 BC)

Maurya founded the Maurya Empire in India and was the ruler of his kingdom for approximately 24 years. He was succeeded by his son Bindusara who was in turn followed by his son Ashoka. This continuity helped the empire flourish and it reached its greatest extent under Ashoka. The Maurya Empire lasted until 187 BC and was the biggest that ever existed in the Indian Subcontinent. At its largest, it spanned over five million square kilometers. Before the arrival of Maurya, the nation of India consisted of multiple small states but he managed to unify them and defeat the Nanda dynasty.

Alexander the Great began his invasion of India in around 327 BC and defeated King Porus of modern day Punjab the following year. Porus was retained as a vassal of Alexander and ruled all of conquered India. By 324 BC, Alexander’s army became fed up with marching. They mutinied and forced the Macedonian legend to return home. Maurya was a relation of the Nada family but was an exile and as he was a captive of Alexander’s, he may have met the general face-to-face at some point.

With Alexander out of the picture, Maurya was determined to remove Macedonian influence from his country so he raised a small army with the aid of his friend Kautilya Chanakya who was an outstanding commander in his own right. Together, the duo triggered a civil war by invading Pataliputra, the capital of the Magadha kingdom. Maurya defeated the Nanda by 322 BC and established his empire. Whether or not Maurya was an expert in propaganda, he managed to gain widespread public support because he became painted as a noble leader who defeated part of the Greek invaders and usurped the notoriously corrupt Nanda government.

The death of Alexander in 323 BC caused all manner of chaos as his conquered lands were divided up. General Seleucus received land in Eastern Pakistan and Northern India but when he traveled to his western borders to handle invaders, Maurya attacked and captured a significant tract of land. After a war that spanned almost two decades, Maurya and Seleucus signed a treaty. The two men established borders and Maurya gave Seleucus 500 war elephants in return for Punjab.

Once he was satisfied with his level of control in Northern India, Maurya turned his attention south. His army won multiple battles in the space of a few years and by 300 BC, his empire controlled practically all of the independent Indian states and extended all the way into the Deccan plateau. One of his few failures was an inability to conquer Kalinga but his grandson Ashoka completed the job 40 years later. By the time Maurya abdicated his throne in 298 BC, he had established himself as one of Asia’s greatest ever commanders. According to legend, he starved himself to death in a cave although it is probably nothing more than a fable.

10 Brilliant Military Commanders You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Symeon I of Bulgaria – Alchetron

5 – Emperor Symeon I of Bulgaria (864? – 927)

Along with Khan Krum, Symeon was one of the greatest leaders of the First Bulgarian Empire. The empire reached its greatest extent during his reign as he defeated the Byzantines, Serbs, and Magyars during his 34-year reign. Symeon was probably born in 864 and was the third son of Boris I, the leader who Christianized the nation. As he wasn’t the oldest son of the ruler, Symeon wasn’t supposed to be the heir. Instead, he was meant to become a high-ranking cleric and even studied at the University of Constantinople.

His oldest brother Vladimir became emperor when Boris abdicated but made the mistake of trying to reintroduce Paganism. The irate Boris returned to the fold and had Vladimir imprisoned and blinded. It is not known why his second son Gavril wasn’t selected as the new leader. Boris chose Symeon and it proved to be an excellent decision almost from the moment he sat on the throne in 893.

When Emperor Leo VI the Wise of the Byzantine Empire made the very unwise move of moving the marketplace for Bulgar goods to Thessaloniki where they were heavily taxed, Bulgarian merchants appealed to Symeon for help. He responded by invading the Byzantine Empire in 894. After the defeat against Magyar forces who were aiding the Byzantines, Symeon signed an armistice with the enemy in 895. Within a year however, Symeon attacked again and went directly for Constantinople. He destroyed a Byzantine army at the Battle of Bulagrophygon and was only prevented from capturing the enemy’s capital when Leo VI desperately armed Arab captives who forced the Bulgarians back.

Another peace treaty was signed but Symeon regularly violated it. He captured Adrianople in 914 and three years later, at the Battle of Acheloos, he annihilated the Byzantines in what one of the largest battles of the medieval era. The Byzantines lost up to 60,000 men in a single day and were forced to sign yet another treaty. Symeon entered Constantinople and for the second time, was crowned the Tsar of all Bulgarians and Romans. However, he was frustrated because the Byzantines would not recognize him as their emperor so he launched yet another invasion in 920.

By 922, Symeon had once again captured Adrianople. His army also seized Bizye, won a battle at Pigae and burned a lot of the Golden Horn. He met with the Byzantine Emperor Romanos in 924 and arranged a truce whereby Byzantium would pay an annual tax but would be given some cities on the coast of the Black Sea. Symeon was preparing for yet another Byzantine invasion when he died of heart failure in May 927. His death was a relief to the Byzantine Empire because during his reign, Symeon had brought it to its knees.

10 Brilliant Military Commanders You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Mausoleum of Ghazi Malik – Flickr

6 – Ghazi Malik (? – 1325)

Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq, also known as Ghazi Malik, had a relatively brief reign as the Sultan of Delhi but he is famed for his numerous successes against the marauding Mongols. Very little is known about his early life other than the fact that he was apparently a man of humble origins. His mother was Hindu and his father was a Qaraunah Turk slave. There is no information about how Ghazi worked his way through the ranks but he eventually became the provincial governor of Dipalpur which was under the rule of the Khalji Dynasty in the early 14th century.

When the Khalji leader, Alauddin died in 1316, there was a struggle for power and his son lost out to Khusro Khan. However, Khan was overthrown by Ghazi in 1320 who became the new Sultan of Delhi. He founded the Tughlaq Dynasty which lasted until 1413 and annexed the territory of Telangana. In the early part of his reign, Ghazi tried to help the Khalji family by providing them with high ranking positions and marrying off their less coveted daughters.

Ghazi reformed the departments of justice and the police, and he even revamped the land revenue system to ensure farmers would benefit. He ensured his army was well trained and Ghazi was apparently excellent at ensuring his men retained their discipline. Once he established order in his kingdom, Ghazi began to fight. His first target was the ruler of Warangal who had refused to pay tribute. Ghazi defeated the Raja of Warangal and renamed the region Sultanpur.

His next step was to conquer Bengal and he took advantage of the fact that the region was in the midst of a civil war. Ghazi defeated the enemy in 1324 and on his way back to Delhi, he also conquered the region of Tirhut. By now, he was one of the most feared leaders in the subcontinent and was previously known for his decisive victory over the Mongols at the Battle of Amroha in 1305. He was beginning to look invincible and one wonders what would have happened had he lived longer. As it transpired, he died in a freak accident in February 1325. A huge ceremony was being planned to honor Ghazi but one day, a wooden shelter collapsed on top of him and killed him immediately. Some historians believe it was a conspiracy hatched by his son, Juna Khan, who became the new Sultan of Delhi.

10 Brilliant Military Commanders You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Statue of Jan Zizka – Prague.eu

7 – Jan Zizka (1360 – 1424)

The Czech general is one of the few military commanders who never lost a battle but is not as well-known as others on that prestigious list which include Alexander the Great, Scipio Africanus, and Subutai. Today, he is a Czech national hero and there is a fabulous statue of him on Prague’s Vitkov Hill. His undefeated streak is all the more impressive since for the most part, he worked with militia forces and peasants. Nonetheless, he was able to mold them into supreme fighting machines that defeated all-comers.

Zizka was born in the small village of Trocnov in around 1360 and little is known about his military career until 1410 when he fought on the Polish-Lithuanian side as they defeated the Teutonic Order at the Battle of Grunwald. Zizka allegedly offered his services to the Teutonic Order before the battle but the mercenary chose the winning side in the end. He probably made ends meet by working as a bandit before Grunwald. At this stage, he was 50 years old, had no known command experience, and lost an eye in the battle. Even with everything against him, the legend of Zizka only began that day.

Zizka became the leader of the Hussites during the Hussite Wars (1419 – 1434) against the Holy Roman Empire. The Hussites were a proto-Protestant, Christian group that followed the teachings of Jan Rus who protested against the system of ‘absolution of sins’. Rus also hated the church’s immorality but was burned at the stake for heresy. His death led to an uprising of the Hussites and while a temporary compromise was reached at Prague in November 1419, Zizka was displeased and left for Plzen.

His first major victory of the Hussite Wars was the Battle of Sudomer on March 25, 1420. Zizka appeared to have a hopeless task as his army was comprised of badly trained militia and farmers. Nonetheless, Zizka used his vast experience to transform his army into a well-drilled unit and also utilized some innovative tactics. One of his best tactics was to join wagon carts wheel to wheel and divide battle into two stages. In stage one, the Hussites placed their carts near the enemy and provoked them into battle. They used heavy artillery to cause damage and the infantry picked off the enemy cavalry.

In stage two, the Hussites would counterattack with the infantry and hidden cavalry attacking from the flanks. The enemy was forced to withdraw or face annihilation. It was obvious by now that Zizka was an outstanding commander and he was given the task of defending Prague against King Sigismund of Bohemia who had an army of 100,000 men. Sigismund’s attempted siege was a failure and he retreated in August 1420. Zizka was chosen as one of the Hussite leaders and at some point, during a siege in 1421, he was shot in his good eye. Incredibly, the near-blind Zizka continued to lead his men and he defeated Sigismund at Nebovidy in January 1422.

Sigismund’s men made a last stand at Nemecky Brod but were overwhelmed on January 10. The Hussites engaged in a civil war and Zizka was forced to pick a side. Despite his blindness and advanced age, he continued to earn victories using a combination of high ground fortifications and perfectly timed counterattacks. While he briefly unified the Hussites against outside threats, he was unable to defeat the plague which claimed his life in 1424. The undefeated general came from nowhere to become one of the best military commanders of the Middle Ages, even with no eyes.

10 Brilliant Military Commanders You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Saint Nuno Alvares Pereira – Nobreza.org

8 – Saint Nuno Alvares Pereira (1360 – 1431)

This Portuguese military leader is the only member of the list to have been canonized. He was recognized as a saint on July 3, 2008 and there is a feast day in his honor on November 6. Also known as The Holy Constable, Pereira allegedly distinguished himself in battle when he was just 13 years of age. In 1373, he joined the military and was involved in the prevention of an invasion from Castile. Pereira later played down his early experience and said it involved nothing more than a few skirmishes.

When King Ferdinand I of Portugal died in 1383, Pereira supported Joao of Aviz’s claim to the throne. On the other side, Ferdinand’s daughter, Beatriz, contested these claims but her marriage to John I of Castile was deemed a grave threat to Portugal’s independence. These fears were well grounded because in 1384, John I invaded the nation but he didn’t realize what he was up against. Pereira’s military talent came to the fore as he helped defeat the enemy Castilians at the Battle of Atoleiros in 1384 and he was named Constable of the Kingdom the following year.

Joao was recognized as King John I of Portugal in 1385 but his coronation triggered yet another attack by Castile. As well as fighting against Northern cities loyal to the enemy, Pereira fed the hungry population of his allies out of his own pocket. Pereira enjoyed arguably his greatest ever victory at the Battle of Aljubarrota on August 14, 1385. He commanded 6,500 volunteers against a 30,000-man Castilian army and lost less than 1,000 troops while his enemy lost over 9,000. This victory confirmed Portugal’s independence and King John reigned until 1433.

Pereira continued to fight against the Castilians until a peace treaty was signed in 1411. The king never forgot Pereira’s courage, loyalty, and military genius. He rewarded his best general with various titles and land. When Pereira’s wife died, he joined the Carmelite Order as a friar in 1423. He became known as Friar Nuno of Saint Mary and lived at the Carmo Convent in Lisbon until his death in 1431. King John visited Pereira in the monastery and considered him as his closest friend. He was beatified in 1918 but he wasn’t formally canonized until 2008 and the public celebration took place in 2009.

10 Brilliant Military Commanders You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Sir Isaac Brock – Montreal Rampage

9 – Sir Isaac Brock (1769 – 1812)

Often known as the ‘Hero of Upper Canada’, Sir Isaac Brock was a British soldier and administrator who lived and worked in Canada for most of his career. He was born in Guernsey in 1769 and joined the British Army in 1785 as an ensign. Brock quickly distinguished himself and earned several promotions at a relatively young age. He became lieutenant in 1790 and was promoted to captain in January 1791 when he was still only 21 years of age. Brock almost died from fever and did not recover until 1793 when he returned to England.

He became lieutenant-colonel in 1797 and was assigned to the Helder Expedition as part of the 49th Regiment of Foot in 1799. It involves traveling to the Netherlands and Brock first saw combat on September 10, 1799. Brock took command of a regiment in poor shape but he pulled his men together and was injured in a skirmish on the beaches of Egmont-op-Zee. Although he was at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, his services were not required and instead, he had the chance to witness the brilliance of Lord Nelson.

Brock’s legend really begins in 1802 when he was sent to Canada with his regiment. Over the next decade, Brock dedicated himself to improving the colony’s defenses and training military units for a possible war against the United States. Another promotion, this time to colonel in 1805, followed and by 1807, it seemed clear that war with the U.S. was inevitable. War finally broke out in June 1812 and it seemed as if Brock was in a hopeless position. He had 1,000 British soldiers and 11,000 militia, only 4,000 of whom he could trust with a weapon. He faced a well-trained army that significantly outnumbered him but over the next few months, Brock showed his military prowess.

One of his greatest victories was the Siege of Detroit where he took the city from United States forces on August 15, 1812; this achievement earned him a knighthood of the Order of the Bath. The capture of Detroit dented American morale and resulted in British domination over much of Michigan Territory. Alas, Brock placed himself in unnecessary danger at the Battle of Queenston Heights on October 13. He charged into the battle but was easily spotted due to his red uniform, gold lace and cocked hat. An American sharpshooter saw him and shot Brock in the chest.

Despite the terrible setback, the British recaptured the heights and took almost 1,000 prisoners. Brock died before he received the news of his knighthood but he has never been forgotten. He is still regarded as one of Canada’s greatest military heroes and 12 years after his death, a statue was erected in his honor on the site where he was killed. Although it was destroyed in 1840, a bigger version was built in 1856 and is clearly visible on one of the world’s largest undefended borders.

10 Brilliant Military Commanders You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Vo Nguyen Giap – The Daily Beast

10 – Vo Nguyen Giap (1911 – 2013)

As well as being the longest-lived entrant on this list, Vo Nguyen Giap is widely regarded as one of the greatest military strategists of the 20th century. Giap served his nation in numerous conflicts including World War II, the First Indochina War, and the Vietnam War. He was born in 1911 in Quang Binh Province which was part of French Indochina at the time. At the age of 14, he joined a secret nationalist movement before attending Hanoi University. He graduated with a doctorate and began his career by teaching history in a Hanoi private school. Giap joined the Indochinese Communist Party in 1938 which was led by Ho Chi Minh.

Giap helped Ho to form a new coalition commonly known as Viet Minh; its primary goal was to end French colonial rule. He had already fallen foul of the French as he was arrested for his opposition to the colonists and imprisoned for 18 months in the early 1930s. When France outlawed communism in 1939, Giap fled to China and this is probably where he first met Ho Chi Minh. While in China, Giap’s wife died in prison and his sister was executed by the French.

Between 1942 and 1945, Giap organized the resistance against Japanese forces that invaded Vietnam and China. It was during these campaigns where Diap first learned how to use guerrilla tactics. Japan’s surrender in World War II gave Ho Chi Minh a chance to grab power and he installed Giap as his Minister of the Interior. When the French refused to recognize the new government, conflict was inevitable. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Giap defeated the French and forced their surrender in 1954. One of his finest victories was the outmaneuvering of the enemy at Dien Bien Phu.

After the French surrendered, Giap was free to expand and modernize the army as the Vietnamese Government was able to establish itself fully. He helped create the Maritime Force in 1955 and the People’s Air Force in 1959. Throughout the Vietnam War, Giap was the commander in chief of the North Vietnamese army against South Vietnam and its army. After the Americans landed troops in Vietnam in 1965, Giap dismissed their chances and claimed they did not want a lengthy war: “To fight a protracted war is a big defeat for them. Their morale is lower than grass.”

Most evidence suggests he was not involved in the famous Tet Offensive of 1968 which dealt their enemies a serious psychological blow. The war finally ended in 1975 when the communists took Saigon and proclaimed the formation of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Giap was Minister of Defense until 1991 and is also known for publishing a number of books on military strategy. Known as The Volcano, Giap is not lauded by all. General Westmoreland, the U.S. commander in Vietnam, criticized Giap for his utter disregard for human life which made Giap “a formidable adversary but it does not make a military genius.”


Where Do We Get This Stuff? Here’s a List of Our Sources:

“Hammurabi.” Joshua J. Mark in Ancient History Encyclopedia. November 2011.

“The Book of War: From Chinese History.” Long Tang

“Tiglath Pileser III, King of Assyria (744 – 727 BC).” Karen Radner in University College London. August 2012.

“Chandragupta Maurya.” Cristian Violatti in Ancient History Encyclopedia. June 2014.

“Obituary: General Vo Nguyen Giap.” BBC News. October 2013.

“A Comprehensive History of Medieval India: Twelfth to the Mid-Eighteenth Century.” Salma Ahmed Farooqui. 2011.

“Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500 – 1250.” Florin Curta.

“Jan Zizka: The Blind and Undefeated General of the Hussite Wars.” William McLaughlin in War History Online. February 2016.

“Saint Nuno Alvares Pereira – Portuguese Military Leader.” Encyclopedia Britannica.

“Quartered in a far-away colony, Isaac Brock would emerge as one of Britain’s most ablest and tragic figures.” Alain Gauthier in the War of 1812 Website. 1997.