There are many great war heroes and generals throughout American history. While they are all great and worthy of remembrance, this article will look at the top 10 American war heroes.
The United States is one of a select few countries in the world to have enjoyed long periods of lasting freedom and democracy. This freedom is largely due to the heroic efforts of many American war heroes, making considerable sacrifices and performing astonishing feats above and beyond the call of duty.
Sergeant Alvin York
Sergeant Alvin York was the most decorated soldier in World War One. He earned his reputation during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in October 1918, when he singlehandedly killed 25 enemy soldiers and captured 132 others.
His bravery made him a national hero and won him the Medal of Honor. After he returned home to Tennessee, York became a prominent public figure and philanthropist until he died in 1964, making appearances at events such as FDR’s inauguration and the signing of Truman’s desegregation order.
His story became famous worldwide after it was made into an Academy award-winning film (Sergeant York) starring Gary Cooper in 1941, which also happened to be one of President Roosevelt’s favorite movies.
Sergeant Audie Murphy
The second-most decorated U.S. serviceman of the war was Audie Murphy, a diminutive Texas farm kid who had volunteered for combat duty in the war at age 17. Donning an M1 rifle and fighting with incredible bravery, he earned every medal issued by the U.S. military, including the Medal of Honor—all before his 21st birthday!
Murphy would write an autobiography titled To Hell and Back in 1949, which became a best seller and later a movie starring Murphy himself as the main character. He became one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors through his portrayal of cowboys in numerous westerns throughout his career.
Commander Richard E. Byrd
One of the greatest military heroes in American history, Commander Richard E. Byrd is better known for his historic journeys to Antarctica than for his service in World War I. Byrd was born to a wealthy Virginia family and graduated from the Virginia Military Institute before joining the Navy as a young man.
He rose through the ranks and eventually led several expeditions to Antarctica, becoming an internationally acclaimed explorer who earned numerous medals and decorations of honor.
As one of the first people to fly over both the North and South Poles, Byrd was celebrated by many as a great American hero—but not by everyone. After a highly publicized expedition to Antarctica in 1929, rumors began circulating that he had exaggerated his accomplishments, leading some critics to discredit him as “the phony admiral.”
Captain Eddie Rickenbacker
It’s a shame that Captain Eddie Rickenbacker’s legacy has been forgotten because he was one of the most daring men to ever fight in the United States military. The first American ace pilot, Rickenbacker made his name shooting down 26 enemy aircraft during World War I. He didn’t just know how to fly planes—he built them too.
Before enlisting, he worked as a race car driver and an automaker, so it’s safe to say that he knew his way around an engine. And after surviving a plane crash and drifting on a life raft for 24 days following World War I ended, he wrote one of the best-selling books of all time: Fighting the Flying Circus.
General George S. Patton Jr.
General George S. Patton Jr., an American army officer and war hero is known for his aggressive leadership and colorful and controversial figure. He was often criticized for his lack of empathy, was a leading figure in World War II during the Allied invasion of Sicily, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
General George Washington
George Washington was the first president of the United States, serving from 1789 to 1797. He also led the Continental Army during the American Revolution and was an influential Founding Father of the United States.
Washington’s origins were modest.
He was a surveyor, planter, and soldier, gaining military experience in the French and Indian War as a young man. In 1775, after more than a decade of political wrangling between Britain and its colonies in North America, war broke out with Britain. Washington led his ragtag army against formidable British forces in several key battles that resulted in significant victories for the Americans over time.
His successes came with fame and recognition for Washington as a brilliant strategist who helped establish America’s independence from Great Britain.
Colonel John Glenn
You may know him as the guy who got to orbit the Earth before Neil Armstrong went to the Moon. But before he helped lead America into space, John Glenn was a good Marine pilot. He flew combat missions during World War II and Korea and was shot down three times.
He survived all that combat time, but he also became a test pilot for some of the fastest planes in existence at that time—including the blistering-fast F8U Crusader fighter jet.
In 1959, he was chosen as one of seven Mercury astronauts—and on February 20th, 1962, he piloted his spacecraft “Friendship 7” into history when he became the first American to orbit the Earth. After retiring from NASA in 1964, Glenn became a Democratic senator representing Ohio between 1974 and 1999.
Admiral Chester Nimitz
Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg, Texas, and raised on a ranch near Kerrville, Texas. He attended the University of Texas and later the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, graduating in 1905. During his 50-year career, he was known for his intellect, leadership skills, and ability to manage men during times of crisis.
During World War II, he served as Commander in Chief of the Pacific Ocean Areas (CINCPOA) under General Douglas MacArthur’s direction. Admiral Nimitz was commander in the Pacific Fleet from 1941 to 1944 and oversaw all allied air, land, and sea forces in the central pacific region.
He is credited with saving hundreds of thousands of lives through strategic planning that helped maintain control over Japanese territory while fighting back against Japanese forces.
Major General William Donovan
Major General William Donovan is an American war hero because of his bravery and belief in a free world. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and an honorary knight commander of the British Empire.
He founded the Office of Strategic Services (the OSS), which became the CIA in 1947. The OSS was responsible for espionage during World War II and rescued over 500 American soldiers from behind enemy lines in Europe.
He also served with distinction in both World Wars and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his contributions to national security in 1945.
Brigadier General Francis S. Gabreski, Jr
Francis Stanley “Gabby” Gabreski was a Polish American United States Air Force pilot who became a flying ace during World War II and the Korean War. He is one of the most decorated USAAF fighter pilots in Europe, with 28 confirmed victories and two shared victories while flying with the 56th Fighter Group.
He is considered America’s leading ace of the European Theater during World War II. His nickname came from his inability to pronounce his last name as a “youngster.”
This list of American war heroes
As you’re reading our list of the top ten American war heroes, it’s essential to keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive listing. Many people could be on it, and there will be many lists from other sources with different arrangements.
If you’ve never heard of any of these people before, don’t worry! You’re not alone. Many Americans aren’t familiar with the stories behind their country’s most famous victories in battle, but we will change that here today.
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