The American Military Hall of Fame
The greatest professional athletes reach the pinnacle of their post professional career though induction into the Hall of Fame. From Cooperstown to Canton, from Toronto to Springfield, the busts of the world’s greatest athletes are immortalized. Selection into each hall of fame is subjective, determined by a select group of men and women. Criteria ranges from statistical achievements, championships won, longevity. Conversely, factors such as a toxic personality or accusations of cheating can prevent players with the greatest statistical achievements from gaining entrance.
If the United States Military, established a hall of fame, who would gain entrance? Who would be a part of the initial classes of inductees? What should be the location of the Hall of Fame?
First, the elgibility requirments. 1) Must have served in the American Military. 2) Must be out of the service for at least five years.
The freshman class of the Military Hall of Fame includes Generals and Admirals responsible for the victories in America’s Major Wars. In this aspect, winning a war relates to winning championships.
George Washington: Washington comes near Honus Wagner territory in terms of percentage of votes. Although Washington may not have the military honors of a U.S. Grant, or George Marshall, his generalship set the path for all those that would follow. For example, had Washington led the Army in the Revolution, other HoF inductees such as Grant and Pershing may have had an unremarkable military career putting down rebellions in Calcutta. Further, Washington has a brand. Easily recognizable on the One Dollar Bill, the Quarter, and Mount Rushmore, Washington built a brand more recognizable then Michael Jordan. In this aspect it is unlikely someone will replace him as the GOAT. Washington gets in with 99.7 percent of the vote, with one or two voting against due to Washington having been a slave owner.
U.S. Grant: Grant finally saw eye to eye with President Lincoln on how the U.S. Army should fight and win the Civil War. Grant gains entrance, despite having fought in the West, which is similar to athletes today playing on the West Coast, thus receiving little media attention. Indeed, Grant’s reputation as one of the all-time greats is due to his campaigns in the East, while his victories in the West are often forgotten.
Jack Pershing: Pershing had a storied career, beginning with the Battle of Bud Bagsak during the Moro Rebellion phase of the Philippine–American War, continuing into the expedition to Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa, Pershing would then serve as Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in the First World War. It was Pershing who ensured American soldiers were not thrust into battle to quickly, nor assimilated into the European armies. The parallel command structure was paramount to allied success. Following the war, Pershing assumed his role as Army Chief of Staff
George Marshall: The architect of World War Two. Simply put, Marshall was FDR’s indispensable general. If Washington, Grant, Pershing and are the equivalent of the best ballplayers or quarterbacks of their time, Marshall is a combination of Bill Belichick, Scotty Bowman and Phil Jackson of his era. Marshall groomed a generation of leaders below him, to include the likes of Eisenhower. One can put Marshall on the top of a “coaching tree,” in the same manner one puts Paul Brown and Vince Lombardi.
Chester Nimitz: Nimitz achieved the rank of 5-Stars, but more importantly was responsible for victory in the Battle of Midway. Midway gets Nimitz into the freshman class over other naval legends such as John Paul Jones, Admiral Dewey and Ernest King. This is similar to how Super Bowl III propelled Joe Namath into Canton.
The Sophomore Class includes some of the freshman’s class subordinates. Further, with this class, some individual achievements become part of the reasoning for induction into the Hall.
William Tecumseh Sherman: The man who would conceptualize total war in his famous March to the Sea. If Grant was Babe Ruth, Sherman was Lou Gehrig. Following the war, Sherman began the Army’s Command and General Staff College. The latter achievement pushes him into the sophomore class of inductees. Sherman
Alvin York and Audie Murphy: the first NCO to enter the Military Hall of Fame. York’s induction is due to his actions where he earned the Medal of Honor. Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier of World War II, which includes the Medal of Honor. Further, Murphy was injured 3-times in combat, and all this before his 21st birthday. Murphy would easily earn the votes to get in.
Earning the Medal of Honor is not an automatic induction. Any Military Hall of Fame would certainly include a Medal of Honor Wing. However, just as pitching a perfect game does not make one a hall of famer neither does earning the Medal.
George Patton: A subordinate of Eisenhower in World War II, General Patton would easily make the hall of fame. Indeed, if there were such a thing as military talk radio, or a military version of Mike and Mike, some of the debate would center on Patton’s status as the GOAT. Let’s be honest, if people gambled on the outcome of battles in World War II, Patton would have never been an underdog.
Winfield Scott: General Scott’s comparison is Cal Ripken. Although not singularly responsible for for victory in America’s major wars, his tenure as Commander of the Army, his actions at Vera Cruz, his diplomatic skill as President Jacksons emissary to South Carolina during the nullification crisis, and his conceptualization of the Anaconda Plan are but a few of his notable achievements throughout the course of his stories career.
Alfred Thayer Mahan: In the late 19th Century, Mahan published his seminal work The Influence of Seapower upon History 1160-1783. His book and subsequent lectures would influence navies across the globe. Mahan gets in while Billy Mitchell of the Army Air Corps waits another year.
The third class of inductees begins with the Revolution and brings us into the modern era
Nathaniel Greene: An underrated General who passed away shortly after the Revolution. His career is similar to Sandy Koufax, brief but dominant.
Billy Mitchell: The father of the U.S. Air Force. Despite his temporary ban and courts marshal, Billy Mitchell was paramount in the development of U.S. Airpower, an asymmetric advantage we hold over most of the world today.
Dwight Eisenhower: His performance as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe gain him entrance into the Hall of Fame. Further, Eisenhower was a five-star general. The five-star rank is the equivalent of hitting 500 home runs or winning 300 games. Barring a steroid era in the future where dozens of American Officers promote to General of the Army, it is a solid statistic by which to judge.
Matthew Ridgeway: Ridgeway won a championship in World War II, then made it to game 7 in the finals in Korea.
Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell: Lets be honest, these two men are the last GOFOs to win a championship, and when discussing the greatest of all time, championships matter. Generals of the current conflicts such as Tommy Franks have made the playoffs, but seem unable to win in the post season.
Future inductees in no specific order
Douglas MacArthur: MacArthur will gain entry into the hall in one of his last years of eligibility. MacArthur did earn 5-Stars, was awarded the Medal of Honor, and held a host of command positions over his storied career. However, there remains a group staunchly against his entrance into the American Military Hall of Fame.
Omar Bradley Hap Arnold William Leahy Ernest King and William “Bull” Halsey: All members of the 5-Star club.
Henry Knox, Ethan Allen and Daniel Morgan
John Paul Jones, Oliver Hazard Perry, Matthew Perry, Admiral Dewey
Phillip Sheridan and George Meade
Fox Conner: You can extend the “General Tree” beyond Marshall back to Fox Conner.
Chesty Puller: The most decorated Marine in U.S. history.
Hyman Rickover and Bernard Adolph Schriever make the cut for their work during the Cold War.
Very Good but not quite in
Jimmy Doolittle: The Doolittle Raid provided a psychological boost, but like Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak, one major accomplishment does not make a hall of fame career.
Alfred Wedemeyer and Walter Bedell Smith: Fantastic Officers, but their major accomplishments came as lead staff officers. Dale Murphy sends his regards.
Not Getting In
Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and any other person who fought for the Confederacy. Much like Pete Rose, any military accomplishments have been tarnished by their decision to fight against the United States. In fact, participation in a rebellion against the United States government to preserve an economic system based on slavery is actually much worse than gambling on the outcome of baseball games. Confederates have a lifetime and beyond ban from entering the American Military Hall of Fame.
Where to put the American Military Hall of Fame can ignite debate in the same manner of who should get in. Considerations include ease of visitation and historical significance. Washington D.C. has prime real estate, but the city has multiple museums and historical sites to visit. Baltimore is close to the U.S. Naval Academy, and New York City is an epicenter of tourism.
It pains me to say it, but I would put the American Military Hall of Fame at West Point. West Point offers the history as the alma-matter of many inductees. Further, home Football games offer the perfect venue to honor new inductees.