The Pirabhakaran Phenomenon

Sachi Sri Kantha
[12 July 2002]

The Quality of Sinhalese Military Competition

A Peep on the Power Elites of the Sri Lankan Army

In my chosen profession, i.e. natural sciences, an unpublished report or an unnamed source is given the same degree of credibility as that of a lecture by Bill Clinton on the worth of monogamy. Thus, I differ from other Pirabhakaran analysts in one criterion. Rather than relying heavily on ‘unnamed’ and ‘confidential’ sources which are unverifiable by an independent party, I depend strongly on scanning the published and public sources of information for my analysis, and assess the merit and weakness of such published material accordingly. Thus, it is opportune to present some published information on (and by) the men who had led the Sri Lankan army, to assess the quality of Pirabhakaran’s Sinhalese military competition.

The Lanka Guardian of Dec.1, 1993 had a glaring pink-colored box with black border in its cover. That box carried the caption: ‘The Tiger War: Why Aren’t We Winning? Lt.General Denis Perera, Rear Admiral Basil Gunasekera, Air Vice-Marshal Harry Goonetilleke talk to Mervyn de Silva.” This post-mortem was held to analyze the Pooneryn [Poonagari] Army camp debacle. To digest the success of Pirabhakaran’s army, I provide below a lengthy segment of Mervyn de Silva’s questions and the responses of General Denis Perera and Air Vice Marshal Harry Goonetilleke:

Views of Denis Perera:

[Note: The dots in between the sentences and the bold face fonts are as in the original text.]

“First of all, ‘we must be clear in our own minds on strategy’ General Denis Perera said. What are we trying to achieve? To me, he asked, it is obvious – destroy the military capability of the LTTE. Some people seem to believe that this is a law and order problem. That’s nonsense, of course. Our navy must be asked to close ‘the gaps’, if any at sea; our planes and helicopters must be ‘spotters’ and between the two, the navy and the air force, we must destroy the weapons coming in, or the army must destroy the boats on arrival. It can also be done by air. In this overall strategy, I would suggest a full-time maritime commander…not just a ground commander.

Question: General, are there any other points and constructive criticisms that you can offer…I believe there was a meeting with former service chiefs to pick their brains…?

Lt.Gen.Perera: I’d rather put some points in the form of questions that need to be probed. Are there overall planning weaknesses which need to be studied and the situation corrected? Is there a delay in sending re-inforcements? Does the army have contingency plans? Do long defence lines lack depth?

Question: General, you haven’t mentioned intelligence…

Answer: I was coming to that, and there too, I have a question. Is there an intelligence failure or is there an unfortunate neglect of the intelligence received?

Question: Is there in the army as a matter of routine, inquiries into failures, lapses etc?

Answer: Good question. There should be. At a high level, at that. Nothing must be glossed over or covered up. Every institution learns from mistakes…that is part of experience.

Question: It is always said that LTTE infiltration is very good.

Answer: Yes, we have heard stories…Ogollan mona unit ekenda? But the accent should betray the infiltrator, shouldn’t it?

Question: General, what of the command structure?…General Gerry Silva has been placed in charge of the North.

Answer: A full-time field commander is a good idea. But I would have the Chief of Staff concentrate on strategy and coordination. The work of the ground commander, the maritime commander etc needs to be more closely linked.

Question: The heavily guarded camps have been over-run so easily…

Answer: They have left gaps…especially in Pooneryn which has wide areas…There should be land-mines, trip-wire and ‘illumination’…as soon as an infiltrator trips, the light signals the defender…these devices are available…once you have dug in…your FDL [Note: army jargon for ‘forward defence line’] must be strong…good use must be made of anti-personnel mines…”

Views of Air Vice Marshal Goonetilleke

[Note: The dots in between the sentences and the bold-face fonts are as in the original text.]

Air Vice Marshal Goonetilleke: We now know the LTTE has a strong army…quite small but highly motivated, well trained and tough…after all, young women are on the frontline. Now the Tigers are quite good at sea too. But we have a monopoly of the skies. Why didn’t we rely on the Air Force when we have total superiority from dawn to dusk.

Question: Precisely because we have a monopoly of the skies, don’t you think that Palaly may be an LTTE top priority? Suicide squads?

Air Vice Marshal Goonetilleke: Of course. They’ll use every means possible to deny us that monopoly. But the problems go deeper. I am worried about morale. There is too much ‘Let me look after my life…until I can find some other work…the feeling that they are cannon fodder MUST not spread. We must not allow any demoralization. We need to inject new confidence and vitality. We must have a well-knit Joint Command…reduce extensions to a minimum…3 commanders and IGP must make almost ALL the strategic decisions, with least interference from non-servicemen. Arms purchases must be strictly professional. There should be a WAR COUNCIL, a recruitment drive…a campaign to raise morale.”

Apart from Air Vice Marshal Goonetilleke, the Rear Admiral Gunasekera also had mentioned in his interview to Mervyn de Silva, “I am quite concerned about morale…the will to fight. If there is a serious problem, it must be remedied at once.”

My 1993 Letter on Morale: rejected by the Lanka Guardian

After reading the insipid responses of Pirabhakaran’s elite Sinhalese competition, I submitted a brief sardonic critique to the Lanka Guardian, which Mervyn de Silva had discretely rejected from publication. I present this rejected letter, dated Dec.11, 1993 now. I had captioned it as ‘The Tiger War’.

“Thank you for publishing the ‘sermons’ of the three former Service Commanders – Lt.General Denis Perera, Rear Admiral Basil Gunasekera and Air Vice Marshal Harry Goonetilleke, on why the Tiger War is not progressing well, according to the expectations of the Services (LG, Dec.1). What I gather from the printed excerpts, the chief problem among the service personnel seems to be the lack of morale. Two of the three ex-Service Commanders had lamented about the morale. If only, some biotechnology or pharmaceutical company in Japan can produce and market ‘morale-boosting pills’ (like the ‘morning-after pills’ for unprotected sex) which can be purchased over the counter, I will supply them with such information. Until then, one has to manage with what is available.

In the ‘available’ category, we should include the ‘front-line experience’ of the former Service Commanders. Have they got any? If so, how much percentage of success they can show? What have they done on their part to build up morale in their camps? And how much success they have had in this campaign? I’m disappointed that you failed to ask these elementary questions…”

A 2001 Update on Sri Lankan army morale

I should admit that I did not anticipate the sexploiting ingenuity of the chicken-hearted chieftains of the Sri Lankan army, when I wrote the sardonic letter to Mervyn de Silva about the need for a morale-boosting pill. Many may have missed last year’s news from the rehabilitation research front of the Sri Lankan army to instil troop morale which captured the international headlines. Here is a lengthy excerpt from Amal Jayasinghe’s report of March 28, 2001 to the Agence France-Presse, captioned ‘Viagra to raise Sri Lanka troop morale’.

“A year after Sri Lankan troops bought multi-barrel rockets and swing-wing jets to resist a massive offensive by Tamil rebels another key ‘weapon’ is being inducted to fight a different battle. The latest acquisition by the medical corps has the potential to raise morale to new heights in an army where nearly a tenth of troops have been wounded while battling separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in the North-East.

The army is experimenting with the new sexual arousal drug, Viagra, in the treatment of war-wounded as rehabilitation is given top billing after President Chandrika Kumaratunga placed the country on a ‘war footing’. ‘We have just got the samples of Viagra’ said Dr.Sriyani Warusawitharana who heads the rehabilitation offensive. ‘We want to start the treatment on some married soldiers who have recovered from their injuries’. She said the war-wounded often suffered psychological problems, particularly due to losing limbs from anti-personnel mines. ‘We are looking at the sexual aspects of treatment’, she said. ‘We are getting help from a university for this program’. Warusawitharana said the injured soldiers initially suffer fears of rejection by society, but with the help of professional counseling and support from colleagues most make remarkable recoveries.

The army set up a separate directorate for rehabilitation in 1989 but the outfit got a new push when the government announced it was placing the country on a ‘war-footing’ following the abortive rebel offensive in Jaffna in April and May last year. Viagra, which was approved as a prescription drug in Sri Lanka only four months ago, was introduced at 685 rupees (eight dollars) for the smaller 25 mg pill and considered expensive by local standards. But money is no object in this case.

The army’s rehabilitation outfit is a show-piece centre for the other military units such as the airforce and the navy and has provided vocational training for about 4,500 wounded troopers. The rehab unit currently has some 9,000 troopers registered with it and re-deployed in various branches of the security forces. Masons, carpenters and even some of the military drivers are soldiers who once fought in the war. About eight percent of the Sri Lankan military is officially listed as ‘disabled’ soldiers…

There had been several US medical teams helping the Sri Lankan army in treating the war-wounded and the US military has also gifted operating theatres and provided specialised training on medical evacuation. But the down side is that the Tigers have not been sparing soldiers wounded in battle. A recently retired army general said Tiger rebels killed injured soldiers because of fears they could be re-deployed back in the army after their recovery.”

Innovation and Ingenuity of LTTE strategy

Sometimes, it is worth waiting for the secrets to spill from adversary’s camp to judge the capabilities of innovation and military ingenuity shown by Pirabhakaran’s army. Some details on the Pooneryn and Janakapura debacles faced by the Sri Lankan army have been reported by the Island newspaper’s analyst C.A.Chandraprema early this year. I present below a lengthy excerpt from his eulogy to Major General Cecil Waidyaratne, who died on Dec.18, 2001. Though Pirabhakaran is not mentioned, how his skill in making a mince-meat of Waidyaratne’s touted army is nonetheless glaring. To quote Chandraprema,

“General Waidyaratne was able to handle the JVP’s second insurrection very successfully. He later became Commander of the Sri Lankan Army. But he resigned in 1992 over the Pooneryn and Janakapura attacks. Those were the two worst attacks ever faced by the Sri Lankan Army while the UNP was in power. The military debacles which became such a conspicuous feature of PA rule actually started when the UNP was in power during the tenure of Cecil Waidyaratne as Army Commander. A lackadaisical attitude appeared to permeate the Army during the last years of UNP rule.

There was no reason for the fall of Janakapura and Pooneryn except sheer negligence. At Pooneryn, around 600 soldiers lost their lives but a small group within the camp held on doggedly until reinforcements arrived. The Pooneryn camp was never overrun completely. The question arises is: If a small group could hold on so easily why couldn’t the whole camp hold on?

This was a case of sheer negligence. The forward defense lines at Pooneryn had not been inspected and reconstituted to suit the manpower availability in the camp. There had been a refugee camp within the forward defense lines and LTTE cadres had been living incognito among the refugees. Later it was found that the attackers had in their possession, Army rations that had been given to the wretched refugees! Access from the sea into the area of the camp had not been properly guarded. By the time the attack had started, there had been around 400 LTTE cadres who had infiltrated the forward defense lines through the refugee camp and via the sea. If these aspects had been looked after, Pooneryn would never have fallen. Many soldiers died in Pooneryn only because of the confusion. Where there was no such confusion, the soldiers managed to hold on.”

Here, Chandraprema seems to be oblivious to the fact that causing confusion in the enemy camp is an age-old strategy in warfare, and preventing such confusion among foot soldiers is an important function of leadership. Chandraprema continued,

“A similar story is told about Janakapura. It was in the Janakapura attack that two battle tanks fell into the hands of the LTTE for the first time. Being an Armoured Corps officer General Waidyaratne has eloquently told me with many ‘f’s and ‘b’s the rage and shame he felt when he heard about the loss of the two battle tanks. Unlike in Pooneryn the loss at Janakapura was more in terms of war material than in terms of lives. The LTTE is said to have been able to carry off over 50 million rupees worth of war equipment including the two battle tanks from Janakapura. Here too the loss of the two battle tanks was due to the men on the spot not having adhered to the basic precaution of removing vital moving parts in armoured vehicles when they are idle. This is a routine precaution taken in battle zones so that in case of a surprise attack, the enemy will not be able to drive away the armoured vehicles.

General Waidyaratne, with his flair for writing endless instructions and ‘signals’ (as the Army calls them), had earlier on issued a circular to all units in the battle zone that when armoured vehicles are idle, vital moving parts have to be removed as a safety precaution. Despite these written instructions, the troops at Janakapura had failed to take the routine precautions. When the attack began, armoured corps officers had come running to get the tanks operational. But by the time they got to the tanks LTTE cadres had been already in the tanks. Then these armoured corps men had left even their pistols and other equipment and run off in the opposite direction. After the attack, two armored corps personnel had been rescued from the well in the camp! Little wonder that Cecil Waidyaratne was literally beside himself with rage and shame. This episode of the two battle tanks broke his spirit like nothing else did. This clinched his decision to resign from the Army…” [The Island newspaper, Colombo, Feb.6, 2002]

If what was described by Chandraprema, as heard directly from General Waidyaratne, was accurate, it tells something on the quality of combat spirit of LTTE cadres and the leadership of Pirabhakaran. And as Chandraprema informed, General Waidyaratne was a Sandhurst-trained officer. General Denis Perera, cited earlier in the Lanka Guardian feature, had gloated to another reporter Hiranthi Fernando in 1999,

“Sandhurst has trained 119 officers and produced seven Commanders of the Sri Lanka Army. I was the first and Gen.Daluwatte, the former Commander was the last.” [Sunday Times, Colombo, Oct.10, 1999]

But any sensible person in Sri Lanka knows, that not a single one of these 119 Sandhurst-trained military officers can hold a candle to Pirabhakaran, who is a home-grown talent. Here is a recent lament from the daily ‘tom-tom beater’ for the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism, which emphasizes this point.

“…This country has had many such blundering generals, who would have been court martialled in any other country, being appointed to the top most positions – and in some cases even placed in charge of joint operations. This is not all! Such generals have even been sent to countries of their choice as ambassadors after their retirement following repeated extensions. (Lest it should be misunderstood, no mention is here made to General Janaka Perera, the present Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia, who had done the military proud)…” [Editorial in the newspaper Island, Colombo, July 8, 2002]

Whether General Janaka Perera’s deeds in the battle field are that exemplary is open to debate. However the editorialist Gamini Weerakoon tries to make a hero of General Janaka Perera, the fact that he couldn’t stand the heat of the battle ground in Sri Lanka for long suggests that he might have feared for his life and personally preferred the greener pastures in Australia.

The unidentified ‘Defence Correspondent’ of the Island newspaper has spilled more beans about the ‘orgy of power and greed for wealth through corruption among the military elites. Excerpts:

“…A number of serving and retired army, navy and air force chiefs are lobbying hard to be appointed the next Chief of Defence Staff. The position became vacant with the appointment of the last Chief of Defence Staff, General Rohan de S.Daluwatte, as Sri Lanka Ambassador to Brazil….

[Air Marshal Jayalath] Weerakoddy’s scandal spotlights the disgraceful conduct of many of the past and present service commanders and senior officers, who bend and break rules and regulations, as well as the country’s laws, in what can only be described as an orgy of power and greed for wealth through corruption, forsaking the lives of all those around them.

One former army commander actually spent millions of rupees of army funds in constructing a Hindu kovil to fulfil a vow he had made. [Note by Sri Kantha: Who knows whether this guy could have vowed for the safety of his life to a Hindu deity!] Another navy commander did the same with navy funds to build a Buddhist temple. Another army commander has a palatial mansion in the south Indian city where his guru, Sai Baba, resides, just so the service commander can visit him from time to time.

The Defence Ministry is ultimately to blame for not keeping a control over the conduct of officers in the forces. Yet these officers are not youngsters. They are those in their forties and fifties, who should know better about responsibility. It is these same armed forces chiefs who have spent untold millions on themselves, buying bullet-proof vehicles and fleets of luxury cars and escort vehicles at the expense of the public. Yet, here we find a serving air force chief at the wheel of a car, without any escort, driving a young lady air force officer through the streets of Colombo at high speed at 4:15 am!…” [The Island newspaper, Colombo, July 7, 2002]

It is not difficult to guess what Air Force Commander Air Marshal Jayalath Weerakoddy was upto with a young lady air force officer at the wheel of a car without any escort. At the time of his unfortunate mishap, he might have been a volunteer participant of the Sri Lankan army’s program of Viagra route to morale enhancement.

A scan on the ‘recent’ great military minds:
the national check-list

In the previous chapter [see, Pirabhakaran Phenomenon – part 37] I tried to impress on the readers about the dominance of combat power by the European nations and the USA during the past 500 years. During this same period, Tamils – having lost the crown (civil) power, combat power and commercial power – have lingered on to the 20th century with only the cerebral power.

The Who’s Who in Military History: from 1453 to the Present Day [3rd edition, 1996; Routledge, London], authored by John Keegan and Andrew Wheatcroft is an authoritative reference source which provide pen sketches of great military minds who shaped the course of war and thus influenced the past 500 years of global history. I have an affinity for this book, since it tells the story in brief biographical sketches about how combat power came to influence the past 500 years of global history, and why not a single Tamil name appears in it. Warfare has been practiced since the dawn of humankind in all cultures, but a paradigm shift occurred 550 years ago, when bullets and guns were introduced. In the preface of its second edition (1987), Keegan and Wheatcroft had noted aptly,

“However stout the heart that beats beneath the braid, it is brain and nervous system that count when armies clash. The great panjandrums of the parade ground are frequently found to lack both when armies take the field.”

Among the 700 great military men who have received coverage in this source book, the lives of 270 (38 percent of the total) had crossed or commenced in the first half of the 20th century. Two of the youngest in this list of 270 were born in the 1930s: Gen.Norman Schwarzkopf (born 1934) and Gen.Colin Powell (born 1937). All others, with the exception of Vo Nguyen Giap (born 1910), Gen.William Westmoreland (born 1914) and Marcel Bigeard (born 1916) have already died. Those born after 1937 have not received mention - probably for reason of proximity bias.

I venture to predict, that if all objective criteria are considered for inclusion, among those born in the second half of the twentieth century, Pirabhakaran has a good chance of being included in a future edition of this source book, for his record in military endeavors. At the same time, I also predict that not a single one of Pirabhakaran’s past and present adversaries in the Sri Lankan army have a chance of being considered for inclusion in such a source book. This is because, as Keegan and Wheatcroft had stated in their preface, “The really significant warriors form a separate and inner group, whose reputations were made not by the bureaucratic processes that elevate workaday soldiers up the ladder of promotion but by lightning inspirations of mind and flashing strokes of action.”

To perform a statistical analysis of these 270 great military minds, I unscrambled the A-Z format of entries into respective nationalities. Granting an allowance for recorder bias, since the compilers were British, it revealed a historical reality: the dominance of combat power by the European nations and the USA. 258 of the ‘recent’ great military minds, who made this list of 270 came from Britain (57), Germany (53), France (40), USA (33), pre-Lenin Russia (18) and Soviet Union (11), Japan (12), Italy (6), South Africa (5), Austria (4), China (4), Belgium (3), Poland (3), Spain (3), Ireland (2), Turkey (2) and Yugoslavia (2). A miscellaneous dozen, consisting one individual from a nation, originated from Prussia of the 19th century, Switzerland, Hungary, Finland, Serbia, Canada, India, Israel, New Zealand, Vietnam, and Cuba-Argentina.

Why I care for this list?

I state the following four reasons why I care for this list.

First is to counter the duplicitious propaganda of (a) the Sri Lankan and Indian governments, and (b) the terrorism analysts like Bruce Hoffman and Rohan Gunaratna, that Pirabhakaran is a ‘terrorist’ and not a military leader. If Pirabhakaran is a ‘terrorist’, by the same yardstick - the men who are listed below are also terrorists. Some of them did receive this terrorist label while they were engaged in leading their armies. The game of shifting goal posts in assessing who is a ‘terrorist’ and who is a military leader, by the arbiters and Poo Bahs of global media deserves a condemnation. That every military undertaking is based on a certain degree of terror is a given. Thus, smearing one party with the label of ‘terrorists’, and adoring the other party’s deeds as ‘national service’ and ‘patriotic valor’ is nothing but fraud and self-serving sycophancy.

Secondly, to expose the academic deception and deficiency of partisan journalists and defence analysts in Colombo and Chennai who had found a niche in the local journals to analyze the strategies of LTTE campaigns without even bothering to study the details of global military history of past 150 years. I should specifically name some members of this tribe: Iqbal Athas, C.A. Chandraprema and Dayan Jayatilleka (in Colombo) as well as N.Ram, V.Suryanarayan, V.S.Sambandan and T.S.Subramanian (in Chennai).

Thirdly, to place Pirabhakaran’s record in military achievements in proper perspectives with that of some of his illustrious predecessors from Asia such as Mao, Subhas Chandra Bose and Giap – the three who had received recognition in this list for establishing an army. The professional worth of Pirabhakaran can also be evaluated by studying the professional mediocrity (and incompetence) of his adversaries in Sri Lanka and India from an independent third source. I would add that even Pakistan’s Generals have to be considered as Pirabhakaran’s adversaries because beginning from Gen.Zia ul Haq in the early 1980s, they have given material and moral support to Pirabhakaran’s Sri Lankan adversaries.

Fourthly, to educate the Tamils who are still ignorant of the value of combat power in the 20th century about the names of leaders who by their contributions to combat power raised the stature of their nations.

According to Keegan and Wheatcroft, four categories of men have received recognition in their source book. These being, (1) great commanders – land, sea and air, whose leadership won the most famous victories of the modern age; (2) those who, if not great commanders in the field, laid the ground for the victory of others; (3) military thinkers; and (4) great military technocrats. I have indicated 50 of the popularly known heroes and those who became icons in politics and other endeavors of nation building in italics. Providing a list of names (even though these names are reputed!) like a telephone directory does not help the readers, if some observations are not made from such a list. Thus, my candid observations follow the list. Now to the names of 270 military masterminds, whose lives crossed or commenced in the first half of the 20th century (1901-1950).

Britain (57)

Alexander, Harold 1891-1969: General and Allied Commander in Chief

Allenby, Edmund 1861-1936: Field Marshal

Auchinleck, Sir Claude 1884-1981: Field Marshal

Baden-Powell, Robert 1857-1941: Hero of Mafeking and Founder of Boy Scouts.

Beatty, David 1871-1936: Admiral

Beresford, Charles 1846-1919: Admiral

Brooke, Alan 1883-1963: Field Marshal

Buller, Sir Redvers 1839-1908: General

Byng, Julian 1862-1935: Field Marshal

Cambridge, George 1819-1904: Field Marshal

Chelmsford, Frederic 1827-1905: General

Cherwell, Lord 1886-1957: Scientific adviser to Winston Churchill

Coningham, Sir Arthur 1895-1948: Air Marshal

Cradock, Sir Christopher 1862-1914: Admiral

Cunningham, Andrew 1883-1963: Admiral

Dill, Sir John 1881-1944: Field Marshal

Dowding, Hugh 1882-1970: Air Marshal

Fisher, John Arbuthnot 1841-1920: Admiral

French, John 1852-1925: Field Marshal

Fuller, John 1878-1964: General, Military writer and thinker

Gort, John 1886-1946: Field Marshal

Gough, Sir Hubert 1870-1963: General and Mutineer

Haig, Douglas 1861-1928: Field Marshal & Commander in Chief (1915-18) in France

Haldane, Richard Burton 1856-1928: Military reformer

Hamilton, Sir Ian 1853-1947: General

Harris, Sir Arthur (Bomber) 1892-1984: Air Marshal

Ironside, Edmund 1880-1959: Field Marshal

Jellicoe, John 1859-1935: Admiral

Keyes, Roger 1872-1945: Admiral

Kitchener, Horatio 1850-1916: Field Marshal

Lawrence, Thomas Edward 1888-1935: Adventurer

Leigh-Mallory, Sir Trafford 1892-1944: Air Marshal

Liddell Hart, Sir Basil 1895-1970: Military theorist, historian & biographer

McCreery, Sir Richard 1898-1967: General

Mannock, Edward 1887-1918: Figher Ace

Methuen, Paul Sandford 1845-1932: Field Marshal

Montgomery, Bernard Law 1887-1976: Field Marshal

Mountbatten, Louis 1900-1979: Naval Officer

O’Connor, Sir Richard 1889-1981: General

Percival, Arthur 1887-1966: General

Plumer, Herbert 1857-1932: Field Marshal

Portal, Charles 1893-1971: Air Marshal

Ramsay, Sir Bertram 1883-1945: Admiral

Rawlinson, Henry 1864-1925: General

Roberts, Frederick 1832-1913: Field Marshal

Robertson, Sir William 1860-1933: Field Marshal

Slim, William 1891-1970: Field Marshal

Somerville, Sir James 1882-1949: Admiral

Sturdee, Sir Frederick 1859-1925: Admiral

Tedder, Arthur 1890-1967: Air Marshal

Tovey, John 1885-1971: Admiral

Townshend, Sir Charles 1861-1924: General

Trenchard, Hugh 1873-1956: Airman

Wavell, Archibald 1883-1950: Field Marshal

Wilson, Sir Henry 1864-1922: Field Marshal

Wingate, Orde 1903-1944: General

Wolseley, Garnet 1833-1913: Field Marshal

Germany (53)

Balck, Hermann 1893-1950: General

Blomberg, Werner von 1878-1943: Field Marshal

Bock, Feodor von 1880-1945: Field Marshal

Boelcke, Oswald 1891-1916: Fighter Ace

Brauchitsch, Walter von 1881-1948: Field Marshal

Braun, Wernher von 1912-1977: Designer of mlitary rocket mssiles

Canaris, Wilhelm 1888-1945: Admiral & Chief of Intelligence

Donitz, Karl 1891-1980: Admiral & Head of State

Falkenhayn, Erich von 1861-1922: General

Fritsch, Werner 1880-1939: General

Goltz, Colmar 1843-1916: Field Marshal & mlitary writer

Groener, Wilhelm 1867-1939: General

Guderian, Heinz 1888-1953: General & theorist of tank warfare

Halder, Franz 1884-1971: General & Chief of Staff

Hindenburg, Paul Ludwig 1847-1934: Field Marshal & President

Hipper, Franz 1863-1932: Admiral

Hitler, Adolf 1889-1945: Dictator & war leader

Hoepner, Erich 1886-1944: Panzer General

Hoffman, Max 1869-1927: General

Jodl, Alfred 1890-1946: General

Keitel, Wilhelm 1892-1946: Field Marshal

Kesselring, Albert 1885-1960: Field Marshal

Kleist, Paul 1881-1954: Field Marshal

Kluck, Alexander von 1846-1934: General

Kluge, Gunther von 1882-1944: Field Marshal

Leeb, Wilhelm 1876-1956: Field Marshal

Lettow-Vorbeck, Paul 1870-1964: General & colonial guerrilla leader

Liman von Sanders, Otto 1855-1929: General

List, Wilhelm 1880-1971: Field Marshal

Lossberg, Fritz von 1868-1943: General

Ludendorff, Erich 1865-1937: General

Mackensen, August von 1849-1944: Field Marshal

Manstein, Erich von 1887-1973: Field Marshal

Model, Walther 1891-1945: Field Marshal

Paulus, Friedrich 1890-1957: Field Marshal

Raeder, Erich 1876-1960: Admiral

Reichenau, Walter von 1884-1942: Field Marshal

Richthofen, Manfred 1892-1918: Fighter Ace

Rommel, Erwin 1891-1944: Field Marshal

Rundstedt, Karl 1875-1953: Field Marshal

Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria 1869-1955: Soldier

Scheer, Reinhard 1863-1929: Admiral

Schlieffen, Alfred 1833-1913: Field Marshal

Schorner, Ferdinand 1892-1973: Field Marshal

Seeckt, Hans von 1866-1936: General

Spee, Maximilien 1861-1914: Admiral

Student, Kurt 1890-1978: General

Tirpitz, Alfred 1849-1930: Admiral

Udet, Ernst 1896-1941: Fighter Ace

Waldersee, Alfred 1832-1904: Field Marshal

Weichs, Maximilian 1881-1954: Field Marshal

Witzleben, Erwin 1881-1944: Field Marshal

Zeitzler, Kurt 1895-1963: General

France (40)

Anthoine, Francois Paul 1860-1944: General

Berthelot, Henri Mathias 1861-1931: Staff Officer

Bigeard, Marcel 1916- : General

Castelnau, Noel 1851-1944: General

Castries, Christian 1902-1991: General & Defender of Dien Bien Phu

Darlan, Jean 1881-1942: Admiral & Politician

De Gaulle, Charles 1890-1970: General & Head of State

Dreyfus, Alfred 1859-1935: Officer & central figure of the Dreyfus affair

Fayolle, Marie Emile 1852-1928: Marshal

Foch, Ferdinand 1851-1929: Marshal

Fonck, Rene Paul 1894-1953: Fighter Ace

Franchet D’Esperey, Louis 1856-1942: Marshal

Gallieni, Joseph 1849-1916: General

Gamelin, Maurice 1872-1958: General

Georges, Joseph 1875-1951: General

Giraud, Henri 1879-1949: General

Gouraud, Henri 1867-1946: General

Guillaumat, Marie 1863-1940: General

Guynemer, Georges 1894-1917: Fighter Ace

Jaures, Jean-Leon 1859-1914: Socialist

Joffre, Joseph 1852-1931: Marshal

Juin, Alphonse Pierre 1888-1967: Marshal

Koenig, Marie 1898-1970: General

Langle de Cary, Fernand 1849-1927: General

Lanrezac, Charles 1852-1925: General

Lattre de Tassigny, Jean 1889-1952: Marshal

Leclerc, Philippe 1902-1947: Marshal

Lyautey, Louis 1854-1934: Marshal

Maginot, Andre 1877-1932: Minister of War

Mangin, Charles 1866-1925: General

Marchand, Jean 1863-1934: General & Explorer

Maunoury, Michel 1847-1923: Marshal

Navarre, Henri 1898-1993: General

Negrier, Francois 1839-1913: General

Nivelle, Robert 1856-1924: General

Nungesser, Charles 1892-1927: Fighter Ace

Pau, Paul Marie 1848-1932: General

Petain, Henri 1856-1951: Marshal

Sarrail, Maurice 1856-1929: General

Weygand, Maxime 1867-1965: General

America (33)

Arnold, Henry Harley (Hap) 1886-1950: Airforce Commander

Bradley, Omar 1893-1981: General

Buckner, Simon Bolivar 1823-1914:Confederate General

Chennault, Claire 1898-1953: Airman

Clark, Mark 1896-1984: General

Dewey, George 1837-1917: Admiral

Doolittle, James 1896-1993: Airman

Eichelberger, Robert 1886-1961: General

Eisenhower, David Dwight 1890-1969: General & US President

Grierson, Benjamin 1826-1911: Union General

Halsey, William 1882-1959: Admiral

Hodges, Courtney Hicks 1887-1966: General

Joseph, Chief [Indian] 1831-1904: Indian war leader

King, Ernest 1878-1956: Admiral

Longstreet, James 1821-1904: Confederate General

MacArthur, Douglas 1880-1964: General

Mahan, Alfred 1840-1914: Admiral, naval historian & theorist

Marshall, George 1880-1959: General

Miles, Nelson 1839-1925: General

Mitchell, William 1879-1936: Airman

Mitscher, Marc 1887-1947: Admiral

Nimitz, Chester 1885-1966: Admiral

Patch, Alexander 1889-1945: General

Patton, George 1885-1945: General & tank commander

Pershing, John 1860-1948: General

Powell, Colin 1937- : General & Commander of Joint Chief of Staff

Rickenbacker, Edward 1890-1973: Fighter Ace

Root, Elihu 1845-1937: Military reformer

Schwarzkopf, Norman 1934- : General

Spaatz, Carl 1891-1974: Airman

Spruance, Raymond 1886-1969: Admiral

Stilwell, Joseph 1883-1946: General

Westmoreland, William 1914- : General & Commander in Vietnam

Russia of pre-Lenin period (18)

Alekseev, Mikhal 1857-1918: General

Brusilov, Alexei 1853-1926: General

Denikin, Anton 1872-1947: White General

Dragomirov, Mikhail 1830-1905: General & military theorist

Frunze, Mikhail 1885-1925: General

Gorshkov, Sergei 1910-1988: Admiral

Gourko, Ossip 1828-1901: General

Kolchak, Alexander 1875-1920: Admiral & White leader

Kornilov, Lavrenti 1870-1918: General

Kuropatkin, Alexei 1848-1925: General

Makaraov, Stepan 1848-1904: Admiral

Nicholas Nicholaievich 1856-1929: General

Rennenkampf, Paul 1853-1918: General

Rozhdestvenski, Zinovy 1848-1909: Admiral

Samsonov, Alexander 1859-1914: General

Stossel, Anatoli 1848-1915: General

Trotsky, Lev Davidovich 1879-1940: Revolutionary & military leader

Wrangel, Petr 1878-1928: White General

Soviet Union (11)

Blyukher, Vasilii 1889-1938: Marshal

Budenny, Semen 1883-1973: Marshal

Konev, Ivan 1897-1973: Marshal

Rokossovski, Konstantin 1896-1968: Marshal

Shaposhnikov, Boris 1882-1945: Marshal

Timoshenko, Semen 1895-1970: Marshal

Tukhachevsky, Mikhail 1893-1937: Marshal

Vasilevsky, Aleksander 1895-1977: Marshal

Voroshilov, Kliment 1881-1969: Marshal

Yeremenko, Andrei 1893-1970: Marshal

Zhukov, Georgyi 1895-1974: Marshal

Japan (12)

Kuribayashi, Tadamichi 1885-1945: General

Kuroki, Baron Jamemoto 1844-1923: General

Nagumo, Chuichi 1886-1944: Admiral

Nogi, Maresuke 1849-1912: General

Oku, Yasukata 1846-1930: Field Marshal

Oyama, Iwao 1843-1916: Field Marshal

Terauchi, Count Seiki 1879-1946: General

Togo, Heihachiro 1849-1934: Admiral

Tojo, Hideki 1884-1948: General & Politician

Yamagata, Aritomo 1838-1922: General & creator of modern Japanese army

Yamamoto, Isoroku 1884-1943: Admiral

Yamashita, Tomoyuki 1888-1946: General

Italy (6)

Badoglio, Pietro 1871-1956: Field Marshal & prime minister

Baratieri, Oreste 1841-1901: General

Cadona, Count Luigi 1850-1928: General

Diaz,Armando 1861-1928: Field Marshal

Douchet, Giulio 1869-1930: Airman

Graziani, Rodolfo 1882-1955: Field Marshal

South Africa (5)

Botha, Louis 1862-1919: General & statesman

Cronje, Piet 1835-1911: Boer General

de la Rey, Jacobus 1847-1914: General

De Wet, Christiaan 1854-1922: General

Kruger, Stephanus 1825-1904: Boer statesman & war leader

Austria (4)

Boroevic von Bojna, Svetozar 1856-1920: General

Conrad, von Hotzendorf, Franz 1852-1925: Field Marshal

Joseph-Ferdinand, Archduke 1872-1942: General

Straussenberg, Artur 1857-1935: General

China (4)

Chiang Kai-shek 1887-1975: General & (Taiwan) head of state

Chu Teh 1886-1976: Marshal

Lin Piao 1908-1971: Marshal

Mao Tse Tung 1893-1976: Guerrilla leader, military theorist & statesman

Belgium (3)

Albert I 1875-1934: King & war leader

Brialmont, Henry Alexis 1821-1903: Military engineer

Leman, Gerard 1851-1920: General

Poland (3)

Anders, Wladyslaw 1892-1970: General & leader of army in exile

Bloch, Ivan 1836-1902: war theorist

Pilsudski, Joseph 1867-1935: Marshal & head of modern Poland.

Spain (3)

Franco, Franciso 1892-1975: General & head of state

Mola, Emilio 1887-1937: General

Primo de Rivera, Juan 1870-1930: General & dictator

Ireland (2)

Collins, Michael 1890-1922: Revolutionary

De Valera, Eamon 1882-1975: Revolutionary & statesman

Turkey (2)

Enver Pasha 1881-1922: Revolutionary & General

Kemal Ataturk, Mustafa 1881-1938: Statesman

Yugoslavia (2)

Mihailovic, Draza 1893-1946: Guerrilla leader

Tito, Josip Broz 1892-1980: Guerrilla leader & head of state

Other 12

Abd el Krim Mahommed ibn 1882-1963: Moroccan chieftain

Bishop, William 1894-1956: Canadian Fighter Ace

Bose, Subhas Chandra 1897-1945: Indian freedom fighter

Dayan, Moshe 1915-1981: Israeli General

Durant, Jean Henri 1828-1910: Swiss humanitarian & founder of Red Cross

Freyburg, Bernard 1889-1963: New Zealand soldier

Georgey, Artur 1818-1912: Hungarian General

Giap, Vo Nguyen 1910- :Vietnamese General

Guevara, Ernesto Che 1928-1967: Cuban (Argentina-born) Guerrilla leader

Mannerheim, Carl 1867-1951: Finnish Field Marshal & Statesman

Putnik, Radomir 1847-1917: Serbian Commander in Chief

Verdy du Vernois, Julius 1832-1910: Prussian General

My Candid Observations on the List

The list of recent great military masterminds, assembled from Keegan and Wheatcroft’s source book allow me to make the following candid observations.

First, other than Subhas Chandra Bose (who was Pirabhakaran’s role model) and Vo Nguyen Giap, no other names from South and Southeast Asia received mention. Thus the ‘paper Generals and Marshals’ of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Indonesia are nothing more than professional imbeciles and impostors. Names like Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia ul Haq, Musharraf, Ne Win, Kotelawala and Suharto do not appear in this list. Even the battle field record of few Indian Generals (like K.M.Cariappa, K.S.Thimayya, Sam Manekshaw and K. Sundarrajan alias Sundarji) who saw military action were of mediocre quality, despite the puff pieces written in the Indian press, to have them included in this list of great military heroes. Pirabhakaran’s adversary during LTTE’s campaign against the Indian army was none other than Sundarji.

Secondly, Japan has produced 12 recent great military masterminds. That is how it rose to the rank of a global contender (the first Asian nation in recent history) between 1890 and 1945. However, after its defeat in the 2nd World War, its combat power has been reduced to zero. Now, even majority of the Japan’s university professors who were born in the 1940s do not know the names of their great military heroes. Being a resident in Japan, I can see how Japan’s rank in the global politics have weakened due to its loss of combat power. It is now just seen as a vassal state of the USA. Thus, it will never be granted entry into the UN Security Council. Of the four types of powers (cerebral, civil, commercial and combat) I have presented as needed for the vitality of a nation, Japan is a good current example to show how the loss of combat power saps the strength of a nation.

Thirdly, nation’s boundaries are impermanent. The military heroes of Soviet Union listed above, if they happen to return to their land in a time-travel mode, will be shocked to learn that the nation for which they sacrificed their blood and tears has disappeared from the geographical maps. The same is true for Marshal Josef Tito of the Yugoslavia or Verdy du Vernois of Prussia.

Fourthly, it is foolish to expect the status quo of a nation’s political system to remain constant. None of the military minds of imperial Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Japan listed above could have predicted that the executive system they labored to preserve had evaporated within decades of their departure. [Continued.]