Military History Monthly magazine printed my series on twelve men who served in military roles before they become well-known. The wartime experiences of each one offered interesting clues to the ideas which would make them famous. An online link to the series is available here.
You can learn more about the fascinating and suprising military pasts of some familiar historical figures by clicking on the links below:
Thomas Paine – the Anglo-American firebrand whose words may have become the most effective propoganda in history.
Marcus Aurelius – the last of the so-called ‘five good Roman Emperors’, who probably developed his ‘life well lived’ philosophy to distract himself while campaigning on his Empire’s northern border.
Chairman Mao – the revolutionary who turned Lenin’s ideas upside down, and founded modern China.
John Rawls – a quiet American academic whose head was once grazed by a Japanese bullet, who witnessed the aftermath of the Hiroshima bomb, and who refused to discipline a fellow soldier.
Carl von Clausewitz – once captured by Napoleon, the Prussian who delivered revenge through a new philosophy of war.
Rene Descartes – mathematician, philosopher, military engineer and – probably – also a spy.
Ludwig Wittgenstein – the genius, who was almost suicidally-brave while fighting for the Austrians, became a highly-decorated artilleryman, and who wrote his greatest work under fire in the trenches of World War One.
Adolf Hitler – the Nazi dictator, whose Mein Kampf autobiographical of daring action on the Western Front was mostly fiction.
Socrates – the ancient Greek philosopher, who was once a fearless frontline hoplite in the battle against the Spartans, and who died for his ideas.