Greatest admiral of all time

General naval discussions that don't fit within any specific time period or cover several issues.

Who was the greatest admiral in History?

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iankw
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Post by iankw » Fri Jun 15, 2007 1:51 pm

I wonder how Jellicoe would have fared had Tryon not had his experiments cut short rather dramatically. Young Jellicoe was on board and some of his colleagues (apparently) had a whip round for him, to replace the money he had spent on paint for the ship (I guess that isn't news to anyone who has read "The Rules of the Game").

Ian

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Post by Dambuster » Sun Sep 02, 2007 1:34 am

Hola
I would vote for Nelson

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goldenpony
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Re: World greatest admiral?

Post by goldenpony » Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:30 pm

The bad thing picking a best is that technology changes can greatly influence the outcome of a battle. Part of the brilliance of Nimitz was his lover level commanders and the vast edge America held over Japan in material.

The others were fantastic commanders, but I am going to go with Nelson. His breaking the line maneuver rewrote Naval Warfare.

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Re: World greatest admiral?

Post by lwd » Sat Apr 19, 2008 4:32 am

I'm blanking on his name but there was a Korean admiral that I'd put on top of the list. He developed and used some of the first armored ships in history and fought several battles against the Japanese. Not well known in the west but I was amazed what I did read about him.

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tommy303
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Re: World greatest admiral?

Post by tommy303 » Mon Apr 21, 2008 10:07 pm

Yi Sun-sin??

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood and Earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned these defended;
And saved the sum of things for pay.

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RF
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Re: World greatest admiral?

Post by RF » Tue Apr 22, 2008 10:12 am

lwd wrote:I'm blanking on his name but there was a Korean admiral that I'd put on top of the list. He developed and used some of the first armored ships in history and fought several battles against the Japanese. Not well known in the west but I was amazed what I did read about him.
What war was this and what ships were involved - has this any connection with the Sino-Japanese war of 1894/95?
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tommy303
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Re: World greatest admiral?

Post by tommy303 » Tue Apr 22, 2008 9:50 pm

The battles were fought 1592-98.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood and Earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned these defended;
And saved the sum of things for pay.

lwd
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Re: World greatest admiral?

Post by lwd » Wed Apr 23, 2008 12:40 am

tommy303 wrote:Yi Sun-sin??
I believe that is indeed it. Truly an amazing individual.

I'm really embarassed that I can't remember his name. Thanks for the reminder.

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Karl Heidenreich
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Re: World greatest admiral?

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Thu Apr 24, 2008 3:01 am

Another naval commander (because I don´t know if we can refer to him as "admiral") worth mentioning is:

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa

This roman soldier was a close friend of the First Emperor, Augustus, and his highest senior officer. When confronted with the threat of the forces of allies Marc Anthony and Cleopatra whom joined in order to dictate terms in the Mediterranean the "Octavian" (Augustus´) forces set sail to the Gulf of Actium where their enemies were awaiting for them.

Because of the era in which this combat took place and the tactics used (basically a land combat fought over water ramming whatever in front of the vessels) I cannot say for sure that it was a magistral piece of naval warfare. But I´m sure Agrippa (who was at the command of Octavian´forces) gave Marc Anthony quite a kicking that gave Rome the indisputable control of the Meditarranean and put an end to a hundred years of civil war in Rome.

It´s important, also, because I doubt that our world would be as it is today if the Roman would have lost the battle and Egypt arisen as the supreme power prior to Jesus Christ´s birth. Maybe yes... maybe don´t. But nevertheless it was a great battle with a great Roman victory that was Agrippa´s making...

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RF
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Re: World greatest admiral?

Post by RF » Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:00 am

Given the links between Rome and Egypt I don't think matters would have developed all that differently.
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Re: World greatest admiral?

Post by Cohaagen » Sat May 31, 2008 12:05 pm

I too am surprised as to why Cunningham (ABC) wasn't included. He was a dashingly brave sailor during the First World War, and probably the best "at sea" Admiral of the second...Taranto, Cape Matapan, the Torch landings - all stunning successes. Moreover, his command of the Fleet during the evacuation of Crete is rightly remembered as one of the most honourable, though costly, episodes in the RN's long history - "It takes three years to build a ship, etc" and all that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Bro ... f_Hyndhope

If you get the chance, read John Winton's excellent biography of the man. He was utterly fearless and a truly gifted tactician. The way he took the Italians apart in the Med, their own turf and Mare Nostrum, with minimal resources was a lesson in seapower. None of the subsequent operations in North Africa (eg. Torch), nor the invasion of either Sicily or mainland Italy, could have gone ahead without his smashing of the Regia Marina in '41/'42.

I wouldn't rate him #1 - that accolade goes to Nelson - but I'd rate him as the best naval commander of WW2. A fascinating guy who inspired and was loved by all who served under him, and who went a long way towards fostering good relations between the USN and RN in WW2.

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Admiral Andrew Browne Cunningham ("ABC")

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RF
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Re: World greatest admiral?

Post by RF » Mon Jun 02, 2008 8:01 am

His record does look good in WW2, not least because he was up against the least aggressive member of the Axis.

A more exacting test would have been opposing the Japanese in the Indian Ocean in early 1942.
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Re: World greatest admiral?

Post by Cohaagen » Fri Jun 06, 2008 8:40 pm

Well...yes, but the very reason the Italians were so timid in the first place was because Cunningham had them on the back foot from the moment he took command. He was an admiral who fully understood how to use airpower and rightly regarded the Med as an enormously important theatre - something people tended to forget even then with the drama in the North Atlantic.

One of the things the biography makes clear is that Cunningham insisted that every Italian vessel sighted was immediately attacked - even going so far as to sink a single torpedo boat far off Malta on one occasion. This induced in the Italian naval command their well-known unwillingness to go to sea, and even there he resolved to make them feel without sanctuary...Taranto.

Moreover, German presence in the Med was hardly token - Ark Royal, Eagle and others sunk by U-boats, Illustrious severely damaged by a highly aggressive Luftwaffe. Even so, British control of the region by the time of the combined Allied landings was so total as to ensure complete security for the landing fleet. History has rightly put credit for this with Cunningham.

His campaigns were plenty exacting - carrier superiority negated by shore-based aircraft, a potent and proven U-boat force always lurking, the offensive potential of four modern Veneto-class battleships (which, for all the carping of contemporary technical geeks, British intelligence took very seriously), a serious threat from fast torpedo/bomb boats, the huge and ever-present responsibility of the Navy for keeping Malta a pink part of the map, maintaining morale in the face of heavy losses (Ark, Eagle, York, etc.) - Cunningham handled all these superbly. Oh, and getting his picture taken on deck after the grounding of Queen Elizabeth and the damage to Valiant, fooling Italian naval int.? Brilliant.

One other point in his favour is that he argued strongly for the saving of Warspite for the nation post-war. I believe a lot of her steel is in many present-day London tower blocks.

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RF
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Re: World greatest admiral?

Post by RF » Sat Jun 07, 2008 9:30 am

I have no doubt that Cunningham was a very good commander. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if instead he was in Admiral Hollands place on HMS Hood, I think the Denmark Strait battle would have gone very differently. Cunningham in the 1930's had represented Britain in the negotiations with Ribbentrop and Raeder over the detail of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, and one of his tasks was to visit Berlin to sanction the detail of the Hipper classe cruisers. So he had a detailed knowledge of the KM surface fleet, and no doubt would have made it his business to have an even more detailed knowledge of the Reggia Marina.

But a lot of what he did in the Med was forced on him by circumstance - he had three key points to defend, Gibraltar, Malta and Suez. The Italians had on paper an impressive battle fleet (but no carriers) and overwhelming superiority on land in Libya and East Africa. Air attack on Taranto was the only means of really being able to get at the Italian battle fleet, and he knew that he didn't really have enough aircraft, so the results probably came as much a surprise to him as to everyone else.
He made full use of what resources he had. But was he the best?
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Cohaagen
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Re: World greatest admiral?

Post by Cohaagen » Sat Jun 07, 2008 12:41 pm

I don't think that Cunningham was hugely surprised by the results from the Taranto raid - he had commanded forces in the Med pre-war and had personal knowledge of the long-standing plans for an attack on the anchorage. He was always an advocate for the FAA, and as a highly experienced sailor would know that often an attack at anchor from the air is the most deadly, catching enemy ships at their lowest state of readiness to limit the effectiveness of AA and damage control. In addition, he had put a premium on intensive drilling of carrier personnel - particularly flight crew - and he, along with the majority of the Mediterranean fleet, regarded HMS Eagle's squadrons as the best in the Royal Navy. Indeed, I believe they had the most impressive results of the night (no ref to hand though, sorry). I don't have the biography to hand at the moment, but that is my impression, backed up by other accounts I've read. I think Taranto was just the kind of result he was looking for.

ABC had commanded Hood pre-war, and so would have had extensive and intimate experience of her well-known weaknesses and undoubted strengths - the latter being something that is often overlooked or unmentioned these days. One thing I can speculate on with good grounds is that I strongly doubt he would have taken PoW out without very strong protest. He put great faith in training - his methods were on the leading edge of world naval practice, focusing on night fighting, combined carrier/battleship/cruiser ops, AA gunnery, use of radar and destroyer tactics, and were both practically-minded and highly realistic for the time - and I do not believe he would have considered a barely-trialled PoW, civilian hands on board and with a green crew to boot, up to the job of taking on as formidable a foe as Bismarck. But then, it's 1941 and everyone in the UK is paying the price for appeasement, deferred rearmament and gamely playing by the rules of the naval treaties (unlike Germany, Japan, Italy, America, need I go on?) - what else is there to send in her place? That's as much as I can offer on that. I really don't care for "what if?" scenarios. Hindsight is no sight at all.

Weaknesses? Despite a keen analytical mind and a flair for technical matters, Cunningham loathed administration and was poorly suited to it. Conferences with brass and bureaucrats bored and frustrated him, making him uncharacteristically grumpy - he always saw himself as a seagoing admiral. This made it difficult for him as he rose to staff levels, but it was mitigated to an extent by his superb sense of humour, something all who knew him seem to agree on (one of his party pieces was to lie on the floor on his back and effortlessly throw ping-pong balls into the glass ceiling lampshade above :lol: ).

He could be a terrible bully with those who didn't meet his high standards, but each time the beasting would be tempered afterwards with a private chat and a conciliatory offer of boiled sweets (!).

Obviously, I think a great deal of the man. He wasn't without fault, but he represents the best of what, in retrospect, was an almost uniformly very high standard of officer in the WWII Royal Navy - something that had improved since WWI and which stood us in good stead post-war and contributed to the also very high quality of RN operations in the Cold War. Sadly, the poor old Andrew is in rag state these days, and not just in material terms. Far gone from the likes of Cunningham we are.

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