What makes a military leader badass? Advanced knowledge of the bowie knife? Rippling biceps? An affinity for red headbands? Wait, no, that's Rambo. Anyways, characteristics like perseverance, intelligence, patience, empathy, and foresight all come to mind. Also, balls the size of watermelons.
Here are the most badass military generals in U.S. history. War is hell, especially when these are the men shooting at you.
General Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker
General Joseph Hooker was a Union General in the American Civil War, and was such a patriot that if you say his name three times in the mirror, his ghost will appear, drink all your whiskey, and run away with your girlfriend.
Hooker served in the Seminole Wars, the Mexican-American War, and the American Civil War—handpicked by President Abraham Lincoln himself to serve as the Commander of the Army of the Potomac.
He is famous for drastically improving the living conditions of his soldiers—cleaning up corruption among officers, improving benefits, etc.—and for partying hard, gambling, and being an all-around badass. So much so in fact, that he was often the "subject of much debate," which in the 1800s meant he basically gave zero f*cks.
This badass was actually birthed on an army base. After graduating West Point with an advanced degree in Freedom, MacArthur would fight for his country in every American conflict for the next 40 years.
In 1942, after infamously losing his foothold in the Philippines to Japan—and being forced from the islands—he returned just two years later to take it all back. In fact, MacArthur oversaw the signing of Japan's official surrender in 1945, where he made sure they crossed every “T” and dotted every “I." When he wasn't busy winning wars and overseeing contractual obligations, he spent his time courting and marrying Louise Cromwell Brooks, "considered one of Washington's most beautiful and attractive young women."
Was Hemingway technically a general? No. But that didn’t stop him from assuming command of a pseudo-militia comprised of members of the French Resistance. And it certainly didn’t stop him from liberating parts of Paris before the Allies arrived.
Hemingway and his band of marauders re-took the Ritz Hotel—including its incredible bar—from the Nazis a whole 24 hours before the Allies hit town. His stunts eventually got him charged with war crimes under the Geneva Conventions, but they were all dropped. As if he even cared.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Before he was President Eisenhower, Ike was a General and Supreme Commander in the U.S. military. Aside from being the guy who told MacArthur to go give Korea a stern talking to, he organized a little historical event in 1944 you may have heard of: D-Day.
When he wasn't protecting your mom and dad's freedoms so they had time do make you, he invented the modern Interstate Highway System. We all owe Ike a very sincere "thank you" card.
TJ "Stonewall" Jackson
Stonewall Jackson was a Confederate General destined for the Badass Hall of Fame. Aside from having a really sweet nickname, Stonewall was involved in over 20 serious Civil War Battles, of which he only “lost” one.
He was famous for knowing the terrain better than his enemies, and was so good at killing Union soldiers that when he was eventually killed in battle, it was only because he was accidentally shot by his own team.
Jackson is often cited as being one of the most remarkable generals in Civil War history. This is namely due to his advanced tactics during warfare, his disdain for fighting on Sundays, and the fact that he was so tough he'd send his wife sappy love letters and no one even jostled him for it.
General James Mattis
General Mattis is the only person on our list who was just as well-known throughout his career for his willingness to kill people as his unwillingness to kill people. Basically, dude is famous for saying things like, “If in order to kill the enemy you have to kill an innocent, don’t take the shot. Don’t create more enemies than you take out by some immoral act," and then turning around and saying things like “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
Throughout his four decades of service, Mattis served with his marines from the blistering heat of Afghanistan deserts, to the shrapnel-filled streets of Fallujah. He didn’t just command; he served. And that’s the difference between a good leader and a fan-f*cking-tastic one.
General Custer was another guy who grew up with war ingrained in his DNA. It's unverified, but many believe actual gunpowder coursed through his angry veins, and that he was born with that magnificent handlebar mustache.
He kicked all levels of ass throughout the Civil War, including two big wins at the First Battle of Bull Run and the Appomattox Campaign. He eventually got to hang out and watch Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrender once and for all.
When General Custer was finally killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn, he died with every last one of his men, and despite conflicting accounts of how he died or who actually killed him, it is not disputed that he went down fighting. Mustache perfectly groomed.
General John J. Pershing
General John “Black Jack” Pershing is basically the embodiment of badassery. Aside from serving as a mentor to two other should've-been-presidents on this list, he was the only person in the history of the U.S. military to be given the status General of the Armies.
While active in WWI, Pershing was in command of the First Army, infamously kicking the sh*t out of German lines until they broke, and then shifting 600,000 troops into the forests of Argonne, where he was entrenched in a nearly 50-day fight against the enemy. When the Germans eventually called it quits in November 1918, Pershing was pissed. His endgame was to actually keep fighting, take over Germany, and totally destroy German militarism once and for all.
The most controversial name on this list goes to General George Washington. You know him as America’s first president, the British know him as "El Diablo."
Admittedly not the most successful military commander we’ve ever had, Washington gets bonus points for having balls so big that he needed a second horse to carry them around. At the Battle of Princeton in 1777, Washington arrived after the American regiment had already lost. But he convinced the fleeing soldiers to stop being such ninnies, gathered a formation, and standing right in the middle of his troops and British soldiers (just 30 yards away), Washington ordered his formation to fire.
When the smoke cleared, Washington—surprisingly not dead after standing in front of what was essentially a firing squad—led his soldiers to a stunning victory.
General George Patton
General Patton fought in both World Wars, and his famous nickname was “Old Blood and Guts.” Here’s a quote that basically explains why:
"We're not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we're going to rip out their living goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We're going to murder those lousy c*cks*ckers by the bushel-f*cking-basket. War is a bloody, killing business. You've got to spill their blood, or they will spill yours."
This borderline psychotic rant was likely due to the fact Patton "believed he had former lives as a soldier and took pride in deep mystical ties with his warrior ancestors." Even Adolf Hitler reportedly called him "that crazy cowboy general." Heroes get remembered but crazy cowboy generals never die.