25 Greatest Americans

The competition for 25 Greatest Americans was steep. Only 3/4 of Mount Rushmore made the cut.

John Hawkins has polled 44 conservative bloggers to come up with a list of the “25 Greatest Figures In American History.” Compared to his much-panned “25 Worst Figures In American History” list, this one should be rather uncontroversial.

Indeed, the selections pretty closely mirror mine:

22) Douglas MacArthur (6)
22) John Wayne (6)
22) Ayn Rand (6)
22) Lewis & Clark (6)
22) Susan B. Anthony (6)
21) Norman Bourlag (7)
19) Bill Gates (8)
19) Audie Murphy (8)
18) Alexander Hamilton (9)
15) Thomas Paine (12)
15) Albert Einstein (12)
15) Jonas Salk (12)
14) Mark Twain (13)
13) Henry Ford (14)
12) Dwight D. Eisenhower (15)
11) George S. Patton (16)
10) The Wright Brothers (20)
9) James Madison (22)
8) John Adams (24)
7) Ronald Reagan (27)
5) Thomas Edison (31)
5) Abraham Lincoln (31)
4) Benjamin Franklin (32)
3) Martin Luther King (34)
2) Thomas Jefferson (36)
1) George Washington (42)

Those in bold were on my list as well.   Everyone on my list (which only had 15 people) made the Top 25 except for Alexander Graham Bell and George Marshall.

Notable of those that made the above list and didn’t make mine:  I’d have included Einstein, too, but don’t consider him an American.  I strongly considered Adams but the Alien and Sedition Acts were sufficiently evil to keep him off.  King probably should have made my list, too, but his personal baggage is pretty heavy and I think he actually gets too much credit for changes that the Supreme Court and the American people were in the process of making, anyway.

It’s also noteworthy that Teddy Roosevelt, who’s on Mount Rushmore, made neither my list nor the consensus list.

As with the 25 Worst list, it should be noted that the list is ordered by total number of mentions.  Our submissions were not rank ordered.   Unlike the other list, however, this seems to mostly work out for the 25 Greatest list.

I am, however, puzzled that two people omitted George “The Father of the Freakin’ Country” Washington from their lists and eight omitted Jefferson.   What’s a brother got to do to get some love around here?

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Anon says:

    While I think Bill Gates is definitely an outstanding businessman, I don’t think he belongs on the list of the 25 greatest Americans. MS rose to the top of the heap not because its products were revolutionary, but mostly good timing and luck. In other words, if Bill Gates had never been born, I don’t think the world today would have been much different.

  2. mantis says:

    Hmm. Let’s look at the timeframes involved here.

    Of the 25 Worst Americans in History, only two lived before the 20th century.
    11) John Wilkes Booth
    5) Benedict Arnold

    Of the 25 Best Americans in History, 13 lived (most of their lives) during the 20th century.
    22) Douglas MacArthur
    22) John Wayne
    22) Ayn Rand
    21) Norman Bourlag
    19) Bill Gates
    19) Audie Murphy
    15) Albert Einstein
    15) Jonas Salk
    12) Dwight D. Eisenhower
    11) George S. Patton
    10) The Wright Brothers
    3) Martin Luther King
    7) Ronald Reagan

    Interesting that about half of the “greatest Americans” lived on either side of the 20th century divide, but almost all of the “worst Americans” lived during the 20th century.

    Is this a function of history focusing on the heroes, not the villains, and thus people are more likely to remember villainy only from the more recent past, or do these “conservative bloggers” (very few actual conservatives among them; mostly just reactionary wingnuts) truly believe that all the awful Americans lived recently?

  3. Steven Donegal says:

    I’m shocked that Audie Murphy made the list and Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart didn’t. Conservatives have a very warped sense of greatness.

  4. James Joyner says:

    I’m shocked that Audie Murphy made the list and Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart didn’t. Conservatives have a very warped sense of greatness.

    Certainly, Stewart and Cooper were much better actors than Murphy. He did have a pretty good go of it during WWII, however.

  5. DJ says:

    “I’m shocked that Audie Murphy made the list and Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart didn’t. Conservatives have a very warped sense of greatness.”

    Wow.

    Your idiocy is frightening.

    Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart were ACTORS. Audie Murphy was the most decorated American soldier of WWII.

  6. PD Shaw says:

    Well in fairness Jimmy also earned himself some shiny stuff in WWII as well, but I understand the point.

  7. Brett says:

    Why is Douglas MacArthur up so high? His successes were heavily overrated (he’s far from the only one who could have carried out the Inchon landing), and his failures due to incompetence were immense (like the December battles in 1941, or his foul-ups along the Yalu River). Let’s not forget his ass-covering for Hirohito, who was heavily involved in the Japanese war effort for day one.

  8. reid says:

    Anon, I too wonder why the heck Gates is on the list. That’s my field, and as you say, good timing and luck played a big part in the success of MS, but so did some shady dealings and monopolistic behavior along the way. His image is fluffed beyond justification. (Yes, since his success he has donated a lot to charities, which is commendable.) I guess with some in this crowd (Ayn Rand, really?), those are considered tough, admirable traits.

  9. Neil Hudelson says:

    Two things:

    1. I’m glad Norman Borlaug made the list. His work changed the lives of billions worldwide. Out of all the people on the list, he’s probably changed more lives for the better than everyone else combined. Yet his name is not very well known among–well anyone. List great geneticists (a term I’m using loosely right now) and people will always name Salk, Crick and Watson, but hardly ever Borlaug.

    2.
    “Wow.

    Your idiocy is frightening.

    Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart were ACTORS. Audie Murphy was the most decorated American soldier of WWII.”

    Your ignorance is frightening. Jimmy Stewart fought his ass off to be placed IN combat operations, as the government was trying to keep him safe due to his celebrity status. As a B-17 pilot, and squadron commander, he flew 63 missions–60 of which were on the books, and 3 he flew under someone else’s name–he deemed them too dangerous for an underling his squadron to fly. The government didn’t want him flying the dangerous missions so he flew them under someone else’s name. (This was all relayed to me by a veteran in my home town, who was in Stewart’s squadron. This is all backed up by various sources, many of which are in the source notes on the wikipedia page.)

    He also was the lead pilot on the B-17 raids on the Pulaski oil fields, and the bombing missions of the Schweinfurt manufacturing district in Germany–a raid that became known as “Black Thursday” due to the incredibly high casualty rates.

    No sir, he was not just an ACTOR.

  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    Jonas Salk could have made the list.

    So could Alfred Mahan, for pushing the naval power that has done rather well for us.

    Einstein was an American, but not when he was doing his most important work.

    No, FDR of course because the mere fact that he got us through the Great Depression and the biggest war in human history and green-lit the Manhattan Project and ushered us from the dust bowl to superpower status counts as nothing next to a conservative’s incoherent rage against social security — which they vow never to cut.

    And nothing for old Willis Carrier? Inventor of air conditioning? Without which Florida would still be owned by alligators and Arizona would be two gas stations and a souvenir stand?

  11. mantis says:

    Jonas Salk could have made the list.

    He did. #15

  12. James Joyner says:

    Jonas Salk could have made the list.

    He did: #18.

    No, FDR of course . . .

    Interestingly, he’s made these lists before. Whether I include him (or MLK) depends on mood. Ditto TR, for that matter, who I both admire and think started us down the path to imperialism.

    And nothing for old Willis Carrier?

    For whatever reason, he’s a virtual unknown compared to the great inventors of earlier generations.

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    Damn. He’s even bolded. Which reminds me, where is my monocle?

  14. Joe R. says:

    “No, FDR of course because the mere fact that he got us through the Great Depression and the biggest war in human history and green-lit the Manhattan Project and ushered us from the dust bowl to superpower status counts as nothing next to a conservative’s incoherent rage against social security…”

    I’m no conservative, but I’ll take a stab at this:

    1) the first two items you list mention that he “got us through.” Even your phrasing implies what many people believe: other presidents could have gotten us through just as well if not better. Economic theorists are fairly split on the effect of the New Deal. And even if FDR did end things more quickly than anyone else, the ends do not justify the means (in the minds of conservatives and libertarians).

    2) You list Social Security as the evil that conservatives hate, while brushing over his actions that even a liberal should consider evil. Internment, court packing, the St. Louis, gold confiscation, Jesse Owens…if GWB had done any of those, he’d be vilified. Well, more vilified. (To be fair, the only one of those items that conservatives routinely complain about is the court packing, which is one of many, many reasons I realized I wasn’t a conservative).

  15. Herb says:

    Ayn Rand is tied with John Wayne? That’s just weird….

  16. tom p says:

    >>King probably should have made my list, too, but his personal baggage is pretty heavy and I think he actually gets too much credit

    Geez… I was gonna say the same thing about Reagan…

    Just kidding, Reagan might make my list as well (not because I agree with anything he did, but because he did change the country)

  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    . . . other presidents could have gotten us through just as well if not better.

    That’s always the case. Maybe Frank Zubitsky would have found the polio vaccine. Maybe George Washington’s cousin Eddie could have fathered the country.

  18. James Joyner says:

    Internment, court packing, the St. Louis, gold confiscation, Jesse Owens…if GWB had done any of those, he’d be vilified.

    That’s actually what kept him off my list this year. Depending on my mood or how much thought I’m giving it, I’ll include him as an obvious choice — four freaking terms! — or exclude him for the first two of those things plus the weasely way he backed us into WWII.

    Henry Ford has some baggage, too, of course, but I tend to view businessmen and inventors just based on their professional work while holding politicians and spiritual leaders (like King) to a higher bar.

  19. Michael says:

    I’m disappointed that none of Henry Knox, Nathanael Greene nor Stephen Decatur made this list.

  20. tom p says:

    >>>Ayn Rand is tied with John Wayne? That’s just weird….<<<

    What is weird is that either one is on the list.

    Also, I have a problem with Audie Murpy being on the list, he was definitely a great American, but one of the top 25? that is a high bar.

  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    By the way, sorry about this new avatar. It’s something my publisher came up with.

  22. James Joyner says:

    By the way, sorry about this new avatar. It’s something my publisher came up with.

    You should consider changing publishers! Makes you look 75 years old and vaguely extraterrestrial.

  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    Yeah. Sadly that’s pretty accurate, James.

  24. sam says:

    “Your ignorance is frightening. Jimmy Stewart fought his ass off to be placed IN combat operations, as the government was trying to keep him safe due to his celebrity status.”

    That reminded me of something. Charles Lindbergh is pretty much written off these days because of his isolationism prior to our entry into WWII. He tried to join up when the war started, but was denied because of his pre-war activities. This didn’t stop him, though. Somehow, he managed to get sent to the Pacific as a consultant. While he was there he was instrumental in turning the F4U Corsair in the finest fighter-bomber of the war. He even flew combat missions to test out the innovations he introduced:

    “In 1944 Charles Lindbergh took part in over 50 combat missions in the South Pacific. He participated in numerous bombing and strafing attacks and shot down one Japanese aircraft…

    After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 Lindbergh offered to reactivate his Colonel’s commission but the Roosevelt administration refused. Rebuffed, Lindbergh turned to the private sector but only Henry Ford would offer Lindbergh an advisory position to help in the transition of Ford Motor Company’s production lines to outputting bombers rather than cars.

    By 1944 Lindbergh had became a consultant with the United Aircraft Company helping them with field testing of their F4U Corsair fighter. The spring of 1944 found Lindbergh in the South Pacific teaching Corsair pilots how to dramatically decrease their plane’s fuel consumption and increase the range of their missions. His task required that he join the Corsair pilots on their missions in order to better understand and change their flying techniques. This is how Lindbergh, a private citizen, managed to make his way into the cockpit of a combat fighter, take part in over 50 missions and shoot down one Japanese plane.”

    http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/lindbergh2.htm

    As an aside, I have to say I find lists of the “greatest Americans” amusing. Including presidents like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Madison is understandable. But when I look at these lists, for the most part, I think, these are guys who got their names in the paper. The term ‘unsung hero’ is overused, but God, there has to be thousands of ordinary Americans whose actions are and forever will be unknown to the rest of their countrymen who richly deserve a place on a list like that, a very long list.

  25. Dave Schuler says:

    Unless my tired old eyes deceive me the only women to make the list were Ayn Rand (!?) and Susan B. Anthony (?!) and with those exceptions plus Martin Luther King the list is entirely white males. I realize that any such list will be predominantly old white men but so predominantly?

    And I could pick a half dozen women each of whom is more notable than either Ayn Rand or Susan B. Anthony.

  26. sam says:

    Forgive me, but the best statement of what I was trying to get at in that last is this:

    “ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCH-YARD”

    The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
    The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea,
    The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
    And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

    Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
    And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
    Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
    And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:

    Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
    The moping owl does to the moon complain
    Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
    Molest her ancient solitary reign.

    Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
    Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
    Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
    The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

    The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
    The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
    The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
    No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

    For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
    Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
    No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
    Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share,

    Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
    Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
    How jocund did they drive their team afield!
    How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

    Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
    Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
    Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
    The short and simple annals of the Poor.

    The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
    And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
    Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour:-
    The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

    Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault
    If Memory o’er their tomb no trophies raise,
    Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
    The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

    Can storied urn or animated bust
    Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
    Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
    Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

    Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
    Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
    Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
    Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:

    But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
    Rich with the spoils of time, did ne’er unroll;
    Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage,
    And froze the genial current of the soul.

    Full many a gem of purest ray serene
    The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
    Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
    And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

    Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
    The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
    Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
    Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country’s blood.

    Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command,
    The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
    To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,
    And read their history in a nation’s eyes,

    Their lot forbad: nor circumscribed alone
    Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
    Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne,
    And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

    The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
    To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
    Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
    With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.

    Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
    Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
    Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
    They kept the noiseless tenour of their way.

    Yet e’en these bones from insult to protect
    Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
    With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
    Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

    Their name, their years, spelt by th’ unletter’d Muse,
    The place of fame and elegy supply:
    And many a holy text around she strews,
    That teach the rustic moralist to die.

    For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
    This pleasing anxious being e’er resign’d,
    Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
    Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?

    On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
    Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
    E’en from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
    E’en in our ashes live their wonted fires.

    For thee, who, mindful of th’ unhonour’d dead,
    Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
    If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
    Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate, —

    Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
    Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
    Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
    To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;

    ‘There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
    That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high.
    His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
    And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

    ‘Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
    Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
    Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
    Or crazed with care, or cross’d in hopeless love.

    ‘One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill,
    Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
    Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
    Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

    ‘The next with dirges due in sad array
    Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,-
    Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
    Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.’

    The Epitaph

    Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
    A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
    Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,
    And Melacholy marked him for her own.

    Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
    Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
    He gave to Misery all he had, a tear,
    He gained from Heaven (’twas all he wish’d) a friend.

    No farther seek his merits to disclose,
    Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
    (There they alike in trembling hope repose),
    The bosom of his Father and his God.

    By Thomas Gray (1716-71).

  27. Brummagem Joe says:

    Apparently a film actor who dodged military service and the author of two of the most boring books ever written make it but not::
    1. The only president elected four times who essentially put in place the entire modern system of govt. and who is regularly rated 1 or 2 on presidential greatness lists
    2. The president that put in place the strategies and institutions that enabled us to win the cold war
    3. The US chief of staff during WW 2 and subsequently Sec of state and DefSec and author of the Marshall Plan.
    4.. The victor of Midway
    5.. Andrew Carnegie
    6.. J. P. Morgan
    7. John D. Rockefeller
    8. Charlie Chaplin
    9. TR of course
    10. John Deere, the man who invented the plough that broke the prairie
    11. Cornelius Vanderbilt
    12. U. S. Grant
    13. W. T. Sherman
    14. John Marshall
    15. Louis Brandeis
    16. Oliver Wendell Holmes
    17. Alexander Graham Bell
    18. Pulitzer
    19. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    20.Scott Fitzgerald
    21. Marshall Field
    22. Frank Lloyd Wright
    23. Irving Berlin
    24 Frank Gehry
    25. Bernard Berenson
    27. George Gershwin
    28. Cole Porter
    29. Phillip Armor
    30. Robert Oppenheimer
    31. David Sarnoff
    32. Henry James

    And those are just off the top of my head. However, it ‘s a convincing demonstration of the value system not to mention the considerable social and historical perspective of conservative activists. I’m willing to bet most of them have never heard of John Marshall or David Sarnoff so what can you expect.

  28. Herb says:

    “What is weird is that either one is on the list.

    Also, I have a problem with Audie Murpy being on the list, he was definitely a great American, but one of the top 25? that is a high bar.”

    Audie Murphy’s understandable. He was the most decorated WWII vet. He’s on the list for the Medal of Honor, not for his movie work.

    Ayn Rand/John Wayne might be harder to justify….but even then, John Wayne wins!

  29. tom p says:

    >>>Audie Murphy’s understandable.<<<

    For Top 25? As Joe noted above, their are many others who merit but didn't make the list, and if Audie Murphy made the list because of the Medal of Honor, there are 3,448 other people just as deserving to be on this list…

    Hmmmm. Let me see how many I can name…. Uhhhhh. Ok, I give up. The only Medal of Honor recipient I can name is also a movie actor.

    Oh oh oh oh, wait a minute… there was that conscientous objector who was a medic in the Pacific, refused to carry a weapon. Single-handedly saved the lives of something like a hundred men…

    Nope, can't bring his name to mind either.

    Sorry Herb, Audie Murphy was definitely a great American, but a career as a movie actor does not bump him up to the "Top 25", not my Top 25 any way.

  30. Herb says:

    Tom,

    That’s what I’m trying to tell you….Audie Murphy wasn’t just a movie star. He was a genuine war hero, the most decorated combat vet. Don’t discount him because he was in “pictures” later.

    Take a look:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audie_Murphy#Awards_and_honors

    “Audie Murphy was credited with destroying six tanks in addition to killing over 240 German soldiers and wounding and capturing many others.[5] His principal U.S. decorations included the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars with Valor device, and three Purple Hearts (all for genuine combat wounds). Murphy participated in campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany, as denoted by his European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver battle star (denoting five campaigns), four bronze battle stars, plus a bronze arrowhead representing his two amphibious assault landings at Sicily and southern France. During the French Campaign, Murphy was awarded two Presidential Citations, one from the 3rd Inf, Division, and one from the 15th Inf. Regiment during the Holtzwihr action.”

  31. I think Audie Murphy gets included because he personalities the common, heroic soldier during World War II.

    What about Earl Warren? Should he be included on the list?

  32. Franklin says:

    By the way, sorry about this new avatar. It’s something my publisher came up with.

    Your publisher wanted you to look (more) like John Locke?

  33. mantis says:

    He doesn’t look anything like John Locke!

  34. tom p says:

    >>>That’s what I’m trying to tell you….Audie Murphy wasn’t just a movie star.<<<<

    Herb, that's what I'm trying to tell you, Audie Murphy was a genuine war hero…

    But so was Desmond Doss (the guy who's name I could not remember):

    " He was a company aid man when the 1st Battalion assaulted a jagged escarpment 400 feet (120 m) high. As our troops gained the summit, a heavy concentration of artillery, mortar and machinegun fire crashed into them, inflicting approximately 75 casualties and driving the others back. Pfc. Doss refused to seek cover and remained in the fire-swept area with the many stricken, carrying them 1 by 1 to the edge of the escarpment and there lowering them on a rope-supported litter down the face of a cliff to friendly hands. On May 2, he exposed himself to heavy rifle and mortar fire in rescuing a wounded man 200 yards (180 m) forward of the lines on the same escarpment; and 2 days later he treated 4 men who had been cut down while assaulting a strongly defended cave, advancing through a shower of grenades to within 8 yards (7.3 m) of enemy forces in a cave's mouth, where he dressed his comrades' wounds before making 4 separate trips under fire to evacuate them to safety. On May 5, he unhesitatingly braved enemy shelling and small arms fire to assist an artillery officer. He applied bandages, moved his patient to a spot that offered protection from small arms fire and, while artillery and mortar shells fell close by, painstakingly administered plasma. Later that day, when an American was severely wounded by fire from a cave, Pfc. Doss crawled to him where he had fallen 25 feet (7.6 m) from the enemy position, rendered aid, and carried him 100 yards (91 m) to safety while continually exposed to enemy fire. On May 21, in a night attack on high ground near Shuri, he remained in exposed territory while the rest of his company took cover, fearlessly risking the chance that he would be mistaken for an infiltrating Japanese and giving aid to the injured until he was himself seriously wounded in the legs by the explosion of a grenade. Rather than call another aid man from cover, he cared for his own injuries and waited 5 hours before litter bearers reached him and started carrying him to cover. The trio was caught in an enemy tank attack and Pfc. Doss, seeing a more critically wounded man nearby, crawled off the litter; and directed the bearers to give their first attention to the other man. Awaiting the litter bearers' return, he was again struck, by a sniper bullet while being carried off the field by a comrade, this time suffering a compound fracture of 1 arm. With magnificent fortitude he bound a rifle stock to his shattered arm as a splint and then crawled 300 yards (270 m) over rough terrain to the aid station. Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.[2]"

    (that was from his citation)

    DD also had to fight the army to serve. As a 7th Day Adventist, he refused to carry a weapon. The Army granted him CO status and then tried to stick him on some base to clean toilets (or somesuch). The idea of some man dying in his place was as abhorrent to him as actually killing some one and he fought for years to deploy as a medic, and once he did deploy, many of the men in his unit at first refused to serve with him because of his CO status (they did not trust him)…. I could go on, but just watch the documentary,"The Conscientious Objector". (a good one)

    Herb, you seem to think I am denigrating Audie Murphy. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I said before, he was a great American. But so was Desmond Doss. Audi Murphy became a movie star after the war(where he played himself in a movie). Desmond Doss went back to the hills and hollers of Lynchburg VA.

    One is on the list of "Top 25 Americans", the other is…. All but forgotten. The only reason I know of him is because I saw the documentary.

    Sorry Herb, Audie is a great Amercan, but being in a few movies does not pole vault him to the Top 25.

    ps: sorry about no links, but since James changed the sight, I have not been able to figure out a way to link. Search Desmond Doss and you will come up with something.

  35. Herb says:

    “Sorry Herb, Audie is a great Amercan, but being in a few movies does not pole vault him to the Top 25.”

    Fair enough…

    These lists are subjective enough anyway that Doss could replace Murphy and no feelings would be hurt. I can understand why Murphy would be on the list, though, and I think it would be fair to say that it has nothing to do with his movies.

  36. tom p says:

    >>>Fair enough…<<<

    Not fair enuf!

    Herb, here I come for an argument and you turn all agreeable on me! WHAT IS UP WITH THAT????

    ps: do see the movie, netflix has it.

  37. JKB says:

    Really, the list included Edision but no Tesla? Is it only for citizens born and bred? Edision invented a light bulb and a few entertainment appliance but if he’d had his way there would have been a powerplant on every block and no hope of rural electrification. Tesla on the other hand designed the AC power system, motors, generators, transformers, many of the components used by Marconi in assembling the radio, gave up his royalty right to every kilowatt of ac electricity produce so instead of being the richest man in creation, he died a pauper.

    The list certainly shows the bias against people who make things that better mankind and for those who play politics.

  38. wr says:

    So… no John Muir. No Walt Whitman. No one, really, who loved this country’s landscape and celebrated it. Lots of soldiers and inventors, and of course the worst writer in the history of the English language. (I think if Twain had survived into the 20th century and read Ayn Rand, he would have gotten down on his knees and begged James Fenimore Cooper’s ghost to forgive him…)

  39. An Interested Party says:

    “What about Earl Warren? Should he be included on the list?”

    With that crowd? Surely you jest…they probably consider him the prime example of the activist judge to be most despised…

  40. Where’s Andrew Carnegie? Immigrants obviously qualify (e.g., Rand, Einstein) and you’d think all the war profiteering and union-bustin’ would have been a big plus for this list. Literally billions of 1904 dollars to charity; Carnegie libraries still adorn half the small towns in America.

    Not enough to overcome the taint of his atheism, apparently.

  41. tom p says:

    >>>>(I think if Twain had survived into the 20th century and read Ayn Rand, he would have gotten down on his knees and begged James Fenimore Cooper’s ghost to forgive him…)<<<

    HA! good one wr.

  42. pto892 says:

    Not only is this list biased towards the 20th century, but it’s heavy on the political leader types. Here’s a few inventors from the 19th century which arguably could be included:
    Charles Goodyear-created vulcanized rubber which makes the world go round.
    Eli Whitney-for interchangeable parts and the cotton gin.
    Samuel Colt-for the obvious.
    Samuel Morse-the telegraph.
    Alexander Graham Bell-the telephone and then the Bell System, which is the basis of all modern telecommunications.

    Without these inventors there wouldn’t be a modern America-their inventions formed the basis for the American Industrialized base of the 19th century and helped make America a world power.

    Oh, and no Ulysses Grant or William Tecumseh Sherman? The men who literally saved the Union, without which this list would be pointless? Yes, Grant was a poor president and Sherman is still widely hated in the South to this day but they knew how to fight a war and how to take it to the end.

  43. tom p says:

    >>>Oh, and no Ulysses Grant or William Tecumseh Sherman? <<<

    Not to mention, no Robert E Lee… "Wrong" side or not, he was a great American (ok, ok, "Viginian", but the last time I checked, Virginia was still a part of the Union) (didn't we fight a war about that???)

  44. @tom p, what exactly was so great about R.E. Lee that he deserves consideration here? First in his class at West Point, a strong tactician, and generally cut a good figure in a snappy uniform on a horse with a cool name. But at the same time he considered the moral faults with slavery and still fought for the side of the war seeking to preserve slavery; he knew the war would be won by the Union eventually but used his considerable talents to prolong its duration, expense, and cost in blood; and perhaps most damning of all from the perspective of those who would make a list of great Americans throughout history, he devoted his post-war career and considerable intellect to fashioning historical revisionism so as to offer a false gloss of honor on what was, at the end of the day, treason in defense of slavery — a gloss which his considerable intellect and even more considerable charisma has become fodder for false claims of moral ambiguity about the indefensible which persist to this day.

  45. tom p says:

    >>>@tom p, what exactly was so great about R.E. Lee that he deserves consideration here? First in his class at West Point, a strong tactician, and generally cut a good figure in a snappy uniform on a horse with a cool name. But at the same time he considered the moral faults with slavery and still fought for the side of the war seeking to preserve slavery; he knew the war would be won by the Union eventually but used his considerable talents to prolong its duration, expense, and cost in blood; and perhaps most damning of all from the perspective of those who would make a list of great Americans throughout history, he devoted his post-war career and considerable intellect to fashioning historical revisionism so as to offer a false gloss of honor on what was, at the end of the day, treason in defense of slavery — a gloss which his considerable intellect and even more considerable charisma has become fodder for false claims of moral ambiguity about the indefensible which persist to this day.<<<<

    TL: You are absolutely correct, I disagree with nothing that you said… Still, I can not deny that he had an affect on a large part of American History. To me, that makes him a "great American", a tragic affect yes, but still "great".

    Maybe you have a different definition of what a "great American" is (as so many others here do, tilted to their own personal partisan leanings) but my own definition is " A person who affected the history of the United States far beyond their own mere existence."

    I am sorry if you don't agree, but RE Lee was a great American. Don't believe me? Just mention his name south of the Mason/Dixon Line…

  46. An Interested Party says:

    “Not to mention, no Robert E Lee… ‘Wrong’ side or not, he was a great American…”

    Who knew that someone who actually committed treason against this country could be considered a “great American”….of course, when said treason is excused as merely being on the “wrong” side…

    “Just mention his name south of the Mason/Dixon Line…”

    That, of course, means very little, as you might get the same reaction from the same people if you mentioned, say, Jefferson Davis, George Wallace, or Strom Thurmond…

  47. matt says:

    There’s a Carnegie library in my hometown (which I finally moved out of over a yea rago). As a child I didn’t understand what the Carnegie name was about but I sure liked what was in the building..

  48. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Not to mention, no Robert E Lee… ‘Wrong’ side or not, he was a great American…”

    Sorry I missed him off my list, he was certainly a great American and you can also add Eli Whitney. Basically the original list included some certifiably great Americans but several who were definitely minor leagues. What’s interesting about this diary is the number of comments it’s elicited. I guess most people don’t like their history being hijacked for political purposes.

  49. Stan says:

    Is John Wayne really a greater American than FDR and Harry Truman? I had not realized the depths of Joyner’s nuttiness until I read this post.

  50. James Joyner says:

    Is John Wayne really a greater American than FDR and Harry Truman? I had not realized the depths of Joyner’s nuttiness until I read this post.

    John Wayne got a total of 6 votes from 44 people. Mine wasn’t among them.

  51. pto892 says:

    I deliberately left R.E. Lee off my list for a rather simple reason-if Lee had won there would be no United States of America, at least in a form that anyone today would recognize. In my mind being a great general while being born in the USA isn’t enough, there’s got to be a positive contribution towards creating, building, or helping the USA forward. Lee considered himself to be a Virginian first, and not an American. In my view U.S Grant is a far more fascinating person-Lee was expected from childhood to be great, while Grant was set up to be a miserable failure in life. Yet Grant rose from near obscurity as washed out sales clerk to being perhaps the greatest general in American history in just a few short years. The right man at the right time-and then slandered by the postwar revisionism of the Lost Cause as being a butcher. Tell that to the men who charged up Cemetery Hill on July 3rd, 1863.

    Why any actors are on this list is beyond me. The selection of a second rate author such as Rand over a genius such as Mark Twain is an artifact of modern conservative thought. Go figure.

  52. pto892 says:

    Slight mistake in my comment above-it should be Cemetery Ridge, not Cemetery Hill. The action on Cemetery Hill took place at an earlier time. Silly me.

  53. Brummagem Joe says:

    “John Wayne got a total of 6 votes from 44 people. Mine wasn’t among them.”

    Well that’s a relief. But 6 votes is 14% of the total number of electors. Amazing. What the list really confirmed to me is the extent of the ignorance of these people. If he/she is not a highly visible historical figure from over 70 years ago (eg. Washington) they don’t exist. How the hell could anyone leave John Marshall off the list of great Americans let alone the three egregious presidential omissions. I certainly don’t put you in the ignorant category Jim but wouldn’t you agree it’s a bit of sad commentary.

  54. Brummagem Joe says:

    pto892 says:
    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 08:28
    “I deliberately left R.E. Lee off my list for a rather simple reason-if Lee had won there would be no United States of America,”

    But he was never going to win. He was a great American, misguided perhaps, but unquestionably great. Truman, FDR, TR, Carnegie, King, Twain, Longfellow, Jefferson, Marshall, Hamilton, Grant, were all misguided sometimes but it doesn’t detract from their essential greatness.

  55. James Joyner says:

    @Joe

    I think the failure is mostly in the polling methodology. The nature of an open question like this is that people list the names that first come to mind. Inevitably, founding fathers, great presidents, great generals, and recent heroes will dominate such a list.

    Marshall made my list but he’s comparatively obscure. And there are perfectly valid reasons to leave FDR, Truman, and TR off these lists.

    John Wayne is arguably America’s greatest movie star and I enjoy his movies a lot. But he didn’t crack my list. Indeed, I’d have been more likely to include John Ford, who made many of Wayne’s great films and was also a war hero whereas Wayne’s heroism was confined to the big screen.

  56. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***He doesn’t look anything like John Locke!*** He meant the John Locke from Lost 🙂 but I would go with
    ****You should consider changing publishers! Makes you look 75 years old and vaguely extraterrestrial.*** Marshall Applewhite….

    Oh and James I thought you was a Dallas fan? The only one on that list that was at the Alamo was John Wayne……

  57. Brummagem Joe says:

    ” And there are perfectly valid reasons to leave FDR, Truman, and TR off these lists.”

    Not by any objective criteria. Do you really think Ayn Rand was a greater American than FDR, TR or Truman. And I think you’d find plenty of people to disagree with you about Wayne’s movie star status although I’ve enjoyed his movies as much as anyone and he’s certainly up there. The point is, as you confirm, that it’s not a remotely objective list, just the first thoughts that came into the head of a group of partisan activists, and therefore fairly worthless as any real guide our national pantheon of “greats”……but entertaining to argue about certainly.

  58. James Joyner says:

    Not by any objective criteria.

    How about the internment of tens of thousands of Americans based solely on race and national origin? Or starting us down the road to imperialism and permanent wars?

    Do you really think Ayn Rand was a greater American than FDR, TR or Truman.

    Rand got six votes out of 44 people. Mine wasn’t among them.

    And I think you’d find plenty of people to disagree with you about Wayne’s movie star status

    One can debate his prowess as an actor, although I think he became quite good as his career progressed. But there’s simply no denying his status as a movie star. He was the world’s most popular box office draw for decades. No one else is even in the discussion for star power and longevity.

    Skipping out on WWII while staying home to make war movies, though, keeps him off of my Great Americans list.