Special Report

The Oldest Wartime Leaders in History

Whether it is running the affairs of state or directing complicated military maneuvers, age has not necessarily been a hindrance to wartime leadership. (These are the countries with the oldest leaders.)

To compile a list of the oldest wartime leaders in history, 24/7 Tempo consulted sources including Britannica and Historynet. Besides leaders of nations, we included significant military leaders who either commanded armies or navies into advanced age during wartime and/or held positions of military power into their elder years.

Some of the leaders on our list were called out of retirement to serve their nations when they were in the 80s. Paul Von Hindenburg, who was recalled from retirement to rescue the German Army on the Eastern Front in WWI, returned from retirement again in 1925 to serve as the Weimar Republic’s president until his death in 1934 at age 87. French WWI hero Henri-Philippe Pétain was pulled out of retirement to become “chief of state” by the collaborationist Vichy government after France collapsed in WWII.  

Monarchs of three nations – the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway – served their countries during both world wars. The sovereigns of the Netherlands and Norway rallied their people while they were in exile during WWII. King Christian X stayed in Denmark during the German occupation. His defiance put him in a prison in 1943 where he remained for the rest of the war. All three monarchs would return in triumph.

Two military leaders in Asia with long and distinguished military careers reset the Western perception of Asian strategic ability. Tōgō Heihachirō was the 57-year-old admiral whose tactics led the Japanese fleet to victory over the Russian Navy’s Baltic fleet in the Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 and ‘05. (Here are 20 wars Russia has fought since 1917.)

Click here to see the oldest wartime leaders in history

Võ Nguyên Giáp led Vietnamese forces against the Japanese during WWII, defeated the French in the First Indochina War (1946-54), and, when he was 63 years old, authored the North Vietnamese triumph over America’s South Vietnamese allies in the Vietnam War.

Some of these wartime leaders fought until the very end. Prince Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov died from disease at 67 years old in 1813 leading Russian troops in pursuit of Napoleon’s legions after France withdrew from Moscow.

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