As I think I said before, I don't intend to continue this on any regular basis. These small tales are inspired by reading the Art of War and other military classics.
Disclaimer: Own nothing.
Iroh was famous for his communion with nature. On one occasion, his army approached a low river. The troops had just started to wade across when Iroh suddenly called them back. He wouldn't allow the men to cross even though everything was clear and it was a fine day. None of the other generals could understand his decision. Hours later, however, the river suddenly began to surge and was soon three times as deep. This would have split the army in half. The generals were amazed. Iroh pointed out that he had seen bubbles in the stream when they approached, and it is well known that bubbles indicate a torrent of rain higher up the river's course. In this way he predicted the surge.
On another occasion, Earth kingdom troops were preparing an ambush for Iroh's army. They had set the ground perfectly and awaited his approach. But at the last moment Iroh diverted the army along a longer, safe route, avoiding the ambush. He had spotted that birds were rising up in flocks and flying against the direction of their emigrational patterns. This would only happen if their nests had been disrupted; for example, by soldiers in the trees.
Iroh's first assignment as a general was to capture the southern province of Ho. He was put in charge of 50,000 men and ten able commanders.
In his first engagement, Iroh faced an army of 200,000 men. The troops under his command were terrified by these huge numbers and certain they were going to die. But Iroh cleverly ordered that all cooking utensils and all surplus supplies be abandoned, showing there was no retreat for his army.
When battle was joined, Iroh completely outwitted the Earth Kingdom generals. He crushed their army and took 50,000 prisoners with few casualties.
His commanders wanted him to execute these prisoners, since Iroh's own small force couldn't look after so many. But Iroh ordered all of them to be released, allowing them to return to their homes. The commanders were shocked. "Why would you allow this?" they said in disbelief. "Now these men will rejoin the Earth Kingdom armies and fight us again!"
Sure enough, when the two armies next met many of the former prisoners had rejoined the Earth Kingdom's ranks. This time Iroh was outnumbered by 50,000 to 250,000. But once again the unimaginative Earth Kingdom generals couldn't fathom Iroh's strategy. He exploited the terrain and this time captured 70,000 prisoners including some of the enemy generals. But once again he ordered them all to be released. Iroh's commanders were in despair and grumbled that their general must have gone mad.
At the third battle of Ho, Iroh was outnumbered by 50,000 to 300,000. Iroh's army was so heavily outnumbered that the commanders had to conceal the enemy's strength from their troops.
But in this third engagement, battle was barely joined. Over 100,000 of the Earth Kingdom troops had already been captured and released. Lured by the promise of an easy surrender, and in awe of Iroh's tactical genius, general and soldier alike had lost all will to fight. This time Iroh was able to capture the entire army. The soldiers he released, but the officers and generals were sent back as prisoners to the Fire King, to ensure the army could not regroup. Then Iroh set about building Fire Nation barracks in the towns and provinces. In this way he was able to conquer the province of Ho whilst suffering minor casualties, at the loss of an entire army to the Earth Kingdom. His brother, the Fire Lord, was so impressed with Iroh's feat that he immediately promoted him to the Military Council.
Iroh advised, "If you show no mercy, then the enemy will fight desperately and never surrender. But I have shown that sometimes the merciful general is the strongest."
On one occasion, whilst Iroh was still a captain, he was asked by his superior officer to supplement the Fire Nation's supply of arrows. The general was secretly jealous of Iroh's wisdom and insight, and hoped that by sending him out on such a hopeless task, in enemy territory, Iroh would be killed. At this time the general was in a stalemated position with an Earth Kingdom army camped at the base of a steep-sided valley valley. The general had camped at the top of the valley, but was afraid to advance in fear of ambushes and of becoming trapped.
But Iroh ignored the order to go forth and instead called upon artisans and troops in the army to construct numerous dummies made of straw and outfitted with armour.
These he set up on the highest point on the valley and deployed fire benders nearby.
These outfitted dummies reflected a dazzling light off their armour into the valley and were a constant irritation. Earth Kingdom troops would continually advance to just within range and fire volleys of arrows at the dummies for hours. Looking up the brow of the hill, they could only see the armour and helmets to shoot at. In this way they fired thousands of arrows.
After two days Iroh took these arrows back to his commander to supplement their own supplies.