WWII

The Worst World War II Generals  

Mike Rothschild
154.2k votes 53.1k voters 1.3M views 20 items

List Rules Generals from any country who held the rank during WWII. Vote up the worst of the worst.

The worst generals in World War II transcend nationality, experience level, and the size of their commands. These bad generals blundered into defeats, hampered their own troops, disdained technical advances, and cracked under pressure time and time again. Whether Allied or Axis, this is a list of the worst World War II generals.

Many of these generals had their worst defeats when their countries were at their least prepared for conflict, such as the hapless Soviet generals who faced the German infiltration of Russia in 1941. Others were experienced military men who should have known better than to take the risks they took - or not take the risks they should have. And a few were just not fit to command men in the field.

Here are some of the worst WWII generals and what they did that was so terrible. Vote up for the most terrible military commanders.

Maxime Weygand is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Worst World War II Generals
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
1
Maxime Weygand

After rapid German success in the infiltration of France, General Gamelin was relieved of command of French forces. The position was given to another WWI hero, General Maxime Weygand . Weygand promptly canceled the urgent counterattack that Gamelin had planned, and spent the next 48 hours tending to courtesy visits with foreign dignitaries in Paris.

Those 48 hours allowed German soldiers to catch up with their over-extended tanks, ending any chance France had of a successful counter-offensive. Weygand finally launched a strike, but the German position had become too strong for it to work. With his armed forces spent in fruitless, piecemeal strikes, Weygand became overwhelmed by defeatism. He ordered Paris left undefended, advocated for surrender, and became an ambivalent SS collaborator.

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Jay MacKelvie is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Worst World War II Generals
Photo: U.S. War Department/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
2
Jay MacKelvie

General MacKelvie's 90th division Division landed at Utah Beach a few days after the initial D-Day landings, and within days, had become bogged down and almost passive - despite the rapid gains American troops were making elsewhere.

As the story goes , MacKelvie's assistant commander found the general cowering in a ditch during an enemy bombardment and berated him until he stood up. With the division losing so many soldiers that it had a replacement rate of over 100%, MacKelvie was sacked after just five days in command - likely the quickest replacement of any American general in the conflict.

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Semyon Budyonny is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Worst World War II Generals
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Budyonny was one of the most decorated officers of the Soviet Army, but his reliance on old-style cavalry tactics made him totally unsuited for combat in WWII. In 1937, he denounced the most innovative tank officer in the Red Army, leading to his execution - and ruining Soviet tank tactics for years.

Later, he was given command of two Fronts in Ukraine and faced the brunt of the German infiltration. Budyonny's unimaginative orders, lack of understanding of mechanized conflict, and pointless wasting of troops allowed the Germans to make enormous progress. Between August and September 1941, 43 Soviet divisions were either wiped out or captured - a staggering 700,000 men lost. It was a huge disaster, and so badly weakened the Red Army that Moscow was put at risk. Budyonny was relieved of command and held no role of importance the rest of the conflict.

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Lev Mekhlis is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Worst World War II Generals
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

A high-ranking political commissar responsible for enforcing proper Communist ideology, Mekhlis took his orders directly from Stalin. He was sent to the beleaguered Crimean Front to ensure discipline and combat defeatism, but what he actually did was cause chaos. He immediately started countermanding the orders of the Front's commander, dismissed or detained hundreds of soldiers for perceived infractions, and sapped the Front's ability to organize a cogent defense.

When the Crimean Front finally launched its operation to liberate Crimea's Kerch Peninsula, it was a total disaster. 170,000 Soviet troops and civilians were either slain or taken prisoner, with thousands of tanks and artillery pieces also being captured. Stalin blamed Mekhlis and his meddling for the catastrophe and had his commissar demoted two steps.

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