WWII

The Worst World War II Generals  

Mike Rothschild
147k votes 50.8k voters 1.2M views 20 items

List Rules Generals from any country who held the rank during World War II. 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 war, such as the hapless Soviet generals who faced the German invasion 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.

Mario Roatta is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Worst World War II Generals
Photo: Italian government/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Mario Roatta was an Italian general during the second World War who became known as "The Black Beast" because of actions he took against thousands of Yugoslav civilians. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1945 for masterminding the destruction of Carlo and Nello Rosselli as well as those innocent Yugoslavians; though he disappeared in Spain shortly after.  

General Roatta was involved with Croatia's Rab concentration camp of which one soldier wrote, "We have destroyed everything from top to bottom without sparing the innocent. We [take out] entire families every night." Though some still considered Roatta a savior for combating Mussolini's attempt at turning Jewish refugees over to the Third Riche. Instead, however, he sent them to Rab where they suffered anyway.

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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 Infantry 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 infantry 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 war.
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Maxime Weygand is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Worst World War II Generals
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
3
Maxime Weygand

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

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

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Semyon Budyonny is listed (or ranked) 4 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 World War II. In 1937, he denounced the most innovative tank officer in the Red Army, leading to his execution - and crippling Soviet tank tactics for years.

Later, he was given command of two Fronts in Ukraine and faced the brunt of the German invasion. Budyonny's unimaginative orders, lack of understanding of mechanized warfare, and pointless wasting of troops allowed the Germans to make enormous progress. Between August and September of 1941, 43 Soviet divisions were either destroyed 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 war.
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