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.
Facing Rommel's elite Afrika Korps, Lloyd Fredendall was totally unsuited to the task of commanding American forces in the field. He was well-liked by superiors, but very hands-off in the field, and issued orders in an incomprehensible personal slang code. One order typical of Fredendall's gibberish read: "Have your boss report to the French gentleman whose name begins with J at a place which begins with D which is five grid squares to the left of M."Beyond that, he infuriated Eisenhower by ordering an entire battalion to construct a giant command bunker 100 miles behind the front that he'd never have to leave. He left other commanders out of his decision-making process and had no grasp of how or where to position units to form a defensive line. The result was the US Army's humiliating defeat at the Battle of Kasserine Pass. Soon after the battle, Eisenhower removed Fredendall from command.
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 cancelled 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.
A callous and bumbling military Luddite, Marshall Kulik was given command of the Soviet Artillery Directorate, despite loathing tanks and motorized artillery. He disdained modern weapons like the machine gun, believed the battlefield would be forever ruled by horses, and meddled in the construction of the iconic T-34 tank by ordering it to be armed with an inferior cannon.Kulik's interference in industrial production ensured the Soviet army was totally unprepared when Germany invaded in June 1941, leading to horrific casualties. A totally ineffective field commander (his motto was "jail or medal") Kulik was nonetheless put in charge of the Leningrad Front - and led it so poorly that the iconic city was surrounded almost immediately, leading to a three-year siege. Kulik somehow survived the war, but was arrested in a post-war purge, and shot in 1947.
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.