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.
A decorated commander during World War I, Gamelin commanded France's army on the eve of World War II. He believed the Maginot Line would keep Germany out of France, and they'd have to cut through Belgium - exactly like they did in WWI. Germany did indeed attack Belgium, but through the thick Ardennes Forest, which Gamelin ordered to be left virtually undefended.
Gamelin ordered his best troops into Belgium north of the main attack, and they stayed there for days, doing very little fighting. Meanwhile, German troops cut through the middle of France, attempting to reach the English Channel. Realizing his mistake, Gamelin ordered his troops to head south but inexplicably continued to delay on launching a full counter-attack. Having proven totally incapable of fighting the German invasion, Gamelin was sacked after just eight days of combat.
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.
As commander of the British forces in Malaya, Percival became party to the largest surrender in English history. He was given command of a large force that outnumbered the Japanese two-to-one, but it was poorly equipped and trained, with little air support and no tanks. Percival himself shunned the building of defensive works, fearing they would sap morale, and spread his forces far too thinly to launch a proper counter-attack.Japan invaded Malaya an hour after attacking Pearl Harbor, and within a month, Percival's force was in a panicked retreat back to Singapore, which fell weeks later. As a result, 130,000 British troops, including Percival, were taken captive. Malaya suffered horribly under Japanese occupation.
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 arrested 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 killed 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.