WWII

The Worst World War II Generals  

Mike Rothschild
143.2k votes 49.7k 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.

Jay MacKelvie is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Worst World War II Generals
Photo: U.S. War Department/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
1
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) 2 on the list The Worst World War II Generals
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
2
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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Arthur Percival is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Worst World War II Generals
Photo:  W.wolny/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
3
Arthur Percival

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.
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Lloyd Fredendall is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Worst World War II Generals
Photo: US Gov/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
4
Lloyd Fredendall

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.
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