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 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.
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.
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.
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.