Discussion in 'WWII General' started by TheRedBaron, Jul 17, 2002.
Von Paulus, for not allowing his troops to retreat behind the Don.
An alternate view perhaps.
Not one I agree with on first sight, as Complaining that the RAF was not up to it with the recources provided although true, it is surely up to the OC to make sure as best he can that he prepares for most possible eventualities.
In the fall of Singapore, the author of this web page seems not to give much time to the possible defence works that could and should have been employed on the causeway area. He accuses historians of repeating others views religiously and so not checking facts.. But surely Percival cannot be exucsed this one of many errors of planing?
Hardly unusual for Patton and Bradley to ignore logistics, Monty managed the same at Antwerp. That's the trouble with "thrusters", tend to ignore the need for petrol and food...
( O/T but welcome back, Jumbo...thought you'd gone AWOL ! )
Had a bit of Gardening leave and now I'm just getting the sand out of my boots.
Very nice posting about Normandy.
Here comes the big BUT, most of the Allied troops in Normandy were not green troops. The 1st, 29th, and 4th US Divisions, all had experience. The 82nd had two combat jumps, and part of the 101 was taken from the 82nd. All the British divisions had fought, I don't know about the Canadians.
Here's my point, Normandy was perfect defensive ground. The hedgerows and many streams made all of the traveling confined to roads. This make it difficult to make big pushes. The reading I have done about Normandy makes me feel that the German Soldier did not like being there. They had no air cover, ship bombardment was especially demoralizing, massive bombing raids by four engined bombers destroyed large numbers of men, and I remember many German Soldiers saying that they wish that they could be back on the Eastern Front where they could fight there enemy.
When Patton got to Avranches and open ground the battle took a different look. I admit that the german soldier was a good soldier. They were trained for boyhood to be warriors. But the green yanks that fought in No. Africa had grown up, and they sent alot of germans to Valhalla. The overwhelming air, land, sea, and logistics of the allies destroyed the 5th Panzer and 7th Army.
Oh ya, Hitler was the worst General!
[ 14. January 2003, 01:58 PM: Message edited by: SeaWolf_48 ]
Sea Wolfe, sorry Im not sure if its my post or one of Kais your responding to?
I have not stated that allied troops were green troops, many were experienced from other theatres.
I agree on the Germans maybe not liking the area they had to defend with the logistics they had...
Cant have been fun to face naval gun support of the level involved or no air cover over your own troops. That is my major point, I admire the Germans for doing what they did in Normandy.
I fully believe whether green or not, the better soldier in the Normandy campaign was the German soldier or rather German unit.
Yep couldnt have been nice to know where ever you travel at that time you may get a visit from Allied aircraft, notice next time you look at any cine film of the time, if German troops are on the move on road, notice in most film reels you will see the German troops constantly scanning the sky, must have had some neck ache problems at that time.
Army Group Vistula
Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler
28 Jan 1945 - 20 Mar 1945)
At the end of January, Hitler made his last disastrous attempt at reorganising the smashed German armies into some semblance of resistance to the Russian onslaught. Instead of giving the experienced Colonel-General Weichs command of the new Army Group Vistula, as Guderian had wanted, Hitler gave it to his uniquely incompetent and twisted Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler, who had already proved with Operation Nordwind the massive extent of his inability to achieve military success. Himmler compounded Hitler's stupidity by appointing his commanders on a basis of party purity rather than military competence. The scene was set for total and unmitigated disaster.
Ha ha. You got that right Kai. Himmler as a commanding general, could not possibly get any worse
Are there no votes for the French? Giraud comes to mind, however I have to vote for Gamelin. I've left out lower ranking generals
that deserve honorable mention (Italian, Japanese, Russian, and US Fredendall). It's also unfair to include the politicos-- Hitler, Goring,
etc since the Allies had FDR and Churchill and Stalin. All of this were capable of creating a real mess but (with the exception of Stalin)
were contolled by a less autocratic system of state.
Performance and personality both atrocious....I can prove it to
Mark Clark top of the list.
II Corps Commander Lloyd Fredendal.
General Omar N. Bradley...(I can prove that too!!!)
General "Vinegar" Joseph Stillwell.
Brigadier General Frank Merrill.
General Simon Bolivar Buckner, (killed by flying stones from artillery at Okinawa.),
Admiral Robert H. Ghormley.
AAF General Ira Eaker.
Lord Louis Mountbatten...
General Lord Gort...
.Air Marshall Trafford Leigh Mallory( and his crony Wing Commander Douglas Bader...great fighter pilot and inspirational personality...terrible tacticians). Thank God "Stuffy" Dowding held on long enough to Fighter Command to win the BOB, and thank God for New Zealander Keith Park,(commander of 11 Group), both of whom saved the nation by not over-committing Fighter Command. Bader and Leigh Mallory were headstrong fools, Park and Dowding were ice cool and careful, exactly what was needed to win against the Luftwaffe. And what was done to Dowding and Park after the battle was an absolute disgrace. Both were removed from command, a move chiefly initiated by...(you guessed it!), Leigh Mallory, with his drover's dog Bader nipping at their heels.
Dont dare include Montgomery!!! His careful handling of Second Alamein, ( he wasn't moving until the Desert Command was actually ready, with a suitable superiority in all areas. Previous commanders had all jumped the gun. Monty stated that "We had been twice up and twice back, and I was determined that this should not happen again."), won him a victory that was the END for Axis hopes in Africa, such as they were. Monty also gets the lions share of the credit for 'Overlord', both in planning it, and it's execution. He out-did Manstein by giving us his version of the Manstein 1940 Matadors Cape, waving it to draw in the best of the German units deployed, while the Americans ground their way steadily through the bocage. Anyone who doesn't believe this, simply look at the campaign. It was not PLANNED this way, but no plan survives first contact, and 'Monty' was bright enough to develop the situation to the Allied advantage. Don't you people DARE rubbish the best Commander Britain had on the ground, eccentric that he was, and open mouthed and stuffy in the best of British tradition. Both these good things cancel out 'Market-Garden', and Monty had a secondary role and the worst landing spot in Italy. He actually DEFERRED to Patton in Sicily, suggesting that the Americans should "...take the lead, as we are making no progress". The celebrated 'Race to Messina' was an invention of the press. Patton must also be mentioned for insisting that Terry De La Mesa Allen's "Big Red One" Division take the landing at the Gela beach-head....any other division would have cracked under pressure from the well trained and lavishly equipped Hermann Goering Division. Terry Allen was, most likely, the best divisional commander on either side of the conflict, hands down. Certainly he was a great favourite of Georgie Patton.
Erwin Rommel...(despite excellent divisional and Corps command skills, he was a complete and utter failure as an Army and Army Group commander, both in Africa and as the divisive element for Normandy. A German defence of France without Rommel's high-handed interfearence would have meant that we might have seen what the German Army was actually capable of in 1944, even without air superiority. Rommel's insistence on tackling the invasion at the beachead meant that any armor he committed to this would have been stuck in place, unable to move away to utilize it's mobility at all. Any Japanese Pacific general could have informed Rommel that the best defence of a tri-phibious landing is to let the darned troops land, then knock the **** out of them from carefully prepared positions INLAND, (something discovered by a Japanese commander called Kuzumi on the island of Biak. It was easily the most murderous discovery of the Pacific war, and it meant that those God-damned islands got more and more expensive as the war moved closer to Japan). This obviousness seems to have bypassed Rommels brain altogether. Furthermore, he pointlessly squabbled with the more than competent Runestedt, dividing German command at the very moment when it needed UNITY of purpose and design. After 1940, he failed in every campaign that he ran, (see my post "Rommel Demythologized" on this forum for a critique of his African adventure) Rommel should have stuck to training infantry, or been restricted to Corps command.
Walter Model..... Gained fame riding on the back of the German Army's unique talent for defensive withdrawls under fire. Model was a good staff logistics man, which explained why he could be the 'Fireman' of the Eastern Front, but as an attacking general, he was WOEFUL. His northern pincer at Kursk made no ground at all, and his misuse of the excellent 'Elefant' tank destroyers shows clearly that his talents should have been best left to the desk. At Arnhem, he was saved by the talented SS General Wilhelm Bittrich. if Bittrich had listened to Model, the situation would have degenerated into another retreat.
Freiderich von Paulus...Another Staff officer who was out of his depth, he was only given command of the 6th Army as a prelude to higher appointments. Big mistake, he also should have stuck to logistics.
General Wilhelm Keitel....As a staff officer, Keitel was the ultimate in cronyism. Alfred Jodl wasn't much better. Both should have made way for others with a bit of backbone to stand up to Hitler, but I suppose they weren't appointed by Adolf for their brilliance, only their loyalty.
Count Klaus von Stauffenburg.....Stauffenburg bears most of the repsonsibility for the failure of the July 20 bomb plot. He should have sacrificed himself, as he had told fellow conspiritors that he would. It was the only way that monster Adolf Hitler was going to be eliminated, and Klaus failed to carry through his own words..
I have not yet begun to post on this thread, as there are still France, Russia and others to go.....my list should stimulate a LOT of debate, but my sources will surprise many of you....so please, be outraged and reply to this terrific topic. It's going on 1 o'clock in the morning here and I really want to write more, but it will have to wait until tomorrow, as my wife wants me to go to bed. In the meantime, fans of Rommel, Wingate, Model and the Monty Bashers will have to wait....I can prove all of these, WITH sources, so stay tuned!!!
Easy for you to say!
I think someone upthread nominated Marshall Semyon Budyonny of the USSR, I'd probably second that although he was mostly following orders from Stalin during the opening phase of Barbarossa, he still displayed almost incredible incompetence.
Should not Stauffenburg get a pass on this list, if for no other reason that being he was never a 'general'?
Why - on what grounds do you include this excellent general whose taking of Mytchina (never could spell the word) was awe inspiring.
Stauffenburg was playing a role representing Generals. Easy for me to say? Well, Klaus was the one that stated that he would personally sacrifice himself "just to guarantee the job was done". He then left the bunker without carrying out this task as he stated he would. When Hitler survived, contrary to Klaus's stated intentions, the plot unravelled fast.
If Stauffenburg was as good as his word, he would have followed through. And I'm not the only one to express this. MAX HASTINGS, in "All Hell broke Loose", (his latest and gretaest book), agrees catagorically. The consequences of this failure were equal to a major defeat for the German people, whom Klaus had been claiming to represent all along.
I'll get to Stilwell later, (it's 4 in the morning here. Briefly, though, I've got a certain source that pins Joe Stilwell as one of the most incompetent General officers ever to put on an American uniform. Tasked with getting the Chinese into action, he failed miserably. Taking Myitkyena you say? Well, he CLAIMED to have the city all sown up weeks before it actually occurred, then threw Chindits and Yanks at the place willy nilly, AND WITHOUT BOTHERING TO CONDUCT ANY RECON, needlessly costing many Allied lives), just so the truth could line up with his trumpeted public communique. The eventual fall of Myitkyena was awe inspiring alright; total awe for the brutal hacking of Allied soldiers that the unimaginative Stilwell perpetrated, all for his own ego. If you've ever had a close look at what happened in the CBI theater, you will change your opinion. Stilwell treated his fellow soldiers like so much human material to be wasted. He did the same to his Chinese divisions. No wonder Chiang's generals were reluctant to fight for him. They had seen what he had done to his own people for three years, and they weren't having any of it. So, they sat back and hoarded supplies, whilst giving Stilwell any excuse they could find not to go into action under his command. Stilwell's other task in the CBI was to get some kind of co-operation out of Chiang Kai Shek and his wife, Madame Chiang, 'The Iron Butterfly'. He failed at both miserably, consistently referring to Chiang as "Peanut head" in his diary. With private thoughts like this, no wonder Stilwell failed diplomatically as well as militarily.
By this time, Washington had had enough. He wasn't recalled for nothing. His theater had not managed to dent Japanese forces much at all, and the situation was worse than when he arrived, despite an incredible build up of supply's and the complete reconstruction of the Burma-Ledo Road. Even with the most lavish resources that the CBI theater had to offer, Stilwell still did not have have anything concrete to show for all this logistical and human effort. As I said, no wonder Washington recalled him.
No. Vinegar Joe was an ill tempered butcher, along with his partner in crime, Brig. Gen Frank Merrill. Both had no respect for the soldiers whose lives depended on their conduct.
Is this enough? if it isn't, I'll drag out that source for you, an Australian Chindit who was on campaign and saw what happened at Myitkyena.
BTW..Max hastings also echoes my thoughts on the failure of the July Plot. Ive held this opinion for many years, and to finally have someone as widely read and published as Hastings agreeing was proof enough.
I thought you guys would object more to Rommel's inclusion. Guess I've made a good case there as well. And Walter Model should never have been promoted to Field Marshall. But, he was to loyal a Nazi to do anything else with him. And Hitler valued personal and partei loyalty over all else. So Model stayed on.
I can accept that Stauffenburg was the defacto head of the plot to depose Hitler, but does that make him a 'general' in command of an 'army'? His army was composed mostly of retired officers and civillians operating against one of the most effective police states ever created. His attempt to kill Hitler was the most successfull attempt out of many plots. Had the breifing been held in the bunker as intended, or had his briefcase not been moved, Hitler would almost surely been killed by the blast.
Within any battleplan directed against a superior enemy risk is unavoidable, and chances must be taken. This is true with the bomb plot as Stauffenburg was the most dynamic leader of the conspiracy and it took his presence in Berlin to put the actual takeover in motion. Killing Hitler was only part of the problem, and not the most difficult part. They had to seize control of the government in a way that prevent chaos. This effort needed Stauffenburg's firm hand.
As for Rommel you conceed he was at least an effective Division/Corps (I would say exceptional) commander but failed as an army commander. I agree he was only an average Army commander but consider that half to 2/3rds of his army was Italian, ill equipped, ill trained and ill led. His army was at the end of a tenuous supply line, facing an enemy that got stronger every day.
In Normandy he faced an opponent that was superior in every metric conceivable. No general in history could have prevailed against the allies. Far from the worst German general.
Rommel threw away any chance of a positive result in Africa with his amazing propensity for outrunning supplies in a theater of operations where supply was KING. Reckless, headstrong, his Italian allies wore themselves out trying to convince him of the importance of seizing Malta. He waffled so much, that by the time they were ready, Rommel was demanding their air support to cover his own operations. Brushing aside protests from Mussolini, Adm Weichold, and Albert Kesselring, Rommel went over their heads and petitioned Hitler. Hitler, always a sucker for anything Rommel wanted, backed down. Rommel was supposed to have Luftwaffe support for several weeks, then they were supposed to return to Malta. But, needing the Luftwaffe to break out of the Gazala position, he found one excuse after another to keep the Fleigerkorps with him.....and he did not stop after Tobruk, as he was told to do...he kept going, with his supply situation worsening, he found that if he wanted to keep moving forward, he just had to keep those aircraft. After being halted at 1st El Alemain, (by none other than Harold Alexander, in the most decisive battle of the Desert War, he found that his hubris in another dash to Egypt had also cost him Malta as well, which would actually have fallen quite smartly, for the garrison there was in very poor shape indeed.
Malta remained British. Rommel never got another opportunity. Troops earmarked for Operation 'Hercules' turned up as replacements at 2nd Alamein.
All downhill from there, and all due to Rommel's obstinate refusal to send back the aircraft from 'Hercules' that he had insisted on using to begin with!
It's all in Rommel Demythologized, a post on this forum.
As for Normandy, due to Rommel's interference, we will never quite know exactly what the German Army could achieve. Once again, Rommel had to have his way, and over the protests of Runestedt and others. His 'up-front' deployment guaranteed that any chance they had of making an impression and prolonging the contest was ruined entirely. Hitler should have left it to Runestedt, a far more capable and practiced general at this level.
As for Rommel's divisional record, well you could argue that total air superiority meant that anything the Franco British did in 1940 was doomed. So, it's the reverse of your comment on Normandy....that is, "No Allied general in the world could have been succesful given the circumstances of 1940...
Makes Rommel look pretty ordinary, actually.
As I said before, he should have stuck to training troops, or been given a Panzer Gruppe in Russia as Guderian was. THAT would have showed him up as either brilliant or not. Russia was such an unforgiving conflict, though, that Rommel's headstrong ways might have spelt disaster, with an Encirlcled Panzergruppe Rommel having to abandon it's vehicles and break out on foot, as Peiper had to in the Ardennes.
Rommel might not had been the worst, but I must agree he clearly wasn't the best. Much of his reputation came from Goebbels propaganda machine that demanded 'heroes'. After 1940 he was doomed to success (in the press releases). The victory at Kasserine was due more to US incompetence than anything else. And he failed to make that tactical victory the disaster it had the potential to become.
Really we go from one extreme to the other. Rommel was a very very good General.
Rommel had been sacked by Commando Supremo in January but ignored the Italians.
He understood his opponent Montgomery very well.
Monty was building up his forces to break the Mareth Line and Rommel figured he had a short time to attack the Americans before he had to return to face Montgomery. He gambled right.
BTW Monty at this time gave a one week teach-in to his Generals on "how to succeed" and invited the Americans to send their Generals. Disappointingly they only sent an old gumchewing ex-cavalry man who sat bored at the back of the class
Whilst Monty was giving theoretic lessons, Rommel gave more practical lessons.
He knew he had to return to face the real threat - Montogomery, which he did. The fact he lost is no disgrace - as usual he put in an attack that failed but better to try than not at all.
Hitler would not listen when Rommel wanted to evacuate North Africa.
I know Rommel gets stick for wanting to defend the Beaches of the Atlantic Wall - but Normandy is not the Pacific and Rommel was the only German General at that time to experience the full power of the Allied Air Force.
He felt he could not move his tanks in view of the Allied Air supremacy - therefore better to defeat them on the beaches.