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Old October 16th, 2009, 02:18 AM
PhilKearny PhilKearny is offline
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Worst Flag Officers of WW II

Who do you feel were the worst admirals and generals in each service for each major combatant in WW II? Why do feel that way? What did your picks do that outstandingly bad?

Hermann Goering is disqualified as being too large a target and being more of a political hack than a military leader. MacArthur is fair game, especially for bruins from the American west.
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Old October 16th, 2009, 02:55 AM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is online now
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The USN had VADM Robert Ghormley, who was in command of the Solomons area for the first three months of the Guadalcanal campaign. He was too pessimistic, refused several requests to reinforce the island, fearing that if the reinforcements sent were lost, areas in the rear (New Calodonia, for example) would be vulnerable to attack. He was a close friend of Admrial Nimitz, who was initially reluctant to fire him, but Nimitz's staff convinced him to do so, and Bull Halsey replaced him as area commander.

Also, any flag officer (RADM Ralph Christie, RADM Jimmy Fife, and RADM Robert English all come to mind) who refused to listen to submarine, destroyer, and torpedo plane crews about the wretched torpedoes those elements were issued. Mainly because those officers in command-especially in the sub force, had been involved in designing torpedoes, they were reluctant to admit they'd made mistakes. The higher-ups in the Navy's Bureau of Ordnance also come to mind-especially VADM "Spike" Blandy-the head of BuOrd. It took field fixes-which BuOrd reluctantly admitted worked, before torpedoes began working right.

As far as the Army goes, not His Majesty MacArthur, but LTGEN Richard Southerland, his Chief of Staff: mainly because of his insistence that all air orders come to him for approval before being submitted to the boss, that the Far East Air Force was wrecked on the ground on 8 Dec 41. Hap Arnold never forgave anyone connected with MacArthur for that. It took MAJGEN George Kinney taking over 5th Air Force and Kinney getting unrestricted access to MacArthur before Southerland stopped interfering with Air Force matters.
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Old October 16th, 2009, 04:35 AM
Riain Riain is offline
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When I think flag rank I think Navy, so my vote is for Tom Phillips but for Army it would be Gen. Percival. Other Generals have lost battles, but none quite like him.
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Old October 16th, 2009, 04:48 AM
The Sandman The Sandman is offline
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For the Japanese, Takeo Kurita is in the official Hall of Shame.
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Old October 18th, 2009, 03:49 AM
PhilKearny PhilKearny is offline
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For the Japanese, Takeo Kurita is in the official Hall of Shame.
Is this condemnation primarily for the Battle of Leyte Gulf? If so, this seems rather harsh.

If failing at Samar due to confusion and a brave opponent while facing overwhelming odds is bad, I would think Yamamoto's failure at Midway due to mismanagement and a brave opponent with numerical superiority is far worse. Yamamoto had a superior force which he allowed to be defeated. Yamamoto's overly complicated plan and division of his forces led to the defeat.

Constrast this with Kurita's case where defeat seemed certain. Only the rashness of Halsey in pursuing Ozawa allowed Kurita to even have half a chance off Samar. So who is worse?
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Old October 18th, 2009, 05:12 AM
Jukra Jukra is offline
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For worst admiral I'd dominate Admiral Grand Donut, a.k.a Karl Dönitz. He almost totally mismanaged the German submarine campaign and later on, after becoming C-in-C, his performance was almost total failure, even if taking account the circumstances. The only thing he did make right was the unconditional surrender. What remains a mystery is why he is still revered in some circles.
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Old October 18th, 2009, 09:31 AM
Redbeard Redbeard is offline
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When I think flag rank I think Navy, so my vote is for Tom Phillips but for Army it would be Gen. Percival. Other Generals have lost battles, but none quite like him.
Could support that, but Brooke-Popham, Percival's superior (Commander Far East IIRC), would have to be included too.

He was given authority in early December to launch the defence plan for Malaya Matador on sightings of Japanese aggressive activity, and did recieve sightings of Japanese convoys heading for Malaya, but did not dare launch Matador, as Churchill in the previous months repeatedly had warned him about not starting a war with Japan. Launched in time Matador would have had a fair chance of defeating or at least halting the Japanese long enough for serious reinforcements to arrive. It was Matador never really being initiated that had Percival give up from the start, but a leader that gives up because his original plan doesn't survive contact with the enemy really isn't fit for command. Command/leaderships IS coping with such situations.

Now we are at co-culprits Churchill is worth a consideration too. It was he who refused to send land and air reinforcements to Malaya, he wanted everything focussed on the (futile) mid-east offensives and instead sent a symbolic naval force that had no chance of defending Malaya, even if winning at sea. By the time the Japanese had started the war Force Z's only role (as deterrent) was over and Churchill's instructions should have included an order to stay put. He ought to have known, that since poor Adm. Byng no RN officer would dare miss an opportunity to engage the enemy unless explicitly ordered to.

But even if Adm. Phillips to some degree was obliged to take to the sea it of course was very bad naval leadership to ignore air cover.

An alternative candidate could be Bomber Harris. I'm not in doubt that he did a good job organising BomberCommand, but he was so blinded by the idea of strategic bombing winning the war on its own that he IMHO was a very serious handicap to the British war effort. But of course there indeed are some political and military co-culprits who let him have his way far too much.

From another back-yard I could mention Viceadmiral Rechnitzer, CO of the Royal Danish Navy in April 1940. In the interwar years he had been a heavy proponent of a strategy accepting Denmark as a de facto vassal of Germany, and had been put in charge of the Navy in 1932 to carry through heavy budget and strength cuts. In April 1940 he insisted on keeping the Navy deployed (dispersed) in a way making it completely incapable of of offering any resistance to the German occupation even though good intelligence on German intentions had been recieved.

But all in all I think Percival would be my candidate for the "Worst man in worst place at the worst time" award.

Regards

Steffen Redbeard
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Old October 18th, 2009, 09:40 AM
blasted_oak blasted_oak is offline
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Mark Clark in Italy. A glory seeking idiot who makes Patton look quite and thoughtful; His grab for Rome in June 1944 which extended the war in Italy and cost tens of thousands of lives alone makes him a candidate for this 'honour' but the Salerno landings also mark him out as a general of rare stupidity.
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Old October 18th, 2009, 10:21 AM
Mostlyharmless Mostlyharmless is offline
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Keeping to admirals, I think that there is a case for Admiral Oskar Kummetz. At his lower level it was normally hard to be really incompetent several times because most such officers were either killed or dismissed. However, he managed two fine examples in the attack on Oslo in April 1940 http://www.kbismarck.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=429 and in the Battle of the Barents Sea in December 1942 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Barents_Sea. In between, he managed to run Lutzow aground but that may have been just bad luck. Of course, he could only manage because of the helpful personnel policy of Admiral Raeder, who removed admirals such as Marshall when they won.
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