Generals are an important key who could greatly affect and determine how the troops would perform during battles. That’s why it was really important that the best ones are chosen, usually by proving themselves and climbing the ranks. However, that was not always the case. There were some who successfully became generals only to end up blundering into defeats, not taking advantage of the technical and technological capabilities, or maybe breaking under pressure. Regardless of which side they were from, be it Allied or Axis, here were some of the generals who made themselves quite famous, but for the reasons that they did not really like.
Weygand was a French military commander in World War I and World War II. When the Germans invaded France rapidly advancing into the country, then-General Gamelin was unsurprisingly relieved from the command of French forces. He was replaced by General Maxime Weygand, a war hero of World War I. So why is he on the list? Well, he canceled a vital and urgent counterattack that Gamelin had planned and instead spent the next 48 hours taking courtesy visits with Paris’ foreign dignitaries.
Facing a lightning-fast advance by German tanks and troops those precious 48 hours could have been spent concentrating his tank forces which were distributed piecemeal to infantry units to stop the German spearhead. When Weygand finally decided to launch a strike, the Germans’ position was already too strong for them to have a chance to make it work. And so, his troops basically wasted their time, effort, and equipment on a fruitless, useless strike. Overwhelmed by the defeat, he abandoned Paris and declared it an open city and advocated for surrender instead. After the war, he was held as a collaborator at the Val-de-Grace, although he was released and cleared of charges in 1948.
Lieutenant general Lloyd Ralston Fredendall was the United States Army’s senior officer. If anything, he was well known for his leadership skills during the Battle of Kasserine Pass, or the lack thereof. At that time, he was in command of the Central Task Force landings of the Operation Torch in North Africa, leading II Corps during the Tunisian Campaign’s early stages.
The US forces lacked sufficient troops at that time, as well as supplies and air cover. His solution? To order an Army engineer company to build a giant bunker in a mountain a hundred miles away from the front lines. The flat, open terrain of North Africa was perfect for the fast, maneuver warfare of tanks and armored infantry and General Fredendall decided upon a WWI style static defensive posture instead.
In February 1943, the German forces badly defeated Fredendall’s II Corps during the Battle of Kasserine Pass when the Allied forces received conflicting orders from Lieutenant General Kenneth Anderson and Fredendall. He also ordered the use of what seemed to be an undecipherable personal code:
Move your command, i. e., the walking boys, pop guns, Baker’s outfit and the outfit which is the reverse of Baker’s outfit and the big fellows to M, which is due north of where you are now, as soon as possible. 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.
According to the field commanders, Fredendall seemed out of touch and even intoxicated at one point. Expectedly, Eisenhower was not pleased, and he had Fredendall relieved of command and replaced by Major General George Patton.
Lieutenant-General Arthur Ernest Percival was a commander of the British forces in Malaya. He was able to build a successful military career during World War I, but things were kind of different during World War II. He was given command of a large force that greatly outnumbered the Japanese at two is to one ratio, which in itself was already an advantage. However, his poorly equipped and trained men got little air support and no tanks at all. He veered away from the building of defensive works as he was worried that it would damage the morale of the troops. Instead, he spread his forces far too thinly to launch a proper counterattack. He was trying to defend everything instead of concentrating his forces to defend the most important ground.
As a result, Japan succeeded in landing on Malaya just an hour after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Within a month, his forces had retreated to the island of Singapore to starve and be short on water, which also fell just a few weeks later. The result was some 130,000 British troops, Percival included, taken captive by the Japanese forces, where many died of further starvation and abuse as POWs.