Worst American Generals?

Not an American bashing thread, but I was wondering who members would perceive as the least capable of American Generals. We can naturally extend it to Admirals.

This article nominates McArthur. Whatever his faults it seems to be drawing a long bow.

I would think someone like Fredendall would be in consideration.

And I guess “worst” also has many meanings as in incompetent, or insolent, or despite being okay field wise had no political nouse.

Vinegar Joe Stilwell seems to have been hugely unpopular. I have heard pretty ordinary opinions of Mark Clark here.

So, who do you reckon?

This isn’t exactly responding to your question, but some years ago, I asked about Mark Clark, and while the responses didn’t exactly give him glowing remarks, there’s this to consider from our venerated, departed David Simmons:


No worries- this was never intended to be a great debates sort of issue.

I also value David Simmons view and his final comment in the thread may shed some light there:

“I don’t want this to be taken as a defense of Clark’s abilities. He has always seemed to me to be a rather conventional and uninspired military thinker”.

I also remember another thread here where a member stated his father, who had served in Italy under Mark Clarks command loathed him. He certainly seems a divisive person

Mac, IMO. Maybe not the worst general of all but the worst well known general. Everything he did was in the interest of Douglas Macarthur alone.

General Braxton Bragg, C.S.A.

Bragg (riding among his troops to rally them): “Here is your commander!”
Troops: “Here is your mule!”

Fredendall would certainly be a top contender. He was pretty much universally despised by both troops and officers. He was a “bunker soldier” who took great pains not to put himself in harm’s way, while showing no such compunction about his men. He made poor decisions based on old or non-existent intel, and got men killed because of it.

Patton was no great shakes as an officer, being somewhat uncontrollable, but he was almost always on the front line with his troops, and was a good tactician. MacArthur was a prick who disobeyed and disrespected his CINC, but he commanded loyalty from his men. Custer takes a lot of heat for getting his command wiped out, but the man was a brilliant tactician (up to that point) and fearless warrior, if a bit of a dandy.

I was not going to start an argument in this thread but couldn’t the same be applied to Patton? :slight_smile:

He also captured more territory with fewer casualties than any other American commander during the war. Asshole? Sure. But a very effective commander. If you are going to talk “worst” then you’ll probably be talking US generals during the Civil War. Any number come to mind.

Well, I have to head off to bed but this has opened up a few Pandora’s Boxes for me.

Thanks Chefguy, I hadn’t thought about Custer but losing your men (and life) through arrogance seems pretty bad news. And Silenus, yes McArthur was effective.

So i guess when you get high up is the balance between political or winning battles? Most Generals don’t have to face such a dilemma when they command only a Division or a Corps.

I am going out on a limb here but… Gen. Robert E. Lee
(I can already hear the WTH’s and I haven’t even posted yet)

Now then, while he was a brilliant tactician(often) and inspiring leader, Lee screwed the pooch and lost the Civil War(arguably) in one act. Pickett’s Charge


Lee ordered this and was told how bad an idea it was, did it anyway. IMO the rest of the war was one long slide to defeat. Anyway there you have it


Sure, it takes a big ego to lead an army and you don’t get ahead by being nice. So you can say much the same for a lot of generals. But, IMO, Mac’s choices throughout his career were made with one and only one overarching goal in mind: the glorification of Mac. His whole startegy in the Pacific was designed to get himself back to his kingdom, the Phillipines, nevermind what the best strategy should be for the USA or the Allies. He dropped the ball in the Phillipines, again - that’s my opinion, and his ego couldn’t be satisfied until he forced the USA to let him fix his mistakes.

He seems to me to fit into the McClellan mold (another Mac!) Good at building and administering an army, not so much when it comes time to use the army. And both thought they were smarter than their CinC.

There is no way on earth that McClellan would have even considered the Inchon landing. He was far, far too risk-adverse.
I would nominate Burnside. His frontal attack at Fredericksburg has to rank as one of the most monumental blunders in all of history.

Lee was not even close to being the worst general at Gettysburg, much less the worst ever. AP Hill basically sat on his ass the whole battle, Longstreet was treading the edge of being insubordinate, and Stuart was off on a joyride. Plus, you had Sickles on the Union side advancing III Corps out to an unsupportable position just in time to get crushed by Hood’s and McLaws’ divisions and Slocum camping XII Corps on the afternoon of Day 1, even though he could hear the fighting raging up near Culp’s Hill.

I’d say Fredenhall is a good choice, for WW II at least - he looked the part of a war leader but did nothing to back it up.

I’d vote for a more modern miscreant-General Westmoreland (Vietnam). Westmoreland seemed to be a total technocrat-he figured that the more men and materiel he could throw at his enemy, the more assured of victory he would be.
In this he was a good fit with such mindless droids as Robert MacNamara.
Of course, this lead to disasters like Khe Sanh-where millions of $$ and hundreds of lives were sacrificed to hold a “strong point” that was neither strategic nor of any importance. He also neglected intelligence, and failed completely to notice the obvious enemy buildup that culminated in the Tet Offensive. As an ex-artillery officer, he probably thought that Vietnam was like WWII-only the NVA would not fight the way he wanted them to-he seemed puzzled why they fought on their own terms, rather than on his.

A thought on Custer, I think the debacle at Little Bighorn is offset by what he did at Gettysburg

I know my mom being in her early 20s during Vietnam would put Westmoreland on the list.

If this is worst general at Gettysburg than how can it not be Ewell?

General William Tecumseh Sherman May-he-rot-in-Hell. Arsonist and war criminal.

We debated the Worst Military Leader of All Time in the Game Room a while ago; the “top” American General in the list was Confederate general John Bell Hood at #9; the highest-ranking non-Confederate general was James H. Ledlie.

Hood is principally known for getting his ass handed to him repeatedly by America’s greatest (and most handsome) general, William Tecumsah Sherman. Ledlie is best-known for abandoning his own men prior to a tricky offensive maneuver; his ill-prepared replacement led them into utter destruction.

Well, he won all his wars. I agree he did everything he ever did for his own personal glory, but ultimately he was not a disaster as a general, but quite the contrary, accomplished his military goals.

Custer lost his entire command down to the last man. He gets the my nod for getting wiped out from stupidity. He was not a general at the time, his battlefield rank in the Civil War having been reduced to Lt. Col. in the smaller army.

Westmoreland gets runner up mention for utterly misunderstanding his enemy and his objectives, and if Custer doesn’t count, then Westmoreland it is.

The article linked in the OP ranks Tommy R. Franks as #4 (Mac is #1). I’m no expert, but I was less than inspired by his leadership during the second Iraq war. What say the Teeming Millions?

I’d agree if he was one *our *generals at the time. He got suckered into a fight at Gettysburg that he could have skipped. He lost a lot of respect from some of his officers, and they lost the respect of their officers down the line to the poor guys getting slaughtered. But he had been mostly brilliant up to that point. So if he was a US of American general at the time, he’d qualify for the list on that basis. Maybe just his act of treason is sufficient to put him on the list.

I think Custer needs to be high up on the list for obvious reasons.