Worst Armchair Generals

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,775
First the problem is that the history (as told by the generals, each of whom tends to claim that if HE had been running the war then Germany would have triumphed ) tends to focus on times when Hitler disagreed with his generals, whereas in the majority of cases he agreed with their recommendations. It was also true the other way around, i.e generals often agreed with him... Most importantly Barbarossa was a consensus, one would be hard pressed to find any german general of note who disagreed with Barbarossa prior to June 1941. Conversely german generals often disagreed between themselves (Guderian got a very bad reputation during the 41 campaign, "stealing" units and resources from others, Rommel and Rundstedt could not agree on how to defend France in 1944, Rommel and Kesselring were at odds over how to run the NA campaingn and one could multiply the examples)
The Thrid Riech did not operate on Conecnus. Hitler decdied end of discussion. Higher command were chosen for the compliant attitude. Hitler choose army cheifs for their lack of spine, He also created a confused system of overlapping authrorities, and his atcions greatly hindred teh development of a clear chianof command. A lot (not all) of the Porblems of the functionng of Germna High Coimmand can be slated back to Hitler. Churhchill allowed people to forcefully argue their case and would listen to his miliatry cheifs. Hitler did not allow discussion once he decided, and do not chnage his mind.


Second Hitler brought to the table additional parameters and dimensions that generals simply did not consider: this included resources, notably Oil (manouever warfare is all good and well when you have the Oil for mech/tank divisions.... Germany was running on a shoestring oil budget so at some point prolonged manouevers were no longer an option), diplomacy, nation morale , industrial production etc.... This is not to say that Adolf was always right, just that the german generals were often completely clueless outside of purely military matters and sometimes even clueless in some military matters (for example Rommel was famously disastrous at logistics and poor at strategy and his handling of the italians was, well, suboptimal to be polite)
But Hitler was responsible for all the diplomatic, strategic production, goals. Hitler was concerned withstrategic considertaions, but only in his typical fascile shallow way. Hitler was astonsihing lazy for a dictator, and really did not do teh work to be across the detail. He was told the German army was not ready. He ignored it and plunged Germany into war. The German miniseries and civil govrenace was poor before the Nazis, and abodminbale once the Nazis were mis-manging the country. It was a corrupt mis -msh opf conflicting responsibilities were the way to get anything done was top outside the chan of command to someone with political influecne.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,775
That is always the case, is it not.. .it does not relieve him of the responsibility for this disaster....
Oh no I agree the Churchill bears much of the responsibility but along with several professional military men, if they had opposed it he would not have done it in the face of their opposition. They told him it was doable,
 
Nov 2018
368
Denmark
Oh yeah ? He also did plenty to make Germany that powerful and to defeat France + Poland. In fact, his resolve and accepting Manstein's plan ( while all others rejected that idea ) were crucial in defeating France so quickly. While generals were convinced that Germany would suffer a major military defeat invading Poland, and invading France.

Stand fast order by Hitler also saved army group center after the failed battle of Moscow because the soviet counterattack would have broken the germans if they didn't dig in and that turned out to be a saving move.
See # 18
 
Oct 2018
150
Sweden
No that is that an actor made his broadcasts on places such as the BBC because he was too busy (he had approval of the actor and the script) with the many tasks that required his attention.

The claim was however



I however am not aware of any occasion when Churchill was 'drunk out of his mind' other than in Nazi propaganda.
It was front line service. Where he was an officer. He had a conventional military education (if dated). He had front line expeince within teh professional army.


Civilian leadership must be in control , war is far too importnat to be left to teh Generals. And that requires a leadership which is across everything. And Churchill was that. Yes he did interfere more than was wise, but you have to also givethe credit for the work he did to be arcoss everythng that other civilian leaders do not do.



Hitler was much much much much much worse,. Churchill you could tand up to and argue with. Hitler would not tolerate this. Hitler surrounded himself with yes men. Hitler was lazy and espicallery early in teh war he was missing in action. As the Nazi system was a mish mash of competing authorities and organizations it requires constant arbitrage to function.

Churhill listened, respected those who stood up to him, appionted capable people, and respectated teh chain of command. Hitler none of these were true.

Churhill do browbeat the wak and attempt to get his way in everything. But People like Alan brooke could stand up to him, speak their mind, and insist on things and get their way. If churchill had surrounded himself with Yes men, not bothered to learn the details of the war, silenced dicsuuion, and insisted his word was always finial he woudl have been liek hitler. He was not. Hitler was by a huge margin the lesser war leader.
Hitler did surround himself with a lot of yes men but remember that a lot of the higher ups tried to kill him and they sabotaged the only possible chanse at victory at fall blau by disobeying the order to concentrate on army group south and the caucassus instead of Moscow. After that Hitler got the notion that he had the right of it all the time and he felt he couldnt trust his generals.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
None of Hitler's interference r strategic Ideas had any sort of nuance. Flat absolute statements. Rank amateurism.

he also replace the heads of staff with pliable yes men rather than those suited to the role. More focused on pliable military than one that was good at it;s job.

German generals staff in both world wars for operations over strategy. I would agree they were often strategically weak. But the sort of simplistic views expressed by Hitler hardly helped.
Strategy is the province of politicians, they have every right to be involved because strategy aims to align military operations with political decisions. It is not just the responsibility of military officers, they need to be involved and their opinions heard. But whom in the OKW or OKH or the General Staff was doing it?

Strategically, the thrust through Sedan during the invasion of France wasn't nuanced? Thank Hitler for that. The creation of the panzertruppen as its own branch and army level maneuver force, not directed to support infantry, thank Hitler for that. Neither were his original ideas, having been pushed by subordinates, but neither were popular among the general staff and yet Hitler authorized them.

Operationally, the Kiev encirclement wasn't nuanced? The largest encirclement in the history of warfare, with over half a million Red Army soldiers captured. Halder and numerous other generals wanted to push to Moscow for a cheap and meaningless victory (which would have led to a worse Stalingrad like encirclement in the winter as that big counteroffensive was always going to happen), instead Hitler was thinking about logistics, supplies, and that Army Group South needed help in Ukraine.

The stand fast order in winter 1941-42, when the German generals all wanted to retreat in the dead of winter, with few supplies, with most of their vehicles inoperable, against an overwhelming Red Army offensive. Hitler said no, dig in, hold or die, and had the Luftwaffe resupply them by air. And they suffered, but they held. Numerous generals later claimed it saved the Ostheer, which would likely have routed in a panicked retreat and mass slaughter from enemy fire or the weather had they been allowed to retreat (which would happen later in '44-45).

Hitler replaced generals that failed, couldn't cut it, didn't work out, which is what leaders are supposed to do. Read Thomas Rick's The Generals about the US military's recent trend in refusal to relieve underperforming generals and the negative affects it has on the force as a whole. Relieving leaders is supposed to happen. What isn't supposed to happen is killing poor performers, which is what Stalin did (especially early war).

Beck and Brauchitsch were relieved simply because they could not work with Hitler, and that's a problem. High command don't need to be best buddies with the boss, but a healthy professional relationship needs to exist. I think Brauchitsch admitted later on (though much of the surviving generals all lied) that he had planned to lead a coup or assassination attempt against Hitler, so that kind of explains some things.

Halder was relieved because Barbarossa was his baby, the manner in which it was carried out was his plan and against the advice of Hitler (who only wanted two prongs, not three); when he failed again in '42 after Blau collapsed, he had provided the rope to hang himself. His post war writings were what caused the "It was Hitler's fault" myth in the first place. And while a lot was Hitler's fault, a lot of it was Halder's too. Not that he nor BH Liddell Hart would ever admit that post war...

Numerous other generals disobeyed their commander in chief in ordering retreats when they were forbidden to do so. Now they might have personally believed their plan was better, smarter, making more military sense, but proper military discipline means they have to obey those orders, their personal opinion is not supposed to affect which orders they choose to follow. These included Rundstedt, Guderian, and many others, who while being relieved were largely recycled to perform other important roles in the war, including other major troop commands.

Manstein was relieved because in '43 he wouldn't shut up about trying to take over the entire Ostheer, because he constantly demanded more troops and equipment, because he refused to fight the war as Hitler saw it and refused to see it from a viewpoint higher than operational, and most of all, because he was a failure, having botched not only Kursk but all follow on operations.

Sure. Zeitler was a yes man. But he was competent. Model was a yes man, but he was competent. Schoerner was a yes man, but he was competent (well, more ruthless than competent, which is what Hitler really wanted in his generals). The list goes on. By late war Hitler finally had officers willing to follow his orders, but by that point his orders were hopeless because Germany was in a no-win situation (and had been since 1943).

Hitler made a ton of bad decisions in the war. But the narrative that a completely amateur civilian refused to take the advice of his super professional generals causing the defeat is simply myth.
 
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aggienation

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Jul 2016
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The Thrid Riech did not operate on Conecnus. Hitler decdied end of discussion. Higher command were chosen for the compliant attitude. Hitler choose army cheifs for their lack of spine, He also created a confused system of overlapping authrorities, and his atcions greatly hindred teh development of a clear chianof command. A lot (not all) of the Porblems of the functionng of Germna High Coimmand can be slated back to Hitler. Churhchill allowed people to forcefully argue their case and would listen to his miliatry cheifs. Hitler did not allow discussion once he decided, and do not chnage his mind.
This is completely wrong. Hitler used to allow all his subordinates to voice their opinions and pitch their ideas. At least until late war when he became more autocratic. You had generals like Rommel who up until '44 even used to completely jump his own chain of command and go running to Hitler to pitch his ideas to get them authorized. All his generals argued with him, Hitler actually kind of preferred it that way since he let them. Sometimes he did what he wanted, other times he did what they wanted. Model is the perfect example. He CONSTANTLY violated Hitler's orders and did what he wanted. But because, ultimately, he understand Hitler's intent (the fabled commander's intent), and because he was usually successful, he got away with it. Previously, Manstein did it too. The problem is that when you're annoying the boss with your suggestions for grandiose ideas, you better be a high performer, and in 1943 Manstein needed to be more like Model and less like Manstein. So he had to go.

But Hitler was responsible for all the diplomatic, strategic production, goals. Hitler was concerned withstrategic considertaions, but only in his typical fascile shallow way. Hitler was astonsihing lazy for a dictator, and really did not do teh work to be across the detail. He was told the German army was not ready. He ignored it and plunged Germany into war. The German miniseries and civil govrenace was poor before the Nazis, and abodminbale once the Nazis were mis-manging the country. It was a corrupt mis -msh opf conflicting responsibilities were the way to get anything done was top outside the chan of command to someone with political influecne.
He wasn't lazy, most who worked with him commented that he worked crazy hours. He was constantly focused on small details, often knowing more about units and locations and small actions than his staff officers did. He slept in on mornings but that's because he usually went to bed very late. How is that worse than Churchill whose sleeping habits were notorious?

The mismanagement of the Reich govt wasn't based on laziness, it had to do with the mindset Hitler had, his obsession with survival of the fittest. Hitler encouraged backbiting and interdepartmental fighting because he wanted subordinates who were tough and ruthless. It was a horrible management style in terms of overall teamwork but there was a point to it, it didn't happen because he was lazy and didn't manage his subordinates.
 
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pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,775
Hitler did surround himself with a lot of yes men but remember that a lot of the higher ups tried to kill him and they sabotaged the only possible chanse at victory at fall blau by disobeying the order to concentrate on army group south and the caucassus instead of Moscow. After that Hitler got the notion that he had the right of it all the time and he felt he couldnt trust his generals.
It was any of the cheifs of staff, minor functionaries and couple of generals who were hardly central to command decision making, Higher Ups not agreeing with that terminology, The guy with access to Hitler's HQ was very minor.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,775
This is completely wrong. Hitler used to allow all his subordinates to voice their opinions and pitch their ideas. At least until late war when he became more autocratic. You had generals like Rommel who up until '44 even used to completely jump his own chain of command and go running to Hitler to pitch his ideas to get them authorized. All his generals argued with him, Hitler actually kind of preferred it that way since he let them. Sometimes he did what he wanted, other times he did what they wanted. Model is the perfect example. He CONSTANTLY violated Hitler's orders and did what he wanted. But because, ultimately, he understand Hitler's intent (the fabled commander's intent), and because he was usually successful, he got away with it. Previously, Manstein did it too. The problem is that when you're annoying the boss with your suggestions for grandiose ideas, you better be a high performer, and in 1943 Manstein needed to be more like Model and less like Manstein. So he had to go.
I disagree,. Hitler often hung back but when he made his facile, unnaunced flat decisons, that was it. He certinaly did not welcome peopel standing up to him. He liked yes men.

He wasn't lazy, most who worked with him commented that he worked crazy hours. He was constantly focused on small details, often knowing more about units and locations and small actions than his staff officers did. He slept in on mornings but that's because he usually went to bed very late. How is that worse than Churchill whose sleeping habits were notorious?
Insomnia does not mean hard working. Hitler focused on some small details and had a good memeory form all accounts. But it was just what attracted him. He did not do teh work to across all of teh detail that he needed to be to provide effective leadership. He did what he wanted rather than what he needed.


The mismanagement of the Reich govt wasn't based on laziness, it had to do with the mindset Hitler had, his obsession with survival of the fittest. Hitler encouraged backbiting and interdepartmental fighting because he wanted subordinates who were tough and ruthless. It was a horrible management style in terms of overall teamwork but there was a point to it, it didn't happen because he was lazy and didn't manage his subordinates.
I did not say that. The overlapping responsibiities and confused strcutures, that meant the offical chain of command often did not work. This style of command enhances the leaders's status as he is ocnatntly needed to arbitrate among competing interests. Napoleon had a simialr tendecy. Hitler could also make snap decison to total reverse an orde of prioirties. The promotion of yes men or nazi poltical appiontees, and the "leadership prinicpal' all contriubuted to bad decison making process.,
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,775
Strategy is the province of politicians, they have every right to be involved because strategy aims to align military operations with political decisions. It is not just the responsibility of military officers, they need to be involved and their opinions heard. But whom in the OKW or OKH or the General Staff was doing it?
Well once Hitler had filled OKW< OKH with non enitties.

Strategically, the thrust through Sedan during the invasion of France wasn't nuanced? Thank Hitler for that. The creation of the panzertruppen as its own branch and army level maneuver force, not directed to support infantry, thank Hitler for that. Neither were his original ideas, having been pushed by subordinates, but neither were popular among the general staff and yet Hitler authorized them.
He lieked it because of a short oitch and it was aggressive an dynamic. Hitler understanding was not deep,

Hitler replaced generals that failed, couldn't cut it, didn't work out, which is what leaders are supposed to do. Read Thomas Rick's The Generals about the US military's recent trend in refusal to relieve underperforming generals and the negative affects it has on the force as a whole. Relieving leaders is supposed to happen. What isn't supposed to happen is killing poor performers, which is what Stalin did (especially early war).
Or simply people who stood up to him.

Hitler made a ton of bad decisions in the war. But the narrative that a completely amateur civilian refused to take the advice of his super professional generals causing the defeat is simply myth.
Hitler advice taking was mixed. And his Generals made plenty of mistakes, they were generally professionals, I never made them out to be super. German general staffs tended to be strategically weak, poor at logistics in both wars. A structucal problem unrelated to Hitler or the Nazis. HItler made very superficial judgements and delat with things at a superficial level.
 

aggienation

Ad Honorem
Jul 2016
9,813
USA
It was any of the cheifs of staff, minor functionaries and couple of generals who were hardly central to command decision making, Higher Ups not agreeing with that terminology, The guy with access to Hitler's HQ was very minor.
First, they weren't nobodies. You had Beck, who was former head of the General Staff. Fromm, head of the Replacement Army (which are all German army personnel not in combat theaters). Numerous chiefs of staff to senior commanders. Olbricht was Chief of the General Army Office of the OKH and Chief of the Armed Forces Reserve Office of the OKW. Numerous other generals who had held army commands, etc.

Second, it was launched almost entirely by members of the Junker class. Go look up the names of those involved, most have von in front of their last names for a reason.