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History, Reference, Research, and GrogTalk => Military (and other) History => Topic started by: bayonetbrant on April 20, 2012, 09:22:20 AM

Title: Worst US General?
Post by: bayonetbrant on April 20, 2012, 09:22:20 AM
Let me start with this caveat - if you instantly blow your stack by saying Tom Ricks is a know-nothing asshat who doesn't deserve to talk about the military, you're barking up the wrong tree.  The guy is a very knowledgeable and experience defense journalist with a deep understanding of the military and national security issues.

That doesn't mean you have to agree with his opinions, especially on this one.

This is from a while ago, but still worth a discussion -
The Worst Generals in American History (http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/06/02/the_worst_general_in_american_history)

His ranking?
Quote
1. Douglas MacArthur
2. Benedict Arnold
3. Ned Almond
4. Tommy R. Franks
5. William Westmoreland
6. George McClellan
7. Ambrose Burnside
8. Horatio Gates

Now, he doesn't elaborate on anyone but Macarthur, and most of the discussion on the page focuses on Mac, but I would be interested to hear his reasonings behind several of the others on the list, as well as the omissions of a few.

Here are his thoughts on Macarthur
Quote
It was my contest, so I declared MacArthur the No. 1 loser, because of his unique record of being insubordinate to three presidents (Hoover, Roosevelt and Truman) as well as screwing up the Korean War. Plus additional negative points for his role in the gassing and suppression of the Bonus Marchers in 1932. You can't defend a country by undermining it.

It really is extraordinary how the Army has extirpated his memory. The influence of Marshall, Eisenhower and Bradley lives on, while MacArthur has been treated as a historical dead end. Kind of amazing, considering he was a general for 26 years, was the Army chief of staff, received the Medal of Honor, fought in three wars and was a senior commander in two.


Discuss...
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: LongBlade on April 20, 2012, 09:25:47 AM
Tommy Franks? Hmmm.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Centurion40 on April 20, 2012, 12:04:09 PM
MacArthur was the worst US General because he was insubordinate??  Honestly, I wouldn't even rate that as a factor in judging the worth of a General.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: MIGMaster on April 20, 2012, 12:16:48 PM
A guess a definition of worst or a terms of reference is probably necessary.....
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: mirth on April 20, 2012, 01:02:47 PM
I'm on board with most of that list. Ned Almond should probably be #2 behind MacArthur. Not sure if Tommy Franks deserves the top 10. Seems like Mark Clark or Custer would have a place on the list before him.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Mr. Bigglesworth on April 20, 2012, 01:05:13 PM
MacArthur was the worst US General because he was insubordinate??  Honestly, I wouldn't even rate that as a factor in judging the worth of a General.


Strategy blunders would be the most important factor IMO.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Mr. Bigglesworth on April 20, 2012, 01:19:01 PM
Tommy Franks? Hmmm.


From wiki:
According to Time magazine, on 21 November 2003, Franks said that in the event of another terrorist attack, American constitutional liberties might be discarded by popular demand in favor of a military state. Discussing the hypothetical dangers posed to the US in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks, Franks said that “the worst thing that could happen” is if terrorists acquire and then use a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon that inflicts heavy casualties. If that happens, Franks said, “... the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy.” Franks then offered “in a practical sense” what he thinks would happen in the aftermath of such an attack.
“It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world – it may be in the United States of America – that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution."
"[No] one in this country probably was more surprised than I when weapons of mass destruction were not used against our troops as they moved toward Baghdad," said Franks on 2 December 2005.[4] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Franks#cite_note-3)


Is it normal for generals to imagine throwing away our way of life to respond to an attack with Military dictatorship? It seems to me that if a country responds to something with a massive distortion of its culture it is doomed to lose. Look at how the world has changed because a handful of freaks did an attack on a free society. Trillions spent by countries across half the globe. Civil liberties chopped. New secret police (to use an inflammatory phrase from another thread) bureaucracies set up. It must give the other nutbars a real sense of power. I'm afraid it is losing the culture war.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: mirth on April 20, 2012, 01:29:02 PM
I don't read that as Franks advocating or supporting a military dictatorship, but expressing it as a possible outcome in the event of a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Jack Nastyface on April 20, 2012, 01:35:55 PM
Why would you put Mark Clark on that list?  I understand that the campaign into Italy was very difficult (doomed to be so, even before it started) but it was initiated by Stalin's demands for a second front.  Someone had to do the job and Clark pulled the short straw.

Or am I missing lots?

I've heard other military analysts talk about Tommy Franks...it would appear that their biggest gripe is that his plan to defeat Saddam was based on rushing to baghdad and "toppling the regime" (aka - Star Wars trench run) instead of securing the boarders and then attacking resistance centres.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Jarhead0331 on April 20, 2012, 01:45:01 PM
What about William Westmoreland?  Is he on the list simply because history tells us that we lost the war? There are probably few Generals with as many combat victories as this guy.  Heck, the US military under his command practically won every major engagement.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: mirth on April 20, 2012, 02:00:44 PM
Why would you put Mark Clark on that list?  I understand that the campaign into Italy was very difficult (doomed to be so, even before it started) but it was initiated by Stalin's demands for a second front.  Someone had to do the job and Clark pulled the short straw.

Everything I've read about Mark Clark, in the Italian campaign in particular, is that his generalship was poor and he was far more concerned about his own self-promotion than defeating the Germans. His decision to advance into Rome instead of cutting off the Germans after the Anzio breakout is considered a major blunder made for the sake of headlines.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Mr. Bigglesworth on April 20, 2012, 02:00:50 PM
I don't read that as Franks advocating or supporting a military dictatorship, but expressing it as a possible outcome in the event of a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction.


Sure. The problem is he is also saying wastern civ is a fragile balloon that will implode from any attack. It stuck me that he feels the only way to win is to revert to dictatorship. Command and control of all the nation's resources. To me that is a fail.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Staggerwing on April 20, 2012, 02:04:07 PM
I don't read that as Franks advocating or supporting a military dictatorship, but expressing it as a possible outcome in the event of a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction.

Same here. I see it as a warning for vigilance against another major attack because he worries that Americans could actually give away their liberties willingly if they are frightened enough and destroy America as we know it.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: mirth on April 20, 2012, 02:16:44 PM
I don't read that as Franks advocating or supporting a military dictatorship, but expressing it as a possible outcome in the event of a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction.

Same here. I see it as a warning for vigilance against another major attack because he worries that Americans could actually give away their liberties willingly if they are frightened enough and destroy America as we know it.

That's how I read it. As a warning if an attack with weapons of mass destruction resulted in massive civilian casualties it would drive us toward a dictatorship.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: LongBlade on April 20, 2012, 02:23:15 PM
I don't read that as Franks advocating or supporting a military dictatorship, but expressing it as a possible outcome in the event of a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction.


Sure. The problem is he is also saying wastern civ is a fragile balloon that will implode from any attack. It stuck me that he feels the only way to win is to revert to dictatorship. Command and control of all the nation's resources. To me that is a fail.

Total fail.

The answer isn't to dominate the people, it's to make them more dangerous to our enemies.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: bob48 on April 20, 2012, 04:12:18 PM
Have read 'Backwater War' recently, I admit that Mark Clark did cross my mind.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: AmericanPride on April 20, 2012, 04:38:57 PM
My vote is Robert E Lee.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: besilarius on April 20, 2012, 05:22:03 PM
My personal view is that Mac does deserve to be really up there, and #1 is about right.
This is because of his total unreality concerning the preparation of the Philippines.  He consistently fabricated strengths, training, and numbers when reporting on the situation to the War Department. 
The campaign was totally screwed up from the attack on Clark Field which destroyed the aircraft, through the absolute lack of any resistance to the Japanese landing, to the withdrawal to Bataan while forgetting food supplies. After his headquarters put out news communiques that the beaches were defended in depth, a number of correspondents drove up and found nothing.  The vaunted Philippine army Macarthur was trumpeting was nowhere to be seen.  When they got back to Luzon and asked for clarification, they were threatened with jail if they suggested anything but Macarthur's report.
Then he did it again before Korea.  He reported to the War Department that the forces in Japan were well trained, equipped, and prepared.  Infact, they were doing no training, and were unprepared for a troop of cranky cubscouts.
When the Norks attacked in Korea, General Eisenhower was asked for his opinion, "Keep in mind this is the same staff, the same people, who confidently predicted the total defeat of the Japanese on Luzon, nine years ago.  Do you see a pattern?"

After Big Mac, I lean toward Horatio Gates, because he had ambitions that were political, and he could potentially have really screwed up the new republic.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: mirth on April 20, 2012, 05:59:20 PM
Have read 'Backwater War' recently, I admit that Mark Clark did cross my mind.

Thanks for the reference to 'Backwater War'. Definitely going to check it out.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: mirth on April 20, 2012, 06:05:11 PM
My personal view is that Mac does deserve to be really up there, and #1 is about right.
This is because of his total unreality concerning the preparation of the Philippines.  He consistently fabricated strengths, training, and numbers when reporting on the situation to the War Department. 
The campaign was totally screwed up from the attack on Clark Field which destroyed the aircraft, through the absolute lack of any resistance to the Japanese landing, to the withdrawal to Bataan while forgetting food supplies. After his headquarters put out news communiques that the beaches were defended in depth, a number of correspondents drove up and found nothing.  The vaunted Philippine army Macarthur was trumpeting was nowhere to be seen.  When they got back to Luzon and asked for clarification, they were threatened with jail if they suggested anything but Macarthur's report.
Then he did it again before Korea.  He reported to the War Department that the forces in Japan were well trained, equipped, and prepared.  Infact, they were doing no training, and were unprepared for a troop of cranky cubscouts.
When the Norks attacked in Korea, General Eisenhower was asked for his opinion, "Keep in mind this is the same staff, the same people, who confidently predicted the total defeat of the Japanese on Luzon, nine years ago.  Do you see a pattern?"

After Big Mac, I lean toward Horatio Gates, because he had ambitions that were political, and he could potentially have really screwed up the new republic.

Good summation of MacArthur. As far as Korea goes, Inchon was a moment of brilliance that MacArthur was still capable of. After that he fell back into his bad habits. The advance north of the 38th parallel was an excellent example of his distance from reality and Ned Almond became his cheerleader for it.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: OJsDad on April 20, 2012, 07:48:06 PM
Watching a show on the history channel about the American Revolution, someone stated that Arnold was a good commander.  If he hadn't betrayed the Americans, he would most likely have been considered a national hero even today.  Is he on the list at all because of that betrayal, or because he was a piss poor general.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: besilarius on April 20, 2012, 08:16:35 PM
Probably because of selling out his country, but once he turned his coat, he wasn't very good.
Most likely he was trying hard to not think too much, because his actions were traitorous.
Michel Ney didn't do a very good job at Waterloo.  If you look carefully at his actions, it seems like a man who is torn by conflicting loyalties.  Rather than think, and use his tactical skills, a number of historians have suggested he just wanted to strike out.  He had promised the King to bring Napoleon back in an iron cage, and then found he could not.  His honor was compromised.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: AmericanPride on April 20, 2012, 11:56:41 PM
If we're going to use "insubordination" as the primary reason to classify a general as bad, then treason ought to be a greater reason to rank a general poorly; with the honorable mention of Benedict Arnold, that also includes all of the generals that took up arms against the federal government during the Civil War. Ricks also quotes McArthur's "role in the gassing and suppression of the Bonus Marchers in 1932" because "you can't defend a country by undermining it." So where does that leave the generals that condemned America to its bloodiest war that tore the country about for four years and resulted in the deaths of over 500,000 Americans?
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: bob48 on April 21, 2012, 05:31:50 AM
Have read 'Backwater War' recently, I admit that Mark Clark did cross my mind.

Thanks for the reference to 'Backwater War'. Definitely going to check it out.
Its an interesting book, and quite informative, although I have to say that the writers sytle is a bit hard work. He is very repetative and I have rarely read a book with so many basic spelling and gramatical errors which makes me think that proof reading was a bit off.

Nevertheless, worth reading, and the Stackpole books are generally of good quality.

My own interest in the Italian campaign is (a) because my Dad served with 5th (Yorkshire) Infantry Div, and took part in the Sicily and Italy campaigns, including Anzio.
And (b), I'm engaged in some research that may eventually result in a module being produced for LnL's NaW series, although its early days yet, and we have some Western Front stuff on the go first, the first of which could be of special interest to Canadians! 8)
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Airborne Rifles on April 21, 2012, 08:13:19 AM
I think MacAurthur is a good choice to be high on the list.  He had strokes of brilliance but on the whole his operational inpetitude let to two of the worst defeats in our country's history - the Philippines and the Chinese counterattack in Korea.  He also did his very best to alienate the Australians in the early days of the Pacific war when they were the ones doing the vast majority of fighting and dying in New Guinea.  Against this of course we can put his stroke of genius at Inchon (partly foiled by Ned Almond) and the competence of his island hoping campaign that saved thousands of American lives in the South Pacific by allowing Japanese garrisons to 'wither on the vine.'  His greatest legacy is that he gave great speaches, many of which are inscribed in granite at West Point.  Seriously, some of them will make your spine tingle just reading them. Also the force of his personality caused otherwise level-headed generals to hero-worship him. 

Horatio Gates isanother good canditate IMO.  Won Saratoga on the back of Benedict Arnold (who he sacked before the battle) and then went on to try to undermine Washington and later nearly lose the entire war in the southern colonies.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Airborne Rifles on April 21, 2012, 08:31:17 AM
Benedict Arnold is a strange choice to me.  If you include him then I agree with AmericanPride that you would need to also include Confederate generals as well, and that get's into some murky waters of loyalty and Causes.  After all, Arnold never actually succeeded is getting the plans for the fortress at West Point to the British.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: bayonetbrant on April 21, 2012, 07:29:54 PM
Hey Rifles - Glad you made it! :)
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Airborne Rifles on April 22, 2012, 08:06:09 AM
Thanks Brant, I'm glad I made it too!
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Martok on April 27, 2012, 05:22:44 AM
No surprise to see Mac, Gates, McClellen, and Burnside on that list.  I'm not sure if MacArthur deserves the #1 spot, but he *is* highly overrated. 


Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: bob48 on April 27, 2012, 10:11:52 AM
Just to play devils advocate..........we could also say that some of those Generals performed well at lower command levels, and in other circumstances. Burniside did a pretty reasonable job as a commander under Sherman, and Mac did ok early in the war in West virginia, and organised the army to a high degree. Both failed as higher level COMBAT commanders.  By the same yardstick, then include Hooker, who again performed well at div-corps level, and did a lot of good work in forming the corps and creating a structure - like the div-corps insignia, but again failed when put in higher command.

Perhaps we should ask who was the worst General in all respects or narrow it down to a more specific topic - such as field command or theatre command?
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: besilarius on April 27, 2012, 05:02:10 PM
Good points, bob.  You're absolutely correct that quite a few generals were good until overpromoted.
Or perhaps there was not time to grow into his new position.
US Grant stated in his memoirs that McClellan probably would have been a very good general except he was bumped up too quickly.  Going from a small command in West Virginia to the most important army command in the country was too abrupt.  Inheriting the mess after first Manassas, he did what he understood - he organized.
Faced with taking the army into the field, he was very unsure and hesitant, but could not admit it.

Then you have situations where your staff lets you down.  Rosecrans' was doing a decent job, holding at Chickamauga.  He was relying on Thomas on the left to hold on and wear down Bragg's attacking force, and mostly this was working.  Faced with the inept and overpromoted Leonidas Polk, superior numbers weren't helping.
However, one of Rosey's staff suddenly rode into headquarters and reported that a gap had opened on the center.
Rosey overreacted, and without seeking any confirmation, immediately ordered a division to pull out of the line and move into the reported gap.
Well, no good deed goes unpunished.  As it happened Old Pete Longstreet with two hardbitten divisions from the Army of Northern Virginia, was deploying for an attack, right off the railroad flatcars that brought his men west.
Suddenly recognizing a hole had opened in the yankee line, he promptly piled on.
Without the order from Rosecrans, it is debatable if Longstreet would have attacked frontally into a prepared position, or if it would have been pressed hard.
Even if he had, the normal resistance of veteran troops in dug in field fortifications, would probably have led to another bitter fight of attrition.
I think you could argue that Chickamauga wasn't so much won by the Confederates, as lost by Rosecrans.
Still, the campaign up to that point had been brilliant.  He outmaneuvered Bragg out of about three strong river lines, and forced his way to taking Chattanooga by befuddling his enemy in a nearly bloodless campaign.
If you try to evaluate Rosecrans' performance, he was superb in maneuver.  When he got into a nasty slugging match, he lost the big picture and relied too much on subordinates.
However, even though Bragg won the battle, I'd have to rate him much worse than Rosecrans, who never had a wholesale mutiny of his generals to face.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: bob48 on April 28, 2012, 05:00:30 AM
Interesting stuff, and I agree with what you say about both Bragg and Polk, and yet Thomas was the man at Chickamauga - the Rock and all that.
Banks was also a bit of a disaster, especially in the Valley, although he was clearly nowhere near as good as Jackson. This in itself raises interesting questions; To me Jackson, rates as perhaps the finest General from the ACW, but how well would he have done had he gone on to higher command?

In addition, it has always seemed to me that Lee lost his edge after Jackson died. All conjecture, but a facinating subject.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: besilarius on April 28, 2012, 10:40:18 AM
It looks to me that it would depend.  If Stonewall did not adapt to the needs of a wider command span, then he would have been courting disaster as an army commander.  He relieved AP Hill for not following orders exactly.  Did the same to Garnett, who died leading his troops at Gettysburg.
This kind of zero tolerance was so impractical and created a poisonous atmosphere.  (Totally understandable, considering the high stakes involved.)
Stonewall would have to change enough to accept that he could not be everywhere, so would have to trust his subordinates to think on their own, and do their best.
Considering his history, I'm not sure he would be able to move up to manage a higher level.
Now Lee, did grow, I think.  Suddenly placed in command of an army whose commander was wounded, outside of the nation's capital, and just having a confused action that was a painful screw up, he rose to the situation.
Instead of trying to do everything, he recognized the effective subordinates, and built his army around them.
After Grant's fighting in the Wilderness, Longstreet was seriously wounded and out for a long time.  AP Hill  had never lived up to his promise, and the same for Ewell.
In the maneuvers and fighting afterwards, Lee was the glue that held everything together.  At the same time, his health was poor.  His heart problems kept him in bed a lot.
Overall, I think Lee's faults were not so great, exept for possibly keeping poor subordinates and not replacing them.
Whether this was from his gentility, or because no one better was available, is another interesting question.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: bob48 on April 28, 2012, 04:15:32 PM
Interesting - you've given me food for thought. Somewhat inevitably, I began to wonder what would have happened if Jackson had not suffered his fatal wound (by letting someone else do the recon) and had been present at Gettysburg - who knows, he may have even talked Lee out of attacking.

You have to wonder though, what were Lee's alternatives at that point, with the Union army now concentrating, I guess he had to either fight or withdraw. Either way, to me, its an endlessly fascinating subject.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: besilarius on April 30, 2012, 04:57:10 PM
Don't know if this would be of interest, but on Saturday night on C-Span3 (cable 105 here), there were two taped classes from the Naval Academy, the first was on Robert E Lee's generalship and the second on US Grant.  The professor was Wayne Hseih.
Not a great show, but he raised a number of interesting points about Lee.  The big one was that he ultimately failed, and the south overall, because they were all focused on big battles like Napoleon.
This was not in itself, a bad strategy.  If the re was enough early success, a demoralised North might have lost its purpose and sought peace.  What they did not do was adapt their strategy.
In particular, Dr. Hseih believed that a strategy similar to Washington's in the Revolution may have given the South a better chance of a negotiated peace.
Washington had a few victories, and none that were simply war winning.  What he did was combine a regular army, with partisan forces, avoiding major battles, unless he was sure the chances were good.  The constant wearing down of the enemy army from partisan activity, lead to support from the French and Spanish, and ultimately the british government believed it wasn't worth it to continue.
Now, I think a lot of this lack of adaptability may stem from Jefferson Davis (who had a very high opinion of his own military abilities).   But Lee did show a real limitation on strategical matters.  He was superb at operational level.
Regrettably, the US Grant class began at 2AM, and this boy can't hack it anymore.
If you are interested in a good evaluation fo Grant, I'd definitely recommend Keegan's The Mask of Command.  Very thoughtful treatment of Grant.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: LongBlade on April 30, 2012, 05:04:44 PM
Well, not everything Lee did was in his control.

At the risk of sounding trite, I would simply suggest the issue is a classic case of "amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics."

The South had nothing like the industrial base of the North. That doomed them from the start.

Also, the beginning of the end was largely a case of accident - Gettysburg was a battle that neither side chose. Lee stumbled into it largely because JEB Stuart was out joyriding instead of telling him where the Union forces were. But an accident nevertheless. Compounding it was Lee's blind determination to send Pickett's division in a frontal assault over a mile of open terrain, but that's still small potatoes.

The war was well and truly lost when Grant got hold of the Union army, stuck to Lee like glue and fought a war of attrition. The North simply had more of everything and could afford to endure the losses.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: MIGMaster on April 30, 2012, 07:25:07 PM
I'm surprise nobody mentioned  "General" Larry Platt of "Pants on the Ground" fame.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pants_on_the_ground
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: besilarius on April 30, 2012, 09:08:51 PM
Migs, an interesting choice for the coveted award.
He certainly is up there in the useless category, and over blown as well.
However, in terms of screwing up battles and campaigns, I don't think he was that ineffective.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Electric_Strawberry on May 12, 2012, 09:12:46 AM
William Manchester wrote a very good biography on MacArthur, "An American Caesar".   Manchester was particularly critical of the way MacArthur reacted to the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He describes  MacArthur's seeming unwillingness to take any action after learning of Pearl Harbor to the extent he appeared to be confused as to whether he should be acting as an American General or a Philippine Field Marshal.  That inaction included his failure to disperse his aircraft, which led to most of them being destroyed on the ground.  Further, Manchester points out MacArthur's habit of claiming credit for the ideas of his subordinates.

Despits all of his shortcomings, and there were many, I can't see him being ranked worse than that other Mac.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: joram on May 15, 2012, 04:13:54 PM
Benedict Arnold is a strange choice to me.  If you include him then I agree with AmericanPride that you would need to also include Confederate generals as well, and that get's into some murky waters of loyalty and Causes.  After all, Arnold never actually succeeded is getting the plans for the fortress at West Point to the British.

My understanding was Arnold wasn't a bad general at all except for the salient point that he defected and unsuccessfully tried to turn over West Point to the British.  But if you are judging on ability, don't know if he should be on the list at all.  If you are judging on the fact that he betrayed the Federal government, then as others have pointed out, you could make an argument for confederate generals as well simply for the reason they chose the Southern cause.
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Joseph on May 23, 2012, 09:32:11 AM
   Ambrose Burnside
   William Westmoreland
   Mark Clark
   McClellan
   Bragg
   Gates
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: Longdan on August 09, 2012, 08:27:15 PM
Seems to me that Benedict Arnold was a minor character, things all told.  He was a talented leader but the betrayal and its enshrinement in myth
are why he is famous.  Mark Clark was the wrong man for the job - he despised his allies and thought poorly of his commander - an opinion he was
too willing to share.  Considering the multnational nature of the Allied force in Italy and its second rate position in the overall plan a grandstanding
chauvinist was a poor choice.  Westmoreland's command was successful tactically and operationally but as the North Vietnamese pointed out that
was irrelevent.  He was put in a very bad position, but his failure was announcing success right before being suprised by the Tet offensive.
The Tet fighting was a crushing defeat for the Viet Cong but as the North Vietnamese pointed out it was irrelevant.  The impact of a huge surprise
attack on what was viewed as the eve of victory had a fatal effect on the american public.  I am old enough to remember it very well.
Gates was a pompous, cowardly, conspiratorial villain and considering what he could have done to the infant nation belongs on any such list.
MacArthur is my choice for America's greatest flawed hero.  His brilliance combined with his blunders and personal failings will provide
grist for such topics forever.  The example of the talented Confederate commanders is why the Military Class in the USA must remain apolitical
for the long term survival of the experiment.  If the Armed Forces becomes political or politically polarised any democracy is in peril and the Armed Force
itself is in danger.  Look at the post-Vietnam experience recently.  The Armed Forces as an institution was shaken to its core.
Anyway that what I was thinking this morning....a good day to you all.
cheers
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: besilarius on August 10, 2012, 05:07:05 AM
Longdan,  that's a pretty good and fair list.  Think I'd agree with most points.
Since you bring up Westmoreland, here's a fair bit to chew on.
According to Lew Sorley's bio of Creighton Abrams, the choice for MACV came down to Westy and Abe.
Westy was chosen because of two reasons.  As a paratrooper, it was thought he might be a better fit in fighting an insurgency in the pre-Tet war against the Viet Cong.  Abrams was a straight leg who began in tanks.
The other reason, and this is Sorley's take, is that the White House was pushing integration.  They needed a point man on the ground.
Abrams was one of those men who just naturally get people's trust.  A quiet charisma that somehow got people on totally opposite sides to come to a working solution without cutting each other's throats.  Kennedy and Johnson wouldn't release him as their point man in keeping the south quiet and calm.
I know that when he moved up from Westy's deputy to theater command, there was a distinct change in how the war was fought.  A lot of people I knew felt he was much better, and rejoiced at Westmoreland's departure.  But by then, in the post -Tet atmosphere, the american people had lost their will to win.
My question has been what-if Abrams was picked over Westmoreland at the beginning.
Would he have been able to do a better job in Nam, and would the southern states have become more violent toward integration efforts (as the administration feared.)
Title: Re: Worst US General?
Post by: bob48 on August 10, 2012, 09:19:20 AM
I think that Ben Butler should be on the list.