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Best/Favorite Corps & Division Generals

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Let me throw this one out for general discussion:

Who the best/favorite Corps / Division-Level General? Patton vs. Montgomery etc etc etc has been argued, but what about the lower-level generals?

I'd like to suggest:

American Corps: Ridgway, 18th Airborne Corps, always got called for the tough jobs.

American Division: Rose, 4th Armored, led from the front.

British Corps: Nobody (Horrocks is famous but he wasn't good).

British Division: Gale, 6th Airborne, popular & capable.

German Corps: Balck, 48th Panzer Corps, masterful at fighting Russians.

German Division: Meyer, 12th SS Panzer, "Panzermeyer" says it all.

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The British had MANY good Army and Corps commanders. Most of them weren't given much of a chance by history, or, were in theatres of war that weren't important to the big picture.

Lieutenant General Slim, commander of BurCorps and the 14th Army in Burma.

Lieutenant General O'Connor, commander of the British Armour in Africa until April 1941. He was probably as good a tank commander as Rommel, unfortunately, in 1941 North Africa was too weak to defend against ANY attack and O'Connor was captured until 1943.

Major General Bennett, although he is an Australian Commander. He commanded the 8th Australian Division in Malaya, and managed to temporarily stem the Japanese advance. He escaped to Australia, but, because he didn't surrender with his men he was looked down upon and never given a fighting command. He was the first to defeat the Japanese infiltration tactics.

Major General Montgomery. While in France in 1940 he managed to keep his 3rd Division in GREAT order in the retreat to Dunkirk. His force was the best kept unit in the BEF during and after the evacuation.

Every British General in the BEF in 1940 Army, Corps and Division. They all acted with great concern for the lives of their troops and retaining their army. Without such good commanders the BEF would have fallen to pieces like the French Army.

Lieutenant Freyburg, New Zealand commander of the 2nd NZ Division. He went through the Campaign in Greece, Crete, North Africa and Italy. Although he was defeated on occasion, it was due to more the situation he was in rather than his competence as a commander.

Actually, it depends on what you consider to be a good General. Wether or not they win battles, wether or not they are liked by their men, or even just how they are reflected in history. Personally, I think a better general is one who attains victory, but, not at the uneccessary expense of their own men, and not to gain a name for themselves.

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From Major Tom:

. . .although he is an Australian Commander.]

Ouch! Did that leave a mark?

Thanks for asking this question Coop. It has already elicited some learned response that is more on the mark for what I was asking previously on the Monty/Patton/Rommell Q.

I'd tell Mj Tom what a chick he is on the battlefield but I can't because I agree with his definition of a good general completely.

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Maj.- Gen. Morshead

Commanded the 9th Australian Div and garrison of Tobruk. Was one of the first to demonstrate at the tactical level how to defeat the hitherto apparently unbeatable German combined arms doctrine.

The significance of this battle is often overlooked because of the limited number of units involved and comparison with the titanic struggles which were to follow on the european mainland. Furthermore the term "Fortress Tobruk" and the tendency of German accounts to enhance the nature of the fortifications to explain the failure to take it have diminished this battle. From my readings of it and by contemporary accounts of its significance I consider it something of a tactical watershed. To place it in its context one must remember that at the time the Wermacht was ascendant riding roughshod over Poland, Western Europe, the Balkans etc with the skilful employment of a new doctrine "lightning war" with combined arms tactics whose essential elements persist today. It was at Tobruk that Morshead and his troops demonstrated how to stop an enemy which had gained such a psychological and tactical ascendancy.

No better effector of the new tactics could be found than the opponent Morshead faced: Rommel. A number of assaults were made on the Tobruk perimeter under the direction of Rommel. These were classic operations of all arms cooperation with infantry and tanks operating closely followed by artillery and anti-tank guns, close air support was provided by Stukas from the luftwaffe which had air superiority over Tobruk. These were defeated in detail by the defending troops with heavy losses to the attacking forces. The defense was arranged in depth with two infantry outpost lines and minefields, these were supported by mobile anti-tank guns and artillery (these supporting arms were strongly defended by AA units). The limited armour available was concentrated for counterattack once the main enemy effort was identified. Morshead's instructions to his troops were that they were to: conduct an aggressive defence, that the enemy should be attacked wherever he came within reach and that if any place was rested from them, they should not relent until they recaptured it.

The defenders met a number of attacks employing tactics unerringly reminscent of those later employed by the Germans in defense against armour. The infantry concentrated their fire on the supporting infantry and were to hold the shoulders of the penetration in force. The panzers were allowed to pass and engaged by an anti-tank screen protected by minefields and artillery. Once the main point of the attack was identified Morshead used his limited armour reserve in flanking counterattacks. His principle self criticism was that Rommel partially duped him several times by feinting actions which caused him to hold his reserves back on several occasions and miss the opportunity to completely destroy the assault force.

It should be added that Maj.- Gen. Lavarack commander of the 7th Australian Division and initial Tobruk commander was also partially responsible for these defensive arrangements.

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Sorry Goanna, it didn't come out the way I wanted it to :)

What I meant, was, that he wasn't exactly a BRITISH commander, of which I was discussing.

There were MANY great Australian Commanders

Lt. General Sturdee, commander of the 1st Australian Army

Lt. General Herring, commander of the II Australian Corps

Maj. General Ramsay, commander of the 5th and 11th Division in New Guinea and New Britain.

Major General Wotten, commander of the 9th Division

Major General Vasey, commander of the 7th Division

And so on.

Correct about "fortress Tobruk". The only defenders were the 9th Australian Division, 3rd British Armoured Brigade (all of which were previously in full retreat), and a Brigade of the 7th Division along with some other British and Indian Troops. The City wasn't invincible, as seen in 1942 when the 2nd South African Division surrendered. There is much credit deserved towards the Rats of Tobruk.

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although i have no doubt that Tobruk applied a very good defence system against armoured break through as you descibe in detail (you obviously studied that smile.gif ). I wonder about your statement "Was one of the first to demonstrate at the tactical level how to defeat the hitherto apparently unbeatable German combined arms doctrine."

I always thought the french were the first to employ the in-depth defence (although at a tactical level).

From the dark piths of my online memory (i am on my work so i don't have any books by hand):

In the second fase of the German campaign in France i recall the french generals giving the Germans a hard times as they had adopted a in-depth defence system to counter the German deep penetrations. Basically they organized their defences around defendable terrain (forests, towns) with regimental or larger formation in hedgehog positions who had their own organic artillery which could cover the open terrain around them. Thus they didn't try to defend the open terrain where to would be bound to be defeated in time by the tank forces.

This nullified the German breakthrough as the German tanks would be lumbering through

the open terrain unable to find unprotected reargaurd units to overrun, while their own supporting units could only follow with difficulty because of the french artillery.

As i recall it took the Germans quite some time to break through this defence in depth.

Just my 2 cents, i don't know if the french used mobile reserve forces to 'plug the holes' as the Germans did later on with their 'fire brigades' on the east front.

Grtz S Bakker.

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While I am familiar with the example you refer to, I too am at work and will have to refresh my memory, IIRC at least part of the reason the French adopted such a system was insufficient strength to mount a linear defence in depth. You should however note that I carefully hedged my bets with the use of the phrase: "one of the first" smile.gif

Even so I think the scale of your example is somewhat different and I don't think all the elements were there ie AT-gun screen etc. What was noteworthy about Tobruk was the co-ordination of all arms to defeat in detail the penetration of the MLR. I wasn't specifically emphasising it as an example of defense in depth which wasn't exactly a novel idea wink.gif ....more later....

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Qoute: "You should however note that I carefully hedged my bets with the use of the phrase: "one of the first""

Point noted and taken smile.gif (although obvioulsy missed the first time around redface.gif). Please don't feel sniped at, i just find it an interesting topic so i jumped in and gave an other example.

Qoute: "Even so I think the scale of your example is somewhat different"

No doubt about that eihter. smile.gif

Qoute: "....more later...."

Can hardly wait. The fact that there was an organized flexible(mobile) anti-tank screen available seems to suggest the AT-guns were mechanized instead of lorried. Was this the birth of the 2-pounder AT-guns portees ?

Grtz S Bakker.

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My vote goes to Rommel. Although one could argue that he never was a true corp commander, I believe he could fall into that category considering the scarce resources he was forced to fight with. In my opinion he was a far better general than any allied commander, including Monty.

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I have alway's been highly impressed with the FINISH army during WWII. The stellar soldiers and leadership they had.

The Soviets lost more soldiers in 6 months trying to invade Finland than the whole US Army lost in the entire Vietnam war!

Out of all the information I read on the Mannerhiem line and the RUSSO-FINISH war, I have never really heard of any great Finish Generals.

Could use some help here........

Enlighten me.


Better to make the wrong decision than be the sorry son of a bitch to scared to make one at all

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You guys are focusing too much on late-war generals for the Germans...CM isn't everything! It reminds me of that obsession on this forum for super tanks and tank destroyers...As if PzIIIs and IIs didn't exist! Panthers and Tigers were luxuries on the front at any time.

My view:

- Best Korps Commanders: Guderian, crossing the Meuse at Sedan with XIX PzKorps in May 1940 and going to the channel; and Hausser, retaking Kharkov in March 1943 with 1.SS PanzerKorps.

- Best Division Commander: I agree with Meyer, although his attacks in Normandy were unsuccessful. Rommel and 7. Panzer are also well known in France.

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My vote goes out to Teodor Eicke leader of the 3 SSdivision also known as the Totenkopfdivision.

Under his command the 3rd booked great successes in Russia.

Baum and later Meyer,Beck and Simon Becker emerged out of the original officercorps of the 3rd in fact most of the highranking officers off the Armed SS came from the 3rd.

For the French I must say that De Gaulle was

one of the officers that understood the principals of combined warfare.And therefore was ahead of his fellow officers.

For the British army I have to admit that all the generals named were highly qualified leaders.

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<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>My vote goes out to Teodor Eicke leader of the 3 SSdivision also known as the Totenkopfdivision.

Under his command the 3rd booked great successes in Russia.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Eicke was a demented butcher. The 3rd was successful is spite of him, and their extreme casualty rate can be attributed to him.

<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>...in fact most of the highranking officers off the Armed SS came from the 3rd.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Most of the top officers in the Waffen-SS came from the army... Hausser and Dietrich being obvious examples.

[This message has been edited by Berlichtingen (edited 03-27-2000).]

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When I read Stoffel's post confused.gif

When I read Berl's post biggrin.gif

Like Berl I too have always read that Eicke was a raving lunatic, AFAIK the 3rd SS TK wasn't exactly known for its tactical subtlety he he smile.gif

As for Meyer did he actually command the 12th SS in Normandy, I know he didn't start the campaign in command?

I would also like to nominate a lesser light: Brig. Mills-Roberts. He commanded the Commando Brigade in its advance to Lubeck on the Baltic in 1945. By all accounts he was an aggressive and innovative commander. Promoted to Brig. when only 36 (he was a 2nd Lt when the war started) an example along with others that at last in 1944-45 with the prewar deadwood weeded out the British army was starting to get some high quality Brigade level commanders.

s bakker,

Don't worry I don't feel sniped at, I am happy to be kept honest. Boy if you think I would get cranky at that you must think I'm really touchy, then again going by some other threads..... smile.gif Let's hope we can keep this thread robust but polite. Anyway the 2pdrs I mentioned were towed truck or Bren carrier I think. 25pdrs were also used in the AT role at this time and not always with the AP ammo, a hit from HE could often knock out an early PzIII of IV.


"Heaven sent and hell bent

Over the mountain tops we go

Just like all the other GI Joes

EE-AY-EE-AY adios!"

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Meyer didn´t start off the Normandy campaign as divisional commander. However, I forget why he got promoted (I´m away from sources)!

There were some comments about what makes a good general, and I suppose my criteria is one that can take the objective, or deny the enemy the objective. A reasonable amount of higher casualties are acceptable to my thinking because if you take (let´s say)120 casualties taking town "X" that´s better than taking 100 and not getting past the Start Line.

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