From: Colchester, UK
Since Patton has been discussed to death recently - and usually incites strong opinions I thought I'd start a discussion on ............................ Who were the best Allied Commanders of WW2?
I'm excluding Patton, not because he doesn't qualify but for the reasons given above.
Anyway, my candidate is General 'Bill' Slim, commander of the 'forgotten' 14th Army. I'm cutting and pasting from another site because the author sums Slim's qualities up almost perfectly.
From - http://22.214.171.124/papers/amsc1/040.html
"Slim’s and Fourteenth Army’s successes were part of an overall Allied strategic plan for victory in Burma. In examining the operational reasons for success, we will also touch on some aspects outside of Fourteenth Army.
The operational reasons for success can be grouped as follows:
* Strategic direction;
* Sustainment; and
Strategic Direction. The British and their Allies had learned from their disasters in Burma and elsewhere that an effective campaign could only be conducted if there was adequate guidance for the commanders on the ground. By this time in the war, the Allies had developed a strategy for defeating their enemies, and had put in place an effective command and control organization to implement this direction.
In Burma, "[t]he first step towards ultimate victory ... was the setting up of a supreme command controlling all Allied forces, land, sea, and air, in the area." Mountbatten was made the Supreme Commander in South-East Asia and he was able to meld the strengths and weaknesses of the British, Chinese, and Americans into an effective warfighting organization. Mountbatten was also able to overcome the clash of personalities that occurred amongst his strong willed commanders, especially Stilwell and Chiang Kai-shek. Under his guidance and direction, Slim and the other commanders in Burma demonstrated proficiency in the operational art by taking his strategic direction and turning it into sound tactical operations to defeat the Japanese.
Preparation. Slim had gone to great lengths to ensure that his forces were better trained, better disciplined, and better led than were the Japanese. He had impressed upon his subordinates the importance of taking "... a balanced view of [the Japanese] as a formidable fighting man, who nevertheless had certain weaknesses, and of [themselves] as being able with training to beat [the Japanese] at his own, or any other game,...." Slim thought his divisions the best in the world. "They would go anywhere, do anything, go on doing it, and do it on very little." As well, Slim and the Army had learned from the Japanese that it was not necessarily massive numbers of soldiers and equipment that counted, but training and morale.
Sustainment. The Army, under Slim’s direction and Snelling’s execution, dramatically changed the way it sustained itself, from an Army that relied heavily on road transport, at the expense of mobility, to one that could move anywhere and move quickly using limited wheeled transportation, pack animals, air transport and their own feet. "[They] discovered that, instead of the four hundred tons a day not considered excessive to keep a division fighting in more generous theatres, [they] could maintain [their] Indian divisions in action for long periods, without loss of battle efficiency or morale, on one hundred and twenty." This massive reduction in sustainment requirements reduced the numbers of vehicles on the roads and tracks used by the army. It also improved the Army’s ability to move quickly.
Slim had realized that to be successful operationally and tactically, he would have to ensure his operational sustainment. His recognition of this aspect was echoed by John English in his essay on "The Operational Art: Developments in the Theories of War", where he stated that "...it is indeed these dimensions as much as sweeping battlefield maneuvers that characterize the operational art...." Slim’s Army perfected the aerial resupply concepts and the procedures for support supplied by the air force. Whether it was normal resupply to forward air fields or an emergency resupply to an encircled force, the techniques they discovered by trail and error would later pass into general use in the remainder of the British forces.
Generalship. The formations in Burma were required to fight over large distances often beyond support of one another. Slim had to have absolute confidence in his Generals and they in him. As Slim stated:
My corps and divisions were called upon to act with at least as much freedom as armies and corps in other theatres. Commanders at all levels had to act more on their own; they were given greater latitude to work out their own plans to achieve what they knew was the Army commander’s intention. In time, they developed to a marked degree a flexibility of mind and a firmness of decision that enabled them to act swiftly to take advantage of sudden information or changing circumstances without reference from their superiors.
Slim felt that "[t]his acting without orders, in anticipation of orders, or without waiting for approval, yet always within the overall intention, must become second nature in any form of warfare where formations do not fight closely en cadre, and must go down to the smallest units." He chose "...competent, experienced commanders capable of making high-quality decisions in complex, volatile, ill-defined situations." He took great effort to "...ensure the right people [were] in the right place at the right time to make critical decisions and lead their forces through the fog of war."
What the Fourteenth Army had accomplished in Burma was based on the Army’s abilities. It was also based on Slim’s personal abilities as General. Slim was considered a general of administrative genius, a brilliant defensive general, and an offensive commander in the same class as General Patton. Slim was a soldier who today would be called a transformational leader. He had the ability to inspire his soldiers to excel in their performance. He was a role model. He was admired and respected by his subordinates, peers, and superiors. He motivated and challenged his subordinates and was instrumental in improving their morale. Slim told his soldiers what he expected from them and they in turn did it. They used their imagination and ingenuity to overcome hardships and deprivations. Slim knew that his Army was made up of many different nationalities and races. He accepted this and built his Army on the strengths of this diversity.
By way of illustration, in May of 1945, it looked like Slim was going to be sacked by his superior, General Sir Oliver Leese. "Over the next two weeks, as news spread throughout Fourteenth Army, a storm of protest erupted. Troops became mutinous, officers threatened to resign, and Leese, who backtracked in embarrassment, found himself dismissed instead."
The success of the campaign in Burma was the result of a lot of hard work by all members of the Allied Forces, by good operational leadership, and good generalship. Slim had entered the theatre when all seemed lost. He had managed to conduct an effective withdrawal and save a large part of the British Forces. He was instrumental in re-building the Army and in commanding it successfully and defeating the Japanese. Slim’s success was based on his ability to recognize failure and then to implement measures to overcome the failure as well as his personal attributes as a transformational leader.
In August 1945, Slim was appointed Commander-in-Chief Allied Land Forces South East Asia. He was then appointed Commandant of the Imperial Defence College in 1946 and Chief of the Imperial General Staff in 1948 and subsequently promoted to Field-Marshal. In May 1953, he was sworn in as Governor-General of Australia. He was made a member of the aristocracy in 1960 and died in 1970 at the age of 79."
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