Often, wars are won not by the troops themselves or their equipment, but
by the generals. A comparison of two generals, one Allied, Omar Bradley, and one Axis, Walter Model, will show that the quality
of the Axis generals versus that of the Allied was likely not a contributing factor in the Axis defeat.
Bradley was born in 1893 in Missouri. He would have served in
the infantry in the 1st World War, had the Spanish Influenza and the armistice not happened first.
of Bradley’s first battles were in Tunisia, when he took over command of Patton’s II Corps, leading some of the
final battles. Next, he directed the American assault on D-Day. His first test of his own battlefield planning occurred in
June of 1944, when he planned Operation Cobra.
Operation Cobra was a plan to break out of the confinement
that the Germans had set after the initial success at the Normandy beaches. Cobra perhaps was not as aggressive as some would
have liked, general George Patton noting that "Cobra is really a very timid operation…[but] it is the best operation
which had been planned so far, and I hope it works."
His plan to use infantry
assaults combined with heavy bombing worked, creating a local breakthrough. By expanding the attack, he was able to break
entirely out of Normandy. This success, however, would be marred by his failures at the Battle of the Bulge. Bradley failed
to notice the large buildup of troops in the Ardennes, and quite possibly could have lost the war, had the German army not
been so exhausted.
Bradley, however, had a productive relationship with George Patton, channeling
Patton’s explosive tendencies toward an Allied victory.
Walter Model was born in 1891. He served in the First World War as lieutenant in the infantry.
During the inter-war period, he rose in rank to major general of the army, as Hitler rearmed Germany and expanded the army.
Model , during the invasion of Poland and the Battle of France, was the chief of staff of the 16th army. This lead
to his promotion to the position of lieutenant general. Immediately after his promotion, he began a combined arms training
program, reorganizing the 3rd Panzer Division completely.
In his new system, all troops
would train with all the other kinds. Recon units, engineers, tankers, and infantrymen would all train together, learning
to better work with each other. This innovation precedes the more common use of combined arms tactics by a few years.
Through Model’s changes and his ignoring of formality, the troops in his army admired him, believing
him to be able to relate to the common soldier’s exasperation with formality and command.
attitude towards authority sometimes bothered his superiors. When he was assigned to the Eastern Front to fight the Soviets,
the generals there asked him what he had brought to accomplish his seemingly impossible plan. Model laughed and said, “Myself!”
This cockiness was backed up by his skill and his ingenuity. After being assigned to the Eastern
Front, he promptly abandoned the traditional German tactic of creating strong outposts instead of maintaining a thin, continuous
line. His tactics were extremely successful, keeping the Soviets at bay, despite the huge losses the German army had incurred
in previous, failed attacks.
He would later command the forces in the Ardennes at the Battle of
the Bulge. Model knew the operation was doomed because the Nazis were short on everything except false confidence from Hitler.
The Nazis had not enough tanks, fuel, ammunition, men, or food for such an operation.
Comparison of Generalship:
Relationship With the Common Soldier: Tie
was known as the Soldier’s General, because of his gentleness. Model was popular among his men because of the way he
could exasperate his superior officers. The two generals, although winning their men’s respect in different ways, tie
in this regard.
Relationship With Other Officers: Bradley
was well respected and liked by the other generals around him. He was an all-around civil person, not making ever too great
a disturbance. His ability to deal with George Patton, in fact, was one of the reasons why the Allied advance took so little
Model’s officers despised him. He would often change plans with little
notice, swear abusively, and publicly criticize them.
Bradley’s operation Cobra was rather small-scale to begin
with. Additionally, he failed to deal with the troop buildup before the Battle of the Bulge. He was successful more because
of his ability to deal with Patton that for his own tactical genius.
combined arms and held the Eastern Front when no one else could. He led many successful retreats. Although he is criticized
for never having lead a successful attack, he came into the war after it was too late for major attacks to be made.
Bradley, being too timid,
failed to close the Falaise Gap. Being too lax, he failed to stop the incipient Battle of the Bulge.
while never actually attacking, had to aggressively drive his men in order to successfully avoid total defeat. He would allow
certain divisions to get completely destroyed if it served his ends as a pragmatist. His aggressive commanding probably led
to many more American casualties.
Walter Model is the better general by a slight margin. Bradley’s ability to work
with his officers is a huge advantage over Model’s ineptness, Model’s aggressiveness and innovation more than
make up for it. Thus, generalship may not be the cause of the Axis defeat; perhaps the defeat had more to do with economics,
Hitler’s bungling, and the hatred sowed by the SS troops.
1. “Translation of Go2War,
Walter Model,” World War 2 Information Foundation, 2002.
“World War 2 Database, Walter Model” http://ww2db.com/person_bio.php?person_id=37
3. A Short History of Germany
1815 - 1945 E.J Passant Printed in Great Britain Uni. Press, Cambridge 1st Edition 1959
4. “Omar Bradley”, 2003 http://www.historynet.com/omar-bradley-the-generals-general.htm/3
5. “Brad, the GI’s