This is kind of what’s called a “gravedig” on online forums, but I believe relevant since Indy and Sparty asked the question during the livestream, who do we think was the Cadorna or Hötzendorf of WW II.
To go off on a tangent first:
To Stalin’s credit (and I really dislike saying that) he did realize pretty early on in the Nazi-Soviet war (1941-1945) that they needed big changes and quickly, sidelining Budyonny and Kulik. And despite massive losses they did manage to turn things around (though they could have won that war with less than half the casualties they eventually ended up suffering had they not been so staggeringly incompetent and malicious).
Let’s not forget Lev Mekhlis either. And to a lesser degree men like Voroshilov who were also Stalin flunkies.
The Soviets ended the war with the largest tank army in the world, with arguably the best artillery, best ground attack aircraft and some of the best rifles, so they did manage to turn it around, unlike Nazi Germany.
Had Tukhachevsky been allowed to build the army like he wanted, Nazi Germany (which was hilariously unprepared for a long drawn out war) would never have gotten much further than the Minsk-Kiev line. Nazi Germany was pretty much the last of the major players to go on “total war” footing since Hitler kept insisting civilian production be maintained for morale reasons, and by then it was already too late for them.
I dare say that Nazi rule was at least as incompetent and perhaps even more so as Soviet rule was. Only because it had a better prepared army in the beginning did it make the progress it did. But once Germany pretty much ran out of oil the game was up. By 1944 food shortages in German occupied Europe were increasing, energy was only available in limited quantities and they had severe manpower shortages.
Back to the Cadorna/Hötzendorf thing:
I think it’s difficult to really point at people who could be considered WW II equivalents of the level of incompetence and stubbornness that Cadorna and Hötzendorf displayed in the Great War.
Most of the incompetents were not allowed to stick around as long as Cadorna and Hötzendorf did. None of them were allowed to fail over and over and over again for years on end. And none of them are considered military geniuses of strategy today as some have puzzlingly referred to Hötzendorf after the Great War…
The French had Gamelin and Weygand but those were out of the picture by the summer of 1940.
Huntziger was part of Vichy’s administration after the French defeat but led no further armies.
Britain: Percival, who panicked and withdrew to Singapore when it wasn’t necessary and let Yamashita bluff him into surrender (Yamashita could not have taken Singapore without Percival being fooled by the bluff). Percival spent the rest of the war as PoW.
Soviet Union: the previously mentioned Budyonny, who after 1941 was effectively relegated to minor theatres of war.
Dmitry Pavlov who squandered his forces in direct frontal attacks that all led to disaster. He was executed in 1941 on Stalin’s orders but he was supremely incompetent, even in carrying out Stalin’s orders.
Lev Mekhlis who as commissar was responsible for several disastrous campaigns of the Crimean Front. When Mekhlis tried to blame the military commander, Stalin relieved and demoted Mekhlis instead.
Grigory Kulik who disdained modern weapons, and might well have been one of the most incompetent of them all. Almost directly responsible for the collapse of the armies of the Leningrad Front, condemning the city to a 1,000 day siege. He was shot in 1947 in a post war purge.
US: Lloyd Fredendall who was humilitated by the Germans at the Kasserine battle. He was famously replaced by Patton. Not heard from again in terms of command.
General Jay MacKelvie commanded the 90th infantry division during Overlord. He was found cowering in a ditch and was relieved of command after five days because his lack of leadership led to a casualty rate over 100%
Bill Rupertus commanded the 1st Marines during the battle for Peleliu in the Pacific. He’d been so confident of victory in a matter of days that he didn’t bother bringing supplies in case the campaign would last longer.
1st Marines were pulled out after 30 days and were so badly mauled they were unable to resume fighting for the next 6 months. Rupertus was relieved and he died a few weeks later when the battle for Peleliu was still not over.
Italy: general Sebastiano Prasca (military governor of Albania in 1940) who had boasted to Mussolini that his forces could overrun Greece in a matter of weeks. That didn’t quite work out as planned. However, Prasca had an interesting career despite being relieved of command two weeks into the Greek campaign. He was part of the anti Mussolini resistance, captured in 1943, sentenced to death but sent to jail in Germany instead. He escaped and fought with the Red Army in the battle of Berlin.
Rodolfo Graziani who was hilariously out of his depth when attacking Egypt in 1940, allowing a much smaller British force to rout his army. Infamously, Graziani was the only Italian marshal who stuck with Mussolini to the end.
Germany: Ernst Busch comes to mind. He was in charge of Army Group Center from the spring of 1943 onwards. Even when you factor in Hitler’s insane orders, Busch could have saved a part of Army Group Center, but chose not to, and let it be effectively destroyed between June and August 1944.
In a sense you could add Friedrich Paulus. Paulus, who replaced the dead Reichenau in early 1942 was an effective army manager as long as the Germans were advancing and things were going relatively well. Once his 6th Army started to get into trouble he was out of his depth and often paralyzed in his decision making, if he made decisions at all. Paulus went into captivity rather than to commit the suicide Hitler wanted out of him. In effect, Paulus was an example of the Peter principle, promoted beyond his competence.
This list is by no means complete, but are the first names I can think of.
** Aug 24, I’ve added in 2 American and 1 German general. Again, no equivalents of Cadorna/Hötzendorf.