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SpartanNigel

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  1. This question, who is the best commander of the Second World War?, brings up many possible answers, due to the variety of roles that many commanders chose for themselves or had thrust on them by circumstance. We could give all commanders 'points' for their final rank, although that doesn't amount to much when considered across all nations, and has some problems as a classification when politics and favouritism were involved in more than a few cases. We could consider the battles 'won' and the battles 'lost' count of each candidate, but without including some thought of the grand strategies, logistics and intelligence above the pay grade of the generals in question, and the fact that skilled defensive commanders in particular (good example Gotthard Heinrici) might 'lose' practically every battle, but do it in a 'better' way than anyone else could have. Another example - Operation Dynamo - Dunkirk - Probably the best of the quickly organised British operations of the war, but still a defeat. Whether or not a commander's men liked him, followed him and did more for him than they might have for another General could be a consideration, but, the perception of that reality was very much skewed during ww2 and after by newsreels and similar. It is hard to say that Giovanni Messe was not the best Italian military commander of the war, but he never got the same reputation among his men as Italo Gariboldi, who managed to take his army all the way to essentially complete destruction at Stalingrad, despite their not wanting to be there or there being equipped or trained adequately for the job. Manstein and Zhukov were without a doubt the most skilled at moving large forces around the map effectively, while Eisenhower was probably the best at making different elements of a military force work together, including dealing with the politicians. In my view the 'financial' and human cost of what a commander achieved should rate highly. When you consider the achievements against the resources available, coupled with the technical skill, command presence, versatility , lack of political agenda and general respect from his own men and enemies alike, there are few candidates who compare to Albert Kesselring. He was an artillery officer who transitioned to the air theatre, bringing by ww2 an understanding of the use of close air support that developed tactics which almost uniquely lasted from early Barbarossa until the end of the war. He took his talents to the Mediterranean where he had to balance multinational air, sea and land forces, which he excelled at, then he was left practically unsupported, to conduct the defence of Italy, which few would disagree with being one of the most effective defence campaigns ever, even though he had almost no resources. Many other commanders had flair, skill, luck or dogged competence, but Kesselring had pretty much every quality that could be said to be good in a commander, and he achieved results beyond reasonable expectations, for years.
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