General Lloyd Fredendall
December 28, 1883|
|Died||October 4, 1963
San Diego, California
|Buried at||Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1907 - 1946|
|Commands held||57th Infantry Regiment
4th Infantry Division
Second United States Army
Central Defense Command
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Lloyd Fredendall (December 28, 1883 - October 4, 1963) was an American General during World War II. Major General Fredendall is best known for his command of the Central Task Force landings during Operation Torch, and his command of the US II Corps during the early stages of the Tunisia Campaign. In February 1943, while in command of II Corps, his forces were defeated by forces commanded by German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen von Arnim in the Battle of Kasserine Pass. After this setback, Fredendall was relieved from command of II Corps by Dwight D. Eisenhower and replaced by George S. Patton in March 1943. In spite of his relief, Fredendall was promoted to Lieutenant General in June 1943, assumed command of U.S. Second Army and was greeted back home as a hero.
Lloyd Ralston Fredendall was born on December 28, 1883, at Fort Warren near Cheyenne, Wyoming. His father, Ira Livingston Fredendall (December 7, 1846-February 6, 1935) was on active duty in the U.S. Army when Lloyd was born. Ira became sheriff of the town of Laramie before receiving a commission in the Quartermaster Corps during the Spanish-American War. As a result of his father's connections in the service and with local and state politicians, Fredendall secured an appointment from Wyoming Senator Francis E. Warren to enter the class of 1905 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Fredendall's mother Eveline (Evelyn) McKussick (August 19, 1860-October 1930), a domineering woman, accompanied the newly-listed plebe to Highland Falls, New York. Described by a classmate as "a very soldierly little fellow, but extremely goaty in mathematics," Lloyd performed poorly in the latter subject as well as general deportment, and as a result was dismissed from the Academy after just one semester.
His mother successfully persuaded Sen. Warren to appoint him the next year, but he dropped out again. Although the senator was still willing to nominate him for a third attempt, this time the senator's offer was declined by the Academy. Undaunted, Fredendall took the officer's qualifying exam in 1906 while attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, scoring first out of 70 applicants. On February 13, 1907, Fredendall received his commission in the Regular Army as a second lieutenant in the infantry.
After service in the Philippines and other overseas and stateside assignments, Fredendall shipped out to France with the 28th Infantry Regiment in August 1917, where he held a succession of assignments in the Army's overseas schools. He soon built a record as an excellent teacher, trainer and administrator of troops, ending the war as a temporary lieutenant colonel. However, as with other officers who later became prominent in World War II, such as Marshall, Eisenhower, Bradley, and McNair, Fredendall never actually led troops in combat against enemy opposition.
The end of World War I saw Fredendall assigned, like many other Army officers, to a variety of staff and training duties. He was both instructor and student at the Infantry School, was a 1923 distinguished graduate (placing 31 out of 151) of the Command and General Staff School (CGSS), and in 1927, he attended the Army War College (1925). He also completed tours of duty in Washington at the Statistics Branch, the Inspector General's Department and as Executive Officer, Office of the Chief of Infantry. These postings led to important contacts that later greatly affected his career.
In December 1939, Fredendall was promoted to Brigadier General, serving with the 5th Infantry Division. In October 1940, he was promoted to Major General, commanding the 4th Infantry Division from that date until July 1941.
Fredendall's rise to military command in World War II was facilitated by General George C. Marshall, as well as General Leslie McNair, a friend and colleague. McNair had included Fredendall on a list of the top three generals he believed capable of commanding all U.S. Army forces being sent to Great Britain. Marshall in turn had recommended the swaggering Fredendall to General Dwight D. Eisenhower for a major command in the American invasion of North Africa during Operation Torch. Marshall was especially fond of the youthful-looking, cocky Fredendall, describing him as "one of the best" and remarking in a staff meeting when his name was mentioned, "I like that man; you can see determination all over his face." Fredendall himself was convinced that neither Eisenhower or Mark Clark wanted him in Africa since he outranked both in pre-war rank. However, with such glowing testimonials from senior commanders, Eisenhower chose Fredendall to command the 39,000-man Central Task Force (the largest of three) in Operation Torch. Eisenhower cabled Marshall on November 12, 1942, “I bless the day you urged Fredendall upon me and cheerfully acknowledge that my earlier doubts of him were completely unfounded.” Eisenhower, in notes dictated to Harry C. Butcher on December 12, 1942, said, “…Patton I think comes closest to meeting every requirement made on a commander. Just after him I would, at present, rate Fredendall, although I do not believe the latter has the imagination in foreseeing and preparing for possible jobs of the future that Patton possesses.” Eisenhower later came to regret this assessment and choosing Fredendall for command.
Fredendall was once described by American General Lucian K. Truscott as,
Small in stature, loud and rough in speech, he was outspoken in his opinions and critical of superiors and subordinates alike. He was inclined to jump to conclusions which were not always well founded. Fredendall rarely left his command post for personal visits and reconnaissance, yet he was impatient with the recommendations of subordinates more familiar with the terrain and other conditions than he.
After the Torch landings (Fredendall stayed on his command ship, HMS Largs until after fighting was over), Fredendall became the de facto military governor in Oran. Orders from his headquarters in the Grand Hotel of Oran were headed with “II Corps – In the Field” which prompted laughter from his troops living in tents and slit trenches.
Fredendall was assigned to command the U.S. Army's II Corps in its advance into Tunisia against German forces. As such, he was the second oldest corps commander (of 34 who served as corps commanders) to serve in the U.S. Army in World War II (only Innis P. Swift, First Corps commander in the Pacific, was older). His British commander, Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson, considered Fredendall incompetent well prior to the loss at Kasserine. Fredendall was given to speaking and issuing orders using his own slang, such as calling infantry units "walking boys" or artillery "popguns." Instead of using the standard military map grid-based location designators, he made up confusing codes such as "the place that begins with C." This practice was unheard-of for a general and distinguished graduate of the Command and General Staff School, who had been taught to always use standardized order procedures to ensure clarity when transmitting orders to subordinate commanders under the stress of combat. Fredendall's informality often led to confusion amongst his subordinates, and precious time was lost attempting to figure out his meaning.
During the advance into Tunisia, Fredendall used an entire engineer company of the 19th Engineer Regiment to build him a large, dug-in Corps headquarters bunker 70 miles (110 km) behind the front in a place called Speedy Valley (nine miles southeast of Tébessa). Blasted and drilled out of solid rock, the bunker (actually two U-shaped complexes running 160 feet (49 m) into the hillside) took three weeks to construct. An entire anti-aircraft battalion was emplaced to protect the headquarters. Fredendall also ordered a bulletproof Cadillac similar to Eisenhower’s, and regularly phoned Oran to find out why it wasn’t being delivered faster. General Omar N. Bradley called the headquarters "an embarrassment to every American soldier," and General Eisenhower, after viewing the elaborate structure, reminded his senior commanders that even generals must assume personal risk in combat. Fredendall rarely visited the front lines, and had a habit of disregarding advice from commanders who had been farther forward and had actually reconnoitered the terrain. He split up units and scattered them widely, and at critical defense points had positioned (against advice) U.S. Army forces too far apart for mutual support or effective employment of artillery, the strongest American arm.
During the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, General Ernest Harmon was sent by Eisenhower to report on the fighting, to assist Fredendall and the other Allied commanders, and to determine if Fredendall or his 1st Armored Division commander, Orlando Ward, should be replaced. Harmon thus had the opportunity to observe Fredendall in action as commander of the US Army's II Corps, as well as his superior, the British General Kenneth Anderson. Harmon noticed that the two generals rarely saw each other, and failed to properly coordinate and integrate forces under their command. Fredendall was barely on speaking terms with General Ward, whom he had deliberately left out of operational meetings after Ward had repeatedly protested the separation of his command into weaker 'penny packet' forces distributed across various sectors of the front.
Allied forces were bereft of air support during critical attacks, and were frequently positioned by the senior command in positions where they could not offer mutual support to each other. Subordinates later recalled their utter confusion at being handed conflicting orders, not knowing which general to obey - Anderson, or Fredendall. While interviewing field commanders, Harmon received an earful of criticism over what many Allied officers viewed as a cowardly, confused, and out-of-touch command. Noting that Fredendall seemed out-of-touch (and at one point, intoxicated), he requested and received permission to go to the front and intervene where necessary to shore up Allied defenses.
On 5 March 1943, after the American rout at Kasserine Pass, Eisenhower visited II Corps headquarters and conferred with Bradley. Eisenhower asked "What do you think of the command here?" Bradley's response was "It's pretty bad. I've talked to all the division commanders. To a man they've lost confidence in Fredendall as the corps commander." The British general Harold Alexander informed Eisenhower that he would welcome a replacement for Fredendall. On 5 March 1943, Eisenhower personally flew to Tebessa to inform Fredendall of his decision to replace him, which he couched in terms of a routine assignment. Eisenhower arranged the replacement so that Fredendall's reputation was not formally brought into disrepute, an action some believe he soon came to regret. On 6 March 1943, at Eisenhower's direction, George S. Patton replaced Fredendall as commander of II Corps. When Patton arrived at II Corps headquarters, Fredendall was at breakfast. Patton had disliked Fredendall in 1941 when they were both division commanders at Fort Benning. After a brief conference, Patton formally relieved Fredendall saying II Corps "was primarily a tank show and I know more about tanks." Patton noted in his diary that Fredendall was “Very nice, conducted himself well – very well.” In a letter to his wife Beatrice that day, Patton even wrote that “Fredendall is a great sport, and I feel sure, is a victim largely due to circumstances beyond his control.” However, only a week later, after an initial inspection of his new command, Patton had completely changed his mind: "I cannot see what Fredendall did to justify his existence."
Fredendall was the first of seven American corps commanders in World War II to be “relieved of command” (most for medical reasons) but despite this, he received one more promotion in rank: in June 1943, he was promoted to Lieutenant General.
At Eisenhower's recommendation, Fredendall returned to the United States. Eisenhower's aide made a report on Fredendall to President Roosevelt, where he communicated, without elaboration, Eisenhower's view that Fredendall be reassigned to a training command. As a result, Fredendall spent the rest of the war in training assignments in the United States. Because he had not been formally relieved of command or demoted in grade by Eisenhower, he was eligible for promotion to Lieutenant-General, which he duly received, along with a hero's welcome on his return.
While commanding the Central Defense Command and the U.S. Second Army at Memphis, Tennessee, Fredendall supervised training and field maneuvers, gave away brides, and at first even granted interviews to members of the press. However, after a sarcastic comment on his generalship abilities by a Time magazine reporter, Fredendall changed his mind, and largely blocked further press coverage of his command. The widespread custom of theater commanders to transfer senior commanders who had failed in battlefield assignments to stateside training commands did not in any way improve the reputation or morale of the latter, who were now saddled with the difficult job of convincing a disgraced commander to take the lead in advocating radical improvements in existing Army training programs - programs which, like Fredendall himself, had contributed to the embarrassing U.S. Army reverses in North Africa.
Author Charles MacDonald described Fredendall as a "man of bombast and bravado in speech and manner [who] failed to live up to the image he tried to create." The American historian (and retired Army officer) Carlo D'Este has described Fredendall as "...one of the most inept senior officers to hold a high command during World War II." 2nd Armored Division commander Ernest Harmon, in his after-action report for the Kasserine battles, called Fredendall "a son of a bitch" and later said he was both a moral and physical coward.
Lloyd Fredendall died in San Diego, California on October 4, 1963. He is interred at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery Officers Sections, Site 52-A, along with his wife Crystal Chant Fredendall (July 23, 1890-April 30, 1972).
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