I haven't found any consistent reference to a particular battle wherein the battle plans were changed by a lower level officer on the ground at the last minute. Specifically, a major battle plan, not a 24 hour ancillary skirmish. Part of my hypothesis for the lack of good examples of this, as I'm sure it did happen, is that the managing generals, chief staff and White House took credit for adaptable and effective last minute planning and the lieutenants were silent.

Is this the case? Were in fact any major plans changed on the ground at the brink of battle by those closest to it?

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    "No plan survives contact with the enemy" - von Moltke
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 15:31
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    @Ron Are you looking for only American battle plans? Is that what you mean by White House? Good question. +1
    – Luke_0
    Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 17:28
  • Answered with a Corps commander changing plans. Did you want something changed by an ACTUAL Lieutenant or is a Corps commander making a change not envisioned by Army or Army Group command sufficient? If you're looking for any example below FDR in the White House and General Marshall, then EVERY battle would probably fit. Very few battles were planned at the Theatre level (Eisenhower for ETO, for example) Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 17:34
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    El Alamein, see my edit @T.E.D. Actually the incapacaty of Von Molkte to follow the Schlieffen plan was a reason for failure Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 18:05
  • Has the White House ever taken credit for a battle plan? Appears to be based on a false premise (or multiple false premises') Arguably, Congress establish Northern battle plans during the Civil War, which is one of the reasons it was such a bloody dumpster fire. Concur with @T.E.D, the answer is the universal set of battle plans. All non-trivial battle plans are changed.
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 22, 2021 at 18:22

3 Answers 3


One good example of a major plan being modified during a campaign is the exploitation conducted by Task Force Butler during Operation Dragoon (68th anniversary today!)

VI Corps commander, MG Lucian Truscott took elements from various units and put them into a fast-moving task force, led by BG Fred Butler (his Asst Corps Commander). They raced 235 miles through mountainous terrain in an attempt to cut off retreating German forces.

Great article on it can be found here: http://117th-cav.org/Task%20Force%20Butler.pdf

The blog entries I've written about the Operation in general can be found here: http://habap.wordpress.com/category/operation-dragoon/

(I'm working on an article about the battle at Montelimar for the blog, so expect more on Task Force Butler in the coming months.)

  • Wow. Love the paper (even if I don't have time to read it all right now). I always thought that Dragoon (the action in the south of France) was more like a redeployment of units from Italy into Europe where they could march to the front and be more of use, not an actual full blown invasion. Nifty.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 19:27
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    Yes, three veteran US divisions landed along the Mediterranean coastline, encountering sometimes very stiff resistance and other times not as much. Audie Murphy was awarded the DSC for actions shortly after he landed with B/1/15 of the 3rd ID. Anyone who thinks it was a cakewalk hasn't read his citation. TF Butler and units of the 36th ID tried to cut off the retreating 19th Army Group, which included the 11th SS Panzer Division, 198th & 338th IDs and a variety of other units - basically 110,000 men and vehicles - at Montelimar. Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 20:37
  • If you're interested, I blog about it a little and could point you there. Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 20:38
  • That would be nice. You might even consider linking that in your answer. I guess this is what I get for taking most of my WWII info from British sources...
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 20:52
  • British paratroopers were involved, including a controversy about their orders, and pulled out after about 10 days, ending up over in Greece. Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 21:08

The Dragoon operation in the South of France in 1944 shows also, besides the Butler Task Force, many adaptations of the 1rst Free French Army when it was going north along American forces. These were not about modifications, but rather about adaptations.

In the same manner, stands for example the Midway battle where it was to Admiral Nagumi, commanding on the battlefield, to ultimately decides what and when he would attack.


There is another major example: The Second (Third) Battle of El Alamein was planned by Montgomery and was supposed to be breakthrough. The initial failure to break led Monty to direct Australian units towards the North, until the Axis was so tired that he could try again his breakthrough: Supercharge


I dont know if this goes directly to your question but Guderian and Rommel certainly ignored orders from higher up when they were in the midst of a campaign and battle. Hitler told Guderian to stop the advance into France well short of where he did.

  • and later surrendered Stalingrad in direct opposition to Hitler's orders to fight to the last man.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 8:02
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    @jwenting Are you sure it was Guderian to surrender Stalingrad? I think it was von Paulus, while Guderian was responsible of breaking the encirclement.
    – astabada
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 9:08
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    @user1833 Again, please cite sources and help us improve the quality of the site.
    – astabada
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 9:08
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    @astabada was referring to German troops in general, not a single person. It was indeed Paulus who surrendered Stalingrad, Guderian was fired at Christmas 1941 over the failure to capture Moscow, not involved in the Stalingrad campaign (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guderian,_Heinz about halfway through).
    – jwenting
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 15:05
  • @jwenting I stand corrected.
    – astabada
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 15:49

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