Miwa Sakimori from Daimos is this, and a General Ripper. He mostly hides behind his soldiers, or Daimos itself from danger. And when opportunity presents, he'll show his extreme racist tendencies by shooting actually harmless Brahmins. And all that's in his mind is... well, you guessed it, promotions.
Archer in the 2003 anime version fits the trope pretty well too. Incidentally, the anime version of Grand isn't exactly the most lovable commander himself.
Ax Hand Morgan from One Piece. Gives Luffy an extra reason to kick some ass. You even find out later the only reason he was promoted to a position of authority was because of Kuro's Batman Gambit which involved hypnotizing Morgan and everyone else into thinking he captured the notorious Captain Kuro. Also, Spandam can be considered one.
General Colbert from Tekkaman Blade is also a real piece of work. Much like Miwa, he too is a racist (so much so he works with Murata Azrael in Super Robot Wars Judgment), treats The Hero like a traitorous piece of filth even though he's the most effective means of defeating the Radam. Add in the fact he's also a pretty shameless General Ripper as well, and you've got a total asshole of a Neidermeyer as a result.
In the Golden AgeMAD feature "Sheik of Araby!", Sergeant Guillotine disciplines his troops with Comedic Sociopathy and forces them to keep fighting when they get wounded:
Soldat: Serjeant! I 'ave a bullet hole between mine eyes! May I seek le first aid? Sergeant Guillotine: Slackair! Eet ees a superficial wound! Back to ze fight!
Perhaps not surprisingly, an issue of Garth Ennis's Preacher features two examples of these. One is an incompetent lieutenant who gets a VietCong bullet when he's dumb enough to wear his officer's stripes bars while on patrol, and the other is a jerkass sergeant who Jesse's father and Spaceman kill after he gets one of their friends killed.
Major Magnam from the Rogue Trooper story of the same name; his domineering, arrogant personality and contempt for regular soldiers leads to a Souther squad being slaughtered when they try to take a very well-fortified Nort installation. Rogue ends up sticking his biochip into a special containment device and keeping the gun on which it had been stored.
In the original Creature Commandos stories, Lt. Matthew Shrieve is a lot like this, though he's very much a competent soldier. He's often cruel towards the "monsters" under his authority, whom he finds disgusting; the feeling is all too mutual.
Lt. Gorman in Aliens certainly qualifies for this, due to his relative inexperience, General Failure at managing the alien attack, rear echelon tactics and the resulting lack of respect from his troops. However this is subverted later in the story in that he tries to apologise for being a bad officer, has no trouble submitting command to a more experienced and competent subordinate and shows great personal bravery, even attempting to save the marine who despised him the most.
Corporal Himmelstoss from All Quiet on the Western Front. He bullied the squad the movie focused on, and was relocated to WW1's front lines after "nearly killing a squad of rookies on the muddy field". He doesn't learn any Aesops, though - he just dies. The squad even ambushes him, puts a sack over his head, and beats him bloody in the original book. Also in the movie(s). Himmelstoss later is transferred to the front himself, after maltreating a recruit whose father turned out to have too much influence. He at first performs badly and chickens out of a charge, much to Paul Bäumer's disgust, but when an officer orders him to advance, Himmelstoss charges wildly. (In the second movie version he then is decorated for bravery and receives an Iron Cross from Kaiser Wilhelm himself.) In the novel he makes up with his former victims and while acting as substitute company cook sees to it they get good food (chapter 7).
Captain Ramsey in Crimson Tide is an enormous jerk to his entire crew aboard the SSBN under his command. When informed by his XO, Lt. Commander Hunter that crew morale is low and that they might need some words of encouragement from their beloved captain, Ramsey takes the opportunity to chew them all out over the intercom for being lazy and feckless. Later, Ramsey goes into full blown General Ripper mode when he is convinced that his orders to fire the missiles has not been countermanded, despite a cutoff in communications right when the counter-order is sent. He is even ready to start shooting officers when most of the crew mutinies to avert a nuclear apocalypse.
Lt Marty Pascal, the executive officer of the submarine Stingray, gets his comeuppance when he tries to mutiny against Dodge and no one will stand with him. Dodge and the crew dress as pirates, blindfold him, and force him to Walk the Plank - right into the net of a fishing ship that takes him back to base. He thought they were actually going to kill him, though.
Rear Admiral Graham counts too. He is only concerned with his career and his idea for what the US Navy should be like. He specifically gives Dodge a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits crew he personally selected, all of them rejects from his "perfect Navy" (although one of them is put on the Stingray because he's too good at his job). He pulls rank on the commander of the Orlando and then orders Knox's men around like a bunch of recruits, smugly claiming that "the Admiral has the con". He's also a Straw Hypocrite, as he himself cheats his way through war games in order to improve his standing but feels completely justified in that (even though the whole point of this particular exercise is to explore the potential vulnerability of the Navy to an unorthodox terrorist with an old diesel sub).
Lieutenant Colonel Owen Thursday in Fort Apache (modeled on the real-life George Armstrong Custer) is an arrogant martinet to his own men; out of class snobbishness, obstructs the path of True Love between his daughter and a young lieutenant because the latter is the son of an Irish noncom; sees war as a path to personal glory; provokes a conflict with the Apaches that better diplomacy could have avoided; and, worst of all, gets most of his regiment slaughtered through tactical incompetence and stubborn refusal to listen to Captain Yorke, who knows the Apaches much better. For all of that, Yorke credits him with improving the quality of the regiment through his strict discipline.
In Heartbreak Ridge, Major Powers is a good supply clerk with delusions of grandeur.
Lt. Ito from Letters from Iwo Jima, though if anything he's a mild example of what the real Imperial Japanese Military was like.
In Paths of Glory, General Mireau sends a division on a suicide mission to attack a heavily fortified German position just for the possibility of getting himself a promotion. After the attack fails, he blames the soldiers and orders random soldiers from the division to be executed for cowardice.
Lieutenant Pavlov Dill in Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation was one of these, though he's more incompetent than mean.
Tall: It's never necessary to tell me that you think I'm right. We'll just... assume it.
Staros: We need some water... the men are passing out.
Tall: The only time you should start worrying about a soldier is when they stop bitchin'.
Captain Harris in the Police Academy series. Like many other examples on this page, his heart only beats for the thought of a promotion and a chance to fire, or failing that, humiliate the meddlin' upshoots as well as he can. This being a humorous series, he always ends up humiliated himself.
Lieutenant Wolfe in Platoon, the leader of the titular platoon. An incompetent coward who is unable to control his own soldiers, he lets Elias and Barnes do as they like (and the only order he gives is to burn down the village). US Army leadership classes have used Wolfe an example of how a junior officer should not behave.
Colonel Pitts in The Eagle Has Landed. Piqued at being ordered back to the US (he is considered too inexperienced to participate in D-Day) he launches an attack on the church where the German Fallschirmjager (paratroops) are holed up without doing a proper recon, completely missing the germans hidden at various points in the village and wiping out his entire platoon; to top it all he gets killed by Joanna Grey while trying to kill her with a grenade; since they were played by Larry Hagman and Jean Marsh respectively this spawned a thousend t-shirts saying "Rose (from "Upstairs Downstairs") Shot J.R!"(from "Dallas")
Captains von Pader and Meier from the novels by Sven Hassel, and quite a few other Nazi officers.
Seen a couple of times in the Night's Watch in A Song of Ice and Fire. Ser Alliser Thorne insults and berates all the boys he's supposed to train, without actually giving them anything in the way of instruction. Meanwhile, the few pages' worth we see of Ser Waymar Royce has him mocking the lower ranking but more experienced rangers under his command every time they display caution or prudence.
Two characters that are likened to each other in All Quiet on the Western Front: the psychotic, sadistic drill sergeant that the main characters train under, and the high school teacher that coerced all of his students into joining the military.
Everybody in a position of authority in Catch-22 falls under this.
Except perhaps Major —- De Coverley, he's more of a Memetic Badass with an awe-inspiring reputation and fearsome appearance, but no real authority beyond renting apartments. Like anyone who's not a complete bastard, he dies or disappears.
And Major Major, who really just wants to be left alone.
Captain Hisashi Kurokawa of the HIMS Amagi in Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series. A more extreme example of a typical Imperial Japan naval officer (see Real Life below), he is openly disdainful of his men (both officers and noncoms) and reasons that any success by the enemy must be due to traitors in his ranks. He freely allows the Grik to kill and eat a percentage of his crew to placate them and has no problems sending pilots on suicide missions (even telling them not bothering coming back if they fail).
General Lord Ronald Rust from the Discworld novels doesn't actually get shot by his own men in Jingo, but his overbearing superiority and tactical incompetence make it very tempting. As a captain in Night Watch, he is knocked him unconscious by his own men when he orders them to fire on civilians.
While not in a military organization, Sergeant Fred Colon quickly becomes this after being promoted to Acting Captain in The Fifth Elephant. By the time Carrot returns to resume authority, Colon has fired or driven off all members of the Watch, with only a handful hanging around informally enforcing the law.
Fred differs from most Niedermeyers in that he is not a bad man, merely a very bad officer. He didn't want the promotion, and the stress drove him completely bonkers, convinced that if he can find out who is stealing sugar cubes (he's doing it subconsciously, and he's really bad at counting) all the other problems will go away. He's incredibly relieved when Captain Carrot returns and he can be a sergeant again.
Vimes hasn't promoted Fred from Sergeant (or Nobby from Corporal) because despite the fact they're senior to almost everybody in the Watch (Colon even has seniority on His Grace himself), they're perfectly happy in the ranks they hold and really aren't suited for anything higher anyway.
Actually, nearly every general in the armies of the Sto Plains (the area in which Ankh-Morpork lies) counts as this, since their general battle strategy is to hurl their men at the enemy and receive "glorious casualties", since apparently the number of fallen men equals how great the battle was for them. If they actually win anything, that's a nice albeit unimportant bonus. They see the famous general Tacticus as a dishonorable military leader because he had the distinct tendency to win battles and wars and bring most of his soldiers back alive. The official metric goes something like this: First, both sides throw their men at each other. Then, you subtract your casualties from their casualties, and "if the answer is a positive sum, it was a glorious victory".
Lieutenant Weems from the first Doom novel. He was so incompetent and cowardly that he ordered his men to fire on a bunch of harmless monks protesting their war efforts mistaking them for suicide bombers even after one of his subordinates told him they were harmless. Flynn decked him for that, and that's why Flynn is stuck on suspension in the cafeteria on Phobos when everything goes to Hell. Throughout the novel Flynn has unflattering thoughts about Weems and thinks that Weems was the kind of guy who would side with the alien invaders if it meant saving his own skin. When Flynn finds the dead bodies of Weems and another officer who had entered a suicide pact after the aliens trapped them in a Fate Worse than Death by fusing their heads together, he feels too much pity to hate the man anymore.
Generation Kill has several: Captain America, Encino Man ("Echo Mike"), Sgt. Maj. "Fucking" Sixta, though he was only acting that way to give the troops an outlet for their frustration, and though he's an NCO, "Casey Kasem". (After the events of Generation Kill however, Kasem proved to be more akin to Sergeant Rock as a platoon sergeant when it came to combat.)
A couple generals in Urtho's army in The Black Gryphon. Troops of all species dread being placed under their command because they're known for using tactics which would be gloriously victorious if they ever worked, but since they never work, are instead suicidally stupid. It eventually turns out they're traitors, and they plan on losing every time.
Pavel Young, and every one of his friends and/or relatives.
Any senior officer appointed by the High Ridge government,with the one exception of Khumalo.
Turned on its head by High Ridge's distant cousin Michael Oversteegen, who turns out to be an exceptional officer and thoroughly despises his incompetent, selfish relatives, and by Augustus Khumalo, an aristocratic officer who was barely middle-of-the-road until the Talbott Quadrant blew up in his face and he shocked everyone — up to and including himself — by proving himself to be a thoroughly competent, honourable leader who backed Aivars Terekhov to the hilt despite the possible repercussions and had the good sense to get out of the way of his subordinates with far better tactical ability than himself.
Most of the "People's Commissioners" in the People's Republic of Haven's navy.
In the Lord Darcy short story "The Spell of War", Darcy, a young officer at the time, chooses not to notice that the commander of his unit—who'd been a tyrant and endangered the men—had a bullet entry wound on his back from a pistol...received when he'd been facing the enemy, who was using a rifle.
The man responsible for this Unfriendly Fire then goes on to do a Redemption Equals Death when he learns that the Captain's orders weren't really suicidally stupid (Though this was due to chance, not any hidden genius on the late Captain's part).
Captain Morton in Mister Roberts by James Heggen. Played in the 1955 movie by James Cagney, he is a tyrant, but the whole situation is mostly played for laughs.
The Sharpe books were full of these. Some of them learned their lesson (kind of), some of them just ceased to be Sharpe's problem, and some were mercilessly bayoneted by their own troops.
Sharpe himself was The Neidermeyer for a while, after he first became an officer. And yes, his men did attempt to kill him. Luckily for him, that's easier said than done.
In the Dale Brown novel Sky Masters, an inexperienced Captain second-guesses his air defence expert and, when one anti-air missile misfires, shuts down the point defence net in his Lawful Stupidity, allowing an antiship missile to get through and hit the carrier they were supposed to be protecting. Said misfired missile had actually exploded and was tumbling back towards the launcher - keeping the other launch cells closed was a prudent thing to do; keeping on firing might have risked BOTH ships.
Captain Styles of the USS Excelsior is this in the Novelization of Star Trek III. We don't see very much of him in the movie, but the characterization is plausible from what we do see.
He also appeared in the Star Trek novel "Prime Directive" as the Enterprise's acting captain while Kirk was in disgrace; he didn't take it very well when Kirk returned and took the ship back; he held a grudge against Kirk forever after.
Captain Fisher, a.k.a. "Billy Liar", in Kim Newman's Alternate History novella Teddy Bear's Picnic. His own troops frag him with a white phosphorus grenade, a practice known as "white saucing". For the record, white phosphorous burns at 5000 degrees and sticks to the skin.
Captain Queeg of Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny, and the movie and play (The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial) based on it, could almost be the Trope Namer. It is often used in media as an alternate name for this trope.
Lieutenant Bennett from The Cruel Sea. A lazy bully. Instead of being shot by his own men, he fakes illness to get out of the war.
General George Armstrong Custer in Harry Turtledove's World War IAlternate History trilogy The Great War is like this. Although he lacks the "You're all worthless and weak!!" part, he is still more then willing to send the unfortunate men under his command into needlessly costly and bloody offensives that end up gaining little. He constantly tries to seek glory wherever he can and also is more then willing to hog it all and push all the blame on others when something fails. However, by the end of the trilogy, he later proves to be a competent officer when he disobeys the US general Staff's orders on not using tanks in a concentrated formation. This leads to the US occupying Kentucky and later forces the Confederate States to surrender once other officers begin copying it.
That wasn't being a competent officer. That was being the same idiot he'd always been and happening to get lucky this time. As his aide-de-camp later (frequently) reminisces.
Boris Lavochkin is the "psychotic hard-ass" version during the Second Great War - a brutal and vindictive officer who didn't have any qualms about massacring civilians or treating his own men with thinly-disguised contempt. He vociferously protested being ordered not to invade Charleston, South Carolina even after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city because he wanted the glory of capturing the city that sparked the Confederacy.
Averted by Shagrat, who cares about his men and is actually shown to be fairly noble. He even gets a good death. Also Uglúk of Saruman's Uruk-Hai.
The Unknown Soldier: Staff Sergeant Sinkkonen is both a cocky martinet and a completely incompetent barracks warrior. Lieutnant Lammio is an tentative aversion. While he is an immensely skilled tactician and brave to the point of insanity, he is just as cocky as Sinkkonen, has No Social Skills and no humanising weaknesses whatsoever. His men hate him.
Averted in The War Against the Chtorr ("A Matter for Men"). The hero Jim McCarthy, having just been made an officer after killing a rampaging Chtorran; tries to bully Dr Fletcher out of some Chtorran specimans. First she takes him down a peg by showing McCarthy that the Chtorran he 'killed' is still very much alive. Then she points out that everyone wants to look up to their superiors, so an officer's job is to inspire people, not boss them about. She finishes by congratulating McCarthy on his shooting, and asks him to bring flowers next time. McCarthy is highly embarrassed, but learns from the experience. In "A Season for Slaughter" however, when pushed too far by incompetent Major Bellus, McCarthy doesn't educate this Neidermeyer, he demolishes him. On worldwide live television.
Imperial captain Joak Drysso, in command of the Super Star Destroyer "Lusankya" in the X-Wing Series. Near the end, with his ship damaged and obviously beyond hope of winning the battle, he refuses an offer for surrender and orders the engines to full power, with the intention of ramming the planet and dying with his ship and crew in a blaze of glory. He is promptly shot by a subordinate, who then acts as captain and accepts the offer to surrender.
In the movie "In the Beginning," General Lefcourt approached then-commander John Sheridan to be the first officer to Captain Michael Jankowski. Sheridan refused, stating that Jankowski was a loose cannon and referenced how so many of his peers thought Jankowski an incompetent risk taker. In a twist, it is revealed that Hague knew this all along and wanted Sheridan to take the job since he needs someone competent to keep Jankowski in line. Then Jankowski started a war with the Minbari over his pride and stupidity, and we know how badly that went. Though to be fair, the Minbari captain was equally pigheaded, even going so far as to disobey a direct order from his government's leader, Dukhat to not take an aggressive stance.
At least the Minbari had the excuse of following an age-old tradition of keeping their weapons out in the open, instead of hiding them behind their backs, so to speak. The humans in turn interpreted the show of power as an intention to use it. This, coupled with the Minbari's scanners causing interference with the Earth ship's sensors caused Jankowski to panic and open fire.
Jankowski had the same excuse: he was following the age-old tradition among his people that if someone is coming at you brandishing weapons and preventing you from running away, which was his first instinct, you shoot first.
Humans were warned by Londo that they should send only one ship to make First Contact with the Minbari, but the top EarthForce brass brushed him off, riding high on their victory against the Dilgar (the Dilgar were nothing compared to the Minbari) and determined to use Gunboat Diplomacy whenever possible.
Captain Herbert M. Sobel is portrayed as a petty tyrant whose harsh training earns him resentment from the men under his command. Though his tactics do make his soldiers tougher, they're mostly intended to make him look good as their commanding officer. However, his total incompetence in the field causes a number of his NCOs to flat-out refuse to serve under his command.
Lt. Norman Dike, who is given command of Easy Company during the war. It is implied that he got his position due to his pedigree and family connections, but is himself an "empty uniform" who can only feign competence. The only thing that holds the unit together is Sergeant Lipton's tireless efforts to maintain morale. After breaking down during an assault, Dike is immediately replaced with the vastly more competent Ronald Speirs.
Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined): Crashdown attempts to lead a squad on a hostile planet surface. Things go wrong. He gets two of the squad killed then is shot by Gaius Baltar when attempting to force a needless suicide mission.
Though his fatal flaw is more due to inexperience than anything else. It's not that he doesn't care about those under his command, but rather his incompetence and focus on "accomplishing the tactical mission" no matter how ill-advised that mission might be. When doing his job as an ECO he's not bad at all. He just wasn't cut out for ground combat.
General Melchett. Melchett is distraught by the death of his pigeon "Speckled Jim", yet blissfully uncaring about the fifty thousand men a week dying in the trenches. His bizarre tactics that help expedite the latter include "doing precisely what we've done eighteen times before" and "climbing out of [the] trenches and walking very slowly towards the enemy". Sadly, both are to some extent Truth in Television.
When walking very slowly towards the enemy, British soldiers were commonly marching behind a firewall of artillery that typically exterminated everyone trying to pop up and hurt them. When they lost the protection of that barrage (muddy ground and other unexpected holdups) is when things frequently went bad. Blackadder is wonderful satire, but has done terrible things for the understanding of Great War history.
Well, this is where YMMV. Rolling barrages from massed artillery during World War I were frequently much less effective than they seemed. Heavy artillery that could destroy opposing trenchworks were often lacking, and even the heaviest artillery of the time may not have been powerful enough to defeat well-built bunkers and dugouts anyways. (John Keegan suggests in The Face of Battle that German trenches during the Battle of Sommes would have been the kind of hardened targets that tactical nuclear weapons would have been suited for, and even they would not have been adequate to defeat all or even most of them.) Walking slowly behind the barrages simply exposed the infantry to the machine gunners who'd pop up as soon as the shells stopped falling. The real solution would have been to think of another approach to defeat the trenches, not just to repeat the same trick over and over again. Both Entente Powers and the Germans did eventually come up with the solutions that did not involve just more and heavier artillery: the tanks for the former (one might also count the strategic bombing) and the infiltration tactics for the latter (one might also include the strategic submarine warfare.)
Farscape: Captain Crais. Initially, it's indicated that this is the result of Revenge Before Reason in his pursuit of Crichton for accidentally killing his brother. Flashbacks in "The Way We Weren't," however, reveal that he was always a whackjob and a jackass hated by all around him. When Scorpius steps up to take his command away from him at the end of Season 1, none of his officers so much as object, let alone side with him.
Commandant Mele-on Grayza, as well. She's outright incompetent in executing her attempt to recapture Moya, totally inept managing diplomacy with the Scarrans, and is harsh and unforgiving of her subordinates, and berates Braca for actually listening to what his people are telling him (case in point: Braca accepts the explanation of a Peacekeeper weapons tech who tries to advise him that a Leviathan-killing missile is not ready for active deployment, but Grayza overrules him and forces him to order its use anyway. Sure enough, Moya's crew figures out a way to fool its tracking system. Grayza summarily sends the weapons tech to the Aurora Chair). It culminates at the end of season 4 with Grayza ordering her ship to battle when her attempts to negotiate with the Scarrans break down (thanks in no small part to Crichton and his crew undermining the whole process to make sure the Scarrans can't get wormhole knowledge from a captive Scorpius) rather than go home in disgrace. It's really telling that when Braca relieves her of command and she orders him to be shot, no one is even inclined to follow her orders.
Firefly: Though he isn't shown on-screen, in the episode "The Message," Mal and Zoe recount an instance where one of their superior officers acted exactly like this. However, in this case, the man was drunk off his rocker, and passed out, at which point one of the troops cut off the man's mustache and glued it to his own face.
Captain America, a completely incompetent office who is constantly prone to panicking and giving illogical orders during combat situations. The reporter following the unit confronts Captain America's commanding officer, asking how such an obviously incompetent man could be in his position, but Godfather insists that he's only got the grumblings of lower officers to go on, which isn't enough to remove someone from their position.
Encino Man loses the tiny amount of sympathy he may have had in the book, with the actor playing him nailing the concept of the nickname perfectly; a man who's problem isn't lack of experience so much as lack of basic common sense.
Sgt. Major John "Fucking" Sixta who has more power than either of them — and uses it to continually insist on personal grooming standards while allowing the company to abandon their ammo supply truck in enemy territory. In the final episode, Sixta reveals that his psychotic obsession with the men's grooming standards was a Genghis Gambit to give them an outlet for their stress.
Hell's Kitchen: Gordon Ramsay follows this trope in this show, and any of his American-produced shows. However, Ramsay's behavior on the UK original of "Kitchen Nightmares" puts him much more in the Sergeant Rock personality trope. He may be harsh on the incompetent or misguided cooks, but he's doing it so the diners get the best experience and the cooks realize their own potential.
Colonel Crittendon. The Heroes' plans to murder him weren't entirely sarcastic.
Colonel Klink himself is this on the German side. During one of the many times Klink was sentenced to death by firing squad, the entire garrison of Stalag 13 (including Schultz) volunteered for said firing squad. In fact, three guards that had previously deserted returned to volunteer as well.
Had Foggy Dewhurst, a former corporal in the Army. Subverted in that he's now a civilian now, and even when he was in the Army, he was only a sign writer, and thus probably never saw any action. This doesn't stop him from constantly finding reasons to boss Compo and Clegg around, often pretending he's genuinely interested in helping other people. He's so determined to inflict his will on them that on one occasion, he started strangling Compo, completely unprovoked, because he simply thought he was going to embarrass him. Too bad the vicar's wife saw him...
Subverted with his predecessor, Cyril Blamire, who was also a corporal in the Army and similar to Foggy - right down to the mustache - but unlike him, Blamire was content with his retirement and, despite bickering constantly, was good friends with Compo and Clegg.
When Major Burns left the series (due to having a psychological breakdown caused by the marriage of Major Houlihan - which led to him causing havoc in Tokyo while on RnR), the Army, in its infinite wisdom, promoted him to Lieutenant Colonel and gave him a cushy job in a stateside Veteran's Hospital... which is extra disconcerting given that Major Burns was always made out to be an incompetent doctor, has no friends in high places, and the Army historically had a medieval attitude towards officers who go wacko.
Fridge Brilliance: By this point in the series, Burns' medical and military incompetence is well-known within the Army. At least three officers (Potter, Houlihan, Penobscott) have enough connections farther up the chain of command to ensure that, even if he remains in the Army, Burns never sees the inside of an operating room again. As a result Burns probably ended up in an administrative post with no actual hands-on medical duties...which, for a surgeon, is the equivalent of Reassigned to Antarctica (and probably the end of his military career as well). This explains the posting, but not the promotion. Neither does it explain why he didn't just get a Section 8.
If they gave Burns a Section 8, it would just give Klinger ideas.
This is in fact how US Army has often dealt with the Neidermeyers. For example, General Fredenhall, a real life general fitting this trope (see below), was promoted and placed in charge of training new recruits in Continental US after being largely responsible for the debacle at the Kasserine Pass.
Hawkeye and Winchester both had their opportunity to be Neidermeyers when given the chance to command. Anyone other than Blake or Potter in charge of the 4077th ends up as this trope. The difference between them and Burns is that these episodes set up an An Aesop about the difficulty of true leadership when the rest of the main cast calls them out on it, and they see the error of their ways.
Not so much in the earlier seasons. In the Season 3 episode "Officer of the Day", Hawkeye's command of the 4077th was treated as little more than a day at the office; he essentially spent the whole period doing what he always did, albeit while having to deal with a visit from Colonel Flagg. Fridge Brilliance is that, since his command lasted only a day, and an uneventful one (save for Flagg's visit) at that, Hawkeye didn't have to deal with the rigors of command that Blake went through on a day to day basis.
Besides, OD isn't in command; he just has extra duties and is on call all day.
North and South (Trilogy): Elkanah Bent treats Orry and George like scum. He gets Orry crippled by Mexican artillery. Orry cripples him, he murders Orry then George hangs him.
Dwight Schrute becomes the civilian equivalent whenever he is given even the slightest amount of authority.
His equivalent (and character model) in the original British series was a Territorial Army soldier (think National Guard) who insisted on his status as Deputy Team Leader after David Brent and who stood on a largely non-existent authority.
Over There: Both of The Squad's lieutenants. The first is nicknamed "Mad Cow" because "it's a disease that rots men's brains." The later one is shot in the back under ambiguous circumstances, with the finale leaving it open whether he was killed by the Sergeant Rock.
Raumpatrouille: Lieutenant Spring-Brauner has ambitions in this direction - if he could, he would like to replace the Orion's crew with robots - but luckily he is only General Wamsler's aide-de-camp with no authority of his own.
Arnold Rimmer is a Subverted Trope, as though having all the requisite personality traits, he lacks real authority, and the people he does outrank refuse to listen to him. Plus, he's dead already, so fragging's out of the question.
He does once get command of a small army, and actually manages to force a draw against a numerically superior enemy... though he did it by sacrificing all but two of his troops in a charge across an open minefield in broad daylight to serve as a distraction.
To be accurate, he got all of his Wax Droid troops slaughtered. Most in the aforementioned mid-day minefield charge, several melted as a result of the training he put them through, and the sole survivor was dispatched as an assassin with the full understanding/intention that she would die in her mission of killing the Evil Wax Droid leaders. The only reason he was remotely able to claim this as a victory was because, while the enemy forces were distracted, Kryten was able to get to the planetary temperature controls and adjust the planet's heat so that all of the Wax Droids melted. Lister was not impressed:
Lister: So you wiped out the entire population of this planet?
Rimmer: You make it sound so negative Lister. Don't you see? The deranged menace that once threatened this world is vanquished!
Lister: No it isn't pal, you're still here!
Further subverted in 'Balance of Power' in that Lister tried to outrank Rimmer by taking the chef's exam—the lowest rank on the ship that would still outrank Rimmer, and the one requiring the least effort to attain:
Rimmer: Chef? You want to become a chef?
Lister: Not really. I just want to become your superior.
Rimmer: But a chef? A white hatted ponce? That's not a real officer!
Lister: It outranks you, smeg-for-brains!
Red Dwarf also had the ship's backup computer Queeg 500, who was installed for an episode when the crew got sick of Holly's incompetence. Queeg turned out to be so strict that even Rimmer got sick of him. And then it turns out that Queeg was Holly all along.
Revolution: Captain Jeremy Baker in episode 3. He sends his men into the field for the sole purpose of forcing the enemy to waste bullets cutting them down, and fails to anticipate an ambush...not once, but twice.
Had one episode where an Army Major was this to his troops and the civilians of North Fork. Fortunately, everyone in North Fork realized how insane his military command was, and his superiors got a message from Lucas McCain about his incompetence, recalling the Major back to headquarters. However, the Major spun the story, claiming that his superiors needed his command elsewhere, even leaving his Lieutenant with this message: "Lieutenant, remember, the key to command is a firm hand, discipline!" Even more during the episode:
He refused his men water (in the deserts of New Mexico) before the events of the episode, and one of his men was shot when he did steal some water , and the man's wound was not tended to, even in the jail. He was also set to be executed the next day. (He got better.)
He mentioned how his men cracked under pressure from the enemy, costing him a promotion, when in fact he sent them in deliberately and they were shot to pieces.
He called out one of his men for "resting" after a four-hour duty shift tending the jail his deserter was imprisoned in, and ordered his Lieutenant to add another hour to his duty shift. (The man had collapsed from heat exhaustion.) Even the Major's Yes-Man Lieutenant started to question his command at this time, as he actually gave the man some water behind the Major's back.
He attempted to place Lucas McCain, a civilian, under arrest for going behind his back to his superiors about his insane incompetence. (Civilian arrests by military officials are prohibited, if you didn't know.)
He attempted to place the town of North Fork under martial law. (To circumvent the civilian arrest rule.)
Scrubs: Dr. Kelso is this to the entirety of Sacred Heart Hospital in . However, it is a Subverted Trope in that he takes it upon himself to be the one they can all hate in order to unite them on a common front. After he retires, he becomes a pretty nice guy.
Colonel Telford is the Neidermeyer in his early appearances. He utterly ignores not only the very immediate and life-threatening problems facing the crew in favor of the rules, but also completely ignores the fact that his host body is in terrible shape the first time around. In the episode "Earth", he usurps Young's command (albeit on orders from higher up) and nearly gets the entire ship destroyed. To add insult to injury, he abandons Destiny while this happens (which Dr. Rush had actually expected him to do and thus arranged the whole show just to make him look like an ass). Thankfully, this last one does not go unpunished; Young, having learned his lesson, never gives Telford the opportunity to try again, and burns him pretty good back on Earth for his actions.
General George Hammond from Stargate SG-1 was originally intended to be such a character, as this was how most commanding officers/superiors were treated in other television shows at the timenote except for Donald P. Bellisario's JAG. After talking with a U.S. Air Force consultant — who pointed out that a man who rose to Hammond's position wouldn't have got there if he had no respect for his inferiors, and vice versa — he was rewritten to be the show's Reasonable Authority Figure. Multiple times he's shown bending the rules or outright breaking them to get the job done.
In fairness, most of his abrasiveness in the first episode is likely due to stress on his part. Until the Stargate reactivated and proved that their were more hostile aliens out there, he was in charge of watching over a dusty old facility and waiting out until his retirement. He's just as much out of his depth as everyone else and most of Hammond's character arc over the first series is that he's having to quickly step up and take charge of leading Earth's defence.
Captain Edward Jellico seems like this at the start, but subverts it by the end. Placed in temporary command of the Enterprise, he systematically alienates most of the crew thanks to his hard and uncompromising command style, even having Data replace Riker as Number One after Riker keeps resisting his changes. After the first episode, the audience will assuredly hate him, and everything is set up to watch him fail in his mission while the primary Picard-is-captured plot yields the answer, showing him up. The second episode instead has him learn to loosen up just enough to recognize his flaws, and its his tactics that not only win the day, but save Picard in the process.
And he makes Troi wear a real uniform instead of her bunny suit, an order Picard never rescinded.
To be fair, that may have been an order from Starfleet Command to the effect that all ship's counselors had to wear the standard uniform, and Jellico happened to be the one to break the news (although given his personality, he did so with less tact than one would expect). Neither officer would have the authority to rescind the order in that case.
It is also part of Troi's character development; at the beginning, she was a psychologist/social worker practicing on a starship, but after that point she was a Starfleet Officer whose specialty happened to be applied behavioral sciences. (It was shortly after that she takes the exam for promotion to full Commander, and is called "Commander Troi" quite as often as she is called "Counsellor Troi."
It's worth noting that as a First Officer, it's Riker's job to follow the Captain's orders and not try to undermine their authority, simply because he doesn't like the orders or them personally. Jellico is completely right for relieving Riker of duty for his repeated insubordination and for unprofessional conduct as befitting an officer. Several episodes have shown that Picard doesn't stand for this either!
The Wire: Lieutenant Charles Marimow is referred to as "The Unit Killer" and a man who "does not toss away talent lightly. He heaves it with great force." At a higher level, both Burress and Rawls are like this to the commanders beneath them, often using the COMSTAT meetings to berate and humiliate them for failing to win the drug war each month.
Sarge of Red vs. Blue is this type of leader, a bloodthirsty madman whose plans are fueled by his irrational hatred for the lazy and insubordinate Grif and his enemies the Blue team, being the only one to make Serious Business of the otherwise cold war between the two. Nonetheless, he is usually followed by the other soldiers, particularly the kiss-ass Yes-Man Simmons. Or he would be if he wasn't so funny. The best order he's ever given was "Scream like a woman!"
Sarge is an awful leader, but a brilliant Mad Scientist. To date: three robots, one with a 10 megaton nuclear warhead hidden inside of it, one cyborg, one weather control machine, and one successful transfer of cyborg's organs into near-dead human.
He does show merit as a leader during several moments in season 8, most notably when he trusts Grif to help him take down Agent Washington, and later to help him rescue The Alpha device and take down The Meta.
Sergeant Snorkel in Beetle Bailey, but far more so Lt. Fuzz. Whenever he gets the opportunity to command troops. Snorkel's men do respect him as a soldier - they just really don't want to be soldiers, and are rarely seen in the field (which for the strip means war games and exercises) where this becomes apparent. Fuzz tries to copy Snorkel's treatment of subordinates, and adds in his complete incompetence and desperation for recognition.
In The Navy Lark Captain Povey frequently falls into this category with his obsession for hounding the Troutbridge crew out of the Navy. To be fair, the crew of the Troutbridge are completely incompetent/derelict in their duties
Captain Jasper Stone from Deadlands was a really bad version of this. He was shanked by his own troops in the Battle of Gettysburg... only to rise as an undead and become Death's right hand man.
Excessively righteous Blossom. His military career was marked by repeatedly getting a battalion whittled down to about company size, and he made it very clear to everyone who would listen that he viewed this as a result of the incompetence of his soldiers. Especially hilarious since he is very talented - at personal combat - but has exactly no ability to recognise what his talents are, leading to both military and civilian careers crafted from incompetence and menacing with spikes of fail.
Tepet Lisara also qualifies. Out of jealousy, she got her cousin, an actually competent officer, removed from command, and devised the strategy that effectively ruined her House's standing within the Realm. Though that particular failure is never realized, she is still Reassigned to Antarctica for general incompetence, where she delights in assigning up and coming male officers to menial or suicidal tasks for petty amusement.
Most of the Commissars in Warhammer 40,000. In fact, the 'Nam-inspired Catachan Jungle Fighters require a special saving roll before the game even starts to prevent them from fragging the Commissar (Oops, sorry sir!).
Similar to the Dinobots example listed below, one of the reasons Imperial doctrine normally prohibits Space Marine commanders from leading large-scale actions and campaigns in which the Marines and Imperial Guard fight together is that they tend to work the normal troops as hard as their Super Soldier battle brothers, often with fatal results.
Common Imperial Guard tactics employed usually boil down to "throw men at it by the regiment like a battering ram until it breaks." A noted battle cries of commissars is, "We will drown them in our blood and crush them under the weight of our own dead!"
Every Imperial Guard officer above Lieutenant (and sometimes below) is either incompetent, a jerk, a glory hound, cowardly, or any combination of those. This goes up even into the Munitorium.
A Medal of Dishonor goes to Lord General Lugo, who's first act in Honor Guard is to order Gaunt and his men to step up their attack timetable to retake a holy temple, which subsequently explodes into a warp vortex (long story). He pins the whole thing on Gaunt, and assigns Gaunt to lead a convoy as punishment. He shows up again in Sabbat Martyr, where he's playing a minor character from his previous appearance as the reincarnated Saint Sabbat. This time, however, fate bites him in the ass when the girl actually becomes the reincarnated saint (again, long story), and he spends much of the rest of the book standing around looking dumbstruck, which for him, is not much of a stretch.
Subverted by Ciaphas Cain, naturally, who is Genre Savvy and certainly aware of this trope. He treats his men well and while he does genuinely care about them, he finds comfort in the fact that not being like every other Commissar in the guard greatly reduces his chance of being the victim of friendly fire. He actually comments on how a great many Commissars die "heroic deaths" suspiciously far from the front lines. He spent his later years attempting to teach commissar cadets to subvert this trope, with admittedly mixed success (most who are chosen for the Commissariat are simply not the right personality type to be taught how to lead through respect rather than fear). Cain certainly wants to avoid such a fate; "I want to die in a bed, preferably someone else's."
On the other hand, there's the legendary Lord Commander Solar Macharius, whose armies conquered a thousand worlds for the Emperor in the space of seven years. There's also Lord Castellan Ursarkar Creed of the Cadian 8th, Colonel "Iron Hand" Straken of Catachan, and Commissar Yarrick, who wears a Power Klaw he ripped off of an Ork Warboss, all of whom are competent and admired by their men.
In the computer spin-off Dawn of War, Imperial Priests often shout "WE LOST BECAUSE YOU'RE ALL WEAK!" when their squad regains morale.
There was Commander Kubrik Chenkov of the Valhallan Ice Warriors is an extreme example of this. His main tactics is sending legions of his own men straight at the enemy base without tank or artillery support or using them to draw enemy fire for his other forces, but unlike most cases his tactics really work.
Similarly, some Space Marine commanders are capable of commanding large-scale operations; Marneus Calgar of the Ultramarines, Azrael of the Dark Angels, and Logan Grimnar of the Space Wolves have all had success in commanding Imperial Guard troops.
Orson Perrault, the commander of the protagonists' air base, is this as well as corpulent, a horrible shot (he doesn't know that how emptying the magazine into the doorway where the targets were when the lights went out is a bad idea), and without giving Wardog Squadron and Pops a chance to explain themselves he assumes them all to be spies.
Lieutenant Colonel Ford attempts to land his plane on Sand Island despite the island being under attack and being told to wave off by the base. When Chopper lets slip that he thinks he's completely nuts and/or stupid, Ford threatens to write him up when he lands. It gets cut off when an enemy plane shoots him down.
Admiral Greyfield of Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. A complete coward and a sub par commander who's greatest skills are taking credit for victories, and shifting blame for loses. He threatens executions for any failure to follow his orders to the letter, especially the order to win the battle. His cowardice is so much that he relentlessly hunts down any that don't adhere to absolute rule no matter how many of his own men are sacrificed or caught in the blast of the super weapon used to kill a single dissenting captain, even resorting to executing enemies after surrender.
"Captain" Waylon (Note the quotation marks), who unsurprisingly ends up working for Greyfield, is another example. After you rescue him and his unit (and he leaves), his wing men defect and join your unit specifically because he was this but they felt following him was the only way to stay alive in the apocalyptic wasteland.
Sufficiently unhappy nobles in Dwarf Fortress act this way, ordering beatings and hammerings to any dwarf that ignores (or is incapable of fulfilling) their demands. Unsurprisingly, players tend to respond to such behavior with their own form of capital punishment.
Iron Grip has the Fahrong/Confederacy, where apparently every officer above the Sergeant is this and everybody below it is Cannon Fodder.
Lt. Cole Phelps of L.A. Noire is such a Niedermeyer that it actually winds up driving most of the game's plot. Cole being paralysed with fear at a convenient moment ensured that he was the last man standing after a night fighting the Japanese on Okinawa, which made him a war hero and he rose rapidly through the LAPD as a result. His Marines, infuriated at this, decided to steal massive crates of guns and drugs from the military because they thought they deserved to get rewarded as well. Cole's order to burn out an enemy cave that turned out to be a field hospital gives one of his men massive PTSD and he is later revealed as the serial arsonist. This also so enrages the unit's medic that he actually shoots Cole in the back and goes on to lead the aforementioned heist.
Zaeed Massani of Mass Effect 2 was apparently this, considering the fact that all his stories usually end with getting all of his men killed and info discovered in Lair of the Shadow Broker reveals that a major element for his betrayal by the Blue Suns was his inability to ensure loyalty. In fact, he's actually a poor choice for an end-game Fire Team/Distraction Leader.
The Sengoku Basara portrayal of Mitsunari is also not far from this. A psychotic individual who was formerly a Sycophantic Servant to his lord Hideyoshi, he expected the same degree of fanatical loyalty. In his case however it wasn't so much that he was a jerk more that he's insane and had No Social Skills.
Kraze and Kanaan from Suikoden, who you'll grow to hate very much early on in the game. Kanaan is more or less a classic example of a real dirtbag who wants all the glory to himself but hides behind his soldiers. Kraze is more or less the same, but at least he he isn't given an option to be spared unlike most of the Imperial commanders.
Snowe from Suikoden IV. He gets severe shellshock in the first battle (on the first shot, no less), abandons his men, and develops a Honor Before Reason complex in order to make up for it. And because of his lineage, gets promoted beyond his competency.
Lee Linjun from Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2 quickly makes himself known as a complete jerk. He constantly argues with the pilots (especially Excellen and Katina), is clearly jealous of Tetsuya (even though Lee outranks him and commands a ship), and fully cements himself as a Neidermeyer when he makes it clear that everyone is expendable, and he really doesn't care if any member of the crew lives or dies. Then he just defects to the Shadow Mirrors. Lee apparently lost his wife and parents during the events of the first game (6-months prior) and hasn't had time to deal with his grief. He's too much of an ass for fans to feel much sympathy towards, but it does help explain his irrational behavior.
Due to the open ended nature of the story, it is entirely possible that both brothers in Team Fortress 2 count as this. All of the mercs on both teams start haphazardly next to the other side, and can just run to battle in about 4 seconds, and everybody should die at least once. Given that the announcer seemed to be looking for this setup, it may be the brothers were intended to both become "the Neidermeyer".
General Damon of Valkyria Chronicles. A completely inept commander who only attained his rank because of his noble status. He holds all of the militia as Cannon Fodder, possibly all of Gallia's citizenry, as his solution for attacking a notably larger Imperial force is to draft all the citizens they could into the militia and throw them all on a frontal assault. Bastard even had the balls to claim Welkin's victory at Ghirlandaio as his own. Though Selvaria's Final Flame in the citadel made that a sort of good thing.
Captain Bannon from World in Conflict is this trope to a T, panicking when faced with opposition his men should be able to handle, whining when fighting at a disadvantage instead of focusing on how to keep the fight going favorably, deriding the player's character for his competence, and shooting enemy infantry who were trying to convey their wish to surrender by waving white flags. In the end, however, he becomes arguably the most heroic character among the Americans followed by the narrative, volunteering to sacrifice himself to a friendly nuclear weapon so the approaching enemy will plow towards him into the blast radius, as retreating would've clued the Soviets in that something was wrong.
Commonly invoked in World of Warcraft for various Alliance and Horde commanders. At this point, it's hard to tell whether they are the exceptions or the rule. The actual racial leaders (with the exception of Garrosh Hellscream) tend to avoid this trope, but the player character frequently has to deal with various NP Cs/questgivers that do fit the trope, especially on the Horde side.
Prince Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender started out as this in the series while hunting for Aang. He eventually got a little better when Iroh told the crew about Zuko's seriously messed up backstory, and Zuko risked his life to save a crewmember in the middle of a storm, allowing Aang to escape in the process, and Zuko and the crew started to respect each other a little, or at least enough for his second in command to stop challenging him to fights to the death.
Capt Marcus of Exo Squad is the worst example. He's both a General Ripper and General Failure all rolled into one. His battleplans usually end up getting ambushed and outgunned by the enemy.
Zim is shown to be this type of leader in the episode Hobo-13 in that he needlessly sacrifices his squadmates so that he himself can get to the end of the obstacle course, including using his last remaining soldier as a battering ram to open a door. The Drill Sergeant (ironically played by R. Lee Ermey) who meets him at the end chooses to fail Zim due to his horrendous leadership skills and challenges him into combat in order to pass (which Zim does by cheating).
The Tallests are seen as worse than Zim, being a pair of petty, self-serving, and egomaniacal jerkasses, treating everyone beneath them with contempt and mockery, particularly the shorter Irkens. In fact, the Irkens are a race of Neidermyers.
Ratty from Mr. Bogus will often fill this role, whether it's bossing around his incompetent sidekick, Mole, or trying to one-up Bogus, without any success.
In The Simpsons, Principal Skinner was shot in the back when he was a sergeant in Vietnam when trying to get Joey Heatherton to put some pants on. The depiction of his army career is the same as his current one, just with soldiers replacing Willy. That's assuming he's telling the truth in any of his flash backs, what with him not really being Seymour Skinner.
Megatron was competent, but selfish. This and his ego led him to doing quite a few stupid things and abandoning Devastator in one episode. To be fair, it's really Starscream that was made out to be incompetent by the cartoon's writers, though his comic and toy bios show that he is far more brilliant.
The real gem, however, is Galvatron. This insane psychotic warfreak shot at his own troops and did more damage to his own army than the Autobots. Needless to say, if it weren't for a number of certain extenuating circumstances, the Decepticons would have recycled Galvatron a long time ago, no matter how powerful he was. Said circumstances mainly being that, because of the backstabbing treachery endemic in their ranks, the first thing that would happen when Galvatron got slagged would be civil war breaking out due to there being no clear-cut successor to Galvatron's rank. And this would doubtlessly be fatal to the Decepticons, due to them being stuck on a burned out world and barely scraping together enough fuel, parts and ammo to survive from day to day.
Sentinel Prime from Transformers Animated is an example this kind of character among the good guys. Even in his younger days, he had zero respect for his peers, blaming the more responsible Optimus for Elita-1's presumed death, and as soon as he gained a command of his own, promptly began treating his men like worthless garbage, causing poor Bumblebee and Bulkhead much pain and suffering. He remains a jerk in the present day, taking every opportunity to viciously mock Optimus and his team's lower positions.
Grimlock is occasionally shown to be a bit of a Neidermeyer in the comics when he's put in command of units other than the Dinobots, largely because most Autobots aren't used to doing things The Spartan Way like the Dinobots are and Grimlock being unwilling to accommodate them. When he briefly took over the Autobots he threw the rulebook out the window.
Many sub-commanders within the Decepticons fit into this trope, but none moreso than Motormaster, leader of the Stunticons. His team is a big ball of crazy, and he loves to do things like order the silence-fearing Wildrider to remain quiet on missions. The intense loathing that the rest of the Stunticons have for Motormaster causes their combined form Menasor to be utterly uncontrollable as none of his component minds are able to work with their leader's.
Yo Yogi!: Dick Dastardly usurps Yogi's position as the head of the LAF (Lost And Found) section of Jellystone Mall and becomes a Neidermeyer to Yogi's friends. Later on, two kidnappers trick him into abducting Augie Doggie and he's now afraid of being sent to prison. He tries to get Yogi's friends to help him rescuing Augie but they won't follow him, so he brings Yogi back.
Dick Dastardly, period, on his own show Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines. The General believes him incompetent (just there to collect flight pay), Zilly tries to shirk his duties, and Muttley isn't above using blackmail to weasel a medal from him. Klunk is the only pilot that gives him an iota of respect.
This sort of thing actually occurs in Real Life. While fraggings are uncommon (though they did occur in Vietnam), plenty of stories get passed around the modern military about which officers to avoid and who's a dirtbag.
George Armstrong Custer. :
He was a glory-seeking General that lost his wits, every man of his Seventh Calvary, and his life in the campaign that led to the Little Big Horn. And he got in that mess from increasingly frantic and frustrated desire for glory to turn to political advantage, no matter how many tribes or soldiers died to get it!
However, one incident that is largely forgotten is that Custer almost singlehandedly prevented a massacre when Philip Sheridan ordered an assault against the starved, exhausted and defenseless remnants of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House. Custer, realizing that the surviving Confederates were in no physical or emotional condition to fight anyone and were completely encircled, rode in front of the Union Army frantically trying to stop the attack. Custer's actions managed to delay the attack long enough for the famous surrender to be negotiated. Custer may have been a psychotic nut-case but he had nothing on Sheridan.
Custer led a cavalry force of 700 men to take out Sitting Bull and the 800 natives who had left a reservation. Ignoring his scouts (members of the Crow tribe) who told him the village they spotted had thousands of women and children and probably an equal number of warriors he split his force in half to "trap" the enemy. Custer's own group, about 200 soldiers personally led by him would end up facing at least 1800 Native American warriors, warriors who had just fought off the other half of his armed force which had attacked the village. The only survivor from Custer's group was a horse called Commanche which had nearly a dozen wounds from bullets, arrows and spears. What everyone always forgets is that he was a Colonel at this point, having been a General in the civil war, and wanted to regain his rank!
Custer had problems even before Little Big Horn: suspension from duty for a year for being AWOL, misappropriation of funds meant for provisions for reservation Indians, and during Reconstruction duty in Texas he only narrowly escaped being fragged by his own troops (namely, the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry, of which Custer had been given command and who resented his attempts at discipline). He was routinely called a 'dandy' and 'Ringlets' by his men as a result of his obsession with his personal appearance. Little Big Horn itself was the result of Custer's insubordination and happened when Custer and his men deserted their commanding officer (Custer had earlier been denied independent command because of his continued use of his position and his men for political lobbying).
At least one historian has suggested that Custer's legendary recklessness was the result of a "Death Wish" caused by Custer's discovery that he was suffering from syphilis, which at the time was incurable, ultimately fatal, and caused delusions of grandeur and obsessive-compulsive behaviour.
In World War II General Lloyd Fredendall was one of the original commanders of Operation Torch (the American invasion of North Africa). Once on the ground in Africa Fredendall had his headquarters built 70 miles behind the front lines, which was viewed as cowardly by both the troops under his command and by his peers and superiors. From there he proceeded to issue unsound commands that showed little grasp of military tactics, including a tendency to place infantry in positions where they could not receive decent air or artillery support. By most reports Fredendall was a swaggering, cocky man who did not listen to his subordinates. Even more unfortunately, his adversary in the campaign was General Erwin Rommel and his famed Afrika Korps. After the crushing American defeat at the Kasserine Pass Fredendall was relieved of command and replaced by George Patton, after which American forces actually started experiencing success in North Africa. The irony is that Fredenhall was an excellent logistician. He was sent back to Stateside, where he made more for the Army logistics than any other general.
Patton himself has been accused of being more than a little of a martinet, far too concerned with the dress code in a combat zone (including the fact he demanded, and may even have gotten, front-line infantry to wear their ties), attacking Metz and the Vauban forts without proper preparation and demanding the attack continue after it became clear it was not going to succeed, and finally culminating late in the war with his famous tirade against a soldier who had been shot in the foot for cowardice (said soldier had already won a Silver Star for valor).
On The Front called him on his uniform obsession multiple times, eventually leading to Patton threatening to shut down Stars and Stripes altogether to stop troops from reading the strip.
Despite his dress code obsession however, Patton was very much a A Father to His Men in every other area. He displayed high favor to the frontline troops of his command, diverting provisions (such as wine, magazines and any type of recreational material) to them, preferred leading from the front whenever he could afford to and, when on the few occasions when he realized he was in the wrong (such as the aforementioned accusation of cowardice), he would apologize and try to make things right as best as he could. As well, in spite of being somewhat racist (his family did descend from the Confederate South after all), Patton was among the first US Army commanders to show favor toward the African American troops of his command, both through emphasizing their importance and performance as soldiers to even going as far as having black judges assigned to any court martials involving black soldiers. Generally (pardon the expression), Patton was more of A Father to His Men with some Neidermeyer traits than one or the other.
Douglas Macarthur had the abrasiveness and ego down pat, and his handling of the fall of the Philippines and the Korean War make his competence in doubt. Though it was not well known at the time (the US media loved portraying him as a messiah), MacArthur was more concerned with his personal image than almost anything else. Everything from his famous shades and corncob pipe image to his style of command and administration, from his tenure as Superintendent at West Point to Korea, were designed primarily for his personal glory. As well, he was infamously (within the US Army) prone to shower favor on toadies and surround himself with them and ignore constructive criticism. His hatred of the Navies under his command was also infamous, and after his victory over Japan and tenure as "Shogun" there, he let a lot of his prior flaws bubble to his head and blow themselves out of proportion, which was a major reason why the early stages of the Korean War went as badly for the Western Allies as they did. Ultimately, "Dougout Dug" really was that Badass on a lot of occasions, and he did truly care for his men, but it had to be pretty bad for those traits to become more visible than his glory seeking.
MacArthur did manage to reform West Point, updating its curriculum for the first time in over a century using the lessons learned from World War One (in which he was a genuinely effective Colonel Badass). His reforms didn't set well with the Army establishment, which along with his other activities during the interwar periodnote including using force against World War One veterans seeking early payment of benefits during the Depression only tarnished his reputation further. As did stealing credit from subordinates who planned and executed successful operations without MacArthur's involvement, or undercutting other commanders note in particular, the Inchon landing during the Korean War—in which MacArthur undercut Admiral James Doyle, who did most of the planning, before his immediate superior, and refused to invite any Marine Corps generals to the planning sessions despite the Marines constituting the bulk of the landing force! His own personality didn't exactly help matters either: Dwight Eisenhower, his former aide-de-camp, once said he 'studied drama under MacArthur.'
There is one story that the sailors aboard a US Navy vessel were lining up for geedunk (ice cream) when two Ensigns shouted "Make way for officers!" and started shoving through. Whereupon AdmiralHalsey who had been waiting his turn patiently with every other sailor shouted "Get back where you belong!" With appropriate sailorly adjectives no doubt.
When approached for advice by a junior officer, Graf allegedly responded with "Don't come to me with your problems. You're a fucking department head", and later "I can’t express how mad you make me without getting violent!"
Started a (confirmed) drag race with another destroyer that nearly resulted in a collision; the ships came within 300 feet of each other. A photo from the deck of Graf's ship shows the vessel heading straight toward the other. To make it worse, when the bridge crew went to sound a collision alarm (so all hands could brace and ready repairs), Graf ordered them to not sound the alarm. Such an alarm, after all, would have to be noted in the ship’s logs. That would mean she'd have to explain why she endangered two very expensive ships and a couple hundred lives in a pissing contest
Tired of delays leaving a port, she ordered that the ship accelerate to 25 knots instead of 10, despite being informed it was dangerous to do so. As a result, the USS Cowpens ran soft aground and mangled the ship's propulsion screws. She then allegedly grabbed a British exchange officer by either the throat or the lapels (accounts differ), and began shouting "Did you run my fucking ship aground?!" She then went on to order the crew to falsify records and claim they were moving at 10 knots.
Allegedly covered up the fact that her ship had struck a whale by ordering the crew into lockdown and temporarily terminating e-mail privileges.
When the Asst. Secretary of the Navy decided she did nothing to earn anything less than an honorable discharge.
Captain Bligh had a reputation for this, but it's not really deserved: Yes, he flogged his men, but it was only because flogging was the mandatory punishment in the British Navy at the time. In fact, he was considered lenient compared to the other officers in the Navy. Yes, conditions were overcrowded on the Bounty, but only because Bligh couldn't say no to friends and relatives who needed jobs for their friends and relatives. And when they finally got to Otaheite (later Tahiti), Bligh let his men run around and do whatever they wanted for the five months they remained. The conditions that led to the famous mutiny were largely made out of a desperate need to get his by-now rather lax crew into some semblance of order and competency. In short, the supposed tyrant's greatest crime was being too accommodating.
Plus, after their mutiny, the crew returned to Tahiti and began treating the natives little better than slaves. Eventually the natives rebelled and killed nearly all of them.
The famed Mutiny on the Bounty was not the last time Bligh faced a mutiny of those under him. His overly strict and by the book attempts to enforce discipline when he was made Governor of New South Wales sparked off the Rum Rebellion.
Honestly, Bligh actually genuinely aspired to be A Father to His Men. He had served under Captain Cook during Cook's famed expeditions to Hawaii, and learned much on how to run a ship under him. He packed foods, such as sauerkraut that were reputed to help ward off scurvy, and as noted above, flogged where legally demanded and not "just because", and often commuted capital offenses to flogging when he could. His failings were a very harsh tongue and something of a taskmaster mentality.
As for competence: After being ejected from the Bounty with the crew that stayed loyal, Bligh sailed an overcrowded ship's boat with little food and water and the crudest of navigational aids on a massive journey across open seas to reach modern-day Indonesia, with the loss of only one crew member. The other men on the boat acknowledged that it was due to Bligh's nautical skills.
Bligh's discipline also ensured that the sick and weak were not abandoned to their fate but were the first to get fed when the boat's crew managed to kill a seabird etc.
Hermann Goering, by 1945, was called the most hated man in Germany because of his obsession with fame, glory, Bling of War and rampant egomania. Given the competition at the time, it's quite an achievement. Göring was a perfect example of The Peter Principle. A brilliant Ace Pilot (22 victories and Blue Max) and a competent wing commander, he found his level of total incompetentness as Reichsmarschall. His desire to have his Luftwaffe deal the killing blow to the BEF instead of the regular army was one of the reasons they were able to evacuate at Dunkirk to fight another day. His later attempt to resupply the trapped 6th Army at Stalingrad by air despite the Luftwaffe never being designed around such a mission, let alone one at the limits of their own supply chain and incredibly harsh winter weather conditions, only resulted in a disorganized mess that not only failed to save 6th Army but cost large numbers of planes and pilots lost in the effort. When the regime was on it's last legs, he unsuccessfully tried to usurp power from Hitler at the last second, and was unrepentant during his trial for war crimes, firmly believing history would vindicate him as a German national hero.
Adolf Hitler. By the end of the War, many of his own men—particularly his generals—wanted him dead more than the Allies due to his repeated strategic blunders (the Allies stopped trying to kill him, fearing someone competent would take his place). Indeed, a few senior officers such as ErwinRommel, (many of them Junkers-contrary to common belief, the German nobility generally disdained or even outright hated Hitler, who returned the sentiment), participated with a plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944. It failed. On the bright side, it inspired the film Valkyrie.
After the defeat in Stalingrad (a defeat that occurred purely due to Hitler's personal strategic intervention) Hitler went from "makes unreasonable demands and interferes in well made plans" to "detached from reality". The famous stories from his war room are that he would regularly issue orders to units that no longer existed or were so undermanned they might as well not exist, then when his plans didn't work out, would blame the subordinate who was "responsible". Most Generals were lucky enough that they would simply be demoted or put somewhere out of the way (legendary General Guderian was one example), however some were not so lucky and would be executed for cowardice or "defying orders".
One well-known story from the war is that when the D-Day invasion began, Panzer groups sat idly by while the Allies invaded. The reason? Because they needed Adolf's ordered permission to get into the battle. He did not give it until late in the day, because he was asleep. And nobody wanted to be the one to wake him up and tell him the bad news.
Hitler has a long history of this kind of behavior: quite a few sources from World War I show him as being disliked by many of his fellow soldiers, who didn't take kindly to his political ranting and preaching. Despite this, most of them grudgingly respected him for his loyalty to Germany, even if he did have one of the safer positions as battalion messenger.
"Safer" being relative. Frontline messengers, while not typically required to be on the firing line, made up for it in that they were often in exposed positions while moving between units, which is why important messages were often sent by multiple messengers to make sure at least one got to the destination alive. Hitler legitimately earned his Iron Crosses second and first class for bravery, which was a rather rare achievement for a private (Hitler did not rise above Gefreiter, or Private First Class in the American parlance).
Recent evidence, as well as numerous interviews with those who served with him, suggest that Hitler was actually a Regimental Messenger, a position several miles behind the front trenches. While still dangerous (primarily due to enemy artillery), it was much safer than the battalion messengers who also had to contend with sniper and machine gun fire. * This may have simply been an honest mistake as many early WW1 historians did not differentiate between battalion and regimental messengers.
Captain Herbert Sobel, former commander of E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101 Airborne. He was incompetent, petty, a Drill Sergeant Nasty, and a complete Jerkass. Many say that his Moral Event Horizon was raiding his troop's rooms and confiscating everything from magazines to non-regulation clothing. When he was replaced, everybody was happy. While he was almost universally hated by every man who trained under him, those same men almost universally say that it was Sobel who made E Company into the elite unit it was because of his Jerkass, overly harsh treatment. (Yes, the portrayal of him in Band of Brothers is widely agreed to be perfectly accurate.)
An even more infamous example from the same war and company (and eventual miniseries) is 1st Lt. Norman Dike. He's been accused of delegating all duty to lower officers and NCOs during his tenure, and for disappearing from the front lines for hours at a time during the Battle of the Bulge; many of the men under (and over) him accused him of simply using the E Company assignment as a way to get "field experience" before continuing his climb up the ladder. Most infamous, however, is his historically-documented meltdown during the assault on Foy, Belgium. While trying to lead E Company on the Foy attack, he completely froze up from terror and was unable to give any commands at all, aside from one order for Easy to halt their advance into the town... in the middle of an open field. He was famously relieved of duty by Ronald Spiers, who would go on to lead E Company to victory in Foy. After this incident, Dike was quickly drummed out of the Airborne and was lucky to not be kicked out of the Army wholesale.
This happens often when the former military people end up in the areas where the less straightforward methods are the norm. A good IT example would be Bob Belleville, Apple's Software Manager for the original Macintosh development team. The guy was an alumnus of the same Xerox PARC lab as were most other Mac people, but his stint in the Navy had shifted his priorities somewhat. He once almost fired one of the critical OS developers over a dispute about the crucial part of software he felt was unneeded, and drove the chief OS architect to tears and filing his resignation (during the critical period of the OS development) because of his supposed insubordination. In both cases only a good chewing out by Steve Jobs himself made him relent somewhat.
A common problem with former military isre-socializing to the civilian world. Once you spend a long enough time in, it takes time to get used to the less formal (in appearance) environment of the civilian workforce. There are reasons why former military are often seen in jobs with known chains of command.
People who worked for Steve Jobs and left tend to have this view of him, considering his high standards. But since he led Apple from nearly dead in the water to having more liquid assets than the US government in 10 years, people skirt by this.
Virtually every officer in the Imperial Japanese military, in large part due to their brutal discipline and rigid stratification between enlisted and officer ranks. Imperial officers and NCOs were supposed to make their men fear them more than they feared the enemy. This tended to backfire in the Air services because the more experienced enlisted pilots would simply abandon officers that they didn't like; actual fragging was normally unnecessary since being alone in a dogfight usually meant you were dead meat. According to one surviving enlisted pilot unpopular officers "often failed to come back."
Virtually every officer in the pre-Russo-Japanese war Tsarist Russian military, because of the brutal means of discipline and strict social class differences. Almost all officers came from the privileged nobility, while the enlisted men were almost all force-levied conscripts. One particular example was Lieutenant Ippolit Giliarovsky on pre-dreadnought battleship Potemkin, whose uppity, cocky and bullying behaviour sparked the mutiny immortalized on Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin.
Note that this had changed by World War One, largely as a result of the reforms that came in the wake of the embarrassing stalemate that was the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5. In 1913, 40% of the Officer Academies' graduates were landless gentry (i.e. families with titles, but little or no money), and another 40% were of the lower-middle class and peasantry. Only 20% of graduates were from land-owning and/or middle-middle-to-upper-class families. This was a drastically lower proportion than in Germany, wherein the Army's officer corps was overwhelmingly aristocratic. Unlike in contemporary Germany, the Imperial Russian army was actually a means for 'upward' social mobility.
The Royal Navy officers, who served as liaison officers, were appalled of the Russian Imperial Navy's brutal discipline and the incompetence of the officers. The Russian Imperial Navy used corporal punishments, which had been abandoned already in the Napoleonic times in the Royal Navy. The disaster in the Russo-Japanese war forced the Russians to reform.
The Soviet military was markedly better, as the Soviet Union placed extremely heavy emphasis on military preparedness after the 22nd of July 1941 (for understandable reasons). However, a culture of dedovschina ('rule of the grandfathers') developed, whereby senior conscripts were encouraged by the hierarchy to inflict extremely brutal hazing and bullying upon junior conscripts. The practice is responsible for as many as 3,000 deaths per year, although the Russian Defense Ministry classifies most of those as 'suicides'. The practice was partly responsible for the Strozhevoi Mutiny, the attempted defection of a Soviet frigate to Sweden in 1975. Lowering the mandatory service period to three years from five has eased the problem somewhat, but it still remains endemic to the Russian military even in the post-Soviet era.
It doesn't help that the Soviet military set the standard for placing "politically reliable" (i.e. regime loyal) officers to high command positions over those who possessed real skills. This resulted in the Soviet General Staff becoming top heavy with Neidermeyers who were more concerned with Bling of War and Miles Gloriosusism than commanding soldiers effectively, in turn leading to the stereotype of communist militaries being led by General Failures who were either fanatical or had gained their position through Party connections (namely through familial relations). An attempted balance for this was capital punishment (such as firing squads) being the standard reprisal for failure; in theory this motivated Soviet commanders not to screw up and do their jobs well, but in practice it was more of an Old Boss to New Boss transitioning that did more harm than good.
This attitude affected even the competent Soviet Generals, such as Marshal Zhukov. They were aware that if they preserved the lives of their men at the cost of victory, their own necks would be in line. So they would often opt for very costly victories in men and material even for relatively insignificant gains. This would affect their postwar reputations: when Zhukov was in favor, he was the great military leader who won the war; when he wasn't, he was the butcher whose victories were built on a lot of needless sacrifice.
Soviet General Grigory Kulik had a reputation of being erratic and a murderous buffoon. His personal command motto was: "Jail, or Medal." People under his command who he favored would receive (undeserved) honors, while those he didn't would be arrested for whatever reason he could think of. He would then shout his motto at his 'favored' subordinates to intimidate them if they were starting to displease him. Not only this, he was a stupendously inept officer who had no understanding of tactics and resisted all military innovations (such as tanks, rocket artillery, minefields, and sub-machine guns, all of which were effective). The only reason he survived for so long when other much more competent generals did not was because he himself had the personal favor of Stalin. He finally lost it after the end of WWII, when he was overheard criticizing Stalin. He was soon arrested, and eventually executed.
Second Lieutenant William Calley, commanding officer of the platoon that perpetrated the My Lai massacre, was regarded as incompetent and there had been discussions already within the platoon of fragging him.
And his superior, Captain Ernest Medina, was little better. Medina was a martinet who openly harassed Calley, pushing him over the edge. It is suggested Medina himself ordered My Lai to be destroyed. Medina was an excellent NCO but a complete failure as an officer.
In the recently-published book The Generals by Thomas Ricks, the argument is made that the general officer corps of the US Army is overloaded with Neidermeyers (and several from World War Two to Iraq and Afghanistan are described), and it's only because of the competence of the enlisted, NCOs, and good junior officers that this hasn't become more obvious.
The term 'fragging' refers to dispatching an unpopular military officer with a fragmentation grenade. The reasoning was that bullets could be traced to individual rifles, but grenades could not, and would destroy other physical evidence. Apparently the process was that a verbal, informal mention of difficulties with an officer would be made. The next step was to place a grenade pin on the officer's pillow or other conspicuous place for him to find. If the message still wasn't coming across, a real grenade WITHOUT a pin would be placed in the general vicinity of the officer. In addition, apparently, the standing orders for a squad in Vietnam if their officer was killed was to return to base. Soldiers on a suicidal or otherwise dangerous mission sometimes were able to figure out the math on that one.
To US Airmen in Tech School (AF advanced training), "Ropes" often fall under this trope. Basically, they are to the USAF what prefects are to British schools - fellow students who come off as Gung Holier Than ThouRules Lawyers, and can get you in trouble for even minor violations since becoming a "Rope" gives them a measure of authority to rat their fellow Airmen out to the sergeants.
Ernesto "Che" Guevara was like this about half of the time more or less, depending on the source. While he was occasionally known for showing reckless bravery and some decent planning, at other times he was notably incompetent, fled from battle, and generally was a burden to his men. And he was verbally abusive to his men almost all the time and generally showed a disdain for "Bourgeoise tactics" that hardly helped matters at all. He is perhaps most infamously known for his "last stand", where according to most accounts he left the rest of his unit to fight it out against the Bolivian soldiers attacking him before surrendering afterwards with two loaded and primed pistols. Though to be fair, he did surrender only after taking two bullets, and his last remaining comrade fought to the end to protect him. Despite leading revolutionaries in Africa, Guevara was overheard to disparage his local African fellow travelers, stating that black people did not have the intelligence to make communism work, and placing Afro-Cubans in his command over the native Congolese.
A much-disliked pilot in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, renowned for bratty manner, overloading his crew with irrational and unnecessary demands, and other failings in human management, insisted his hangar crew rename his plane after his girlfriend. He was not nice about it and did not ask - he ordered. The irritated crew painted the name "Phyllis" on the nose of his plane as ordered. The pilot pronounced himself satisfied. After a discreet interval, the letters "SY-" were painted in front of the name. The pilot did not notice. Everyone else on the carrier did.
Lord Cardigan of Crimean War infamy provides a particularly odious example. He purchased the Lieutenant Colonelcy of the 15th Hussars, despite a complete lack of military experience (bypassing the regiment's senior Major, who'd fought at Waterloo and served for 30 years). Besides being a harsh drillmaster and disciplinarian he frequently antagonized his subordinate officers, especially those who'd served India. He shot one officer in a duel, tried to cashier another for serving moselle at a champagne dinner and had a secretary record the private conversations of his subordinates. Cardigan's wartime leadership of the Light Cavalry Brigade wasn't especially distinguished, leading them on a pointless reconnaissance that achieved little but exhausting the men and losing valuable horses. While he showed courage during the Brigade's famous charge, he turned back immediately after reaching the Russian guns, believing it ungentlemanly to fight amongst private soldiers.