Was General Montgomery really overrated in WW2? - Page 9




 
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December 8th, 2004  
Young Winston
 
 
Sorry, I have been slow on this. I will get back to you. I misplaced the book that had some good stuff in it.
December 12th, 2004  
Young Winston
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by schoolnoob
Aussie John - I like your suggestion on books about Patton. I never quite thought of that. Perhaps i could also look at books on Ike and other US generals.

I've been sifting around for material on key battles involving Monty. So far ive found plenty on D-day and El Alamein but books on Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge come up short. It seems to me that a lot of them are narrative books dealing with soldiers experiences rather than an analytical book which accounts for the battle and offers opinions on certain leaders etc. Any Suggestions.

I certainly agree to the point that market garden may be the reason why US does not like Monty as it was a dismal failure and in my opinion an ill conceived plan. Not too sure about the Bulge, i dont quite know enough about his role there.

btw, what exactly did Monty say about the American high command?
Sorry about the delay!!!!!!!! You wanted information on Monty’s insensitive press conference in January, 1945.

I will quote directly from the paperback edition of Alun Chalfont’s book “Montgomery of Alamein”. Chalfont served in the British Army but never under Monty. It’s a great book and easy to read.

There should be other sources on this press conference about on the internet. I haven’t looked as yet.

While reading the following, please keep it in context with the other troubles occurring between Monty and Eisenhower during these months. Monty wanted Eisenhower to change the command structure, including the idea that he should take over a larger northern front, from the Ardennes to the sea. He was so thoughtless in the way he pushed this idea, particularly during the “Battle of the Bulge” that it nearly got him the sack.

P.305-307

“There is no doubt that Montgomery enjoyed the Ardennes campaign. It was the type of battle for which he was ideally suited, with the accent on defence; and his liaison officer system gave him a constant and accurate view of the situation. He awoke from the torpor which had seemed to take hold of him during November, and was radiant with the challenges he faced. On 18 December, de Guingand described his chief as being at the ‘top of his form’ when he spoke to him on the telephone.

On 13th December he had pleaded to be given just the command which he had held from the 20th; he felt that the “Battle of the Bulge” proved his case conclusively. And so when he appeared at Hodge’s headquarters on 21st December with his Union Jack and his outriders, he gave an impression of having come like Christ to cleanse the temple. On this occasion the feelings of the Americans were further alienated when the Field Marshal, as usual, refused to have lunch in the mess, but ate sandwiches in his car outside. Any bruised feelings during the actual fighting of the battle, however, were dwarfed by comparison with two problems which arose out of Montgomery’s attitude to the lessons to be learnt. One of these, perhaps the less important of the two, was caused by a press conference he held on the 7th January.

Montgomery was dressed in red beret and paratroop combat jacket, and in buoyant mood. Perhaps understandably, he overestimated the role of the British Forces. And he implied that he and his 21st Army Group had had to save the Americans. ‘General Eisenhower placed me in command of the whole northern front. I enjoyed the whole available power of the British group of armies. You have this picture of British troops fighting on both sides of American forces and who have suffered a hard blow. This is a fine Allied picture.’ A ‘fine Allied picture’ it might have been, but this view displeased Bradley immensely. Bradley was smarting in any case because he had, against advice, pitched his own headquarters so far south that he had lost contact with Hodges as soon as the battle began. He complained that Montgomery was making him look ridiculously unprepared when in fact the British were just as unready (Montgomery was playing golf when the offensive began, and his message to the troops on 16th December had read: ‘The enemy situation is such that he cannot stage major offensive operations’).

The American generals were also aware that, privately, Montgomery was very critical of their command structure and the way it dealt with the break-through. He wrote to Brooke as the Battle was opening: ‘The situation in American area is not – not – good’. On 25th December he told the CIGS: ‘The American armies in the north were in a complete muddle.’ American officers found many of his remarks at the press conference a thinly veiled version of this.

So although the New York Times said that ‘no handsomer tribute was ever paid to the American soldier’, the account of the opening of the battle caused grave offence. So did Montgomery’s version of the way the Germans were halted. He said he had put his men ‘into battle with a bang’. But he did not begin offensive operations until 3rd January – twelve days after Patton, from the south, had counter-attacked, and effectively sealed the fate of the German armies.

As the news of his overall command in the northern theatre was not publicly released until 6th January, this press conference was seized on by the British and American newspapers – and by the Germans, who used a specifically edited version as propaganda. Montgomery was rapidly made aware of the furore he was causing; on 14th January he sent a letter of apology to Bradley. He was at last beginning to understand the difficulties which could be caused by his ill-considered statements. The main reason, however, why he was so alert to the harm he had done at his press conference was that in the last days of December he had precipitated a crisis which almost led to his own removal. The events of the Battle of the Ardennes and Montgomery’s reaction to them at finally snapped the long thread of Eisenhower’s patience.”

Chalfont goes on to discuss Monty’s determination to have the command structure changed and his near sacking.

I’ll make a quick comment on George Patton.

He certainly had his dark side. Eg slapping, punching and threatening to shoot shell shocked soldiers and calling them cowards. At one stage the word around was that a lot of American soldiers would have been happy to ‘shoot the bastard’.

He was accused of giving orders to soldiers under his command to shoot prisoners (WHICH SOME DID!). The charges were dropped because it was feared by Eisenhower that if he was found guilty Patton would probably have to be sent home. Eisenhower considered him too important to the war effort to risk a trial.

Patton was made military governor of Bavaria at the end of the war. He was sacked due to his comments in support of rearming the Germans and going after the Russians.
January 24th, 2005  
Strongbow
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by aussiejohn
Quote:
Originally Posted by schoolnoob
Aussie John - I like your suggestion on books about Patton. I never quite thought of that. Perhaps i could also look at books on Ike and other US generals.

I've been sifting around for material on key battles involving Monty. So far ive found plenty on D-day and El Alamein but books on Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge come up short. It seems to me that a lot of them are narrative books dealing with soldiers experiences rather than an analytical book which accounts for the battle and offers opinions on certain leaders etc. Any Suggestions.

I certainly agree to the point that market garden may be the reason why US does not like Monty as it was a dismal failure and in my opinion an ill conceived plan. Not too sure about the Bulge, i dont quite know enough about his role there.

btw, what exactly did Monty say about the American high command?
Sorry about the delay!!!!!!!! You wanted information on Monty’s insensitive press conference in January, 1945.

I will quote directly from the paperback edition of Alun Chalfont’s book “Montgomery of Alamein”. Chalfont served in the British Army but never under Monty. It’s a great book and easy to read.

There should be other sources on this press conference about on the internet. I haven’t looked as yet.

While reading the following, please keep it in context with the other troubles occurring between Monty and Eisenhower during these months. Monty wanted Eisenhower to change the command structure, including the idea that he should take over a larger northern front, from the Ardennes to the sea. He was so thoughtless in the way he pushed this idea, particularly during the “Battle of the Bulge” that it nearly got him the sack.

P.305-307

“There is no doubt that Montgomery enjoyed the Ardennes campaign. It was the type of battle for which he was ideally suited, with the accent on defence; and his liaison officer system gave him a constant and accurate view of the situation. He awoke from the torpor which had seemed to take hold of him during November, and was radiant with the challenges he faced. On 18 December, de Guingand described his chief as being at the ‘top of his form’ when he spoke to him on the telephone.

On 13th December he had pleaded to be given just the command which he had held from the 20th; he felt that the “Battle of the Bulge” proved his case conclusively. And so when he appeared at Hodge’s headquarters on 21st December with his Union Jack and his outriders, he gave an impression of having come like Christ to cleanse the temple. On this occasion the feelings of the Americans were further alienated when the Field Marshal, as usual, refused to have lunch in the mess, but ate sandwiches in his car outside. Any bruised feelings during the actual fighting of the battle, however, were dwarfed by comparison with two problems which arose out of Montgomery’s attitude to the lessons to be learnt. One of these, perhaps the less important of the two, was caused by a press conference he held on the 7th January.

Montgomery was dressed in red beret and paratroop combat jacket, and in buoyant mood. Perhaps understandably, he overestimated the role of the British Forces. And he implied that he and his 21st Army Group had had to save the Americans. ‘General Eisenhower placed me in command of the whole northern front. I enjoyed the whole available power of the British group of armies. You have this picture of British troops fighting on both sides of American forces and who have suffered a hard blow. This is a fine Allied picture.’ A ‘fine Allied picture’ it might have been, but this view displeased Bradley immensely. Bradley was smarting in any case because he had, against advice, pitched his own headquarters so far south that he had lost contact with Hodges as soon as the battle began. He complained that Montgomery was making him look ridiculously unprepared when in fact the British were just as unready (Montgomery was playing golf when the offensive began, and his message to the troops on 16th December had read: ‘The enemy situation is such that he cannot stage major offensive operations’).

The American generals were also aware that, privately, Montgomery was very critical of their command structure and the way it dealt with the break-through. He wrote to Brooke as the Battle was opening: ‘The situation in American area is not – not – good’. On 25th December he told the CIGS: ‘The American armies in the north were in a complete muddle.’ American officers found many of his remarks at the press conference a thinly veiled version of this.

So although the New York Times said that ‘no handsomer tribute was ever paid to the American soldier’, the account of the opening of the battle caused grave offence. So did Montgomery’s version of the way the Germans were halted. He said he had put his men ‘into battle with a bang’. But he did not begin offensive operations until 3rd January – twelve days after Patton, from the south, had counter-attacked, and effectively sealed the fate of the German armies.

As the news of his overall command in the northern theatre was not publicly released until 6th January, this press conference was seized on by the British and American newspapers – and by the Germans, who used a specifically edited version as propaganda. Montgomery was rapidly made aware of the furore he was causing; on 14th January he sent a letter of apology to Bradley. He was at last beginning to understand the difficulties which could be caused by his ill-considered statements. The main reason, however, why he was so alert to the harm he had done at his press conference was that in the last days of December he had precipitated a crisis which almost led to his own removal. The events of the Battle of the Ardennes and Montgomery’s reaction to them at finally snapped the long thread of Eisenhower’s patience.”

Chalfont goes on to discuss Monty’s determination to have the command structure changed and his near sacking.

I’ll make a quick comment on George Patton.

He certainly had his dark side. Eg slapping, punching and threatening to shoot shell shocked soldiers and calling them cowards. At one stage the word around was that a lot of American soldiers would have been happy to ‘shoot the bastard’.

He was accused of giving orders to soldiers under his command to shoot prisoners (WHICH SOME DID!). The charges were dropped because it was feared by Eisenhower that if he was found guilty Patton would probably have to be sent home. Eisenhower considered him too important to the war effort to risk a trial.

Patton was made military governor of Bavaria at the end of the war. He was sacked due to his comments in support of rearming the Germans and going after the Russians.
This terrific information Sir. You are have made a real study of Montgomery.

But I do believe you are a little hard on him though. He had a great military mind and was a wonderful planner.

I look forward to more of your comments.
--
January 30th, 2005  
Young Winston
 
 
Thanks Strongbow.

If you have read through the posts you would have seen that I have been very fair to him.

Checkout some of the books I have suggested.

I agree with some of the things you have said. He was good at planning a campaign but I think he lost the plot in Holland (Market Garden).
January 30th, 2005  
Popeye
 
 
I just like how he screwed us over in the Battle of the Bulge.
January 31st, 2005  
easyaction
 

Topic: Was Montgomery really overrated in WW2?


In my youth I read that Monty was brilliant. Things I read later in life were critical of him. Films such as "Patton" and "A Bridge Too Far" treat him as little more than a fool.
The last book I read was Max Hasting's account of Normandy.
Hastings book frankly related the faults in Monty - the most obvious was his attempt to convince everyone that the British assaults in Normandy were clever feints to pull the weight of German armour away from the Americans.
That is what happened but it was not what was intended. Monty wanted to break out of the German defensive ring and force them to retreat. In the event his continued attacks burned away the German strength. When Bradley launched Cobra it was against weak and fluid German defences. Though I doubt if that was how the Americans at the sharp end found it!
Although it was not the original plan what transpired was more effective. The continued British and Canadian assaults fatally weakened the Germans - but it cost the Allies casualties. My father was one - he was wounded as an infantryman near Caen.
Monty extended the D-Day beaches from three to five. And he considered the battle of the build-up vital to eventual success.
He did not have a perfect army - he realised this. Nor did Bradley - and he realised that fact too.
But they had to use the armies they had - and these armies proved effective and competent.
As Max Hastings put it in his summary of Normandy - they were not there to prove that an individual American, British or Canadian soldier was better that an individual German soldier.
They were in Normandy to effect the defeat of the German army in Normandy.
And, with the Allied air forces and navies, that is what they did.
January 31st, 2005  
Strongbow
 
 

Topic: Re: Was Montgomery really overrated in WW2?


Quote:
Originally Posted by armchairal
In my youth I read that Monty was brilliant. Things I read later in life were critical of him. Films such as "Patton" and "A Bridge Too Far" treat him as little more than a fool.
The last book I read was Max Hasting's account of Normandy.
Hastings book frankly related the faults in Monty - the most obvious was his attempt to convince everyone that the British assaults in Normandy were clever feints to pull the weight of German armour away from the Americans.
That is what happened but it was not what was intended. Monty wanted to break out of the German defensive ring and force them to retreat. In the event his continued attacks burned away the German strength. When Bradley launched Cobra it was against weak and fluid German defences. Though I doubt if that was how the Americans at the sharp end found it!
Although it was not the original plan what transpired was more effective. The continued British and Canadian assaults fatally weakened the Germans - but it cost the Allies casualties. My father was one - he was wounded as an infantryman near Caen.
Monty extended the D-Day beaches from three to five. And he considered the battle of the build-up vital to eventual success.
He did not have a perfect army - he realised this. Nor did Bradley - and he realised that fact too.
But they had to use the armies they had - and these armies proved effective and competent.
As Max Hastings put it in his summary of Normandy - they were not there to prove that an individual American, British or Canadian soldier was better that an individual German soldier.
They were in Normandy to effect the defeat of the German army in Normandy.
And, with the Allied air forces and navies, that is what they did.
Great post Sir!
February 1st, 2005  
Charge 7
 
 
"When Bradley launched Cobra it was against weak and fluid German defences."

Oh yeah, sure it was.
February 2nd, 2005  
Young Winston
 
 
Allies had complete dominance of the air.
February 4th, 2005  
easyaction
 
In reply to Cannoneers comment to my remarks about weak and fluid German defences I do not intend to demean the American effort during the "Cobra" assault. That was why I added that the Americans at the sharp end of Cobra would not have felt that they were opposed by weak forces.
But is it not the case that at this stage in the Normandy campaign the Germans were unable to defend strongly everywhere? They were coming to the end of their resources - and many must have known that Normandy as a defended front would soon break.
Most of the German armour faced the British and Canadians. The Germans believed the threat in Normandy was from the British. The continued British assaults confirmed this in their minds.
The Germans could not hold their line forever. The British strength was waning - but would hold. The Americans would have the greatest strength in Normandy - and when they advanced the Germans would not be able to stop them and hold off the British and Canadians as well.
So I think it is not unfair to describe the German defences in the American sector as being weaker than those in front of Caen and, later, those put in place to hold the British.
Normandy depended on the working of the war time alliance.
Take one nations contribution away and you probably wouldn't have Overlord at all - and if you did it would be severely punished by the Germans and would probably fail.
I doubt if most British and Americans in Normandy argued as to which of them was the better and which did more and endured more.
I believe they realised that American, British and Canadian armies were needed to fulfill Overlord.
I think that most of the bitterness and recriminations about lost opportunities and comparisons between individual nations efforts came after the war.