Bernard Montgomery

General in the Royal Army. Despite fighting the Axis during the war, he also fought Patton for headlines.
Item added by gopman79. Added on 03/13/2004
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Bernard Montgomery 5

Well, certainly Montgomery was not as good as he felt he was but even so he was far better than most give him credit for. I reviewed another thing about Monty on this site before and I stand by what I said then, there are some ridiculous double standards as far as Montgomery is concerned.

When Rommel defeat the British pre-Monty in North Africa with the advantage of better weapons and incredibly in depth information about his enemy (due to an American liason officer's reports to Washington being intercepted and Italians intercepting British Radio transmissions) it was because he was a genius. Doesn't matter that he had major advantages over the British that negated their numerical superiority, that's got nothing to do with it apparently, it was all because he was a genius for warfare.

Yet when Montgomery defeated Rommel at El Alamein it was "only" because he had manpower superiority and better intelligence. Doesn't matter Rommel defeated British commanders before Monty who enjoyed similar manpower superiority, doesn't matter that a good general would make use of any advantage he could possibly have to get victory, Monty's not allowed to get credit for it.

Another thing that shows ridiculous double standards is in the oft repeated accusation of Montgomery refusing to do anything without manpower and material superiority over his enemy. This double standards are clear as it is rarely (if not never) applied to other Allied Generals like Bradley or Eisenhower or Devers or Crerar or Dempsey or even Patton. All of those General never achieved any victory without manpower or material superiority over their enemies. Patton, you could argue, wouldn't wait for manpower and material superiority but that was because he was a reckless, gung ho kind of general who was prone to fly off in any direction in a spur of the moment kind of charge regardless of whether or not it would help the overall Allied cause but even so Patton enjoyed manpower and material advantages over every enemy he ever fought.

Montgomery's victories as a commanding general are as followes: Alam Halfa, El Alamein, Medenine, Mareth Line, Sicily, Operation Baytown (which was a waste of time that he opposed but was forced to embark upon), Italy until the breaching of the Gustav Line, the final planning of Operation Overlord, the command of all Allied Forces during the Normandy Campaign, the Advance to Antwerp and clearence of the Channel Ports, Command of the Northern Sector during the Battle of the Bulge, Operation Veritable, Operation Grenade, Operation Plunder, Operation Varsity and the advance to, and sealing off of, the Denmark Peninsular.

Montgomery's failures as a commanding general are as follows: Market Garden and the Scheldt Esturaries.

No other Allied General of the Western Powers equalled his success rate. You have to look to the Soviets to find someone more successful and even then there are only Zhukov or Vasilevsky who could be considered more successful.

For all the bluster and fuss the American raised against him not one single American General achieved a victory on the scale of El Alamein or Normandy. While Normandy should be considered above all else an Allied victory it was won by hard fighting and by clear and calm guidance from Bernard Montgomery. Eisenhower, who liked to claim victory for Normandy, spent most of the campaign moaning about the "slow pace", second guessing any decision Montgomery made and criticizing Monty to anyone could. Only when the battle was almost won did Eisenhower back his Ground Forces Commander and only then did Ike send a message to the American Press telling them to back off.

Patton and Bradley hated him with a passion.

Patton hated him for these reasons: Patton thought Americans superior to every other nationality, Patton thought himself superior to all other generals, Patton had a distinct national chauvanism that led to him hating most of the British commanders and blaming them any time he didn't get his own way and he hated the fact that Monty would never concede a point.

Bradley hated Monty for these reasons: Bradley thought American superior to every other nationality, Bradley had a distinct national chauvanism that led him to deliberately ignore any order from Eisenhower that would see him helping anyone who wasn't American, Bradley had an ambition to be remembered as the greatest general of his era and was jealous of anyone more successfull and Bradley hated that Montgomery would never concede a point.

Most American generals prefered Harold Alexander because Alexander was a pushover. Both Montgomery and Alan Brooke said that Alexander had no plans of his own and that he was influenced by whoever talked to him last. Had they had to deal with the unintruding Alexander the Americans would have been much happier than having to deal with the dominating personality that was Montgomery.

Well regarded American Historian Carlo D'Este argued, in a series of articles on the Armchair General website, that people have either been unable or have refused to judge Montgomery on his actual merits as a commander because they hate him as a person and because of the many nationistic arguments that he was involved in during his lifetime (both of his own making and of the American's making) but, to paraphraze Monty's personal historian Nigel Hamilton, the very virtues that made Montgomery such a supremely successful general made him such a difficult ally.

That Montgomery was a personally unlikable man should no more be held against him than Patton being a personally unlikable man was held against that American General, or Rommel being a personally unlikable man was held against him, or even than Bradley's petty and bitter nature was held against him.

What make Montgomery special that only he, out of all of the personally unlikable generals of WWII and arguably history, gets his career judged by the type of person he was?

You can't argue with success. You can't claim Monty was a bad general because the results speak for themselves (as stated above) yet constantly he is marked down as a general by historians, armchair generals and the like. Why? He used resources available to him and that other Allied General had available to them to win but only he gets marked down for it. Why?

What makes Montgomery special in this regards?

The simplest reason is that Montgomery was the first, and arguably only, general of another nation to fight alongside the Americans as part ofd a coalition force who was extremely difficult to deal with and just as arrogant as them. American popular culture proves that if your American your allowed to be an egomanic, your allowed to be arrogant as long as you get results (Patton for example) but these traits in anyone other than an American are to be hated and reviled.

And so, more double standards.

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Bernard Montgomery 3

Montgomry seems to have been the beneficiary of much more adulation by the British than he deserved. They needed someone to cast as a great hero, and Monty somehow or other filled the bill. He really was a pompous ass, but had enough charisma and pseudo-flamboyance to win the day in the public eye. From what I've read, he was pretty much of an intolerant martinet, and certainly didn't like to be upstaged by anyone. His ego far outmatched what I consider to have been his military acumen. All of his constant prissy preoccupation with tidying up the situation really limited his ability to act decisively at times. Given enough time, men, and materiel support (as Montgomery operated), almost anyone could have won the victories he did. I don't see him in the same league as Patton, Rommel, or generals like Terry de la Mesa Allen. He was not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants general by any stretch of the imagination. Not much imagination, flexibility, or aggressiveness. He once made a comment that when the time was right, he would ...pounce on the enemy like an angry rabbit, which caused Patton to question what kind of a military analogy that was, i.e., how dangerous is an angry rabbit? Maybe Monty described himself well, unintentionally.

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Bernard Montgomery 3

Not as useless as American historians make him, nor as brilliant as British ones do. Creates a complete clusterf*** at Arnhem, but is pretty competent in the desert.

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Bernard Montgomery 3

British general. While not exactly a person of great humility and self sacrifice, he was fairly competent a lot of the time. Unfortunately he let his desire for personal glory warp his better judgment, and he made a lot of mistakes. I'd have traded him for a Manstein or a Guderian in a heartbeat.

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