General Montgomery

Discussion in 'General' started by Joe Perkowski, Dec 30, 2005.

  1. Joe Perkowski

    Joe Perkowski Junior Member

    Was he a liability to the allies or a help? From what I've read many of his plans ended up costing lives and lost ground...?????
     
  2. jimbotosome

    jimbotosome Discharged

    (Joe Perkowski @ Dec 29 2005, 08:37 PM) [post=43756]Was he a liability to the allies or a help? From what I've read many of his plans ended up costing lives and lost ground...?????
    [/b]
    That is certainly Patton's opinion. He believed that Monty got many of the British and also the American's killed because after dislodging the enemy he would "regroup" giving the Germans time to dig right back in. He constantly claimed how remarkably timid Monty was for a commander. Patton would be on a breakthrough ready to go across the Siegfried line and Monty would request Patton stop and wait for him and pressured ike into forcing Patton to stop, killing Patton’s offensives where the Germans were on the run. Monty would also try to force him to strip his divisions and send them to Monty to help get him moving again. Patton wanted the British and the Americans separated because he was afraid that Monty would get his groups killed by forcing them to fight “dug in” enemies.

    Personally, if the British divisions were put under Patton, I believe there would have been a fraction of the deaths and they would have been in Berlin by Christmas. That’s the impression you get by reading Patton’s diary where he is about to tear through to the Rhine and could have crossed it with all the bridges intact because the Germans were retreating so fast. One captured German general said that they were terrified that Patton would show up somewhere and hit them blind as he was accustomed to doing. Patton’s success is tied both to his vast experience and understanding of tactics which he studied constantly his whole life and the fact that Pershing had taught him that you “attack, attack, attack, and when you are finished attack again. There were times that Patton was caught by surprise by a German offensive sent against him that his recon didn’t see forming and because he was attacking at the time, it not only saved them but split up the attack and cut the attacking Germans to pieces. Patton was the only field general that gave proper credit to tactical air. He told his press corps not to speak of a victory of Third Army without mentioning XIX TAC (Weyland) as a part of it.

    If you really want to know what the deal is on Patton, I would recommend you get “The Patton Papers” by Martin Blumenson where his diary and letters to and from Patton are compiled with commentary. Blumenson was a part of Patton’s general staff and it is a mesmerizing book. In his diary he documents virtually every order, every attack, every problem he had with any group, his feelings on matters and his plans. He was planning for his troops to go across the Rhine in September 1944 because of the rate of movement of the Germans who could not get any rest from the relentless assaults. Patton said he was 10 days from being inside Germany on the other side of the Rhine and Siegfried Line when the plug was pulled on him. Patton never retreated or pulled back. He would never stop short of a city or a river.

    Based on the Hollywood movie Patton, I had a poor opinion of Patton and it didn’t improve much with reading his biography, but reading “The Patton Papers”, I am of the opinion he is more like a Napoleon or an Admiral Nelson type of general. He had no equal in WWII, not even Rommel who I respect very much.
     
  3. mattgibbs

    mattgibbs Senior Member

    Are you asking this question because you don't know anything about Montgomery as a General Officer or because you want to compare him to the other General Staff Officers of the war? It would help to know this because then its easier to know what to post.

    I don't think anyone could have persuaded the British that not having their General Staff in command of their troops was a good idea. [I don't believe you cannot easily look baack from 60 plus years when this world has changed so much and attitudes are different].

    Jim, with respect you've mostly told us about Patton, apart from your first sentence. And also, with respect and to be fair, Patton was not the only general to talk about the qualities of air support. How about Slim, Wingate and Wavell?
    Attack, Attack, Attack is ok when your supply situation is such that you can move forward constantly with good logistics, this isn't however always the case.
    The barest dates of the 7 months up to the Allied victory in North Africa after Monty took command.
    23rd October 1942 Operation Lightfoot. Stalled by Afrika Korps.
    1st November attack at Kidney Ridge
    3rd November AK ordered to pull back.
    4th November 8th Army moves forward again.
    12th November Tobruk back in Allied hands, 50,000 Axis troops captured, wounded or KIA. 13,500 Allied casualties.
    23rd January 1943 Tripoli falls.
    11th May Axis forces surrender.
    [thats 200 days any one got day to day comparitive casualty figures and tactical gains/mileages won/lost?]

    A quote of Montys PUBLISHED thoughts on Air support:

    I believe that the first and great principle of war is that you must first win your air battle before you fight your land and sea battle. If you examine the conduct of the campaign from Alamein through Tunisia, Sicily and Italy you will find I have never fought a land battle until the air battle has been won. We never had to bother about the enemy air, because we won the air battle first.

    The second great principle is that Army plus Air has to be so knitted that the two together from one entity. If you do that, the resultant military effort will be so great that nothing will be able to stand against it.

    The second great principle is that Army plus Air has to be so knitted that the two together from one entity. If you do that, the resultant military effort will be so great that nothing will be able to stand against it.

    The third principle is that the Air Force command. I hold that it is quite wrong for the soldier to want to exercise command over the air striking forces. The handling of an Air Force is a life-study, and therefore the air part must be kept under Air Force command.

    The Desert Air Force and the Eighth Army are one. We do not understand the meaning of "army cooperation". When you are one entity you cannot cooperate. If you knit together the power of the Army on the land and the power of the Air in the sky, then nothing will stand against you and you will never lose a battle.


    Regards
    Matt Gibbs

    PS Out of interest did any of you know this talk was almost purely a might have been? 13/10/1916 he was shot twice by a sniper and left a whole day in no-mans land. He was in such a bad condition a grave was dug for him but when the dressing station came under orders to move he was still not dead and so was ferried by ambulance to the rear.
     
  4. colinhotham

    colinhotham Senior Member

    There were two great generals who helped in the allies WINNING WW2.

    General Bernard Law Montgomery and General George S. Patton, Jr

    Nothing I have read, seen or heard during my 68 years will alter that opinion. We Brits have a saying "the proof of the pudding is in the eating"!

    Colin.
     
  5. mattgibbs

    mattgibbs Senior Member

    Incidentally I forgot to add that i wondered if Patton in the cases cited above actually had a reason for this lightning drive and determination, did he not have higher orders to ensure he suceeded as well as possible. I think its likely he would have lost a lot of personal face if he didn't due to his problems with Eisenhower, he almost got sent back to the US in April 1944.
    Regards
    MG
     
  6. Exxley

    Exxley Senior Member

    Based on the Hollywood movie Patton, I had a poor opinion of Patton and it didn’t improve much with reading his biography, but reading “The Patton Papers”, I am of the opinion he is more like a Napoleon or an Admiral Nelson type of general. He had no equal in WWII, not even Rommel who I respect very much.


    Funny I really thought this thread at first was about Monty.
     
  7. mattgibbs

    mattgibbs Senior Member

    Yep Exxley I think you're right, so in the spirit of the thread maybe you can enlighten us as to your opinions! ;)
    I think Monty was as capable as he could be, compared to a lot of his contemporaries, he learned fast and used all new kinds of technological and tactical developments if he felt they were useful.
    Kind regards
    MG
     
  8. Glider

    Glider Senior Member

    My personal view is that I believe Monty to be a good, capable general who could motivate his troops with confidence. However I don't think that he was an exceptional general.

    He never fought a major defensive battle on ground not of his choosing, and was always able to fight with Air Superiority as well as having sufficient logistics. Finally the ground he had to fight over was either more or less what he was used to in Europe, or open in the desert.

    Finally I don't believe that he used all the new developments available to him which could have made a significant difference.

    If I had to pick my personal choice of the Best Allied General, I would choose Slim. Certainly I would rate Slim as being better than Monty.

    Apologies, I meant to say
    If I had to pick my personal choice of the Best Allied General, I would choose Slim. Certainly I would rate Slim as being better than Monty or Patton
     
  9. Exxley

    Exxley Senior Member

    (Colonel Gubbins @ Dec 30 2005, 12:40 PM) [post=43773]Yep Exxley I think you're right, so in the spirit of the thread maybe you can enlighten us as to your opinions! ;)
    I think Monty was as capable as he could be, compared to a lot of his contemporaries, he learned fast and used all new kinds of technological and tactical developments if he felt they were useful.
    Kind regards
    MG
    [/b]

    Lol fair enough. I do agree about the fact that Monty was a very capable commander, a very professional one as well (which makes the El-Alamein victory over the amateurish Rommel quite revealing).
    He wasnt the kindest person on earth but he did care about his soldiers (hence the low % of KIA/MIA in his armies).
    To sum it up: was he one of the best Allied army/army group commanders of WW2 ? Certainly.
     
  10. Kiwiwriter

    Kiwiwriter Very Senior Member

    I have a lot more respect for Montgomery than a lot of Americans, because I put aside the fatal weaknesses of his bullying character and obnoxious nature, to study his battles and command abilities. He certainly boosted morale in his commands, put his men in the picture, and was ruthless -- perhaps overly so -- on those that did not meet his standards. His planning for set-piece battles was meticulous, and he understood that Britain's increasingly frail economic position meant that he could not afford high casualties. It's ironic that his biggest disaste was his boldest operation...and also one in which he did not exercise his usual hands-on management, Market-Garden.

    The Patton-Monty rivalry existed mostly in Patton's mind. When Patton slapped the two GIs in Sicily, Monty forbade the British Army newspaper from mentioning it. When the "race to Messina" took place, Monty conceded early, pulling his troops out to prepare for the invasion of Italy. The "race," such as it was, was between Patton and Brig. Currie's 4th Armored Brigade. In any case, it was a hollow victory...most of the German and Italian troops escaped to the mainland.

    I have often felt that Monty's real problem was his own big fat mouth. He seemingly could not not open it without trashing someone. If he had not fired off his demands to Ike for a ground force commander at the height of the Bulge, and followed that with his disastrous and condescending press conference, Americans would like him better, and respect his work as a general. He understood planning, logistics, strategy, and man-management. He did not have good people skills, and that is fatal for any human being.
     
  11. jimbotosome

    jimbotosome Discharged

    Fair enough. I had seen another thread posted at the same time about Patton and forgot the context. I had recently read the Patton Papers and a few days ago saw a special on Monty so I viewed them interrelated. As far as Monty goes, you can't say Patton almost got sent home, neither Ike nor Marshall nor FDR believed they could afford to send Patton home for slapping a couple of soldiers with his gloves. The Germans didn’t believe it either and why they kept the lion’s share of their forces away from Normandy beaches because they were so terrified of Patton coming through at Pas de Calais. Monty almost got relieved and should have for constant and gross insubordination. In fact Ike told him “You’ll not talk to me that way, I am YOUR boss”. It was Ike having no spine and Churchill’s fear of diminishing the “legend” that he didn't. Monty plagued the Allies by his malicious manipulation of the Allied command trying to gain control, and his misuse of divisions. Patton said that the only battle Monty won was El Alamain. He said in his diary that it was him that won the Mareth Line, not Monty.

    I saw a special on Monty. It was one that was honoring him as a great general. But it did not account anything great he had done but rather the hype the British had for him. I found his fame to be unfounded. As a junior officer he gained fame in WWI by taking a large group of soldiers and charging a machine gun nest. He himself tripped on his saber and fell down and that is why he was not slaughtered as all of his men were. Then he took what men lay in reserve surrounded by Germans and snuck through the German lines at night and was a hero for this? To me a court marshal would have been more appropriate. The documentary said this incident was what made him so “cautious” in his command in WWII.

    The problem with British generals is that the only real experience they had was from WWI and that was static warfare. As a result Monty was as called by both allies and enemies “over cautious”. It’s hard to know why that is a problem without relating it to Patton. The reasoning is they are diametric opposites. Patton had an astonishing kill ratio of men of 12:1 and he says it is because he attacked constantly except when Monty dragged him down. I can’t help but believe that the British would have also sustained a low loss ratio if they had been under Patton instead of Monty.

    Name one thing that Monty did that was “remarkable”. Even at El-Alamain, it was the influx of new Shermans (then the best tank in Africa) and an additional of a major air force that had bombers out the ying-yang that turned that battle and the collapse of the German supply lines. It was mere coincidence that Monty was given British Eighth army at the time this happened. Monty was leading troops from the very outset of WWII and they were in constant retreat and had lost all major battles. Monty lead the forces at Dunkirk during the escape that should have been a slaughter except for the weather. El-Alamain was the only high point of Monty’s I know of and after reading Rommel who had great admiration for the British fighting man, was critical of Monty’s cautious approach to command, and who was completely out of supply and had to retreat whether or not the British followed him back or not. Their communications had been destroyed by bombing and sinking of Italian vessels by the RN. If it were not for the new and better equipment and supply sent from the US and the US’s entry into the war, Monty would have lost El Alamain and the Germans would have controlled the Suez. You cannot name one single thing that Monty did different to change the outcome of the African campaign. Inspiring men is not an asset when their tanks are being destroyed. After he took over, he didn’t even counterattack for a month. By then a good portion of the German’s supply and armor had been decimated by air.

    Monty was promoted to Field Marshall to “mitigate the disappointment:” of having the US land forces taken away when SHAEF was moved over to Normandy. This sickened both Bradley and Patton because they claimed he had done nothing to merit that rank. In all sincerity, I cannot find one thing that Monty did that significantly aided the Allies in the war. He was not a great tactician, he fought in almost constant stalemates the entire war. If you say he inspired his men, then you are saying that they were inspired by a speaker and it seems to me that Churchill could have done that more. I guess, every nation needs it's heroes, but couldn’t they have picked Tedder instead?
     
  12. Glider

    Glider Senior Member

    Monty was as I said before was in my view a good solid general but not exceptional. He would not have lost El Alemain for the simple reason that he had the numbers and the position. The mistake was Rommels for not realising the gravity of the situation and exposing himself to such a battle.
    However you cannot blame Monty for making the most of the situation and destroying the Axis forces. I think everyone realises that Monty was overcautious in the aftermath which is one reason why I don't rate him as exceptional, but you could depend on him not to put the army in a no win situation. The first aim of any battle is not to lose. The Shermans were of course a major advantage but not the only one. Without them the outcome would have been similar in that the Germans wouldn't have broken through which would have left themselves exposed to air attack. In the end Rommel would have had to retreat, under different circumstances, but he would have had to retreat for logistical reasons alone.

    Its also wrong to say that Monty didn't do anything else, as most people will recognise is that his actions in the Battle of the Bulge were amost spot on. What he said wasn't, but what he did was.

    Patton is a complex issue. Undoubtably his manta was to attack but how would he have handled a defensive battle? Attack has its place but so does waiting.

    As I said in a previous posting Monty never fought a major defensive battle on ground not of his choosing, and was always able to fight with Air Superiority as well as having sufficient logistics. Finally the ground he had to fight over was either more or less what he was used to in Europe, or open in the desert. The same applies to Patton.
    I would want to see how either of them behaved in this situation before saying that either of them were exceptional.


    By the way its wrong to critisise British Generals for only having experience in WW1. At least it was a major conflict. It was more experience than most USA Generals (incl Patton) had
     
  13. mattgibbs

    mattgibbs Senior Member

    Regarding the experience of British Generals being only WW1 thats not strictly true because there was always some kind of fighting going on in the Empire somewhere. As mentioned above it was more than some other countries forces.
    I'm not saying Monty was exceptional and yes he had major character faults. I think one problem with this kind of threads is the personal issues of the writers and their nationalities that comes across quite strongly. Monty was outspoken about issues he cared about and his PR wasn't the best but I believe you will have to agree that he came from an era where that wasn't part of education, good manners he certainly had, I just don't think he saw it was necassary and politic to be good with the press.
    I know that Patton wasn't sent home and I think there is a bit more to the story than outlined already. He was just as outspoken a man as many others debated about today, including Monty.
    There is so much in literature about the merits and failings of Ike, Monty, Bradley, Patton et al that you'd have to read about 20 or 30 good books to get it all in your head! It's not my big interest and I don't have the books.
    Regards
    MG
     
  14. mattgibbs

    mattgibbs Senior Member

    (Glider @ Dec 30 2005, 03:48 PM) [post=43783] As I said in a previous posting Monty never fought a major defensive battle on ground not of his choosing, and was always able to fight with Air Superiority as well as having sufficient logistics. Finally the ground he had to fight over was either more or less what he was used to in Europe, or open in the desert. The same applies to Patton.
    I would want to see how either of them behaved in this situation before saying that either of them were exceptional.


    By the way its wrong to critisise British Generals for only having experience in WW1. At least it was a major conflict. It was more experience than most USA Generals (incl Patton) had
    [/b]

    I just needed to realise what I was reading and make a comment. Have you read General Sun Tzu's "The Art of War?" still required reading on many military courses today. I think with that in mind the comments you just made about Monty are interesting. You DO need to choose carefully where you will fight and also wasn't it advisable and indeed necassary [as I already stated about Monty] that you would fight where you had good air superiority and good logistics, what is the point of evaluating a skilled General if he hasn't taken these into consideration? If a General in WW2 hasn't do that then isn't he already a poor planner at the very least? Surely these are factors that imply good strategic thinking, as well as preparedness. If you are going to want to see how a General would behave without these things then surely you are implying that you want to see how they do when they are not planning properly and things go wrong? I
    Regards
    MG
     
  15. jimbotosome

    jimbotosome Discharged

    Personal feelings aside, in war it comes down to results not personality flaws. You cannot say Monty had results. In fact, he might not have even made it out of France if he had not forced a stop of Patton to prevent him from going to Berlin even with the entire German army converging on him.

    Staying on the defense so often and rarely attacking shows signs of uncertainty. I don't care what nation you are from. I believe Devers was as bad as Monty. It is NOT nationalism. You can have contrary opinions without them being bigotry toward a country. When attacking an enemy in retreat, you are at your military zenith. To let him dig in, because you want the perfect attack, is suicide because when you are attacking a dug in enemy, he is at his zenith.

    Patton said "a good plan right now is better than a perfect plan next week". Monty was always trying for a perfect plan which actually tended to perfect his enemies defenses. The documentary on him said that this philosophy came from his bad experiences in WWI. Patton said that Monty was the most "timid" commander he had ever met. When I read stories of the battle of Somme and the like in WWI, I realize that WWI was a very bitter experience for the British and the French. General Pershing refused to subject his troops to the French and British because he said they knew nothing about attack. Generals are a product of their past, their experiences and their training.
     
  16. adamcotton

    adamcotton Senior Member

    I have heard it expressed that Wavell's earlier victory at El Alamien (the first Battle of El Alamien) was the more significant and skillfully won. Wavell was relieved of his command because of personality clashes with Churchill, and a disinclination to run the desert campaign the way the latter wished, but the mercurial Monty can hardly have been easier for the Prime Minister to get along with!

    On a personal level, all the evidence suggests Monty was an insufferable bore, and his dinner table conversation invariably focussed on the most expedient methods of winning a tank battle. As a commander, he is oft criticised for his apparent timidity, yet it is often overlooked that Monty was greatly concerned for the troops over whom he presided, and was disinclined to profligate expenditure of British lives because of the limited pool of replacement troops available to fill his ranks - unlike the US Army, which had vast reserves of manpower and materiel at its disposal. Such a situation behoves caution!

    As for Patton, he was a brilliant General, but as is so often the case with such men, he was also incredibly ego-centric (as was Monty, who once remarked, "my cap badge is worth a dozen divisions of infantry"). Moreover, if the movie "Patton" is even remotely accurate - and I think it is in essence - then he can hardly be accused of caring much about the lives of his men! I don't think I would have liked either Patton or Montgomery. In many ways, each acted as the other's nemisis....
     
  17. Glider

    Glider Senior Member

    MG Your right in what you say about taking the Air and Logistical situation into consideration before a battle, and that being part of the skill set of being a leader of men. Both Patton and Monty had these and would have been mad not to use them.

    However in war you have to fight defensive battles as well as attacking battles and neither of these Generals had to do this in difficult situations. Other Generals did, some did well and others didn't, but its an area I believe that both of these Generals would have been vulnerable.

    I suspect Monty would have been to cautious and possibly waited too long. Patton with his tendancy to attack may have lacked the required patience. I don't know and I believe that no one really does know.

    I do know that Monty didn't use all the tools that were available to him (in particular ULTRA information) and did act cautiously. These two factors alone would stop me calling him exceptional.

    An interesting scenario would be if these two had commanded troops facing the Japs. Air strikes less effective, logistics difficult, an area made for defence, low priorities when it came to resources with other fronts getting the best. Multiple nationalities taking part with the problems that entails, political differences and troops who had to fight in the most difficult conditions against an enemy of almost suicidal resolve. Its an area the Slim excelled in and for that reason is why I personally rank him higher than either Monty or Patton
     
  18. jimbotosome

    jimbotosome Discharged

    Adam,

    You quoted a very popular but equally fallacious principle that timidity saves men. Patton claimed the opposite was true that only attack can save men’s lives. Call it counterintuitive if you wish, but it appears axiomatic as well.
     
  19. Exxley

    Exxley Senior Member

    Patton claimed the opposite was true that only attack can save men’s lives.

    Neither is this claim entirely true as well.
     
  20. Glider

    Glider Senior Member

    Monty did get results, but not as good as they could or in some cases should have been.
     

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