Lets dive into your points.
Monty was not Britain best commander of WWII - that was Slim but he was better than any US commander (with the possible exception of McArthur). Both had personaility traits that made them difficult to work with. Patton and Stillwell were not exactly well known for their engaging personalities either.
Agree that Field Marshal Smith was a great commander, worthy of our respect.
Napoleon, Grant and Sherman won and while personally insufferable. None of the personal characteristics are important if a commander can bring victory. Which unfortunately is not true of Montgomery. In his one allegedly great battle, El Alamein, he allowed Rommel’s vastly inferior and under-supplied troops to slip away uncaptured. In strategy, that is an unpardonable mistake.
The Germans knew they could count on Montgomery’s limitless caution. For Rommel says, “I was quite satisfied that Montgomery would never take the risk of following up boldly and overrunning us, as he could have done without any danger to himself. Indeed, such a course would have cost him far fewer losses in the long run than his methodical insistence on overwhelming superiority in each tactical action, which he could only obtain at the cost of his speed.”
Montgomery never advanced quickly because he insisted on having three times the necessary number of supplies and then moving forward “with caution.” “War requires the taking of risks,” as Patton said, “and Monty simply won’t take them.” Rommel commented, “Montgomery had an absolute mania for always bringing up adequate reserves behind his back and risking as little as possible.” Rommel had exploited Monty’s “mania” to the full.
Compare Rommel’s notes on Montgomery with his comments on Patton. “We had to wait until the Patton Army in France to see the most astonishing achievements in mobile warfare.” Clearly the Germans regarded Patton as a modern commander who fully understood the British-invented blitzkrieg, whereas Montgomery was an old-school WWI commander who would plod bloodily from battle to battle.
German and American and British battle doctrine held to the Clauswitz's dictum that the attack is the most effective means to destroy the enemy armies and bring about victory. The over cautous Monty cost lives through ignoring the very battle doctrine upon which his armies were built.
Kesselring also details the desperate state of the German African Army after El Alamein. Later in Italy, the German defense turned Monty’s battlefield timidity and predictability against the British Tommies. Kesselring attributed the steady rate of British casualties to Monty's "unispired obstinacy of his methods." Withdrawls were timed to extract maximum punishment to the Brits because the German's correctly read Monty's mind for his "prestige offensives." Kesselring nailed it. And Monty saved soldiers lives?
Montgomery abhorred the senseless slaughter of his men having been an eyewitness to the slaughter of WWI. You're talk of his "failure" to capture Caen is, I'm afraid, wrong. It was not "wide open" for capture at any time.
Who is in favor of the senseless slaugher of men? Haig nor French wanted their men butchered purposefully. Blaine their tactics.
General McClellan of the American Civil War was of like mind with Montgomery, overly cautious.
So how did you come to the your Caen conclusion?
The numbers speak for themselves. In Operation Goodwood, Montgomery had 1,500 tanks and 250,000 men attack the German defenses which, due to over a month of Monty’s inactivity, had hardened around Caen. 45,000 shells were dropped on the 2nd SS Panzer Corps alone. Over 800 fighter bomber missions flew to support Montgomery’s men while 1,800 RAF and RCAF squadrons flew against German tanks and artillery emplacements. At the end of the operation, Caen was still uncaptured and desperately needed for Bradley’s ever extending lines. Seven thousand tons of bombs had been dropped in the most elaborate bombing of enemy front-line positions ever accomplished and Montgomery had only managed to take seven miles!
Most of Montgomery’s operations were more like Goodwood. Tons of supplies wasted, little captured. An extreme example of the flaw in his strategy, though, must be Operation Market Garden. The casualties of this doomed escapade were higher than those from the assault on Normandy on D Day. Montgomery’s Market Garden reaped a staggering 17,000 in killed, missing and wounded during the 9 day venture behind enemy lines. Montgomery did not heed the warnings his Intelligence Corps and the Dutch underground had given him. He chose to believe that the area would offer no resistance. In fact, the 2nd SS Panzer Corps was resting in that very area. The Allied soldiers had fought well, but they could not capture all the bridges that were required for the operation to be a success (this was a basic flaw in Monty’s plan). After 13,226 of his British troops had died, Montgomery decided to pull out and labeled the mission a “success.” This time he had captured nothing.
An estimated 10,000 Dutch civilians who had cooperated with the Allied forces perished that winter after Monty pulled out. Montgomery saves lives? Bernhard, the Prince of the Netherlands at that time, seems to sum it up. It was he who said, “My country can never again afford the luxury of another Montgomery success.”
If you want to talk about taking wide open towns, talk about Clark's obsession with taking Rome rather than taking Germans prisoner. At least Montgomery's caution was to protect the lives of his troops and not to seek personal glory.
Agreed on Clark.
How did you come to your Montgomery did not seek personal glory? Your is the only account of this type I have read.
Montgomery was a pure egotist. Montgomery always turned the spotlight of the press upon himself alone. In NorthAfrica, Montgomery only gave credit of victory to his army – the Eighth – even though there were many other British armies fighting along side him.
Alexander, his superior in Africa and in Italy, once remarked that, “Monty has a lot of personal charm – I always like him best when I am with him. Yet he is unwise, I think, to take all the credit for his great success as a commander entirely to himself. His prestige, which is very high, could be higher still if he had given a little credit to those who had made his victories possible, and there are those besides his own fighting men to whom he owes something.”
Montgomery’s behavior was a source of embarrassment many times. Churchill once said that Monty was, “In defeat, indomitable, in victory, insufferable.”
On January 7, 1945, to a group of reporters, Monty played loose with facts and truth, and in essence, claims credit for saving the Allies in the Bulge. Galling were the facts that Americans alone, not the British, stopped the German advance. Infuriating is the knowledge that once Montgomery has temporary command, true to form, he gets in the way and botches American counter-attacks through his meddling and overly cautious set-piece style.
This time, Eisenhower reaches the end of his patience. Ike trumps Monty by going directly to Churchill, not General Alexander, with the demand: Either Montgomery goes or he Ike resigns Montgomery is redressed by Churchill and the British Chief of Staff Alexander and told to go and patch up his differences with Ike or else, be sacked.
On January 18, Churchill addressed Parliament and announced, in no uncertain terms, the truth. The "Bulge" was an American battle and an American victory. A humiliated but, history proves, an unrepentant Montgomery begs forgiveness from Ike.
The strategy of Hitler’s last gamble, Nordwind, is to divide the allies. Montgomery was a pawn to this strategy. And Montgomery saved lives?
If you'd been a soldier in an allied army in Normandy, you'd want to be under Montgomery's cautious command rather than the gung-ho antics of Bradley who ignored the advice of his own army's experts on the need for shore bombardment and support armour in amphibious operations.
Agreed on being under Monty. And were I were King during the war, also with perfect hindsight, Montgomery would take be relieved of command and made a token symbolhead, as my ‘Geroge Marshal’ in London, without command.
You want to talk about useless slaughter of men? Talk about Omaha beach!
Let me understand your pont here. Why was this a useless slaughter? Since Montgomery was the Senior planner of Overlord is he not accountable?
How you get your "millions" is a mystery; Montgomery SAVED lives not squandered them. He conserved effort and he was right - Eisenhower's political fudge of a braoad advance prolonged the war - there is where your countless (though not millions) lives lie.
The claim is defendable.
Simon Wiesenthal Center estimates the civilian count at 10.8M for the war. This accounts for all European fatalities in German controlled areas as a direct result of Nazi racial policy alone. Another is the rate of Jewish only deaths in Nazi extermination camps. This varies greatly, but during the years 1943 – 1944, the average is around 200k per month. Another measure is an estimated 3.M Jews, targeted for death, that, against odds and time, survived the war while living under the National Socialist regime.
Tell me. How many lives were saved on account of the decisive victory at Midway in 1942? The number is without doubt immense. At Midway, unlike North African or Normandy, Nimitz and his commanders proceeded on the principle of the "calculated risk” and that the war would never be won by commanders who never took a chance. Just don't take foolish chances was Nimitz approach.
The just out MHQ: The Journal of Miltary History Summer 2004 magazine holds a must read article on Antwerp and the Sheldt fiasco.
The article goes on to make the case that the war could have been won in 1944 and thus saved many lives. An example used for lives saved is no Dresden bombing.
Eisenhower was a political go-between. A clerk, a political appointee with no grasp of tactics.
Eisnehower understood strategy well and had the difficult job of holding the Allies together. Eisenhower broad-front strategy was a safer means to victory and is worth of debate.
Montgomery’s continual criticism of Eisenhower is a surprise, considering how lenient Eisenhower was when he dealt with him.