Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein (November 17, 1887 - March 24, 1976) was a British military officer during World War II often referred to as "Monty."
He was born in London in 1887.
During the Irish War of Independence (1919_1921), Montgomery was Officer Commanding the County of Cork, Ireland's largest county by area. This conflict was notable for the ferocity of the reprisals carried out by Crown forces in what was nominally the United Kingdom, such as the burning of homes and businesses, torture of detainees and at times outright murder. Cork is acknowledged by both Irish and British commentators as having been among the most bitterly contested regions, largely due to the intransigence and anti-Irish bigotry of leading officers such as Montgomery.
In August 1942, Prime Minister Winston Churchill appointed Montgomery commander of the British Eighth Army in the North African campaign. He successfully pushed back Erwin Rommel, forcing him to retreat from Egypt after the Second Battle of El Alamein.
Under the command of Eisenhower, he successfully led the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. A feature of the Sicily campaign was Montgomery's clash of personality with the American officer leading Seventh Army, General George Patton. Both had enormous egos, and desired to be the centre of attention so far as coverage of the campaign was concerned.
After Sicily, Montgomery continued to command Eighth Army during the landings on the mainland of Italy itself. Shortly thereafter, he was recalled to the UK to take part in planning Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy. Prior to the Normandy invasion, Montgomery assumed command of 21st Army Group, and commanded that formation for the rest of the war in Europe.
During the D-Day invasion, and for several months afterwards, Montgomery commanded all allied ground forces: British, Canadian and American. In the northern sector of his command, British troops became bogged down outside the French town of Caen. Montgomery's original plan had him taking Caen within days of the invasion, but it actually took him many weeks to take this crucial town. Intentionally or not, his persistence did manage to pin down the bulk of the German armour around Caen, allowing General Patton's 3rd American Army to sweep West then North, capturing many retreating German trooops at the 'Falaise Gap'.
In general, his performance during the Normandy landings was criticised by many, who considered his plans unimaginative and too rigid. The German Wehrmacht high command viewed him as a less dangerous threat as a commander than George Patton, considering him habit-ridden and overly cautious. He was most successful with well planned attacks with overwhelming forces, such as at El Alamein. Montgomery's defenders put his caution down that fact that he commanded, for the most part, British and Canadian forces. He was acutely aware that these forces were limited in number, and not easliy replaced. He could not afford to sacrifice them needlessly. In contrast, his American counterparts, Bradley and Patton, could call upon almost inexhaustible supplies of manpower from the States.
Eventually, the preponderance of American troops in the European theatre made a British Ground Forces Commander a political impossibility. Eisenhower himself took over Ground Forces Command, whilst continuing as Supreme Commander. Montgomery bitterly resented this change, even though it had been agreed before the D-Day invasion. Winston Churchill had Montgomery promoted to Field Marshal by way of compensation.
Throughout the war, Montgomery's tempestuous personality and tactlessness nearly led to fissures in the Allied high command. The most notable of these led to adoption by Eisenhower of his strategy of a single thrust to the Ruhr, which manifested itself in Operation Market Garden. Operation Market Garden led to the defeat of the 1st Airborne Division outside Arnhem. When first shown the plans, the British Lieutenant General Frederick Browning said, "I think we might be going a bridge too far."
Montgomery was capable of inspiring great loyalty among his staff. These men defended him with great passion even after the war, as the British historian Richard Holmes discovered when he was critical of Montgomery.
On January 7, 1945 Montgomery held a press conference in which he claimed credit for the Allied victory in the Battle of the Bulge. This caused some degree of controversy, and resentment from Americans who felt that Montgomery held back his forces too long.
He was created 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein in 1946.
His reputation was tarnished by evidence of racism with the 1999 revelation of previously secret papers from 1947-1948 when he held the position Chief of the Imperial General Staff. During that period he was strictly enjoined to silence about his views, which were contrary to British policy, and agents were assigned to vet his public appearances for compliance.
He died in 1976 and was interred in the Holy Cross Churchyard, Binstead, Hampshire.
See Also: Famous military commanders
"The U.S. has broken the second rule of war. That is, don't go fighting with your land army on the mainland of Asia. Rule One is don't march on Moscow. I developed these two rules myself."
- (spoken of American policy in Vietnam) Quoted in Chalfont's Montgomery of Alamein.