Eisenhower versus Montgomery: The Continuing Debate

Eisenhower versus Montgomery: The Continuing Debate

Eisenhower versus Montgomery: The Continuing Debate

Eisenhower versus Montgomery: The Continuing Debate

Synopsis

This book examines the postwar memoir fight over the broad front versus the single thrust strategy, the Allied advance on the Rhine, and the British call for a ground-forces commander other than General Eisenhower. It traces the argument in the postwar memoirs from 1946 through 1968 as well as the official histories of the United States, Britain, and Canada to see what the documents really said. What were men willing to say, what did they feel that they had to cover up? Field Marshal Montgomery was deeply chagrined that he had only one army group to command when he thought himself the most professional commander in Northwest Europe. Montgomery had little grasp of the intricacies of politics and could not understand that American public opinion made it impossible for Eisenhower to name him ground-forces commander. During the Battle of the Bulge the U.S. President and Chief of Staff settled the issue in Eisenhower's favor.

Excerpt

Among the more celebrated trials of the Anglo-American coalition leadership of World War II stands the relationship between General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery. Throughout the campaign in northwest Europe, 1944-1945, Eisenhower and Montgomery disagreed over the invasion of southern France in the summer, opening Antwerp to ship traffic in the fall and leaving Berlin to the Soviets in the spring. However, beginning in August 1944 their most famous argument concerned the direction and command of the Allied advance on the Rhine. Eisenhower favored advancing on the Ruhr, the industrial heart of western Germany, both north and south of the Ardennes plateau, on what came to be called a broad front, while Montgomery favored a single, northern line of attack, the so-called single thrust.

On 1 September 1944 Eisenhower assumed operational command of the ground forces of the Allied Expeditionary Force from then Field Marshal Montgomery, who had commanded the ground forces in the landing and fighting in Normandy. Two weeks later, on 15 September 1944, Eisenhower assumed command of the Southern Group of Armies, which had landed in southern France in mid-August; Eisenhower was then in operational command of three army groups. For the next four months, Montgomery leveled steady criticism at Eisenhower's command setup, and pursued a campaign to have himself or Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley, commanding general of the United States 12th Army Group, named ground forces commander.

For fifty years the Anglo-American debate over strategy and command in northwest Europe, 1944-1945, has settled into a nationalistic rut of one-upmanship. Proponents on either side of the Atlantic give short shrift to the legitimacy of logic in the strategic and command arguments of the other side. Too often the nationalistic differences in waging war are dismissed as merely quaint rather than an integral part of any coalition, and questions of national sovereignty have been viewed emotionally.

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