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Author Topic: PLACE FOOT FIRMLY IN MOUTH: MONTY'S PRESS CONFERENCE - 7 JAN 1945  (Read 51 times)
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PzLdr
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« on: January 07, 2018, 09:09:42 am »

Despite the cold, and the fact that the phrase "Straw that broke the camel's back" usually refers to a Dromedary as opposed to Bactrian, camel, on this date, in 1945, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery decided to hold a press conference as the Battle of the Bulge wound down.

Monty, to his adoring fans, all British, almost all non-professional soldiers, had been counselled by his superiors in the British military chain of command [ including his patron, Field Marshal Alan Brooke]to forego the event . Monty being Monty did it anyway.

The press conference was the indirect result of Hitler's December Surprise for the western allies, the last major German offensive of the  war, a thrust toward Antwerp through the Ardennes that became known as the Battle of the Bulge.

The offensive caught the allied High Command completely flatfooted. Since the attack started in Germany, there was no 'Ultra' to tip it off to Allied codebreakers. Additionally, German movement security was especially tight. the result was complete surprise when over 200,000 German troops and some of the elite Panzer formations [1st SS, 2d SS, 9th SS, 12th SS, 2d Panzer, 116th Panzer, Panzer Lehr] of the Wehrmacht surged through the American lines form Belgium to Luxemburg.

The attack came not only at a critical time [Antwerp had just been made capable of receiving supplies, and moved the major ingress point for men and material from the Normandy beaches], but at a critical place. The Schwerpunckt was [unknowingly] aimed at the boundary line of two U.S. forces, with both 1st U.S. Army HQ [Hodges], and 12th Army Group [Bradley], directly in their path.

At first neither Bradley, nor Hodges thought the offensive was anything more than a local spoiling attack. By the time they realized their error, they were forced to decamp - at speed.

Eisenhower, on the other hand, surmised early that the offensive was what it was, a major action. and he saw it as an opportunity to draw the Germans west, and encircle them, as they had done to others so many times before.

Eisenhower then took Simpson's 9th Army away from Bradley, and gave it to Montgomery, who Eisenhower put in charge of the northern side of the Bulge. Bradley's 12th Army Group was put in charge of the south side of th3e Bulge, where George Patton's 3rd Army did a 90 degree turn to the left and attacked toward Bastogne.

By January, the Germans had been stopped and were being rolled back [To Patton's consternation there was no 'deep encirclement', and the Germans were pusshedback almost frontally].

But the victory came at high cost to the Americans. There were some 80,000 casualties. Two-thirds of a division had surrendered on the Schnee Eifel. It was a close run thing.

And then came Monty. Declaiming the battle as one of 'the trickiest, and most interesting battles' he had managed, Montgomery appeared to claim it was he, and his British troops that had saved the day [Monty had moved at his usual glacial pace, which was much slower in the cold weather]. It caused a firestorm [no pun intended], and at least several of Montgomery's staff knew it.

Bradley was livid. Eisenhower prepared a wire to Marshall, demanding that either he, or Montgomery be relieved. It was only the quick action of Monty's Chief of Staff, De Guigand, who saved his boss' bacon. He flew to Ike's HQ, and begged a 24 hour reprieve before the cable was sent. He then convinced Montgomery of his stupidity [no easy thing], and got his boss to write an apologetic letter to Eisenhower.

But the problem was now bigger than two generals bumping heads. The British newsies had trumpeted to the skies how their guy had saved our guys. And it wasn't true. The British had done little more than hold the shoulder and apply pressure. And so it was that Winston Churchill [furious with Montgomery] rose in the House of Commons, and gave a speech honoring the United states Army for its victory in the Ardennes [and slapping Monty down in the telling].

Eisenhower stripped Montgomery of Simpson's Army [Monty wanted to keep it]. He then settled once and for all Monty's subordinate role in the allied plans for 1945. Montgomery would work the North Sea littoral - and guard Bradley's flank. Revenge is usually best tasted cold.

But the 'mouth that roared' roared on this date in 1945.
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jafo2010
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« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2018, 07:27:23 pm »

Montgomery could not rise up to the bottom of Patton's shoe.  How he EVER kept his position is a mystery to me.  He was an utter joke.  Left to his devices, Hitler would have won the war.
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PzLdr
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« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2018, 11:31:42 pm »

Montgomery could not rise up to the bottom of Patton's shoe.  How he EVER kept his position is a mystery to me.  He was an utter joke.  Left to his devices, Hitler would have won the war.

Monty kept his position for two reasons. First, he served under Alan Brooke before the war on the imperial General Staff. He also served under him during the withdrawal to Dunkirk, and was left in command of Brooke's Corps when Brooke was pulled out of France first. Brooke became chief of the Imperial general Staff. and like Marshall, he had a little black book of favorites [in his case acolytes]. So when 'Strafer' got was killed before he could assume command of 8th Army at El Alamein when  Auchinleck was relieved by Churchill, Monty assumed command, and took over Auchinleck's plans for the defense of Egypt. Which led to the second reason. Monty won [eventually] at El Alamein. The hallmarks of his future works [pedestrian strategy, overcaution, a tendency to dissemble when losing, or stretch the truth when winning] were overlooked, because the British public was starved for a hero. and since Monty was first through the gate, he got the role [as opposed to Britian''s truly great WW II field commander commanders, Auchinleck and William Slim] - and the immunity from criticism and relief that went with it [although Churchill came close after the press conference].

Montgomery was an adequate general - for World War I. He had no concept of armored warfare [almost no Brit did], and but for the disparity of equipment, Rommel woulod have handed him his ass.  Smiley
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