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IKE AND MONTY by Norman Gelb

IKE AND MONTY

Generals at War

By Norman Gelb

Pub Date: May 25th, 1994
ISBN: 0-688-11869-0
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

 This is a double portrait of the two very different personalities whose cooperation at the apex of the Allied military command in WW II had profound implications for the war effort. In many ways, Eisenhower and Montgomery exemplified their different nations. Ike, the son of an impoverished Midwestern farmer, was easygoing, charismatic, and modest. Montgomery came from the British ruling class, if not from its upper echelons. Although both graduated from elite military academies, only Monty had the arrogance of man born into privilege. His eccentricity, his extraordinary habit of treating his superiors as if they were inferiors, his obsession with military perfection made him a difficult ally for the Americans. ``Damn it'' Ike exclaimed, ``Montgomery's the only man in either army I can't get along with.'' During the D-day invasion, Monty tendered a plan for the invasion of Germany totally at odds with that of the American high command. Bradley, Patton, and other US generals were outraged, suspecting Montgomery of being a crackpot, but Eisenhower granted him a division. The suspicion and tension never relaxed. From Eisenhower's point of view, British public opinion had to be placated by giving Montgomery prominence; the problem was that the latter treated Eisenhower himself as a military ignoramus. Gelb's account of Montgomery's first great victory over Rommel at El Alamein is gripping stuff, and his explanations of the behind-the- scenes antagonisms and maneuverings are eye-opening. Montgomery's obnoxious character, above all, comes over loud and clear. He once asked an English lord if he could stay at his country house while training nearby. The lord agreed, delighted. But Montgomery then said he would not dine with anyone and would need a whole wing. Outraged, the lord withdrew his offer, whereupon Montgomery had him thrown out of the house and stayed there himself for the rest of the war. Generals at War abounds with such telling anecdotes and also is given backbone by Gelb's (Desperate Venture, 1992) clear understanding of warfare and the politics of WW II. (26 b&w photos)