A well-known, prolific English historian has written a superb study of Montgomery in the last year of World War II, with the help of the general's son. The result is an admiring but critical appraisal of a great soldier: a man who was an insensitive and egotistical leader, beloved by his men and disliked by the "higher-ups." The author traveled to all the places where Montgomery established his fabled, austere headquarters, from Normandy to Luneburg, near Hamburg. Horne supplements earlier accounts with some new -- mostly filial -- material and adds his own assessments. Like many great men, Montgomery was his own worst enemy, vain, vulnerable, and petty. A brilliant tactician, sparing of his soldiers, he was always close to the front and surrounded by a group of devoted young aides who were his eyes and ears. The great rows with Eisenhower are recorded, and his duels with Rommel (in North Africa and again in Normandy) make Horne draw analogies to the Siege of Troy: Montgomery as Achilles and Rommel as Hector. But Horne makes some powerful judgments about inferior British equipment -- especially tanks -- and describes the terrible losses that reminded Montgomery of what he experienced at the Somme in the slaughter of the First World War. Horne sees the German military, the Wehrmacht, remaining a superb, seasoned fighting machine to the very end, with morale allegedly strengthened by the Allied insistence on "unconditional surrender" and by news of the Morgenthau Plan. These are unpersuasive and largely undocumented assertions in an otherwise brilliant and authoritative study.
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