Dearest sweetheart –
Sorry that I have to use this V mail, but if I’m going to get anything at all off to you today – I’d better write this – now. As things looked last night, I didn’t think I’d be able to write you today, but for one reason or another, here I am, dear.
I got a letter from Charlie yesterday, written in this country on the day he left for the States. He was remarkably frank and said he was going to ask Pauline to divorce him – which I don’t think she’ll do. I really feel sorry for the guy and I hope he readjusts himself.
Darling – there’s not much else I am able to write you from this point except to remind you that I love you and not to worry. Everything is fine here. Love to the folks and I’ll write as soon as I can.
|Photo of Montgomery from LIFE magazine|
The 21st Army Group, commanded by General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, was a British headquarters formation consisting primarily of British and Canadian forces. The Army Group was an important Allied force in the European Theater of World War II. It was established in London during July 1943 under the command of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) and was initially assigned to control all ground forces in Operation Overlord, the invasion of Europe. When sufficient American forces had landed, their own 12th Army Group was activated, under General Omar Bradley and the 21st Army Group was left with the British 2nd Army and the First Canadian Army under its control.
Much of what is written below was extracted from the WWII Database's Biography of Montgomery:
In 1914, during WWI, Montgomery was deployed to France and was shot by a sniper. With the bullet passing through his right lung, the wound was so critical that a grave was dug in preparation for his death, but he recovered. He continued his military career following the war. He was promoted to the rank of major general while serving in Palestine. He became the commanding officer of the 9th Infantry Brigade in 1937 at the rank of brigadier. The same year Montgomery's wife, Elizabeth, received an inspect bite in the arm which became seriously infected and required amputation; she contracted septicemia following the amputation and passed away in his arms. He dealt with his sorrow by occupying himself with work.
Eventually, "Monty" was promoted to the rank of major general and was given command of the 8th Infantry Division in Palestine. At that position he was credited in quashing the Arab revolt. In Jul 1939, he was sent back to England to command the 3rd Infantry Division. When the United Kingdom entered WWII in 1939, the 3rd Infantry Division was deployed to Belgium as part of the British Expeditionary Force. Realizing that the British and the French had little intention to invade Germany, Montgomery predicted a defeat should Germany decide to invade France, and trained his troops for tactical retreat, which paid off when the men of the 3rd Infantry Division effectively fell back toward the French coast. In Jul 1940, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and was placed in command of V Corps. In Apr 1941, he became the commanding officer of XII Corps. In 1942, he was a member of the team that planned out the Dieppe Raid which suffered disastrous results. He never took direct blame for the failure as Louis Mountbatten took on the role of scapegoat.
In 1942, William Gott who had been selected as a field commander in North Africa, but he was killed in an airplane crash. Montgomery took command on 13 August and immediately instituted a series of changes, including the creation of a mobile British armored corps and a set of new procedures for improved combined operations with the Royal Air Force. Also among the first things he performed was the destruction of all plans for falling back in the case of a strong Axis offensive. "I have canceled the plan for withdrawal," he told his officers at his first staff meeting. "If we are attacked, then there will be no retreat. If we cannot stay here alive, then we will stay here dead." On 31 Aug 1942, he successfully repelled Rommel's attack against Alam el Halfa by predicting the high ground as a likely target and prepared its defenses before the attack commenced.
In the next month, Montgomery started to receive great quantities of supplies from the United States, including large numbers of tanks. In October of 1942, Montgomery decided that he was ready to launch Operation Lightfoot. On 23 October, the two forces engaged at the Battle of El Alamein, and 12 days later Montgomery achieved his decisive victory, capturing 30,000 Axis prisoners. For this victory, he was knighted and promoted to the rank of general. He continued to use his superior firepower to put pressure against the Axis forces, pushing the Axis lines back time after time, leading to the end of the Desert War.
To the men, Montgomery became the officer who defeated the dreaded Erwin Rommel. His popularity was gained not only through victories, but also his efforts to win the hearts of his men. He made sure that he was visible to the front line soldiers, speaking to them as much as possible. On one of the visits, he visited an armor unit, and spoke with the crew of a tank; one of the tankers gave him a black beret of the Royal Tank Regiment, which he wore for the remainder of the war, becoming part of his signature look. Some of his methods for troop support were unorthodox, however, such as setting up a brothel in Tripoli, Libya to satisfy the sexual needs of his men. This received approval from the men who needed this type of service, but it also added distance between Montgomery and the other officers who found brothels immoral and unacceptable.
Montgomery was next placed in command of the Eighth Army for the invasion of Sicily, Italy. From the onset, his leadership style and battlefield tactics conflicted with those of his American counterpart George Patton. The conflict grew into a personal rivalry between Patton and Montgomery in which Patton moved his troops into territory originally assigned to Montgomery, complaining that Montgomery's troops were advancing too slowly while boasting victories for engagements that should had been fought by the British.
Monty was transferred out of Italy on 23 December, 1943 for the upcoming cross-Channel invasion. Upon his return to England, Montgomery was given the 21st Army Group, which encompassed all Allied ground forces that would take part in Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy. He had wished for the responsibility of overall Allied command, but was unable to secure the position due to politics since the United States contributed greatly to the campaign in both men and materiel.
While commanding the British elements closely near the French city of Caen, his troops were bogged down, and were not able to take the city until Jul 1944; he originally set the goal for the British and Canadian troops to conquer Caen within days of the landing. This delay gave his political opponents such as Omar Bradley and George Patton opportunities to further criticize him. Nevertheless, once Caen was captured, he was able to use it as a pivot point that eventually led to the major German defeat at the Falaise Pocket. Once the Allied forces secured their footing in France, Montgomery found himself still unable to obtain the position of the Supreme Allied Commander, again for political reasons, as the overwhelming majority of Allied personnel in Europe were American. To appease him, Churchill offered him the title of field marshal. In 1946, he was made 1st Viscount of Alamein.