Funny thing about war...anyone can be opportunistic. Reputations are developed, enhanced, trashed, and rehabilitated for decades after the fact.
Of course, in this case I am referring to the early years of World War II when Germany was at or near their high water mark and the Allies were treading water, trying to stay afloat.
FDR was using the stick of withdrawing total American support to force Churchill to agree to New Deal principles for international exchanges.
Stalin was pushing Churchill to open a second front to take pressure off his beleaguered, apparently outmatched troops.
Parliament was pushing Churchill to prove Britain still had "the fighting spirit" after his disastrous moves in Greece and the Mediterranean.
And Auchinleck was trying to stem the irresistible force of Rommel's desert assault.
These were some of the key elements in deciding the fate of the world.
Now it is historians arguing over stuff like, "Was Auchinleck the right person at the right time? Would Brooke have let Churchill push Auchinleck out after Tobruk but before Al Amein if not for the visit by Hopkins?"
The funniest part of all of this to me is that Montgomery somehow came out of it looking outstanding. If ever there was the wrong General at the wrong place at the wrong time facing the wrong opponent...that would be Montgomery.
Not that Monty did not have his good points. After all, he did find success then and again later...even if his rate of movement lagged somewhat behind that of Clark, Patton, etc.
But that is just the point, isn't it? Patton and Rommel were two exemplary leaders in tank warfare. They understood that mobile firepower trumped static, easily out-flanked defensive lines. They understood that bold attacks with flexible elements could win great victories where superior numbers with more total firepower would see only defeat.
Monty missed all that. Yet somehow, he took the tactical innovations developed by Chink and implemented by Auchinlech and found a way to defeat an arguably vastly superior general.
True, Rommel had lost "the good source" of Bonner's briefs to Washington so no longer had the intelligence advantage, and also true he lacked the supplies he needed to fulfill the attack...yet attack he did.
It was precisely his unwillingness to force an attack that he believed would cost many of his men their lives to no possibility of victory that cost Auchinlech his post. Montgomery essentially fulfilled the plan for defense and training that the Auck had already laid down, and was rewarded with glory for his success.
Had the Auck been allowed to fight his campaign his way with his knowledge instead of men like Churchill trying to regain British prestige to fend off the political maneuverings of Roosevelt and Stalin, it is entirely possible he not only would have won Al Amein, but won bigger and more decisively, making the end of World War II more rapid with less loss of life.
Too bad politics got in the way. But don't they always?
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