By Dennis Showalter

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One of his more controversial decisions during the difficult six weeks between mid December 1944 and the end of January 1945, when the Germans were finally driven back to their starting point, was to give Montgomery temporary command of Bradley's northern two armies. Although castigated by many American commanders for assuaging HISTORY IN DISPUTE, VOLUME 5: WORLD WAR II, 1943-1945 Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery and Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. S. Army) 21 Montgomery's ego, Eisenhower made the decision based on the sound operational logic that Bradley's headquarters was too far removed from these armies to control their participation in the battle.

During World War II, airborne soldiers who actually survived their drops performed admirably. There is no doubting the individual heroism and undaunted courage of the vast majority of these select men. As a whole, however, the idea of an elite force that takes such a massive bite out of the collective pool of potential quality at such a high material cost, is one that should not have occurred. That it did was the result of the confluence of two factors. First, there was the general, though unstated sentiment, that if the Germans had airborne forces, then the Allies must have them.

In late August 1944, following the successful breakout from the Normandy beachhead, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery forcefully presented to General Dwight D. Eisenhower his solution for defeating the German field armies in the most expeditious way possible. It was not the first time he had lobbied, with the support of other senior British officers, for a British "front seat, center" position in the final act of the Hitler play. As Allan R. Millett has suggested in an essay about the American armed forces in his Military Effectiveness (1988), coedited with Williamson Murray, American interests "coincided with Soviet interest in dominating postwar eastern Europe" but were not consistent with the restoration of prewar British imperial influence in Europe.

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