The Best Defense

Sir Michael Howard on Field Marshal Montgomery: A deeply flawed officer who excelled at leading large battle formations

I don't know why, but I only recently came across Sir Michael Howard's fine essay on Field Marshal Montgomery. (I suspect the reason is that it is tucked away in a collection of essays titled The Causes of War.) I wish I had read it while writing my most recent book, The Generals -- I would have quoted a couple of passages.

He really captures the guy well. "Montgomery was by no means a well-loved figure," he begins. Among other things, he notes, the general was flawed by a "total absence of generosity."

Montgomery's strength, as many others have observed, was the set-piece battle. "He did not adjust himself rapidly to the needs of that most difficult and necessary of military operations, the pursuit.... He would take no risks."

Most of all, "Montgomery had mastered the art which officers brought up in the small British Army had so little chance to learn -- that of commanding large formations in the field."

One quibble: Sir Michael contrasts "the smoothness" of the British debarkation on the beaches of D-Day with "the bloody shambles at the American." Yes, Omaha Beach was a mess, so much so that Bradley mulled withdrawing. But I thought Utah Beach went pretty smoothly, too, no? (Adrian Lewis, wanna weigh in here?)

Speaking of Normandy, I didn't realize that Montgomery may have had roots in that area, in an ancestral local warlord named Roger de Mont Gommeri.


The Best Defense

Salaries at the Naval PG School are high, and the faculty-student ratio is very low


Salaries for full professors at the Naval Postgraduate School average $162,000, while assistant profs get an average of $137,000, according to an article in the October issue of Proceedings, which just caught up with me. I wonder how many of those profs actually are military retirees, getting pensions on top of salaries.

Plus, there are 718 civilian faculty members -- for 1,800 students. I guess they have lots of classes with just 2.5 students?

Now, I likes me the NPS. I think it produced a lot of good work on unconventional warfare over the last 10 years -- much more than almost all Army institutions, interestingly. That said, the salaries strike me as excessive, as does the faculty/student ratio. Even for living in California.

Now, getting $162,000 for having to live in Montgomery, Alabama while pretending to teach at the Air War College -- that I can understand. And I wouldn't do it for twice that. (But I don't think I am gonna be asked to, either.)

BTW, I think I wasn't clear enough in my point yesterday about the Fat Leonard scandal vs. the USS Gerald Ford scandal: Which amounts to a bigger abuse of the taxpayer? Me, I say the old-school carrier.