Charles Whiting is a British historian. Therefore, he's entitled to his pro British bias and occasional digs at such American commanders as Bradley and Patton. And he does not really try to cover up Montgomery's egotism, jealousy and desire for the supreme command.
A good part of the story concerns the strategic argument between Ike and Monty over a "narrow front strategy" vs a "broad front strategy" which broke out soon after the Normandy invasion. Eisenhower advocated a broad front advance into Germany with all of the allied army's advancing in tandam. Montgomery advocated a narrow front advance with the bulk of the allied might concentrated in a single thrust under his command. As this was the exact opposite of his strategy in the Western Desert, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Monty's argument had less to do with strategy than with his desire to assume sole command of the allied assault on Germany, while relegating the American commanders to a holding action, and Eisenhower to a figurehead role far removed from actual command of operations on the battlefield.
As Supreme Allied Commander Ike eventually decided the issue in favor of a unified advance by all of the allied armies. But not before he gave Monty what he had asked for. This became Operation Market Garden, Monty's single thrust effort to "bounce the Rhine" and advance into Germany in the fall of 1944. It was the failure of Operation Market Garden that settled the debate over the narrow front strategy vs the broad front strategy, and sealed the fate of Montgomery. He would not achieve his heart's desire to displace Eisenhower and assume control of the allied advance (although as Whiting shows he continued to try).
It has always seemed to me that Operation Market Garden was a desparate gamble by Montgomery to achieve the control of the allied advance he so desparately desired, and that Ike let him have his way in order to settle the issue one way or the other. It has also seemed to me that Montgomery was the last allied commander who could have made Operation Market Garden work. It required a bold, rapid thrust into the enemies flank, in constant danger of outrunning his support and without regard for the possiblity of a counter attack. This was the kind of strategy that a Patton or Rommel could have carried off. It was not the kind of warfare that a cautious, careful general like Montgomery was suited for. His great victories in North Africa had been won through planning and preparation, launched with the assurance of overwhelming numerical and logistical superiority. His delay in capturing Caen during the Normandy campaign merely confirms that this was his method of conducting a battle.
Strangely, Mr. Whiting bounces his own Rhine in this book. After fairly detailed chapters on the North African campaign and Sicily he jumps, in one inadequate chapter, over the Normandy landings, Patton's break out from the bridgehead, the race accross France and Operation Market Garden to land on the eve of the battle of the Bulge where he picks up the story of the Eisenhower-Montgomery rivalry once again.
Instead of a detailed analysis of the failure of the narrow front strategy in Operation Market Garden we get the following brief comments:
"His abortive 'Market Garden' operation to 'bounce the Rhine' at Arnhem didn't help either. It increased the ire of generals such as Bradley and Patton."
"The failure of the 'Market Garden' operation, based on a similar strategy, did not weaken his demands for the 'narrow front' strategy."
That's it? The failure of Operation Market Garden was key to the defeat of Montgomery's efforts to wrest contol of the allied armies from Eisenhower. And this is all that Whiting has to say about it? Certainly it was an embarassment to the British, especially considering the personal motivations in which it was entangled. But it cannot be avoided in any discussion of the politics of the allied coalition and of the rivalry between Montgomery and Eisenhower, a rivalry that was fueled largely by Monty's ambition.
Whiting is at his best in describing the internacine rivalry between the British and American generals during World War II. It is worth remembering, however, that not all British commanders sided with Montgomery. Air Marshal Tedder, among others, loyally supported Ike. Whiting's telling of the tale of this great rivalry in the midst of a great war is fascinating. I wish that I could also say that it is an unbiased account.