Monty:: The Battles of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery

Nigel Hamilton, Author Random House (NY) $30 (653p) ISBN 978-0-679-43341-5

Despite grave character flaws (he was vain, arrogant, small-minded and vengeful) Montgomery was, according to Hamilton, the outstanding Allied battlefield commander of WW II. Hamilton ( JFK: Reckless Youth ) has condensed his three-volume official biography into this single, more accessible book for general readers, concentrating both on Montgomery's battlefield exploits and his thorny relationships with American generals Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley. Hamilton describes how and why Montgomery deliberately humiliated the latter and disparaged the former, his direct superior, almost continually accusing Eisenhower of everything from ignorance to incompetence. The biography is decidedly controversial: Hamilton argues, for instance, that Eisenhower was virtually inactive during the major German counterattack in the Ardennes and charges Bradley with concocting self-serving myths about Montgomery that would dominate postwar writing on the Western alliance. This shortened version brings into clearer focus the reasons for the high regard in which students of the military art hold Montgomery. Photos. (June)