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Leadership is based on truth and character. A leader must himself be the servant of truth, and he must make that truth the focus of a common purpose.

Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, also known as ‘Monty’ and ‘The Spartan General’, was a resolute man. He was unwavering in the face of adversity and was notorious for his sharp wit and direct attitude. On the one hand, he was highly appreciated among his subordinates as an exceptional commanding officer, and on the other hand, the higher ranks often found him difficult to work with. Even Churchill, who later became one of his most faithful friends once said of him:

In defeat, unbeatable: in victory, unbearable.

His involvement with NATO came after a series of outstanding achievements in the military. During the Second World War, he led a decisive victory at El Alamein, Egypt; he was also commander of all land forces involved in Operation Overlord, the code name for the Battle of Normandy, under the overall command of US General Dwight Eisenhower. His role in helping achieve Allied victory cannot be understated.  

After the war, he was appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff (head of the British Army) and became the Chairman of the Western Union’s Commanders-in-Chief Committee in 1948. The Western Union had its headquarters in Fontainebleau, France, and was the first attempt of western powers to create a united defence organisation. A true believer in mutual assistance and the need to defend against the growing threat of the USSR, Monty also saw the absolute necessity of involving North America in this endeavour.

Montgomery served as the first Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Forces in Europe (DSACEUR), under the command of General Eisenhower. He was a strong supporter of the Alliance and even though he did not always share his superior’s approach to matters, he played a key role in shaping the structure and strategic direction of NATO’s Allied Command Europe (ACE).

Monty effectively held the position of DSACEUR from 2 April 1951 to 23 September 1958 under a total of four Supreme Allied Commanders: General Eisenhower, General Ridgway, General Gruenther and General Norstad. Firmly convinced that NATO had a role to play in the international sphere to deter aggression and bring together a united Western front, he was determined to help build up credible forces for the Alliance. However, he never assumed all this would be done over the course of his lifetime.

...[NATO] is the only answer to the political and military problems of the free world. But we must not be complacent and think that the organisation cannot be improved; there are many improvements which could be made...

Monty retired from public life in September 1958 when he resigned from his post at NATO. He had dedicated half a decade to working within military affairs. With hindsight he wrote that his entire life had been a series of battles: younger, with his mother, teachers, and his army superiors; with the grim reaper who robbed him of his wife Betty at a young age; with his allies and, above all, with the enemy in two world wars. Below, “The Spartan General” with his two dogs named Hitler and Rommel.