World War II

THE FULL MONTY

On the morning of May 27, 1944, a British transport aircraft descended out of the clouds near the Iberian Peninsula and approached the Allied airfield at Gibraltar. A formation of military and political officials, all wearing their finest red tabs and neckties to welcome the important guest, obediently waited near the runway. Unexpectedly, the aircraft pulled into a turn and began circling the field. It lingered overhead for nearly an hour while the crowd stood by.

Finally, the pilot banked toward the runway and landed, taxiing to the assembly who snapped back to attention. The British general for whom they all waited strode out of the airplane door and down the steps with élan. The officers immediately recognized the man’s diminutive stature, the trademark beret, the neat mustache hanging under a sharp nose, and the brow that was always furrowed as if he was looking into the sun. Bernard Law Montgomery. Monty.

“Good morning, gentlemen,” the general said, returning a salute. “Where is Foley?”

A major in the British Army, Frank Foley, stepped forward and the two men briefly chatted before leaving in a staff car manned by a driver and an armed escort. They drove to the house of the governor of Gibraltar, waving along the way to those who recognized the colors fluttering from the car’s staff. “Well, Foley,” the general remarked, looking around with an air of familiarity. “It hasn’t changed much since I was here last.”

At Government House, Foley led his guest into a large room with a table already laid out for breakfast. Montgomery’s penchant for lavish breakfasts—even while operating in the deserts of North

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