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Omar Bradley

Omar Nelson Bradley, 1893-1981), American general, who during World War II commanded the U. S. 12th Army Group in Europe. By the spring of 1945 this group contained 4 field armies, 12 corps, 48 divisions, and more than 1,300,000 men, the largest exclusively American field command in U.S. history. A mildmannered man with a high-pitched voice, General Bradley created the impression less of a soldier than of a teacher, which he actually was during much of his early career in the Army (at the U. S. Military Academy and the Infantry School). Yet he earned a reputation as an eminent tactician and as a "soldier's soldier, a general with whom lower ranks could readily identify.

Bradley was born in Clark, Mo., on Feb 12, 1893. He moved with his family 15 years later to Moberly, Mo., where he met the girl he eventually married, Mary Quayle. He graduated from the U. S. Military Academy in 1915. During World War I, Bradley rose to the temporary rank of major while serving with the 14th Infantry Regiment. Early in World War II he served as commandant of the Infantry School, commanded an infantry division in training, and in the spring of 1943 commanded the 2d Corps in North Africa and later in Sicily.

Command in Europe

The Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, chose him to command the 1st U. S. Army, the American contingent in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944. As the size of U. S. forces increased, Bradley was appointed to command the 12th Army Group. His troops broke out of the Normandy beachhead, liberated Paris, defeated a German counteroffensive during the winter of 1944-1945, seized the first bridgehead over the Rhine River, and drove through central Germany to establish the first Allied contact with troops of the Soviet Union.

Bradley missed full encirclement of a German army in Normandy, but this was generally attributed to the delayed advance of troops under British command. He failed to detect German preparations for the winter counteroffensive, but this was a general failure throughout the Allied command. Bradley was proudest of Operation Lumberjack, the campaign he launched to reach the Rhine after the German counteroffensive.

After World War II

For two years following World War II, Bradley served as administrator of veterans' affairs before becoming chief of staff of the U. S. Army early in 1948. The next year he became the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the newly created Department of Defense, the highest military position open to a U. S. officer. In September 1950, while chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he became the fourth officer to reach the 5-star rank of general of the army. He also served as the first chairman of the Military Committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), consisting of the military chiefs of staff of the nations united in that organization for common defense. After relinquishing the NATO Military Committee chairmanship in 1950, he continued until mid-1953 as U. S. representative on the committee and on its Standing Group. Late in 1953 he became chairman of the board of the Bulova Watch Company. He died in New York City on April 8, 1981.

In his memoirs, A Soldier's Story (1951), Bradley sharply criticizes British Field Marshal Montgomery for "misrepresentation of U.S. and British roles in the German winter counteroffensive.

Charles B. MacDonald
Deputy Chief Historian
Department of the Army

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