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Omar Nelson Bradley
February 12, 1893(1893-02-12) – April 8, 1981 (aged 88)
General of the Army Omar Bradley.jpg
Omar N Bradley Signature.svg
General of the Army Omar Bradley in 1950
Nickname "The G.I.'s General"
Place of birth Clark, Missouri
Place of death New York, New York
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1915–1953
Rank US-O11 insignia.svg General of the Army
Commands held 82nd Infantry Division
28th Infantry Division
U.S. II Corps
First Army
12th Army Group
Army Chief of Staff
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Awards Army Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star
Mexican Border Service
Knight Commander of the British Empire
Order of Polonia Restituta
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Order of Suvorov
Order of Kutuzov

General of the Army Omar Nelson Bradley (February 12, 1893 – April 8, 1981) was one of the main U.S. Army field commanders in North Africa and Europe during World War II and a General of the Army in the United States Army. He was the last surviving five-star commissioned officer of the United States and the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


Early life and career

Bradley at West Point

Bradley, the son of a schoolteacher, was born into a poor family in rural Randolph County, near Clark, Missouri. He attended country schools where his father was the teacher. However, his father died when Bradley was nine. His mother moved to Moberly and remarried. Bradley graduated from Moberly High School in 1911, an outstanding student and captain of both the baseball and football teams. Bradley was working as a clerk at the Wabash Railroad when he was encouraged by his Sunday school teacher at Central Christian Church in Moberly to take the entrance examination for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. Bradley had been planning on saving his money to enter the University of Missouri in Columbia where he intended to study law. He finished second in the placement exams (ASVAB test), but the first place winner was unable to accept the appointment, deferring instead to Bradley. While at the academy, Bradley distinguished himself as a scholar, but also as a football and baseball star. He was considered one of the most outstanding college players in the nation his junior and senior seasons at West Point. While at West Point, Bradley joined the local Masonic Lodge in Highland Falls, New York. Bradley's first wife, Mary Quayle, lived across the street when the two were growing up in Moberly. Moberly called Bradley its favorite son and throughout his life Bradley called Moberly his hometown and his favorite city in the world.

Bradley lettered in baseball three times, including the 1914 team, where every player remaining in the army became a general. He graduated from West Point in 1915 as part of a class that contained many future generals, and which military historians have called "the class the stars fell on". There were ultimately 59 generals in that graduating class, with Bradley and Dwight Eisenhower attaining the rank of General of the Army.

Bradley was commissioned into the Infantry and was first assigned to the 14th Infantry Regiment, but like many of his peers, did not see action in Europe; instead, he held a variety of domestic assignments. He served on the U.S.-Mexico border in 1915. When war was declared, he was promoted to captain, but was posted to the Butte, Montana copper mines. He courted and later married Mary Elizabeth Quayle on December 28, 1916. Bradley joined the 19th Infantry Division in August 1918, which was scheduled for European deployment, but the influenza pandemic and the armistice prevented it.

Between the wars, he taught and studied. From 1920–24, he taught mathematics at West Point. He was promoted to major in 1924 and took the advanced infantry course at Fort Benning, Georgia. After a brief service in Hawaii, he studied at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth in 1928–29. From 1929, he taught at West Point again, taking a break to study at the Army War College in 1934. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1936 and worked at the War Department directly under Army Chief of Staff George Marshall from 1938. In February 1941, he was promoted to brigadier general (bypassing the rank of colonel)[1] and sent to command Fort Benning (the first from his class to become a general officer). In February 1942, he took command of the 82nd Infantry Division before being switched to the 28th Infantry Division in June.

World War II

Bradley did not receive a front-line command until early 1943, after Operation Torch. He had been given VIII Corps, but instead was sent to North Africa to be Eisenhower's front-line troubleshooter. At Bradley's suggestion, II Corps, which had just suffered the devastating loss at the Kasserine Pass, was overhauled from top to bottom, and Eisenhower installed George S. Patton as corps commander. Patton requested Bradley as his deputy, but Bradley retained the right to represent Eisenhower as well.[2]

Bradley succeeded Patton as head of II Corps in April and directed it in the final Tunisian battles of April and May. He then led his corps, by then the only corps in Patton's 7th Army, on to Sicily in July.

In the approach to D-Day, Bradley was chosen to command the substantial US 1st Army, which alongside the British Second Army made up General Montgomery's 21st Army Group. Bradley undertook detailed planning for Omaha Beach at his headquarters at Clifton College, Bristol, England. He embarked for Normandy from Portsmouth aboard the heavy cruiser Augusta. During the bombardment on D-day, Bradley worked in a steel command cabin built for him on the deck of the Augusta, 20 ft (6.1 m) by 10 ft (3.0 m), the walls dominated by Michelin motoring maps of France, a few pin-ups and large scale maps of Normandy. A row of clerks sat at typewriters along one wall, while Bradley and his personal staff clustered around the large plotting table in the center.[citation needed] Much of that morning, however, Bradley stood on the bridge standing next to Task Force Commander Admiral Alan G. Kirk, observing the landings through binoculars, his ears plugged with cotton to muffle the blast of the cruiser's guns.

On 10 June, General Bradley and his staff debarked to establish a headquarters ashore. During Operation Overlord, he commanded three corps directed at the two American invasion targets, Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. Later in July, he planned Operation Cobra, the beginning of the breakout from the Normandy beachhead. As the build-up continued in Normandy, the 3rd Army was formed under Patton, Bradley's former commander, while General Hodges succeeded Bradley in command of the 1st Army; together, they made up Bradley's new command, the 12th Army Group. By August, the 12th Army Group had swollen to over 900,000 men and ultimately consisted of four field armies. It was the largest group of American soldiers to ever serve under one field commander.

Lt Gen Omar Bradley (left), Commanding General, U.S. First Army, listens as Maj Gen J. Lawton Collins, Commanding General, US VII Corps, describes how the city of Cherbourg was taken. (c. June 1944)

Unlike some of the more colorful generals of World War II, Bradley was a polite and courteous man. First favorably brought to public attention by war correspondent Ernie Pyle, he was informally known as "the soldier's general". Will Lang Jr. of Life magazine said "The thing I most admire about Omar Bradley is his gentleness. He was never known to issue an order to anybody of any rank without saying 'Please' first."

Bradley has a reputation today as a senior general who was very patient with the officers under his command, compared to his most famous colleague, George S. Patton, but the truth is far more complicated. Bradley sacked numerous generals during World War II with little provocation, whereas Patton actually fired only one general during the entire war, Orlando Ward, and only after two warnings[citation needed].

After the German attempt to split the US armies at Mortain (Operation Lüttich), Bradley's Army Group formed the southern pincer in the forming Falaise pocket, trapping the German Seventh Army and Fifth Panzer Army in Normandy. Although only partially successful, it inflicted huge losses on the German forces during their retreat.

The American forces reached the 'Siegfried Line' or 'Westwall' in late September. The success of the advance had taken the Allied high command by surprise. They had expected the German Wehrmacht to make stands on the natural defensive lines provided by the French rivers, and consequently, logistics became a severe problem.

At this time, the Allied high command under Eisenhower faced a decision on strategy. Bradley favored an advance into the Saarland, or possibly a two-thrust assault on both the Saarland and the Ruhr Area. Newly promoted to Field Marshal, Bernard Montgomery (British Army) argued for a narrow thrust across the Lower Rhine, preferably with all Allied ground forces under his personal command as they had been in the early months of the Normandy campaign, into the open country beyond and then to the northern flank into the Ruhr, thus avoiding the Siegfried Line. Although Montgomery was not permitted to launch an offensive on the scale he had wanted, George Marshall and Hap Arnold were eager to use the First Allied Airborne Army to cross the Rhine, so Eisenhower agreed to Operation Market-Garden. The debate led to a serious rift between the two Army group commanders of the European Theater of Operations. Bradley bitterly protested to Eisenhower the priority of supplies given to Montgomery, but Eisenhower, mindful of British public opinion, held Bradley's protests in check.

Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall (center) and Army Air Forces Commander General Henry H. Arnold confer with Bradley on the beach at Normandy, France in 1944.

Bradley's Army Group now covered a very wide front in hilly country, from the Netherlands to Lorraine and, despite his being the largest Allied army group, there were difficulties in prosecuting a successful broad-front offensive in difficult country with a skilled enemy that was recovering its balance. Courtney Hodges' 1st Army hit difficulties in the Aachen Gap, and the Battle of Hurtgen Forest cost 24,000 casualties. Further south, Patton's 3rd Army lost momentum as German resistance stiffened around Metz's extensive defences. While Bradley focused on these two campaigns, the Germans had assembled troops and materiel for a surprise offensive.

Bradley's command took the initial brunt of what would become the Battle of the Bulge. Over Bradley's protests, for logistical reasons, the 1st Army was once again placed under the temporary command of Field-Marshal Montgomery's 21st Army Group. In a move without precedent in modern warfare, the US 3rd Army under Patton disengaged from combat in the Saarland, moved 90 mi (140 km) to the battlefront, and attacked the German southern flank to break the encirclement at Bastogne (although clearing weather allowed air superiority to relieve Bastogne and break the German offensive). In his 2003 biography of Eisenhower, Carlo d'Este implies that Bradley's subsequent promotion to full general was to compensate him for the way in which he had been sidelined during the Battle of the Bulge.

Bradley used the advantage gained in March 1945 — after Eisenhower authorized a difficult but successful Allied offensive (Operation Veritable and Operation Grenade) in February 1945 — to break the German defenses and cross the Rhine into the industrial heartland of the Ruhr. Aggressive pursuit of the disintegrating German troops by Bradley's forces resulted in the capture of a bridge across the Rhine River at Remagen. Bradley and his subordinates quickly exploited the crossing, forming the southern arm of an enormous pincer movement encircling the German forces in the Ruhr from the north and south. Over 300,000 prisoners were taken. American forces then met up with the Soviet forces near the Elbe River in mid-April. By V-E Day, the 12th Army Group was a force of four armies (1st, 3rd, 9th, and 15th) that numbered over 1.3 million men.


General Omar Bradley, 1949 official photo

Bradley headed the Veterans Administration for two years after the war. He is credited with doing much to improve its health care system and with helping veterans receive their educational benefits under the G. I. Bill of Rights.

Bradley served as the Army Chief of Staff in 1948. On August 11, 1949, President Harry S Truman appointed him the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On September 22, 1950[3], he was promoted to the rank of General of the Army, the fifth — and last — man in the 20th century to achieve that rank.

Also in 1950, he was made the first Chairman of the NATO Military Committee. He remained on the committee until August 1953, when he left active duty to take a number of positions in commercial life, among them Chairman of the Board of the Bulova Watch Company from 1958 to 1973.[4]

As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Bradley strongly rebuked General Douglas MacArthur, the commander of the U.N. forces in Korea, for his desire to expand the Korean War into China. Soon after Truman relieved MacArthur of command in April 1951, Bradley said in Congressional testimony, "Red China is not the powerful nation seeking to dominate the world. Frankly, in the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this strategy would involve us in the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy."

General Omar N. Bradley Portrait

He published his memoirs in 1951 as A Soldier's Story (ISBN 0-375-75421-0) and took the opportunity to attack Field Marshal Montgomery's 1945 claims to have won the Battle of the Bulge. Bradley spent his last years at a special residence on the grounds of the William Beaumont Army Medical Center, part of the complex which supports Fort Bliss, Texas.

On December 1, 1965, Bradley's wife, Mary, died of leukemia. He met Esther Dora "Kitty" Buhler and married her on September 12, 1966; they were married until his death.

Being a big horse racing fan, Bradley spent much of his leisure time at racetracks in California and often presented the winners trophies. He also was a lifetime sports fan, especially of college football, and was prominent at both the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, and the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Bradley also served as a member of President Lyndon Johnson's Wise Men, a think-tank composed of well-known Americans considered experts in their fields. Their main purpose was to recommend strategies for dealing with the nation's problems, including the Vietnam War. While agreeing with the war in principle, Bradley believed it was being micromanaged by politicians and Pentagon bureaucrats.[citation needed]

In 1970, Bradley also served as a consultant for the film Patton. The film, in which Bradley was portrayed by actor Karl Malden, is very much seen through Bradley's eyes: while admiring of Patton's aggression and will to victory, the film is also implicitly critical of Patton's egoism (particularly his alleged indifference to casualties during the Sicilian campaign) and love of war for its own sake. Bradley is shown being praised by a German intelligence officer for his lack of pretentiousness, "unusual in a general".

In 1971, Bradley was honored by the television series, "This Is Your Life".

On January 10, 1977, Bradley was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford.

One of his last public appearances was in connection with the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan on January 20, 1981. Omar Bradley died on April 8, 1981 in New York City of a cardiac arrhythmia, just a few minutes after receiving an award from the National Institute of Social Sciences. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, next to his two wives.[5]

General Bradley's headstone in Arlington Cemetery

His posthumous autobiography, A General's Life, was published in 1983 and ghostwritten by Clay Blair.[6]

Bradley is known for saying, "Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than about peace, more about killing than we know about living."[7]

The U.S. Army's M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle and M3 Bradley cavalry fighting vehicle are named after General Bradley.

Bradley's hometown, Moberly, Missouri, is planning a library and museum in his honor. Two recent Bradley Leadership Symposia in Moberly have honored his role as one of the American military's foremost teachers of young officers.

On May 5, 2000, the United States Postal Service issued a series of Distinguished Soldiers stamps in which Bradley was honored.[8]

Summary of service


Dates of rank

No pin insignia in 1915 Second Lieutenant, United States Army: June 12, 1915
US-OF1A.svg First Lieutenant, United States Army: October 13, 1916
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, United States Army: August 22, 1917
US-O4 insignia.svg Major, National Army: July 17, 1918
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, Regular Army (reverted to peacetime rank): November 4, 1922
US-O4 insignia.svg Major, Regular Army: June 27, 1924
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel, Regular Army: July 22, 1936
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General, Army of the United States: February 24, 1941
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General, Army of the United States: February 18, 1942
US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General, Army of the United States: June 9, 1943
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel, Regular Army: November 13, 1943
US-O10 insignia.svg General, Army of the United States: March 29, 1945
General rank made permanent in the Regular Army: January 31, 1949
US-O11 insignia.svg General of the Army, Regular Army: September 22, 1950

Primary decorations

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal (With three oak leaf clusters)
Navy Distinguished Service ribbon.svg Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star ribbon.svg Silver Star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit (w/oak leaf cluster)
Bronze Star ribbon.svg Bronze Star
Mexican Border Service Medal ribbon.svg Mexican Border Service Medal
World War I Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War I Victory Medal
American Defense Service ribbon.svg American Defense Service Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon.svg European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver and three campaign stars
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation ribbon.svg Army of Occupation Medal with Germany clasp
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal with star
Galó de l'Orde del Bany (UK).png British Order of the Bath Knight Commander
Polonia Restituta Komandorski.jpg Order of Polonia Restituta
CdG45.gif French Croix de guerre with palm
Order kutuzov1 rib.png Order of Kutuzov (1st class)
Order suvorov1 rib.png Order of Suvorov (1st class)
LUX Croix de Guerre ribbon.svg Luxembourg War Cross

Assignment history

Omar Bradley
  • 1911: Cadet, United States Military Academy
  • 1915: 14th Infantry Regiment
  • 1919: ROTC professor, South Dakota State College
  • 1920: Instructor, United States Military Academy (West Point)
  • 1924: Infantry School Student, Fort Benning, Georgia
  • 1925: Commanding Officer, 19th and 27th Infantry Regiments
  • 1927: Office of National Guard and Reserve Affairs, Hawaiian Department
  • 1928: Student, Command and General Staff School
  • 1929: Instructor, Fort Benning, Infantry School
  • 1934: Plans and Training Office, USMA West Point
  • 1938: War Department General Staff, G-1 Chief of Operations Branch and Assistant Secretary of the General Staff
  • 1941: Commandant, Infantry School Fort Benning
  • 1942: Commanding General, 82nd Infantry Division and 28th Infantry Division
  • 1943: Commanding General, II Corps, North Africa and Sicily
  • 1943: Commanding General, Field Forces European Theater
  • 1944: Commanding General, First Army (Later 1st and 12th U.S. Army Groups)
  • 1945: Administrator of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Administration
  • 1948: United States Army Chief of Staff
  • 1949: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • 1953: Retired from active service



  1. ^ Hollister, Jay. "General Omar Nelson Bradley". University of San Diego History Department. May 3, 2001. Retrieved on May 14, 2007.
  2. ^ Weigley, p.81
  3. ^ "GENERAL OF THE ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES AND GENERAL OF THE ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES". Retrieved 2009-09-28. "General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, appointed Sep 22, 50. Deceased Apr 81. (General Bradley appointed pursuant to PL 957, on Sep 18, 1950.)" 
  4. ^ "The History of Bulova". Bulova. Retrieved on May 14, 2007.
  5. ^ Omar Nelson Bradley, General of the Army
  6. ^ Bradley, Omar; Clay Blair. A General's Life. ISBN 978-0671410247. 
  7. ^ Omar Bradley (1948-11-11). "Quotation 8126". The Columbia World of Quotations. Copyright © 1996. Columbia University Press.. Retrieved 2008-06-25. "The Columbia World of Quotations. 1996. NUMBER: 8126 QUOTATION: We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.... The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. ATTRIBUTION: Omar Bradley (1893–1981), U.S. general. speech, November 11, 1948, Armistice Day. Collected Writings, vol. 1 (1967)." 
  8. ^ "Distinguished Soldiers". United States Postal Service. Retrieved on May 16, 2007.


Russell F. Weigley Eisenhower's Lieutenants: The Campaign of France and Germany 1944-1945 Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1981. ISBN 0-253-20608-1

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Gen. Courtney Hodges
Commanding General of the First United States Army
Succeeded by
Gen. George Grunert
Preceded by
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by
Gen. J. Lawton Collins
Preceded by
Adm. William D. Leahy
as Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Succeeded by
Adm. Arthur W. Radford
Preceded by
Chairman of the NATO Military Committee
Succeeded by
Lt. Gen. Etienne Baele
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Billy Graham
Sylvanus Thayer Award recipient
Succeeded by
Robert Daniel Murphy


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Omar Bradley (February 12, 1893April 8, 1981) was one of the main U.S. Army field commanders in North Africa and Europe during the World War II and a General of the United States Army. He was the last surviving five-star officer of the United States.


  • The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.
    • Speech given on November 11, 1948
    • Quoted in Omar Bradley's Collected Writings, Volume 1 (1967)
  • I am under no illusion that our present strategy of using means short of total war to achieve our ends and oppose communism is a guarantee that a world war will not be thrust upon us. But a policy of patience and determination without provoking a world war, while we improve our military power, is one which we believe we must continue to follow….
    Under present circumstances, we have recommended against enlarging the war from Korea to also include Red China. The course of action often described as a limited war with Red China would increase the risk we are taking by engaging too much of our power in an area that is not the critical strategic prize.
    Red China is not the powerful nation seeking to dominate the world. Frankly, in the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this strategy would involve us in the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy.
    • Testimony before the Senate Committees on Armed Services and Foreign Relations, May 15, 1951
    • Military Situation in the Far East, hearings, 82d Congress, 1st session, part 2, p. 732 (1951)
    • Variation: "… a wrong war at the wrong place and against a wrong enemy."
      • Military Situation, p. 753
  • Dependability, integrity, the characteristic of never knowingly doing anything wrong, that you would never cheat anyone, that you would give everybody a fair deal. Character is a sort of an all-inclusive thing. If a man has character, everyone has confidence in him. Soldiers must have confidence in their leader.
    • On military character
    • 19 Stars by Edgar F. Puryear Jr.


  • Life is a war, and in war, there is no second place.
    • Unidentified speech
  • It is time that we steered by the stars, not by the lights of each passing ship.
  • Wars can be prevented just as surely as they can be provoked […] and we who fail to prevent them must share the guilt for the dead.
  • The second best decision in time is infinitely better than the perfect decision too late.
  • We are dealing with veterans, not procedures -- with their problems, not ours. -- 1947, as Administrator of the U.S. Veterans Administration
  • If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.

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