U.S. General of the Army Omar Nelson Bradley (1893-1981) was one of the outstanding Allied combat commanders in World War II.
Omar Bradley was born in Clark, Missouri, on February 12, 1893. After his father's death he moved with his mother to Moberly, where he graduated from high school. He attended West Point, graduating in 1915 as a second lieutenant of infantry. During World War I he became a temporary major.
After the war Bradley served in various military capacities and graduated from both the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In 1934 he graduated from the Army War College and went to Washington, D.C., for General Staff duty in 1938, becoming assistant secretary of the General Staff. In February 1941, promoted from lieutenant colonel to brigadier general, he became commandant of the Infantry School. He was promoted to major general in February 1942 and assigned to command the 82d Infantry Division and later the 28th Infantry Division.
Early in 1943 Bradley became Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's personal representative in the field in North Africa. Bradley soon rose to commander of the II Corps, which drove through German lines in northern Tunisia, captured Hill 609, took Bizerte, and helped end the war in Africa. He then was promoted to lieutenant general and in July 1943 invaded Sicily with his II Corps.
In the summer of 1943 Bradley was selected to command the 1st U.S. Army in the Normandy invasion and was designated commanding general, 1st U.S. Army Group. On June 6, 1944, his 1st Army landed in France and smashed through the German lines at Saint-Lô, resulting in the speedy liberation of France in July. On Aug. 1, 1944, he took command of the 12th Army Group, which eventually comprised the 1st, 3d, 9th, and 15th American armies, the largest body of American soldiers ever to serve under one field commander. In the spring of 1945, after his armies had broken the German winter attacks, captured the Siegfried Line, and reached the Rhine, Bradley was promoted to four-star general.
In August 1945 Bradley became administrator of veterans affairs; in February 1948, the chief of staff, U.S. Army, succeeding General Eisenhower; and in August 1949, the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, serving two terms. He was appointed to the rank of general of the Army in September 1950, making him the fourth five-star general officer in the American Army.
Bradley held many United States and foreign military decorations and university honorary degrees. After 43 years of active service he was placed on the unassigned list in August 1953. He then pursued a business career, serving as Chairman of the Board of the Bulova Watch Company from 1958-73.
Bradley lived his last years in Texas, occasionally providing lectures on military leadership. He died having contributed 69 years of service to the U.S. military. Throughout his career Bradley was known as "The GI's General, " so it was only fitting that President Ronald Reagan eulogized Bradley with "He was the GI's general because he was, always, a GI."
The most informative work on Bradley is his own autobiography and history, A Soldier's Story (1951). Other books containing authoritative information about him are Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (1948), and a series of books prepared by the Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, United States Army in World War II: Mediterranean Theater of Operations (3 vols., 1957-1959) and United States Army in World War II: The European Theater of Operations (7 vols., 1950-1965). See also A. Russell Buchanan, The United States and World War II (2 vols., 1964), Kenneth S. Davis, Experience of War: The United States in World War II (1965) and Newsweek, April 20, 1981. □