Omar Nelson Bradley (February 12, 1893 - April 8, 1981)
was a prominent US general in North Africa and Europe
during World War II.
Bradley was born in Clark, Missouri the son of a
schoolteacher. He was educated at local schools and
intended to enter the University of Missouri. Instead he
was advised to try for West Point. He placed first in his
district exams for a place and entered the academy in
1911. Graduating from West Point in 1915 he was part of a
class that contained many future generals. He joined the
14th Infantry Regiment but did not see action in Europe
serving on the Mexican border in 1915 and when war
was declared he was promoted to captain but was posted to
Montana. He did not receive a frontline command, his
joining of the 19th Infantry Division in August 1918 was
intended to lead to Europe but the influenza pandemic and
then the armistice prevented him leaving the US.
Between the wars he taught and
studied. From 1920-24 he taught mathematics at West
Point. He was promoted to a major in 1924 and took the
advanced infantry course at Fort Benning, Georgia. After
a brief service in Hawaii he then 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 from 1938. In February 1941 he was promoted to
brigadier general and sent to command Fort Benning. In
February 1942 he took command of the 82nd Infantry
Division before being switched to the 28th Infantry
Division in June.
Bradley did not receive a frontline command until early
1943 after Operation Torch, he had been given VIII Corps
but instead was sent to North Africa to serve under
Dwight D. Eisenhower. He became head of II Corps in April
and directed them in the final battles of April and May.
He then led his corps onto Sicily in July. In the
approach to Normandy Bradley was chosen to command the
substantial 1st Army Group. During Operation Overlord he
commanded three corps directed at the areas codenamed
Utah and Omaha. Later in July he planned Operation Cobra
which was the beginning of the breakout from the Normandy
beach-head. By August Bradley's command, the renamed 12th
Army Group, had swollen to over 900,000 men.
Bradley used his unprecedented force to undertake an
ambitious plan to encircle the German forces in France,
trapping them west of the Rhine. It was only partially
successful but German forces were enormously attrited
during their retreat. The American forces reached the
'Siegfried Line' in late September and were largely
It was forces under Bradley's command who took the
initial brunt of what would become the Battle of the
Bulge. and it was forces under George Patton that would
finally forced the Germanss back. Eisenhower and Bradley
used the advantaged gained after the end of the battle to
break the German defences and cross the Rhine into the
industrial heartland of the Ruhr. The fortunate capture
of the bridge at Remagen was quickly exploited, leading
to an enormous pincer movement encircling the German
forces in the Ruhr from the north and south, over 300,000
prisoners were taken. American forces met up with the
Soviet forces near the River Elbe in mid-April. By this
time the 12th Army Group was a force of four armies (1st,
3rd, 9th, and 15th) that numbered over 1.3 million men.
Bradley headed the Veterans Administration for two years
after the war. He was made army chief of staff in 1948
and first official Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
in 1949. On September 22, 1950 he was promoted to the
rank of five-star general, only the fifth man to achieve
that rank. Also in 1950 he was made the first Chairman of
the NATO Committee. He remained on the committee until
August 1953 when he retired from the military to take a
number of positions in commercial life.
He published his memoirs in 1951 as A Soldier's Story and
took the opportunity to attack the British wartime
commander Bernard Montgomery over his 1945 claims to have
won the Battle of the Bulge.
Since a five-star general is always part of the US Army,
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.
He is buried at Arlington Cemetery.
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