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Omar Nelson Bradley

Chairman from Aug. 16, 1949 – Aug. 15, 1953

Omar Nelson Bradley
General of the Army
Omar Nelson Bradley
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Omar Bradley was born in the farming village of Clark, Missouri, on 12 February 1893. His parents were poor, his boyhood austere. The US Military Academy appealed to Bradley as a means to an education without financial burden for his family. He received an appointment and graduated in 1915, ranking forty-fourth out of 164. His classmates included Dwight D. Eisenhower, James A. Van Fleet, and fifty-six other future generals from "the class the stars fell on."

During World War I Bradley served with an infantry regiment which, to his chagrin, never left the United States. Most of his interwar assignments were spent as either student or teacher at military schools. In 1941, while Commandant of the Infantry School, Bradley became the first man in his class to reach the rank of brigadier general. During 1942 to 1943, he successively commanded the 82d and 28th Infantry Divisions.

In March 1943, at General Eisenhower's request, Major General Bradley arrived in North Africa. There he joined II Corps as Deputy Commander under Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr. Bradley took command of II Corps for the final advance to Tunis and during the thirty-eight-day Sicilian campaign served as a corps commander in Patton's Seventh Army. Based upon Bradley's exceptional qualities as a combat leader and his gift for getting along with the allies, Eisenhower chose him to be Army Group Commander for Operation OVERLORD, the invasion of France. During June and July 1944 Lieutenant General Bradley led the US First Army as it fought through the hedgerows of Normandy. On 1 August, just after the breakout at St. Lo, he took command of the 12th Army Group. When the European war came to an end in May 1945, Bradley (now a full general) commanded forty-three divisions and 1.3 million men, the largest body of American soldiers to serve under a US field commander. His modest demeanor and solici tude for his troops earned him the nickname "the GI's General."

With the coming of peace, President Harry S. Truman named General Bradley to be Administrator of the Bureau of Veterans' Affairs; he began work in August 1945. Bradley returned to the Army on 7 February 1948, when he succeeded General Eisenhower as Chief of Staff. Three months later, Secretary of Defense James Forrestal asked Bradley to become his "principal military adviser." Bradley was disinclined to leave his A rier, assailed the concept of strategic bombing with nuclear weapons. The Air Force's B-36 bomber became their particular target. General Bradley, who as Chief of Staff had been willing to reduce Army divisions in order to strengthen strategic air power, had no patience with what he saw as Navy parochialism. During congressional hearings, he delivered a much publicized call for service cooperation: "This is no time for 'fancy Dans' who won't hit the line with all they have on every play, unless they can call the signals. Each player on this team-whether he shines in the spotlight of the backfield or eats dirt in the line-must be all-American." Under new leadership, the Navy began taking a more conciliatory approach.

The Korean War dominated Bradley's tenure as Chairman. He wholeheartedly supported President Truman's decision to resist the North Korean attack and quickly became a key adviser to Truman. During the war's first weeks, Bradley went frequently to the White House to brief the President and present the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs.

Despite the Korean War, Bradley saw the Soviet Union as the greatest threat to US security and Western Europe as the Free World's greatest asset. Consequently, he opposed expansion of the Korean conflict to include China. Such a war, he said, would be "the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy." He opposed proposals by the US commander in the Far East, General Douglas MacArthur, for bombing and blockading China. President Truman concurred. When General MacArthur persisted in public criticisms of this policy decision, the Joint Chiefs reluctantly agreed that the President should relieve MacArthur. Truman promptly did so and, at the recommendation of Bradley and the Chiefs, named General Matthew B. Ridgway, USA, as the new commander in the Far East.

The war in Korea and the fear of further communist aggression triggered a major rearmament effort. Between June 1950 and December 1952 the armed forces grew from 1.45 to 3.51 million men. General Bradley refereed an interservice debate over the nature of this expansion. Working closely with Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Lovett, Bradley won JCS approval of a plan that emphasized Air Force expansion.

To deter aggression in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) set about creating an integrated military structure. General Bradley played a key role in establishing this structure. He spent much time negotiating with his British and French counterparts over the organization of NATO's Atlantic and Mediterranean commands.

Omar Bradley was promoted to the rank of General of the Army on 22 September 1950. He was the only Chairman to attain five-star rank. His tenure as Chairman ended on 15 August 1953, three weeks after the Korean armistice. As a five-star general, however, he did not retire.

After leaving the chairmanship, Bradley joined the Bulova Watch Company, subsequently becoming chairman of the board. In March 1968 he was one of the "wise men" who reviewed Vietnam policy for President Lyndon B. Johnson. In recognition of his longtime service to the nation, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977. Bradley died in New York on 8 April 1981.