When Omar Nelson Bradley began his military career more than a century ago, the army rode horses into combat and had less than 200,000 men. No one had heard of mustard gas. At the height of his career, Bradley (known as “Brad” and “The GI’s General”) led 1.23 million men as commander of 12 Army Group in the Western Front to bring an end to World War II.
Omar Nelson Bradley was the youngest and last of nine men to earn five-star rank and the only army officer so honored after World War II. This new biography by Steven L. Ossad gives an account of Bradley’s formative years, his decorated career, and his postwar life.
Bradley’s decisions shaped the five Northwest European Campaigns from the D-Day landings to VE Day. As the man who successfully led more Americans in battle than any other in our history, his long-term importance would seem assured. Yet his name is not discussed often in the classrooms of either civilian or military academies, either as a fount of tactical or operational lessons learned, or a source of inspiration for leadership exercised at Corps, Army, Group, Army Chief, or Joint Chiefs of Staff levels.
The Bradley image was tailor-made for the quintessential homespun American heroic ideal and was considered by many to be a simple, humble country boy who rose to the pinnacle of power through honesty, hard work, loyalty and virtuous behavior. Even though his classmates in both high school and at West Point made remarks about his looks, and Bradley was always self-conscious about smiling because of an accident involving his teeth, he went on to command 12 Army Group, the largest body of American fighting men under a single general.
Bradley’s postwar career as administrator of the original GI Bill and first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Korean War ensures his legacy. These latter contributions, as much as Bradley’s demonstrable World War II leadership, shaped U.S. history and culture in decisive, dramatic, and previously unexamined ways.
Drawing on primary sources such as those at West Point, Army War College and Imperial War Museum, this book focuses on key decisions, often through the eyes of eyewitness and diarist, British liaison officer Major Thomas Bigland. The challenges our nation faces sound familiar to his problems: fighting ideologically-driven enemies across the globe, coordinating global strategy with allies, and providing care and benefits for our veterans.
Written by Steven L. Ossad
Published by University of Missouri, hardback. 2017. 492 pages.