Bradley, Omar [Gen of the Army Chairman JCS]

biography   biography



Senior American commanders of World War II. Seated are (from left to right) Gens. William H. Simpson, George S. Patton, Carl A. Spaatz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Courtney H. Hodges, and Leonard T. Gerow; standing are (from left to right) Gens. Ralph F. Stearley, Hoyt Vandenberg, Walter Bedell Smith, Otto P. Weyland, and Richard E. Nugent.


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Omar Nelson Bradley

General of the Army Omar Bradley in 1950

Nickname "Brad," "The G.I.'s General"

Born February 12, 1893(1893-02-12)

Randolph County, Missouri

Died April 8, 1981(1981-04-08) (aged 88)

New York, New York

Buried at Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington, Virginia

Allegiance United States of America

Service/branch United States Army

Years of service 1915–1953

Rank General of the Army

Commands held Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Chief of Staff of the United States Army

82nd Infantry Division

28th Infantry Division

U.S. II Corps

First Army

12th Army Group

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

Omar Nelson Bradley (February 12, 1893 – April 8, 1981) was a senior U.S. Army field commander 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 general to be selected Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Early life and career

Bradley, the son of schoolteacher John Smith Bradley (1868-1908) and Mary Elizabeth Hubbard (1875-1931), was born into poverty in rural Randolph County, near Clark, Missouri, He attended country schools where his father taught. When Omar was 13 his father, with whom he credited passing on to him a love of books, baseball and shooting, died. His mother moved to Moberly and remarried. Bradley graduated from Moberly High School in 1910, an outstanding student and captain of both the baseball and football teams.

Bradley at West Point

Bradley was working as a boiler maker 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, NY 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 West Point placement exams at Jefferson Barracks Military Post in St. Louis. The first place winner was unable to accept the Congressional appointment, deferring instead to Bradley. While at the academy, Bradley's focus on sports prevented him from excelling academically. He was a baseball star, though, and often played on semi-pro teams for no remuneration (to ensure his eligibility to represent the academy). He was considered one of the most outstanding college players in the nation his junior and senior seasons at West Point, noted as both a power hitter and an outfielder with one of the best arms in his day. While at West Point, Bradley joined the local Masonic Lodge in Highland Falls, New York.

Bradley's first wife, Mary Quayle, grew up across the street from him in Moberly. The pair attended Central Christian Church and Moberly High School together. Moberly called Bradley its favorite son and throughout his life Bradley called Moberly his hometown and his favorite city in the world. He was a frequent visitor to Moberly throughout his career, was a member of the Moberly Rotary Club, played near handicap golf regularly at the local course and had a "Bradley pew" at Central Christian Church. When a flag project opened in 2009 in the Moberly cemetery, General Bradley and his first son-in-law and West Point graduate, the late Major Henry Shaw Bukema, were memorialized with flags in their honor from grateful citizens.

U.S. Army

At West Point Bradley lettered in baseball three times, including the 1914 team, from which 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. He served on the U.S.-Mexico border in 1915. When war was declared, he was promoted to captain and sent to guard the Butte, Montana copper mines.

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; after 1938 he was directly under Army Chief of Staff George Marshall. 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. Promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, Bradley commanded the Second Corps in the invasion of Sicily.

Normandy 1944

Bradley moved to London as commander in chief of the American ground forces preparing to invade France in 1944. For D-Day, Bradley was chosen to command the US 1st Army, which alongside the British Second Army made up General Montgomery's 21st Army Group.

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)

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. Operation Cobra called for the use of strategic bombers using huge bomb loads to attack German defensive lines. After several postponements due to weather, the operation began on July 25, 1944 with a short, very intensive bombardment with lighter explosives, designed so as not to create greater rubble and craters that would slow Allied progress. Unfortunately, Bradley's failure to properly coordinate attack plans with strategic bombing forces resulted in hundreds of American casualties, including the death of a field officer, General Lesley McNair.[3] However, the bombing was successful in knocking out the German communication system, leading to confusion and ineffectiveness, and opened the way for the ground offensive by attacking infantry. Bradley sent in three infantry divisions—the 9th, 4th and 30th—to move in close behind the bombing. The infantry succeeded in cracking the German defenses, opening the way for advances by armored forces commanded by General Patton to sweep around the German lines.

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.

Falaise Pocket

Hitler's refusal to allow his army to flee the rapidly advancing Allied pincer movement created an opportunity to trap an entire German Army Group in northern France.[4] After the German attempt to split the US armies at Mortain (Operation Lüttich), Bradley's Army Group and XV Corps became the southern pincer in forming the Falaise Pocket, trapping the German Seventh Army and Fifth Panzer Army in Normandy. The northern pincer was formed of Canadian forces, part of British General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery's 21 Army Group. On August 13, 1944, concerned that American troops would clash with Canadian forces advancing from the north-west, Bradley overrode Patton's orders for a further push north towards Falaise, while ordering XV Corps to 'concentrate for operations in another direction'.[5] Any American troops in the vicinity of Argentan were ordered to be withdrawn.[6] This order effectively halted the southern pincer movement of General Haislip's XV Corps.[7] Though General Patton protested the order, he obeyed it, leaving an exit - a 'trap with a gap' - for the remaining German forces.[8] Around 20-50,000 German troops (leaving almost all of their heavy material)[9] escaped through the gap, avoiding encirclement and almost certain destruction.[10] They would later be reorganized and rearmed in time to slow the Allied advance into Holland and Germany.[11] Most of the blame for this outcome has been placed on Bradley.[12][13] Bradley had incorrectly assumed, based on Ultra decoding transcripts, that most of the Germans had already escaped encirclement, and he feared a German counterattack as well as possible friendly fire casualties.[14] Though admitting a mistake had been made, Bradley placed the blame on General Montgomery for moving the Commonwealth troops too slowly, though the latter were in direct contact with a large number of SS Panzer, Fallschirmjaeger, and other elite German forces.[15][16]


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 had not prepared the logistics for the much deeper advance of the Allied armies, so fuel ran short.

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 in 1944.

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. Montgomery 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. Bradley opposed Operation Market Garden, and bitterly protested to Eisenhower the priority of supplies given to Montgomery, but Eisenhower, mindful of British public opinion regarding damage from V-1 missile launches in the north, refused to make any changes.

Bradley's Army Group now covered a very wide front in hilly country, from the Netherlands to Lorraine. Despite having the largest concentration of Allied army forces, Bradley faced difficulties in prosecuting a successful broad-front offensive in difficult country with a skilled enemy. General Bradley and his First Army commander, General Courtney Hodges eventually decided to attack through a corridor known as the Aachen Gap towards the German township of Schmidt. The only nearby military objectives were the Roer River flood control dams, but these were not mentioned in contemporary plans and documents.[17] Bradley and Hodges' original objective may have been to outflank German forces and prevent them from reinforcing their units further north in the Battle of Aachen. After the war, Bradley would cite the Roer dams as the objective.[18] Since the Germans held the dams, they could also unleash millions of gallons of water into the path of advance. The campaign's confused objectives, combined with poor intelligence[19] resulted in the costly series of battles known as the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, which cost some 33,000 American casualties.[20] At the end of the fighting in the Hurtgen, German forces remained in control of the Roer dams in what has been described as "the most ineptly fought series of battles of the war in the west."[21] Further south, Patton's Third Army, which had been advancing with great speed, was faced with last priority (behind the U.S. First and Ninth Armies) for supplies, gasoline and ammunition. As a result, the Third Army lost momentum as German resistance stiffened around the extensive defenses surrounding the city of Metz. While Bradley focused on these two campaigns, the Germans were in the process of assembling troops and materiel for a surprise winter offensive.

Battle of the Bulge

Bradley's command took the initial brunt of what would become the Battle of the Bulge. For logistical and command reasons, General Eisenhower decided to place Bradley's 1st and Ninth Armies under the temporary command of Field-Marshal Montgomery's 21st Army Group on the northern flank of the Bulge. Bradley was incensed, and began shouting at Eisenhower: "By God, I cannot be responsible to the American people if you do this. I resign."[22] Eisenhower turned red, took a breath and replied evenly "Brad, I - not you, am responsible to the American people. Your resignation therefore means absolutely nothing."."[23] Bradley paused, made one more protest, then fell silent as Eisenhower concluded "Well, Brad, those are my orders."[24] At least one historian has attributed Eisenhower's support for Bradley's subsequent promotion to four-star general was based in part on a desire to compensate him for the way in which he had been sidelined during the Battle of the Bulge.[25] Others point out that both Secretary of War Stimson and General Eisenhower had desired to reward General Patton with a fourth star for his string of accomplishments in 1944, but that Eisenhower could not promote Patton over Bradley, Devers, and other senior commanders without upsetting the chain of command.[26][27]


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 the Ninth Armored Division resulted in the capture of a bridge across the Rhine River at Remagen. Bradley 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.

Command style

Unlike some of the more colorful generals of World War II, Bradley was polite and courteous in his public appearances. A reticent man, Bradley was first favorably brought to public attention by war correspondent Ernie Pyle, who was urged by General Eisenhower to "go and discover Bradley".[28] Pyle subsequently wrote several dispatches in which he referred to Bradley as the GI's general, a title that would stay with Bradley throughout his remaining career.[29] 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."

While the public at large never forgot the image created by newspaper correspondents, a different view of Bradley was offered by combat historian S.L.A. Marshall, who knew both Bradley and George Patton, and had interviewed officers and men under their commands. Marshall, who was also a critic of George S. Patton,[30] noted that Bradley's 'common man' image "was played up by Ernie Pyle...The GI's were not impressed with him. They scarcely knew him. He's not a flamboyant figure and he didn't get out much to troops. And the idea that he was idolized by the average soldier is just rot."[31]

While Bradley retained his reputation as the GI's general, he was criticized by some of his contemporaries for other aspects of his leadership style, sometimes described as 'managerial' in nature.[32] British General Bernard Montgomery's assessment of Bradley was that he was "dull, conscientious, dependable, and loyal".[33] He had a habit of peremptorily relieving senior commanders who he felt were too independent, or whose command style did not agree with his own, such as the colorful and aggressive General Terry Allen, commander of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division.[34] While Patton is often viewed today as the prototype of the intolerant, impulsive commander, Bradley actually sacked far more generals and senior commanders during World War II, whereas Patton relieved only one general from his command - Orlando Ward - for cause during the entire war (and only after giving General Ward two warnings).[35]

Prior to the invasion, the British had offered a third of Hobart's Funnies, specialized armored vehicles developed for the beach assault, to the Americans, but take-up was minimal.[36] Eisenhower was in favor of the amphibious tanks but left the decision on the others to Bradley. None of the other designs were used, because it was thought that they required specialized training and an additional support organization. In the light of Omaha beach operations, Bradley's decision has been criticized as it was felt that use of the range of "funnies" would have saved American lives. [37]



General Omar Bradley, 1949

Veterans Administration

President Truman appointed Bradley to head 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's influence on the VA is credited with helping shape it into the agency it is today. He was a regular visitor to Capitol Hill and lobbied on behalf of veterans' benefits in testimony before various congressional veteran affairs committees. Due to his numerous contributions to the Veterans Administration, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs' primary conference room at the headquarters of the Department of Veterans Affairs is named in Bradley's honor.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Bradley became the Army Chief of Staff in 1948. After assuming command, Bradley found a U.S. military establishment badly in need of reorganization, equipment, and training. As Bradley himself put it, "the Army of 1948 could not fight its way out of a paper bag."[38][39][40][41]

On August 11, 1949, President Harry S Truman appointed Bradley the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After his initial 1948 plan to expand the Army and modernize its equipment was rejected by the Truman Administration, Bradley reacted to the increasingly severe postwar defense department budget cutbacks imposed by Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson by publicly supporting Johnson's decisions, going so far as to tell Congress that he would be doing a "disservice to the nation" if he asked for a larger military force.[42][43][44][45] Bradley also suggested that official Navy protests of Secretary Johnson's actions in cancelling construction of its supercarrier, the USS United States were due to improper personal or political, even mutinous motives, calling Navy admirals "fancy dans who won't hit the line with all they have on every play unless they can call the signals", and who were in "open rebellion against the civilian control."[46][47]

In his second memoir, Bradley would later state that not arguing more forcefully in 1948 and 1949 for a sufficient defense department budget "was a mistake...perhaps the greatest mistake I made in my postwar years in Washington."[48][49]

On September 22, 1950,[50] he was promoted to the rank of General of the Army, the fifth — and last — man to achieve that rank. That same year, Bradley was made the first Chairman of the NATO Military Committee. He remained on the committee until August 1953, when he left active duty. During his service, Bradley visited the White House over 300 times and was frequently featured on the cover of TIME magazine.


As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Bradley was the senior military commander at the outset of the Korean War. When North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, Bradley was faced with re-organizing and deploying an American military force that was a shadow of its World War II counterpart.[51][52] The impact of the Truman administration's defense budget cutbacks were now keenly felt, as poorly equipped American troops, lacking sufficient tanks, anti-tank weapons, or artillery were driven down the Korean peninsula to Pusan in a series of costly rearguard actions.[53][54] In a postwar analysis of the unpreparedness of U.S. Army forces deployed to Korea during the summer and fall of 1950, Army Major General Floyd L. Parks stated that

"Many who never lived to tell the tale had to fight the full range of ground warfare from offensive to delaying action, unit by unit, man by man...[T]hat we were able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat...does not relieve us from the blame of having placed our own flesh and blood in such a predicament."[55]

Bradley was the chief military policy maker during the Korean War, and supported Truman's original plan of 'rolling back' Communist aggression by conquering all of North Korea.


When Chinese Communists entered North Korea in late 1950 and again drove back American forces, Bradley agreed that rollback had to be dropped in favor of a containment strategy of North Korea. The containment strategy was subsequently adopted by the Truman administration for North Korea, and applied to communist expansion worldwide.


Never an admirer of General Douglas MacArthur, Bradley was instrumental in convincing Truman to dismiss MacArthur as the overall commander in the Korean theatre[56] after MacArthur resisted administration attempts to scale back strategic objectives in the Korean War.

In testimony to Congress Bradley strongly rebuked MacArthur for his support of victory at all costs in Korea. 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

In retirement Bradley held a number of positions in commercial life, among them Chairman of the Board of the Bulova Watch Company from 1958 to 1973.[57]

His memoirs, A Soldier's Story (ghostwritten by A.J. Liebling), appeared in 1951; a fuller autobiography A General's Life: An Autobiography (coauthored by Clay Blair) appeared in 1983). He took the opportunity to attack Field Marshal Montgomery's 1945 claims to have won the Battle of the Bulge. Bradley spent his last years in Texas at a special residence on the grounds of the William Beaumont Army Medical Center, part of the complex which supports Fort Bliss.

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.

As a 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. He was the 1948 Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses and attended several subsequent Rose Bowl games (his black limousine with personalized CA license plate "ONB" and a red plate with 5 gold stars was frequently seen driving through Pasadena streets with police motorcycle escort toward the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day), and was prominent at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, and the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana in later years.

Bradley also served as a member of President Lyndon Johnson's Wise Men, a high-level advisory group considering policy for the Vietnam War. Bradley was a hawk and recommended against withdrawal from Vietnam[58]

In 1970, Bradley served as a consultant for the film Patton, though the extent of his active participation is largely unknown. Screenwriters Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North wrote most of the film based on two biographies, Bradley's A Soldier's Story and Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago. As the film was made without access to General Patton's diaries or any information from his family, it largely relied upon observations by Bradley and other military contemporaries when attempting to reconstruct Patton's thoughts and motives.[59] In a review of the film Patton, S.L.A. Marshall, who knew both Patton and Bradley, stated that "The Bradley name gets heavy billing on a picture of
[a] comrade that, while not caricature, is the likeness of a victorious, glory-seeking buffoon...Patton in the flesh was an enigma. He so stays in the film...Napoleon once said that the art of the general is not strategy but knowing how to mold human nature...Maybe that is all producer Frank McCarthy and Gen. Bradley, his chief advisor, are trying to say."[60] While Bradley knew Patton personally, it was also well known that the two men were polar opposites in personality, and that Bradley despised Patton both personally and professionally.[61][62][63] Bradley's role in the film remains controversial to this day.

Bradley attended the 30th anniversary of D-Day at Normandy, France on June 6, 1974, participating in various parades.

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

One of Bradley's last public appearances was at the festivities surrounding the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan in January 1981.[64]

General Bradley's headstone in Arlington Cemetery

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.[65]


Bradley's posthumous autobiography, A General's Life, was published in 1983; the book was begun by Bradley himself, who found writing difficult, and so Clay Blair was brought in to help shape the autobiography; after Bradley's death, Blair continued the writing, making the unusual choice of using Bradley's first-person voice. The resulting book is highly readable, and based on extremely thorough research, including extensive interviews with all concerned, and Bradley's own papers.[66]

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."[67]

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 February 12, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives, the Missouri Senate, the Missouri House, the County of Randolph and the City of Moberly all recognized Bradley's birthday as General Omar Nelson Bradley Day. The ceremony marking the day was held at his high school alma mater and featured addresses by the current Congressional representative, Blaine Luetkemeyer, and Moberly High School Principal Aaron Vitt.

On May 5, 2000, the United States Postal Service issued a series of Distinguished Soldiers stamps in which Bradley was honored.[68]

Summary of service

Dates of rank

No pin insignia in 1915 Second Lieutenant, United States Army: June 12, 1915

First Lieutenant, United States Army: October 13, 1916

Captain, United States Army: August 22, 1917

Major, National Army: July 17, 1918

Captain, Regular Army (reverted to permanent rank): November 4, 1922

Major, Regular Army: June 27, 1924

Lieutenant Colonel, Regular Army: July 22, 1936

Colonel, Regular Army: November 13, 1943

Brigadier General, Army of the United States: February 24, 1941

Major General, Army of the United States: February 18, 1942

Lieutenant General, Army of the United States: June 9, 1943

General, Army of the United States: March 29, 1945

General rank made permanent in the Regular Army: January 31, 1949

General of the Army, Regular Army: September 22, 1950

Orders, decorations and medals

Army Distinguished Service Medal (With three oak leaf clusters)

Navy Distinguished Service Medal

Silver Star

Legion of Merit (w/oak leaf cluster)

Bronze Star

Mexican Border Service Medal

World War I Victory Medal

American Defense Service Medal

European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver and three campaign stars

World War II Victory Medal

Army of Occupation Medal with Germany clasp

National Defense Service Medal with star

British Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath

Commander's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta

French Croix de guerre with palm

Order of Kutuzov (1st class)

Order of Suvorov (1st class)

Luxembourg War Cross

Presidential Medal of Freedom

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

United States Army portal

Military of the United States portal

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


June 25, 1950

All that day, Sunday, [3-6/25 ] Washington planners and policymakers huddled in urgent conferences. These early discussions were influenced to no small degree by the Roberts-Muccio view that the ROK Army was the best army in Asia and could handle the NKPA. That belief was reinforced that day by a memo from Bradley to the JCS. During his recent trip to Tokyo he had spent nearly an hour on June 20 in conference with Lynn Roberts, who was in Tokyo on his way home to retirement. In this private soldier-to-soldier talk, Roberts had assured Bradley the ROK Army could "meet any test the North Koreans imposed on it." Bradley memoed the JCS for planning purposes:

 "After my talk with General Roberts, I am of the opinion that South Korea will not fall in the present attack unless the Russians actively participate in the action.[3-12]


[3-12] A generals life

The confidence in the ROKs was reinforced by an urgent cable from John Muccio. Owing to the departure of Roberts (not yet replaced) and KMAG Chief of Staff W. H. Sterling Wright (in Tokyo, also preparing to go home), Muccio had assumed the role of military adviser to the ROK Army.

"Ammunition is critically needed," he wrote, "to meet situation. . . ."

He had simultaneously asked MacArthur to ship him a ten-day supply immediately and begged Acheson to "back up" his request. Not to do so would be "catastrophic," he went on, concluding on this upbeat note:

 "I am confident that if adequately supplied, ROK security forces will fight bravely and with distinction.[3-13]

June 26, 1950


On the following day, June 26 in Tokyo, MacArthur received the four point directive which had been drawn up and approved at the Blair House meeting. Since he had already ordered the ammunition to be sent to South Korea and alerted his air and naval forces to provide protection for the evacuation of the 2,000 American civilians from Sŏul and could do nothing about the Seventh Fleet except await its arrival, that left only one unfulfilled item: dispatching the "survey party" to South Korea to find out what was going on and determine what else the ROKs might need. The very same afternoon MacArthur chose a GHQ section chief, Brigadier General John H. Church, to command the party (twelve other officers and two enlisted men) and told him to go to Korea immediately.[3-23]

 John Church was then only several days shy of his fifty-eighth birthday, older even than JCS Chairman Omar Bradley. He was "homey" and "frail" and sick, almost crippled by arthritis. To relieve the agonizing pain, he kept a bottle of whiskey close at hand. Although far from well, Church was not lacking in courage. As a young lieutenant in World War I he had twice been wounded leading infantry units in the trenches. In World War II, as chief of staff of the crack 45th Infantry Division, he had been in the thick of the fighting in Sicily, at Salerno, at Anzio (where he temporarily commanded an infantry regiment), and in southern France. Later, as assistant division commander (ADC) of Alex Bolling's 84th Infantry Division in the ETO, he had fought in Holland and Germany, where he was wounded for the third time. In the two world wars Church had won a DSC and two Silver Stars for heroism, plus a host of other medals.

June 26, 1950


To many, however, it seemed that Church's time had come and gone, that to send him off to yet another war at his age and in his poor state of health was unfair and unwise. MacArthur, who had turned seventy in January, apparently did not share that view. One result was that by and large, Army officers sent to Korea were older and, in some cases, less robust than their World War II counterparts.[3-24]*

 *At the time of the Normandy invasion Eisenhower was fifty-three, Bradley fifty-one. Army Chief of Staff George Marshall (then sixty-three) believed strongly that younger men should command in the field, but seniority and other factors tied his hands. Hence the three American Army commanders at Normandy were considered "old": Courtney Hodges (First), fifty-seven; George Patton (Third) fifty-eight; William H. Simpson (Ninth) fifty-six. Fifth Army commander Mark Clark and his classmate Joe Collins (in line for ETO Army command), both forty-eight, more nearly fitted Marshall's age criterion.

 June 26, 1950 0915


1915 Washington Time

Secretary of State Acheson was waiting for me at the airport as was Secretary of Defense Johnson. We hurried to Blair House where we were joined by Secretary of the Army Frank Pace. & Secretary of the Navy Francis Matthews; Secretary of the Air Force Thomas Finletter General of the Army Omar N. Bradley; the Army Chief General Collins; the Air Force Chief General Vandenberg; and Admiral Forrest Sherman Chief of Naval Operations.

Dean Acheson was accompanied by Undersecretaries Webb and Rusk and Assistant Secretary John Hickerson and Ambassador- at-Large Philip Jessup. It was late and we went at once to the dining room for dinner. I asked that no discussion take place until dinner was ended and over and the Blair House staff had withdrawn.

Earlier that Sunday evening. Acheson reported, the Security Council of the United Nations had, by a vote of nine to nothing, approved a resolution declaring that a breach of the peace had been committed by the North Korean action and ordering the North Koreans to cease action and withdraw their forces.

I then called on Acheson to present the recommendations which the State and Defense Departments had prepared. He presented the following recommendations for immediate action:

 1) That MacArthur should evacuate the Americans from Korea --including the dependents of the military mission — and, in order to do so, should keep open the Kimp'o and other airports, repelling all hostile attacks thereon. In doing this, his air forces should stay south of the 38th Parallel.

2) MacArthur should be instructed to get ammunition and supplies to the Korean army by airdrop and otherwise.

3) That the Seventh Fleet should be ordered into the Formosa Strait to prevent the conflict from spreading to that area.  We should make a statement that the fleet would repel any attack on Formosa and that no attacks should be made from Formosa on the mainland.

At this point I interrupted to say that the Seventh Fleet should be ordered north at once, but that I wanted to withhold making any statement until the fleet was in position. After this report I asked each person in turn to state his agreement or disagreement and any views he might have in addition.

Two things stand out in this discussion.

One was the complete, almost unspoken acceptance on the part of everyone that whatever had to be done to meet this aggression had to be done. There was no suggestion from anyone that either the United Nations or the United States could back away from it.

The other point which stands out was the difference in view of what might be called for Vandenberg and Sherman thought that air and naval aid might be enough. Collins said that if the Korean army was really broken, ground forces would be necessary.

I expressed the opinion that the Russians were trying to get Korea by default gambling that we would be afraid of starting a third world war and would offer no resistance. I thought that we were still holding the stronger hand, although how much stronger it was hard to tell.


At 1915 hours that [Saturday] night [1915+1400=3315-2400=0915] the President landed at Washington and drove directly to his temporary residence at Blair House. Here were assembled the key officers of the Departments of State and Defense, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff: General Omar Bradley (chairman), General J. Lawton Collins (Army), Admiral Forrest P Sherman (Navy), and General Hoyt S. Vandenberg (Air Force). Most of the talk over the dinner table reflected a hope that the South Koreans could hold with the help of American arms and equipment which General MacArthur was sending them. The main theme of conversation, however, was that the Communists appeared to be repeating patterns of aggression similar to those acts which had set off World War II.
After dinner President Truman opened the conference with the statement that he did not wish to make decisions that night, except such as were immediately necessary. Secretary Acheson then presented three recommendations which had been prepared by the State and Defense Departments:

1) that MacArthur would send arms and ammunition to Korea,

2) that MacArthur would furnish ships and planes to assist and protect the evacuation of American dependents from Korea, and

3) that the U.S. Seventh Fleet would be ordered northward from the Philippines to report to MacArthur.

 Truman asked for comments, and the discussion worked around to what the United States might have to do to save South Korea. Vandenberg and Sherman thought that air and naval aid might be enough. Collins stated that if the ROK Army was really broken, American ground forces would be needed. At the end of the meeting President Truman directed that orders be issued implementing the three recommendations made by the State and Defense Departments.#74    

June 26, 1950 1100


President Truman and his key advisers gathered at the Blair House in Washington on the evening of 25 June for an exchange of views. Five State Department members, the Secretaries of the military departments, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chief of Staff were present. [04-24]

At this meeting, the policy-makers discussed the major problems facing the United States in the Far East. Foremost in their minds was a consideration of Soviet intentions and American capabilities. Louis A. Johnson, Secretary of Defense, believed strongly that Formosa was more vital to the security of the United States than Korea, and at his direction General Bradley, now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, read a memorandum on Formosa prepared by General MacArthur. At the insistence of Secretary of State Acheson, questions of Formosa were postponed temporarily, and the attention of the group was redirected to Korea. [04-25]

 Acheson recommended that General MacArthur furnish supplies and ammunition to the ROK at once and that he be directed to evacuate U.S. nationals by any means required. When no one offered to comment on Acheson's proposals, Johnson asked each defense representative in turn for an expression of opinion. The responses came forth, and

"A major portion of the evening was taken in the individual, unrehearsed, unprepared and uncoordinated statements of the several Chiefs and the Secretaries." [04-26] 

June 26, 1950 1200


Throughout the morning the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Army, and the military chiefs were in conference at the Pentagon. [note]

[About noon in Korea] This opening thrust was quickly deflected, and the discussion properly turned to the larger picture: Stalin and the Kremlin. What did Stalin's decision to resort to "raw aggression" portend? Bradley speculated. He did not think Stalin was "ready" for global war; the Kremlin was probably "testing" America's spiritual resolve to its containment rhetoric. However, Bradley went on, this major escalation in the cold war was a "moral outrage" which the United States and United Nations could not countenance. To knuckle under in this test, he said, would be tantamount to "appeasement." One act of appeasement could lead to further acts and hence almost inevitably to global war. "We must draw the line somewhere," Bradley concluded, and Korea "offered as good an occasion for drawing the line as anywhere else.[3-19]

All fourteen men present, including most emphatically President Truman and Dean Acheson, were of like mind. All the prior policies set forth in various position papers, reached after years of careful study - that South Korea was of little strategic importance and should not be a casus belli - were summarily dismissed. On June 24, 1950, South Korea had suddenly become an area of vital importance, not strategically or militarily (as Acheson would write in his memoirs) but psychologically and symbolically. Stalin had chosen that place to escalate cold war to hot war. The line would be drawn. South Korea would be supported, not because its conquest would directly threaten America's vital interests but because a failure to meet Stalin's challenge there would be so morally derelict it might fatally damage America's prestige and lead to a collapse of the free world's will to resist Communist aggression in places that really counted.

The conferees next wrestled with these questions: How much help? What form should it take? There was a stingy approach to the problem: Minimize, not maximize, the commitment. Finally, they agreed on the following steps, to be carried out with utmost haste under the "guise of aid" to the UN, which that day had condemned the NKPA invasion and invited "all members" to help the ROKs.


MacArthur would proceed (as he was already doing) with sending "ammunition and equipment" to the ROKs in order to help "prevent the loss" of Sŏul.

MacArthur would rush a "survey party" to South Korea to find out what other military aid the ROKs might need to hold Sŏul.

MacArthur would provide "such naval and air action" as was necessary to prevent the loss of Sŏul partly under the guise of ensuring "safe evacuation of United States dependents and noncombatants."

The Navy's Seventh Fleet, then at Subic Bay in the Philippines, would proceed to Sasebo, Japan, to augment MacArthur's thin naval forces.[3-20]

June 26, 1950 12:30 PM

6/25/50  10:30 PM Washington 6/26/50 12:30 PM

[About noon, Monday, in Korea,] Truman returned to Washington that Sunday evening, June 25. En route he summoned his chief Pentagon and State advisers to a meeting that night at Blair House, the president's temporary home and office during the renovation of the White House. Thirteen senior officials gathered at Blair House for a fried chicken dinner and urgent talks. Of the thirteen, the majority - eight - were from the Pentagon. These included Louis Johnson and Omar Bradley, returned from the aircraft carrier demonstration in Norfolk, the three service secretaries - Frank Matthews, Frank Pace, and Tom Finletter - and the three military chiefs - Collins, Vandenberg, and Sherman.[3-17]

Confident that the ROK Army would push back the NKPA, the Pentagon contingent had a larger Far East worry that night: Formosa. Recently the Chinese Communists had taken Hainan Island and had amassed 200,000 troops on the mainland opposite Formosa. The Pentagon advisers believed that the NKPA invasion in Korea might possibly be a feint to divert attention and resources from a Chinese Communist invasion of Formosa. Johnson and Bradley, armed with a long and eloquent study paper from MacArthur urging American support for Formosa, took advantage of the crisis atmosphere to push for a reversal of the Truman-Acheson hands-off Formosa policy. On Johnson's instructions, the ailing Bradley read the entire MacArthur paper, and Johnson recommended (as the JCS had the previous December) that an American survey team be authorized to go to Formosa to find out what was required to maintain the security of the island.[3-18] 

June 26, 1200

biography   biography   biography

General Bradley summed up the prevailing opinion. He said that the United States would have to draw the line on communist aggression somewhere-and that somewhere was Korea. He did not believe that Russia was ready to fight the United States, but was merely testing American determination. President Truman agreed emphatically. He did not expect the North Koreans to pay any attention to the pronouncement of the United Nations, and he felt that the United Nations would have to apply force. [04-29]

2230 Washington 1300 Korea

Before the meeting adjourned at 2300, President Truman approved the actions proposed by Secretary Acheson and already set in motion by General MacArthur.