Omar Nelson Bradley (February 12, 1893 - April 8, 1981) was one of the main US Army field commanders in North Africa and Europe during World War II.
Bradley was born to a poor family 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. He gradated from West Point in 1915 as part of a class that contained many future generals, which military historians have called, "The class the stars fell upon."
He joined the 14th Infantry Regiment but, like many of his peers, did not see action in Europe, but held a variety of stateside assignments. He served on the Mexican border in 1915. When war was declared, he was promoted to captain, but was posted to Montana. Bradley joined the 19th Infantry Division in August 1918, which was intended for European deployment, but the influenza pandemic and the armistice prevented him from 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 beachhead. By August, Bradley's command, the renamed 12th Army Group, had swollen to over 900,000 men.
Bradley used his force to undertake an ambitious plan to encircle the German forces in Normandy, trapping them at the Chambois pocket. It was only partially successful but German forces still suffered huge losses during their retreat. The American forces reached the 'Siegfried Line' or 'Westwall' in late September. The sheer scale 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 consequently, logistics had become a severe issue as well.
At this time, the Allied high command under Eisenhower faced a decision on strategy. Bradley favored a strategy consisting of a advance into the Saar, or possibly a two thrust assault on both the Saar and the Ruhr. Newly promoted to Field Marshal, Bernard Montgomery argued that he should lead a thrust on the northern flank into the Ruhr. Montgomery's tempestuous personality ultimately carried the day, leading to Operation Market-Garden. The debate, while not fissuring the Allied command, nevertheless led to a serious rift between the two Army group commanders of the European Theater of Operations. Bradley bitterly protested to Eisenhower the priority of supplies given to Montgomery, but Eisenhower, mindful of British public opinion, held Bradley's protests in check.
After the failure of Montgomery's forces to take Arnhem and its bridge across the Rhine, forces under Bradley's command took the initial brunt of what would become the Battle of the Bulge. In a move without precedent in modern warfare, the US 3rd Army under George Patton disengaged from their combat in the Saarland, moved 90 miles to the battlefront, and forced the Germans back. Bradley used the advantage gained in March 1945 — after Eisenhower once again favored Montgomery with supplies for another unsuccessful offensive in February 1945 — to break the German defences and cross the Rhine into the industrial heartland of the Ruhr. Aggressive pursuit of the disintegrating German troops by Bradley's forces resulted in the capture of a bridge across the Rhine River at Remagen. Bradley and his subordinates quickly exploited the crossing, 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 then met up with the Soviet forces near the River Elbe 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.
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 General of the Army, the fifth man and last, 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 left active duty 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 Field Marshall Montgomery's 1945 claims to have won the Battle of the Bulge. 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. Upon his death, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.