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Omar Nelson Bradley: America's GI General, by Steven L. Ossad

Columbus: University of Missouri, 2017. Pp. xxx, 460. Illus., maps, table, notes, bibio., index. $36.95. ISBN: 082622136X.

America’s Soldiers’ General

Arguably the most successful American commander of the Second World War, Omar Bradley is largely obscured by the more famous Eisenhower and the flamboyant Patton and Britain’s Montgomery. He has also been neglected by biographers, there being little available other than his post-war memoir A Soldier’s Story and A General’s Life, a quasi-autobiography done much later with his cooperation by Clay Blair, neither of which is particularly critical or insightful. So this biography by Steven Ossad is the first full treatment of the general’s life and service.

Ossad divides Bradley’s life into three parts. About a third of his text is devoted to the man’s early life, including his time at West Point, befriending Dwight Eisenhower, his long years of service in the Army, missing – like Ike -- World War I due to stateside duty, and his mastery of the profession of arms.

World War II, the second part, naturally dominates the book as Ossad traces Bradley’s rise from colonel to four stars and command of the 12th Army Group, which at its peak numbered more than a million troops - the largest force ever commanded by any American in combat. We see Bradley in command of a training division, from which he learned as much as he taught, and during the North African Campaign, when he actually did more fighting than Patton. Then through Sicily, to Britain for the Normandy operation, across France, through the Battle of the Bulge, the Rhineland Campaign, and the final defeat of Germany. Ossad argues convincingly that Operation Cobra was Bradley’s most brilliant undertaking, and the Bulge his greatest failure.

Ossad’s third part covers Bradley’s postwar reorganization of the Veterans’ Administration, his term as Chief-of-Staff of the Army, his role in the “unification of the armed forces,” and his term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, during which he carried out the relief of Douglas MacArthur.

Ossad is by no means uncritical, often noting Bradley’s errors of judgment while on the whole arguing that he made fewer of these than the other senior commanders in the war. Along the way Ossad also gives us a lot of detail on the interactions – often quite testy – among these commanders, and offers many insights into their personalities and those of other individuals.

A volume in the Missouri series “American Military Experience”, Omar Nelson Bradley is an excellent account of one of most important, and least famous, American commanders of the Second World War.

 

Note: Omar Nelson Bradley: America’s GI General, is also available in several e-editions.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   


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