Omar Bradley led the American D-Day invasion, single-handedly planned the Normandy breakout, and engineered the Allied charge across Europe. But he never stood at the head of the parades through liberated towns, preferring to let his subordinates take the accolades. It was one of the ways he was able to get the most from his generals, from the brilliant but mercurial George S. Patton to the far less inspired Courtney Hodges.
Honored in the Army as a master tactician, Bradley is probably best known to the public as the “GI General.” The nickname was coined by Ernie Pyle during the Sicily campaign, where Pyle recounted the general’s humble ways and his concern for his troops, even as Bradley dodged bullets on the front line. That reputation was cemented by a two-year stint as head of the Veterans Administration following Germany’s surrender. Asked by President Truman to head the scandal-ridden agency, Bradley reshaped it in two years, vastly improving its efficiency as well as its reputation.
Returning to the Army, Bradley became its chief, then the first head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He remained active into the 1970s and is the last man to have held the five-star rank.
Bradley’s personal style – laid back and respectful no matter whom he was dealing with – was joined to an active intellect and a command of detail. From revising doctrine and training to initiating the officers candidate program, Bradley left an indelible mark on the prewar Army. It was his intimate knowledge of that army, as well as his combat and strategic skills, that led to his successes during the war and helped ensure the American victory.