General of the Army Omar N. Bradley Exhibit
He was a man who came not from wealth and privilege, but from a family that instilled the values of hard work, education, piety, and the ability to rely on oneself. Born in 1893, young Omar walked to school with his father from an early age. He would learn how to provide the family with food through hunting and fishing. In 1911, he accepted an appointment to the United States Military Academy and graduated in 1915 as part of "the class the stars fell on." Missing World War I, he spent the interwar years as a student at such places as the Infantry School, the Command and General Staff College, and the Army War College, and teaching as an instructor at West Point and Fort Benning.
By the beginning of World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Bradley was promoted over the rank of colonel and given a brigadier’s star when he became Commandant of the Infantry School. He was the first member of his class to reach the rank of general. Before heading overseas, he commanded and trained both the 82nd Infantry Division (Airborne) and the 28th Infantry Division. Upon reaching North Africa, Omar Bradley was first the eyes and ears of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and would soon become Commanding General of II Corps which he led during the invasion of Sicily. It was during this campaign that he received the title of “the Soldier’s General” from Ernie Pyle.
With Sicily conquered and the invasion of the Italian mainland imminent, General Bradley was tapped to lead the planning of what would become Operation Overlord and the cracking of German-held Europe. Two months after the allied landings on D-Day, 6 June 1944, Bradley was given command of the newly formed 12th U.S. Army Group, which consisted of the First, Third, Ninth, and Fifteenth Armies. It was the largest single command of American troops ever fielded, which he would lead until victory was achieved in May 1945.
Shortly after victory, General Bradley was appointed Director of the Veterans Administration. This job would prove to be one of his hardest and one of his most rewarding as he aided those he led in time of war. By 1948, Bradley succeeded General Eisenhower as Chief of Staff of the Army. Only a year later he was selected as the very first Chairman of the newly organized Joint Chiefs of Staff. On 22 September 1950, he was promoted to the rank of General of the Army. He would prove to be the last of the five star generals.
General of the Army Omar Bradley retired from active duty in August 1953. His post Army life would prove to be just as lively. He became somewhat of a celebrity, hobnobbing with the likes of Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Karl Malden. But he always kept his country and the U.S. Army as his highest main concern. In April 1981, General of the Army Omar N. Bradley passed away.
Instantly recognizable and a man for all seasons, Omar N. Bradley, America's last five star general, is a true American icon who, in profile, captures our storied military history, our strength of industry, and serves as a mirror to the common man.