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3 Introduction Leadership in a democratic Army means firmness, not harshness; understanding , not weakness; justice, not license; humaneness, not intolerance; generosity, not selfishness; pride, not egotism.—Omar Bradley1 In the Shadow of Famous Men Biographers typically begin by justifying the importance of their subject and end with the struggle to achieve the reviewers’ highest standard, that of “bringing the person to life.”Demonstrating relevance is necessary, especially if there is little personal drama or panache in the life story of the subject. Even for personalities of undisputed historical power or influence, however, the biographer ’s task can be daunting. In the pantheon of WWII military leaders there is no clearer example than Omar Nelson Bradley. The few available biographies are largely rewrites, some brief, of Bradley’s own published memoirs, paraphrased extracts from his principal aide Chester Hansen’s voluminous diary, or accounts gleaned from well-­ known archival sources. All include extensive, sometimes passionate, responses to the basic questions: Why read a biography of Omar Bradley? Who besides military history enthusiasts do or should care about him? Why is he relevant now that his wars and contributions to the nation have receded from public memory and his personal presence has been dwarfed by the images of supposedly greater men? Most important, if history has already assigned Omar Bradley to the shadows (whatever the claims made for and against him), why shine a light on his life now? The answer is simple and free of the false allure of oversized personality that usually draws readers, elicits bold claims, or inspires heated arguments. Omar Bradley rose to the pinnacle of the American military establishment and was the last of the major WWII military leaders to pass from the scene. He is also 4 Introduction perhaps the least studied and understood, yet in many ways the most relevant today. Usually included as the last and youngest of the “five stars,” he had the most combat experience of three US Army Group commanders in Europe during World War II and was our most important ground commander. He belongs in the company of his most accomplished contemporaries, such as Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, Germany’s Erich von Manstein, and Soviet Marshal K. K. Rokossovsky.2 Yet since journalist Fletcher Platt first described Bradley as the great “Tactician of the West” in 1947, no one has taken up the debate or even bothered to explore beyond a catalogue of bland adjectives and hagiographic explanations of his unexciting public face.3 The need for great tactical thinking never goes away, however, no matter what stage of history we are in, or whether we are on the right side of it. If Platt’s claim is valid, that alone justifies this study. Bradley’s decisions, in success and failure, shaped the five northwest European campaigns from the D-­ Day landings to VE Day. As the man who successfully led more Americans in battle than any other man in our history, indeed the man who bore the greatest operational responsibility for executing the Allies’ plan for ground war in Europe, his long-­ term importance would seem assured. Yet his name arises infrequently in the classrooms of civilian or military academies, either as a source of tactical or operational lessons or as inspiration for leadership exercised at the level of corps, army, group, army chief, or joint chiefs of staff. His stature, when considered at all, has been on a downturn. Still less attention is paid to his principal instrument, US 12th Army Group. As a business school case study in improvised organizational management under extreme pressure, the history and structure of that vast enterprise alone merits serious consideration. Certainly, Bradley learned from his experience there—­ and before, when called to service as a government official. As army chief of staff, he introduced several new deputy chiefs, remembering his experience in Tunisia with Patton, and the smooth transition of his deputy to command of the US First Army when Bradley himself stepped up to 12th Army Group. As head of the Veterans Administration (VA), he envisioned a military corps structure when he decentralized operations to cope with the fourfold increase in demand for VA services after the war. Bradley’s importance as a major Cold War figure would have been hard to imagine in the immediate aftermath of World War II. As the future course of a half-­ century was being shaped, an insecure, shaky, and newly elevated President Truman picked Bradley to run the postwar VA, an institution already...


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