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87 CHAPTER 4 Learning “to walk, to crawl, to run” Say what you will, nothing can make a complete soldier except battle experience .—Ernie Pyle1 Amphibious Training, Camp Gordon, Terraville, FL, 12 February 1943 Maj. Gen. Omar Bradley spent his fiftieth birthday at the army’s amphibious training center, a last stop before deployment. Corps-­ level operations had been underway for more than three months in North Africa and the Pacific, and his division might be alerted for overseas duty at any moment. The amphibious training was rigorous and included familiarization with the various landing craft such as LCI (Landing Craft, Infantry), LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel), LST (Landing Ship, Tank) and also some experience in bad weather operations (useful in retrospect). Bradley looked over his books and notes about the Gallipoli Campaign.2 The amphibious training was drawing to a close, his personal arrangements had been made, and his family was packed and ready for relocation to West Point, where Mary could be close to their daughter, Lee.3 Bradley’s seemingly impossible ambition to lead men in combat was now likely if not yet a sure thing. Among the birthday greetings on 12 February 1943 was a personal telegram from the usually distant George Marshall praising Bradley’s work at the 28th Infantry Division and including a gift, “it is only fitting that your birthday should precede by only a few days your transfer to command a Corps which comes as long delayed acknowledgement of your splendid record.”4 This never happened. Two days later, 14 February, the German forces in Tunisia launched their expected counterattack, although the location of the Schwerpunkt was a surprise, causing confusion up and down the chain of command. Bradley’s 88 Part I Becoming a Commander original travel orders were countermanded by a phone call from G-­ 1 a few days later. Personnel officer Maj. Alexander R. Bolling alerted him for immediate extended field service, and when Bradley brought up orders to take over X Corps in Texas, Alex said, “That was yesterday. This is today. You are ordered overseas.” When Bradley pressed on what to pack, the coded response revealed the destination, “Do you have a classmate overseas?” Color Sergeant of Company F and friend Lt. Gen. Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower ’15 was then in Algiers and the boss in the North African theater. The next day, he and his aides departed for the war.5 Bradley had been with the 28th Infantry for eight months; he had rebuilt and shepherded it through a crisis, trained it to a fine edge, and won its respect. It was his division, and years later when he visited Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania , as chairman of the Joint Chiefs he recognized many of its officers and NCOs. Yet, when he left the division on the verge of deployment, he had no regrets, “No, not particularly. This was a chance to get into combat and I had always looked forward to that. I’ve always regretted that I didn’t tell my officers goodbye but I didn’t say a word.”6 In fact, he had close professional connections with soldiers from the 28th Infantry Division, including his two personal aides, driver, and chiefs of staff and operations at his various commands. Bradley turned over the division to Maj. Gen. Lloyd D. Brown, an effective subordinate and good trainer. Eventually the 28th Division would come under Bradley’s command in Normandy, where Brown would be relieved, but by then everybody, especially the Germans, had another name for the red “Keystone ” state emblem distinctive unit insignia (DUI) shoulder patch, Der blutige Eimer, or the “Bloody Bucket.”7 Under top priority travel orders, Bradley arrived in Washington on 20 February 1943 and met Marshall, who briefly outlined his job in a ten-­ minute face-­ to-­ face meeting at the brand new Pentagon building. Accompanied only by his two aides, Bradley was dispatched as Ike’s observer and assistant, in A. J. Liebling’s phrase, to be his “legs and wisdom.”8 After an intelligence briefing about the action at Kasserine, Tunisia, Bradley boarded a C-­47 transport plane for the exhausting ninety-­hour, ten-­thousand-­ mile journey via Brazil, across the South Atlantic to Senegal in western Africa, then Casablanca, and finally Algiers. It was a long time to ponder another career disappointment, being pulled away from command of a division, even a corps, but this was Marshall’s will, and the job put Bradley closer to combat at a...


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