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PART II THE LIBERATION OF EUROPE 151 CHAPTER 6 “Much the greatest thing we have ever attempted” From Briton’s still unconquered home A vast flotilla came that day Across the channel Tides and foam To where the Norman beaches lay, So smooth and yet so rich in death ’Til courage raw had cleared the strand And brought the force of Freedom’s breath Upon the Nazi subjugated land.1 Transitions, II Corps, Realizane, Algeria, 5 September 1943 Accepting an invitation from Lt. Gen. Oliver Leese to watch the British assault across the Strait of Messina, Bradley was en route by jeep when a piper cub landed close by with Chet Hansen aboard.Hansen bore a summons from Ike to meet at his headquarters the next day. Exchanging seats with his aide, Bradley flew back to Realizane and called Patton, who claimed ignorance but spontaneously offered his C-­ 47 for the meeting. After a short flight to Ike’s temporary headquarters on the southern coast of Sicily, Bradley received notification of his new assignment from a very busy Ike, who had no idea what his own next job would be. Bradley was to proceed to England where he would take command of the US First Army, the main American ground force in the European invasion.2 A secret War Department order also designated Bradley as commanding general of the First US Army Group (FUSAG) for planning purposes, but it was not yet known who would command the army group in combat.3 Publicly discussed candidates included Jake Devers, Lesley McNair, and Mark Clark, each 152 Part II The Liberation of Europe of whom had sponsors, commendable talents, achievements, and drawbacks. Bradley’s name appeared on no one’s list. After a courtesy call on Patton, who tried hard to suppress his own acute disappointment and was generous in praise for his subordinate’s performance in Sicily, Bradley left for Algiers, where he hopped a flight to Marrakech. Resting briefly in a suite at the “Villa Taylor,” a mansion built by a rich absentee American, he “washed off all that Sicilian dust I had collected” in a sunken marble bathtub and ate ordinary GI-­issued rations on fine damask china.4 That night he and Hansen flew to England, sharing the airplane with a group of pilots and a special medical unit caring for Brig. Gen. Brian Horrocks, a favorite of Montgomery who had been badly wounded in an air attack near Bizerte .5 Although never again free of pain, the aggressive Guardsman recovered enough for the invasion and distinguished service commanding British XXX Corps. Horrocks was much admired by Bradley and many other Americans.6 On his arrival in England, Bradley was welcomed by Lt. Gen. Jake Devers, the senior American officer in England, a “fine organizer and live-­ wire go-­ getter, who might in civilian life have headed the chamber of commerce of a bustling, growing town.” His sponsors included Marshall and McNair, as well as friends in the White House and press. Informal with “an infectious smile and a tough jaw,” a decorated artillery WWI veteran, Jake had been a classmate of both Patton and Bill Simpson, future US army commanders. The 1909 Howitzer described him as “clever,” “enthusiastic,” all code for “too smart for his own good.”7 Devers coveted Bradley’s job but had no idea who would command the army group or of his own future role.8 During an early career assignment as a West Point math instructor, Devers coached varsity baseball during Bradley ’s last two years at the academy, and neither man had fond memories of the experience. Neither did Ike, whose open dislike for Devers and avoidance of direct contact with him became a problem when the US 6th Army Group was activated in August 1944 and Devers became the second American army group commander in Western Europe, with responsibility for the right flank of the Allied drive up from southern France into Germany. The situation became especially tense when Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) ordered Devers to halt at the Rhine later in the winter, in spite of his momentum and favorable conditions for a crossing.9 Bradley’s first order of business was familiarization with the existing plans for Operation NEPTUNE, the first part of the invasion of Europe. Developed by Sir Frederick Morgan and his Chief of Staff Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC) staff, the plans detailed the American role in the invasion.10 Chapter 6 “Much the...


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