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359 CHAPTER 12 “The wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy” No victory is assured until the man on the ground takes possession by his physical presence on the enemy’s soil.—Omar Bradley1 Promises Kept, Army Chief of Staff, Pentagon, Washington, 7 February 1948 President Truman made good on his assurances shortly after VE Day by appointing Bradley the seventeenth chief of staff of the US Army late in November 1947.2 Press reaction was universally positive, laudatory about Bradley ’s “courageous, non-­ political leadership,” and especially his contributions to medical care for veterans, a stark reversal from the beginning of his tenure marked by press reports of numerous and systemic scandals. He proudly noted on his departure from the VA that most major national media supported his reforms and new initiatives, even Henry Luce’s unabashedly Republican Time Magazine, about to back Thomas Dewey against President Truman, put Bradley on their cover for the third time.3 A promotion to permanent four-­star rank followed a year later and represented the pinnacle of any American soldier ’s ambition, the last post in the service. The chief’s assigned billet, number 1 at Fort McNair, had been vacated and was large enough for entertaining, and the job came with a driver and a limousine. Eisenhower, the previous tenant, hated the job and its constant budget skirmishes , courtesy calls, and frequent scheduled speeches, but the worst of all was to preside over the demobilization of the victorious army he had labored so long and hard to build, a large part of which he led to victory in Europe. Constantly frustrated in his attempts toward unification of the services, which he held as an absolute good, Ike was worn out by the internecine squabbles, and he publicly pined for retirement. He moved slowly and ambiguously 360 Part III Shaper of the Post-War World toward that goal, however, and kept quiet counsel of his future plans, sharing his thoughts with only his closest companions. Although the two old classmates bumped into each other near the flagpole at Ft. McNair practicing their 9 iron pitch shot, and in Washington, they never recovered their old intimacy. Bradley, who never wanted to leave the army, and in spite of the looming challenges, relished the return to active duty. His lifelong fears about career advancement and financial security had finally been put to rest, and a comfortable retirement was ensured.4 But even without the sweeping reorganization mandated by the National Security Act of 1947, the immediate list of decisions he faced was long and complicated, involving overall budget allocations, controversial new weapons procurement, and the continued pressures of downsizing the army in an uncertain and increasingly hostile international environment. Undaunted, he entered the political battles reenergized and, looking back at the VA assignment, concluded that it was excellent preparation not just for the exposure to the highest levels and levers of Washington power but for “finding and airing out the weaknesses and getting them strengthened.”5 For a man who enjoyed the first few times playing a new golf course best because “at first the terrain is a surprise and then it was all adjusting,” the VA job was a “first experience of infiltration and encirclement as practiced in Washington.”6 He also attributed his ease of transition to his prewar experience working with Congress as a personnel specialist and secretary to George Marshall when he was chief of staff before the war.7 The New York Times observed that Bradley’s appointment was a departure from the tradition of appointing a chief of staff directly from a lower field command. Nevertheless, the newspaper applauded the appointee’s recent experience suiting the chief’s role in both war and peace, which required “an appreciation of the necessity, under our form of government, of military-­ civilian contact and complete understanding” between the two.8 Bradley had changed visibly during that time. One correspondent who had known him since Tunisia described “The Bradley head, a novelty at Beja, is by now familiar to everybody who sees a newspaper or a newsreel even occasionally—­ the high cranium, bare on top except for a lattice of gray hairs; the heavy, almost undershot jaw; and the deeply emplaced eyes, peering out from under the dark brows with an expression of omnivorous but benevolent curiosity. The face that has been squeezed in between the overhanging brow and jutting chin is habitually and...


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