Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Bradley, Omar Nelson (1893–1981)

Title: Omar Nelson Bradley
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U.S. Army general, head of the Veterans Administration (VA), U.S. Army chief of staff, first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and first chairman of the military committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Born on 12 February 1893 in Clark, Missouri, Omar Nelson Bradley graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, in 1915. He first served as an infantry lieutenant with the 14th Infantry Regiment along the Mexican border. During World War I he served in the United States. Promoted to captain in 1920, he held a number of routine assignments, including teaching at West Point. In 1924 he was promoted to major and attended the Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia. His most significant assignment was at the Infantry School as chief of the Weapons Section while Colonel George C. Marshall was deputy commandant.

Bradley's career accelerated during the 1930s with the support of General Marshall, who became army chief of staff in 1939. Promoted to brigadier general in February 1941, Bradley took command of the Infantry School. Advanced to major general in February 1942, he commanded in succession the 82nd and 28th Infantry Divisions and X and II Corps, leading the latter with distinction in fighting in Tunisia and Sicily. Assuming command of the First Army in October 1943, Bradley led it in the invasion of France in June 1944. During the subsequent campaign in France he performed effectively, and in August 1944 he assumed command of the 12th Army Group. In March 1945 he was promoted to full general.

Following the war, Bradley became head of the VA, significantly reorganizing the sprawling agency. In February 1948 he succeeded Dwight D. Eisenhower as army chief of staff, an appointment that coincided with increased tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. Americans had expected a return to peacetime normalcy after the war, and that meant lower taxes and a smaller military, leaving Bradley with a much-diminished army. In 1949 he was appointed the first chairman of the JCS, which had emerged when the armed services were restructured and consolidated under the new Department of Defense in 1947.

Despite a greatly decreased budget, Bradley successfully lobbied for increased wages for his troops and for the reinstatement of the draft. He also worked to unify the nation's armed forces. He applied his leadership experience in developing the new allied command structure required by NATO, which was established in 1949.

At the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, Bradley emerged as one of President Harry S. Truman's closest confidants. In September 1950 Bradley was promoted to the rank of general of the army. He understood and supported the Truman administration's policy of a limited war and defended General Douglas MacArthur's 1951 dismissal, famously saying that an expanded war in Asia would involve the United States "in the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy." Bradley continued as chairman of the JCS under President Eisenhower and retired in August 1953. He went on to work for a number of private corporations and wrote his second autobiography before he died in New York on 8 April 1981.

William T. Walker

Further Reading
Bradley, Omar Nelson, and Clay Blair. A General's Life: An Autobiography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983.; Weigley, Russell F. Eisenhower's Lieutenants. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981.; Whiting, Charles. Bradley. New York: Ballantine, 1971.

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