Cold War Files: All Units: People: Omar N. Bradley

Omar N. Bradley
Omar N. Bradley
b. 1893 - d. April 8, 1981
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1949-1953; Chief of Staff, US Army, 1948-1949; General of the Army, 1950-1953

Born in Clark, Missouri, Omar Nelson Bradley was the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1949-1953), active in this capacity during the Korean War. He had fought in Germany during World War II, commanding the Twelfth Army Group. A graduate of West Point in 1915, he went on to be commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, as World War II broke out.

Bradley commanded forces in North Africa, which contributed to the fall of Tunisia. He then led the invasion of Sicily. In 1943 he was transferred to Great Britain, where he helped plan the invasion of Normandy. His forces liberated Paris in August 1944. He was given command of the Twelfth Army Group, the largest U.S. Army group ever assembled, and his forces continued to fight in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany and Czechoslovakia until V-E Day, May 8, 1945.

Shortly before the Korean War broke out, Bradley served as administrator of Veteran's Affairs, and chief of staff of the Army for 18 months in 1948-1949. He was chosen as the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) after President Harry S. Truman's reorganization of the military in 1949.

His relationship with the commander-in-chief, Far Eastern Command, Douglas MacArthur, had remained distant. Bradley traveled to Japan with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and appraised MacArthur as having an obsession for self-glorification and a contempt for the judgment of his superiors.

Bradley oversaw the U.S. strategic plan in the Far East after the fall of China to the Communists in 1949, which continued after the Korean War erupted. This was a policy of defending Japan and Okinawa, using them as platforms for mounting a strategic air defensive, and as naval bases to control the seas. The Philippine Islands air and naval bases supported this same strategy.

Prior to the outbreak of the Korean War, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had little strategic interest in Korea, but Bradley disagreed with Secretary of State Dean Acheson's comments that Korea was outside the defensive perimeter of the United States. To counterbalance the growing North Korean Army, supplied by the Soviet Union, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had built up the Army of Syngman Rhee to a strength of 100,000 men.

However, this force lacked sufficient tanks, heavy artillery, ammunition, and large-scale unit training.

On June 25, 1950, when the Korean War broke out, Bradley did not call a meeting of the JCS, believing the South Koreans could handle the situation, and confident that South Korea would not fall to the North Korean invasion unless the “Russians actively participate.”

Bradley accompanied Truman to Wake Island October 15, 1950, to meet with MacArthur. Premier Chou En-lai had already threatened on October 3, that Communist China would assist North Korea if U.N. Forces crossed the 38th Parallel. Communist troops began to cross the Yalu River, as MacArthur's forces moved toward Wonsan and Pyongyang, and by October 26, had claimed major victories near Onjong and Unsan. U.N. forces were in retreat, and Bradley and the JCS were in continuous discussions for 60 days during November and December 1950, a period which Bradley called the most trying of his professional career.

U.N forces would later regain the offensive, and the JCS and the National Security Council (NSC) favored an end to the war through negotiations rather than by military action alone. Bradley had supported Truman in his dismissal of MacArthur and actively monitored the peace talks at Panmunjom and the exchange of POWs, while working for President Dwight D. Eisenhower after his election in 1952. One of the last official acts of Bradley was as a member of the American delegation which attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953.

Bradley retired after the Korean War on August 5, 1953, and was awarded a fourth Distinguished Service Medal. He lived on for another twenty-eight years.
His recollections appeared in 1951, as "A Soldier's Story" and later in “A General's Life” (1983). After retirement from the Army, Bradley worked for the Bulova Watch Company, initially as head of research and development, and later as chairman of the board, resigning in 1973. In 1965, Bradley's first wife, Mary, died; Bradley later married Kitty Buhler, and together they established the Omar N. Bradley Foundation and the Omar N. Bradley Library at West Point in 1974. Bradley died of a blood clot April 8, 1981, in New York. He had just accepted the Gold Medal Award from the National Institute of Social Sciences.

Air Force One returned Bradley's remains to Washington, D.C., and he was buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Bradley should be credited with balancing the United States' commitment to Korea with its commitment to resist the Soviet challenge in Europe. He was also instrumental in ensuring that the United States did not go to war directly with mainland China.

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