General Omar N. Bradley, because of his outstanding service to our country, became one of America’s great patriots. Contrary to what you might think, however, those who knew him best frequently describe him as an unexpectedly quiet and modest man. Many World War II troops called him “The Soldier’s General” because of the care and compassion he showed the soldiers under his command.
Today, Gen. Bradley is remembered for his many accomplishments, his strong character, and his ethical lifestyle. Yet, his greatest recognition may be related to his brilliance and his wisdom-based quotations such as:
“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants.”
“We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.”
“We know more about war than we know about peace; more about killing than we know about living.”
“The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience.”
“The way to win an atomic war is to make certain it never starts.”
“If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.”
Omar Nelson Bradley was born to John S. and Mary E. Bradley in a log cabin near Clark, Mo., on Feb. 12, 1893. His father was a schoolteacher.
In 1911, Bradley graduated from high school in Moberly, Mo. A short time later, after placing first in the competitive exams given at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, he received an appointment to West Point Military Academy. His graduating class, the West Point Class of 1915, became known as “the class the stars fell on” because many of its members became generals.
During his 38-year military career, Bradley rose to the rank of five-star General of the Army. He served with other U.S. military greats, including Gen. George S. Patton Jr. and fellow West Point classmate Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Eisenhower considered Gen. Bradley’s military service indispensable.)
During World War II while serving in North Africa, Sicily, across the Normandy beaches, and into Germany itself, he successively commanded a division, a corps, an army, and finally a group of armies. Bradley’s last command, the 12th U. S. Army group, was reportedly the largest body of American soldiers ever to serve under one field commander.
Bradley retired from active service in 1953. On his retirement, he summarized how he saw his role in future military matters: “I am convinced that the best service a retired general can perform is to turn in his tongue along with his suit and to mothball his opinions.”
As a civilian, however, he continued serving his country by working with several U.S. industries. Still, even in retirement, he maintained active interests in the U.S. Army and was periodically consulted by military leaders. He spoke at its schools and visited its units. He died in 1981 and was buried in Arlington Cemetery with full military honors.
We’re told of a college student who carried a pocket dictionary with him so, in his spare time, he could study word definitions. Once he looked up the word, “dictionary.” He found the definition: “This is one.”
Anyone using that same technique to define “A Great American General,” would have only to point to Gen. Omar Bradley’s strong character, his patriotism, and his 38 years of exceptional service to our country and announce, “He was one.”
“Men become legends either by merit or circumstance. It may be impossible to separate the two.”
-- Gen. Omar Bradley
Ken and Nan Webster have collected inspiration for many years from many sources, and now inspire readers of “A Matter That Matters.” Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.kennancompany.com.