Omar Bradley: General at War
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Regnery Publishing's newest imprint, Regnery History has found something new to tell about one of the most written-about parts of one of the most written-about parts of World War II: D-Day. You may ask yourself, what else can be said about D-Day that hasn't been said? We have had powerful, visceral movies like Saving Private Ryan,The Longest Day and Patton and the famed HBO series Band of Brothers. Article after article and book after book have been written about D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge and the final days of Nazi Germany but somehow we have failed to have had a serious biography of one of the invasion's central planners and one of the men who engineered the entire campaign from the beaches of Normandy until the defeat of Germany: American 5 star general Omar Bradley.

The problem with Omar Bradley and historians is that he is not Patton. Patton is brash, daring and iconic. Bradley did not chase headlines and did not wear fancy pistols. He was daring, but not as daring as Patton. He knew that he should keep his mouth under control and he was too humble for his own historical reputation. But, one could seriously doubt if Patton could have been the remarkable general he was without the support of Omar Bradley - a man who kept Patton supplied (no small task) and innately understood and supported the battlefield tactics and strategy that Patton espoused so loudly.

Jim DeFelice's 'Omar Bradley: General At War' tells the complete story of Bradley's life, from his humble beginnings in rural Missouri through the war and on to being the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after the war, but mostly focuses on the campaigns in North Africa, Sicily (where he worked under Patton) and France (where Patton worked under him). He paints a sympathetic picture of a likable man who never shirked his duty and who pioneered a number of innovations such as a mobile command center (in the back of a truck) and joint land and air operations with coordinated air strikes during the breakout from Normandy.

While DeFelice clearly admires Bradley (Ernie Pyle practically gushed over the man which is about as good of a character reference as you can get in my book), he does not cover up his mistakes and shortcomings. Bradley never concerned himself with the larger world scene (he was shocked when the possibility of a post-war rivalry with the Soviets was pointed out to him). The "bulge" in the Battle of the Bulge happened in his zone due to a calculated risk on his part. But, he was quickly able to adapt himself to the situation and turn a momentary retreat into a larger victory.

In the end, the lesson of Omar Bradley may be that the nice guy, the guy that works hard and does not demand special attention sometimes can win, and win big.

This is a solid entry as Regnery History's first book. It is well-researched and an enjoyable read. If the rest of their catalog is as solid as 'Omar Bradley: General At War', this will be a welcome addition to the history section of your favorite bookseller. That being said, Regnery History did make a rookie mistake with the maps. They are all located in an appendix at the end of the text and there are simply not enough of them. This book screamed for maps and lots of them and there were just not enough. I have never heard any history lover complain that a book had too many maps.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 1, 2013
Jim DeFelice's bio on Omar Bradley fails on several levels. The first is his reliance on secondary sources. To me, I think he read a dozen or so other books, formulated an opinion and wrote this. He admits in the author's notes his almost complete reliance on Bradley's autobiography. He also used many internet sites, the bibliography is tellingly short. The maps are at the end of the book rather than the in the text, a minor annoyance.

Another failure on his part is that rather than state what was said or felt, based on accurate records, he supposes - example Bradley probably felt, or could have said or may have thought. DeFelice criticizes author John Toland for lack of reference notes, but has no problem creating dialogue that General Bradley may have said? I guess that's ok because that text is italicized for the reader?

In the end, Defelice tries to show that there was more to Bradley than history gives him credit. According the author, Bradley saved the US soldiers in North Africa, Sicily, perfected the invasion of Normandy, and created the concept of ground air support and many other ideas that either were directed to him or already existed. Despite DeFelice attempts to show Bradley as more than a quiet, humble, competent general and leave it at that, he fails; leaving the reader to conclude that other historians got it right. Omar Bradley was a quiet, competent general. Not the best, but not the worst. I finished the book only so I could write this review and say I read the whole book. Otherwise, I would have stopped ½ way through.
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60 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2011
Having read practically every serious volume around about the ETO and
Eisenhower's lieutenants, I have to strongly disagree that any serious
evaluation of Bradley would produce any rating beyond "adequate" or
more specifically "unimaginative" but steady. That's not to say there
were any other commanders in the ETO of his rank that shone far brighter
than he. One of Bradley's biggest deficiencies was his meekness and inability
to think in any imaginative manner about the business of war. The very fine
analysis contained in "Flawed Victory" provides a very detailed look at Bradley
in action, as (supposed) commander of First Army during Overlord. The picture
one gets is not a pleasant one. Once could argue that every single decision
Bradley made was wrong, and that only Gee Gerow saved the operation from being
a total disaster, rather than the major disaster that it turned out to be.
After the Germans attacked in Dec 44 in the Ardennes, Eisenhower lost practically
all confidence in Bradley after learning that he had failed to protect the
Allied dumps as ordered months before. He then basically demoted Bradley and
called in Montgomery to take over half of Bradley's forces. After the Bulge was
closed, Bradley allowed his thin skinned ego to get the better of him, ordering
his exhausted forces forward against an immovable German defense, taking casualties
for no purpose. The claim of Bradley as "the GI's general" should have died right
then and there. But the media needed its self-effacing hero, and Bradley was who
they picked. Patton wrote in his diary that Bradley was the "biggest nothing in the
ETO." I'm not sure I would go that far - there were quite a few nothings in the ETO,
but his point is well taken. Bradley fired more division commanders than all the other
generals combined - he obviously had no ability to mentor or teach, despite holding
just such a position at the Infantry School before the war. Bradley's performance
at the Falaise gap, which presented a golden opportunity for the Allies, was certainly
a justifiable reason for relieving Bradley of command. Patton probably should have
disregarded Bradley's unbelievable order to halt, claiming never to have received it.
Bradley benefits greatly from the fact that all of the top echelon Allied commanders in
the ETO were essentially mediocre. Bradley's elevation to his exalted status was never
planned - he was simply in the right place at the right time, and wasn't demonstrably
incompetent. In other words, Bradley was an accident.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2011
If you are interested in differing leadership perspectives in large, complex military campaigns thenn this is a great book to read. The contrasts between the differing generals provides a broader overlay on effective leadership in society whether in peace and prosperity or crisis and threat.

The author appears to bring a bias to his work (what author does not?) but it is one well worth considering.

General Lee's style of command during the civil war as opposed to General Grants would be an apt comparison to Bradley and Eisenhower (or General Patton).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2013
This is a very interesting book and well-researched book. I was impressed by the "readability" of this book. It covers a lot of ground in great detail, but does so in a way that holds the reader's attention. The footnotes are extensive and provide additional background that rounds out the storyline. I think this is a "must read" for anyone interested in military history, leadership, management, and (interestingly) public relations.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2011
I don't normally read biographies, especially military biographies, but when I heard that Jim DeFelice had written a book about Omar Bradley, I had to get a copy. (Mr. DeFelice's Leopards Kill is one of the best military suspense novels in the genre.) I wasn't disappointed.

I knew that Bradley was our country's last five star general, and I remember Karl Malden playing him in Patton. But he always seemed a peripheral figure, someone who played a bureaucratic role, but not a major strategic one. Mr. DeFelice's book demonstrates that assumption was wrong.

This is the first major biography of Bradley, a situation partly based on the fact that Bradley wrote two memoirs, and partly based on the fact that researchers seemed content to rely on the remembrances of other major figures in World War II, like Eisenhower and Montgomery. Mr. DeFelice was also confronted with the challenge of Bradley's own innate modesty, which kept the general from trumpeting the role he played in integrating air support with a ground assault, which was a critical tactical component in Operation Cobra, the spearhead of the breakout in France after D-Day. Mr. DeFelice's meticulous research, including visits to the archives at West Point, was necessary to flesh out this important American hero.

The difficulty with writing biography is that the author may either fall in love with his subject, ignoring or glossing over faults, or else become so bogged down in detail as to lose the reader in a mass of minutia. Mr. DeFelice does neither. The writing is clear and precise, and the descriptions of battles accurate and yet understandable. (One slight criticism is that battle maps inserted within relevant portions of the text would have assisted the reader; instead, the maps are placed in the center of the book with the historical photographs.) Nor does Mr. DeFelice overlook Bradley's missteps, such as those before the Battle of the Bulge; however, he does place Bradley's actions in context and analyzes what information had been available to the general at the time. Mr. DeFelice also never shirks from offering his opinion, based on reasoned consideration of the facts on the ground, as to whether any such missteps changed the length of the conflict or cost needless lives.

I would have liked an expanded discussion of Bradley's post-World War II elevation to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the decision to make him a five star general (done to place him at equal rank as MacArthur, his subordinate.) The book is a not a book about the Korean Conflict, however. It is a book concerned with the campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, and Normandy, how Omar Bradley played a pivotal role in them, and how he influenced the United States Army from a tactician's point of view.

It is a remarkable tale, told well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2013
I read this specifically in order to see whether he said anything that was not said in Bradley's memoirs. The answer is no, or at least, nothing significant. Therefore you should read "A General's Life" and not this book.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2012
DeFelice is a popular writer but he is clearly not an historian. Because Omar Bradley was a fascinating and significant historical military figure, a reader would assume that this book would be a gripping page turner. This book is written using the "string of beads in a vacuum" model of history where events are related back to back with no sense of the bigger picture. If you want to find chronological facts about the life and career of Omar Bradley, this book is perfect, but if you are looking for some sense of the historical significance of either the events that occurred or the man involved, you will be disappointed. In that sense, this is an Omar Bradley fun fact book, not a biography nor a history. Every event is reported, but in a dead and lifeless way. Books like this are the reason that high school students end up hating history.
I have read thousands of history books and biographies. I plodded through about 90 pages of this book before I couldn't force myself to turn another page. What I noted within a few pages is that DeFelice frequently (almost every page) refers to Bradley's autobiography. Very quickly a mental impression was forced upon my mind - of DeFelice sitting at his desk reading Bradley's autobiography and then underlining one good quote and saying, "Oh! I can re-write that in the third person." As a result, although the events come in the proper order, there is neither any of the excitement of seeing the first person perspective through Bradley's eyes, nor any evaluation of Bradley's perspective or experiences in the broader historical context. You can imagine that a fourth grade teacher asked 500 students to each write a one page report on a different aspect of Bradley's life, and then she compiled all of the assignments into a book in chronological order. DeFelice's recitation of flat lifeless facts in the proper order makes the history boring and doesn't make the man come alive. I was shocked that DeFelice could make Omar Bradley boring, but I was glad that the book was a gift.
If you want a reference book on Omar Bradley, borrow this from a library. If you want to read history, find something else.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2013
Very revealing about Bradley, the man.
While he did not seek out headlines for himself, I think he felt threatened by Patton's popularity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2013
Very clearly written. Hits the highlights quite well. References two other books on Bradley without going into to much detail.
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