|View Poll Results: Who was the best American General of World War II?|
|Dwight D. Eisenhower||12||18.75%|
|George S. Patton||31||48.44%|
|Voters: 64. You may not vote on this poll|
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(In case you haven’t read my previous posts mentioning Bradley I will warn you that you will find out pretty quickly that I have a very poor opinion of him)
Omar Bradley was a very capable general as far his military ability is concerned. He was very steady and very reliable but not very inventive nor did he really understand the big picture. As person Bradley had two sides. One side was the public image of a kind, well mannered man who looked after his troops and had no real ambition or ego to speak of. And then there was the other side of him, the side that was petty and bitter and held a grudge for years, that was almost insanely jealous of anybody who got more praise than him or accomplished more than he did, that wanted so badly to establish himself as the greatest general in American history but knew that he just wasn’t good enough and that was fully prepared to throw men into battle just to further his own legacy.
While Bernard Law Montgomery and George S. Patton were prepared to put aside their differences and work together to reach a common goal, the defeat of Nazi Germany, Bradley spent almost all of his time in the European Theatre of Operations taking shots at Monty and complaining bitterly to Eisenhower when he didn't get his own way.
During the Allied Invasion of Sicily, Montgomery managed to persuade Harold Alexander to let his army take the direct route to Messina and that meant that he would move into the American sector of the Invasion. Bradley disagreed with this decision and complained bitterly about it but was mostly ignored. This moment would be the start of Bradley’s life long grudge against Montgomery.
It is a source of much debate and criticism regarding Bradley as to his preparations for the Normandy landings.
The first bit of criticism regards the issue of the “Hobart’s Funnies” specially adapted tanks. Hobart’s Funnies were used on the British beaches in the Normandy Landings and are widely considered to be one of the major factors in the better progress of the British and Commonwealth forces on D-Day than the Americans as well as the lower casualty rate. Bradley was actually offered the use of Hobart’s Funnies but refuse them except from one, he was only interested in the Amphibious Tank and turned down all the other designs. He then spent little time practicing with his new Amphibious Tanks and when it came to the actual D-Day landing his troops released the Tanks too far out to sea and many of them didn’t even reach the beaches.
Another decision that Bradley gets criticised for is his prolonged bombardment of the beaches by the Warships. It is claimed that the longer bombardment of the beaches, unsupported by the infantry or the Tanks, allowed the German forces to better prepare for the imminent arrival of the American troops and so rather than make the task of the American forces easier it contributed to the increased casualty rate in stead, most notably at Omaha Beach.
During the Normandy invasions Bradley’s entire plan consisted of simultaneously attacking the German defences all along the whole American front, trying to buck the whole line forward. It was not until he met his commander for the campaign, Montgomery; to discuss the situation did he try a different approach. It was recorded by a number of observers that during this meeting Montgomery politely suggested to Bradley that a narrow attack might be better for his front than a broad attack along the whole line, shortly after Operation Cobra came into being. (This is probably the one of the few recorded moments of Monty being diplomatic)
Following the break out from the beaches Bradley failed to grasp the changed situation and stuck to the original plan of attacking through Brittany, and sent Patton off to an area where few Germany troops were stationed and he could be of little use, when he should have pursued the German forces as they retreated. It is again recorded that Montgomery was pushing his army to try and close the Falaise Gap but Bradley hesitated and failed to drive his men to close the gap as the other commander in Europe did, even going so far as to refuse a plan suggested by Patton to encircle the German forces.
When the Allied advance had almost ground to a halt Montgomery suggested Operation Market Garden and Bradley allowed his grudge against the British Field Marshall to control him. He argued with Eisenhower against allowing Montgomery to embark on this operation, championing an attack in his own sector, and pushed his forces to advance as far as possible in the belief that Eisenhower would side with him simply because they were both American, an idea that was quite flawed. What is more is that when Eisenhower gave Montgomery’s operation his support and began giving him priority for supplies Bradley complained bitterly.
In part Bradley must also shoulder the blame for the Hurtgen Forest debacle. While Courtney Hodges was in command of the American forces that suffered so many casualties in the longest battle that the US Army ever fought in its history Bradley was the senior American commander involved in the planning and he did okay the operation. The idea for this battle was that the American Generals believed that taking a direct route through the Hurtgen Forest was the best way to go to reach the Ruhr quickly however they overlooked the desire of the German forces to fight and the difficulty of fighting in the forest. The Battle of Hurtgen Forest is described by some as being the singularly most pointless and avoidable battle of the entire war.
It was largely through Bradley’s insistence on chasing after the overly-offensive, sometime overstretching, Patton that led to his HQ being in a very poor position in the Battle of the Bulge. Bradley had decided to chase after Patton because he was both jealous of him and didn’t trust him and so he placed his HQ directly behind Patton’s 3rd Army, around Metz, so that he could try to micro-manage the actions of Patton’s Army.
When the Germans launched their counter-offensive Bradley found himself separated from the northern part of his army and unable to communicate with them. The Northern part of the Battle of the Bulge degenerated into a series of isolated battles of American units against a united offensive by a German Army. In an attempt to restore cohesion to the northern end of the battle Eisenhower placed Montgomery in temporary command, amidst heavy protest from Bradley, and the British Field Marshall succeeded in turning isolated battles of the American units into a cohesive battle of the American and British forces in the north.
Bradley never forgave Eisenhower for placing half his army under the command of Montgomery, even though he received a promotion as compensation.
Montgomery’s press conference after the battle served to alienate him from the Americans and allowed Bradley to attack him more easily in the post-war years while playing down his own mistakes.
In summary Bradley was a mediocre general who just about talented enough to be where he was but because of his own ego and his pettiness, bitterness and jealousy he became one of the major factors in the poor relations amongst the Allied high command. His desire to be viewed in a positive light led him to vigorously criticise the other Allied Generals and belittle their contributions while enlarging his own. In his desire to be viewed as a great general coupled with his powerful grudge against Montgomery he passed as much of the blame for anything that went even slightly off plan onto Monty’s shoulders as he could while taking all the credit for whatever went right himself.
It is little surprise really that when he became the military consultant for the film “Patton” he hijacked the project and used it to promote his own views and biased opinions on himself and other Allied general rather than to tell the story of Patton himself. In some ways that film is more praising of Bradley than it is of its title character.
"Johnston is a great soldier, but he has an unfortunate knack of getting himself shot in nearly every engagement" - Winfield Scott
Last edited by Nytram01; May 23rd, 2008 at 10:25 PM..