Industrial Warfare’s Best Generals, Part I: Omar Bradley
He was known as the “soldiers-general” because of his ability to communicate with enlisted and officer alike. Omar Bradley was a consummate professional who had another personality trait that set him apart: he was a reluctant warrior. He served stateside during World War I as a junior officer. Taught at West Point during the interbellum. He would go on to lead American operations in North Africa and Sicily during the early phases of America’s entry into World War II. Later, Dwight Eisenhower would make him commander of U.S. ground forces during the D-Day beach invasion of Normandy, France.
While considered an adept tactician, Bradley did not fancy himself a strategist. He did understand the intangibles of command however, including the importance of troop morale and logistics. As he once said “amateurs study strategy, professionals study logistics.”
There are other qualities which warrant Bradley’s placement on our esteemed list of the 8 best generals of industrial warfare. For one, he was a strong proponent of Veterans Affairs and pushed for the Montgomery GI Bill (thanks, btw).
But perhaps more importantly, Bradley was a reflective leader. For years after World War II had ended, Bradley would lament the causes and consequences of that war. Many lessons can be gleaned from his speeches and writings, such as those proffered in his Armistice Day speech of 1948. Although it was written to commemorate the end of World War II, it is still profound enough to read today. Below it is quoted in part (with my highlights in bold).
Tomorrow is our day of conscience. For although it is a monument to victory, it is also a symbol of failure. Just as it honors the dead, so must it humble the living.
Armistice Day is a constant reminder that we won a war and lost a peace.
It is both a tribute and an indictment: A tribute to the men who died that their neighbors might live without fear of aggression. An indictment of those who lived and forfeited their chance for peace.
Therefore, while Armistice Day is a day for pride, it is for pride in the achievements of others—humility in our own.
Neither remorse nor logic can hide the fact that our armistice ended in failure. Not until the armistice myth exploded in the blast of a Stuka bomb did we learn that the winning of wars does not in itself make peace. And not until Pearl Harbor did we learn that non-involvement in peace means certain involvement in war.
We paid grievously for those faults of the past in deaths, disaster, and dollars.
It was a penalty we knowingly chose to risk. We made the choice when we defaulted on our task in creating and safeguarding a peace.
It is no longer possible to shield ourselves with arms alone against the ordeal of attack. For modern war visits destruction on the victor and the vanquished alike. Our only complete assurance of surviving World War III is to halt it before it starts.
For that reason we clearly have no choice but to face the challenge of these strained times. To ignore the danger of aggression is simply to invite it. It must never again be said of the American people: Once more we won a war; once more we lost a peace. If we do we shall doom our children to a struggle that may take their lives.
Armed forces can wage wars but they cannot make peace.
With the monstrous weapons man already has, humanity is in danger of being trapped in this world by its moral adolescents. Our knowledge of science has clearly outstripped our capacity to control it. We have many men of science; too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.
This is our twentieth century’s claim to distinction and to progress.
In our concentration on the tactics of strength and resourcefulness which have been used in the contest for blockaded Berlin, we must not forget that we are also engaged in a long-range conflict of ideas. Democracy can withstand ideological attacks if democracy will provide earnestly and liberally for the welfare of its people. To defend democracy against attack, men must value freedom. And to value freedom they must benefit by it in happier and more secure lives for their wives and their children.
Throughout this period of tension in which we live, the American people must demonstrate conclusively to all other peoples of the world that democracy not only guarantees man’s human freedom but that it guarantees his economic dignity and progress as well. To practice freedom and make it work, we must cherish the individual; we must provide him the opportunities for reward and impress upon him the responsibilities a free man bears to the society in which he lives.*
*Bradley, General Omar N. “An Armistice Day Address.” The Collected Writings Of General Omar N. Bradley. Vol. 1. 584-589.