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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Omar Bradley: General At War by Jim DeFelice

Regnery Publishing's newest imprint, Regnery History has found something new to tell about 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.

Omar Bradley
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.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Omar Bradley: General at War

Reviewed on September 13, 2011.

Note: This book was provided at no charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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