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Ellis O. Butler
G Co, 33rd Armored Regiment, 3AD
First appeared in the El Paso Times after the death of Gen. Bradley in 1981.


I'm sorry that I never had an opportunity to apologize to General Omar Bradley for my thoughtless breach of military courtesy towards him. That must have been over 35 years ago, shortly after the World War II fighting in Europe ended.

That General Bradley was equally guilty of a lapse of military discipline did not excuse me.

Nor did the fact that I was back in the States awaiting discharge after serving in an Army tank division for four years -- including one year of combat in Europe.

Looking back at it now, the average combat GI usually felt that, except the buddies in his own outfit, there seemed to be only about three men overseas that cared about him or that he gave a hoot about.

One was Ernie Pyle, that slim. friendly, unassuming reporter who bypassed Army headquarters, the rear echelons, and the brass to get right down in the mud and grime and shellfire to talk with combat GI's and send their stories back to their hometown papers.

The second was Bill Mauldin who delighted the GI's with his all too true cartoons in the Stars and Stripes depicting the totally different way of Army life as lived by the combat soldiers and by the rear echelon forces.

And the third was General Omar Bradley. 0ur division served under his command for several months of training in England and almost one year of combat in Europe -- except for a brief period during the Battle of the Bulge -- when the Germans' last ditch all-out attack into the Allied lines left our outfit on the Northern flank of the Bulge where General Montgomery was in command. We were all glad when the Bulge was eliminated and we were back with General Bradley.

We had come to know him and like him while in training in England. He visited our armored division frequently -- not staying at headquarters but coming on down to where the GI's were preparing for combat.

We had seen generals before. In the scorching heat of the Desert Training Center, General Patton, pearl-handled pistols and all, had assembled the entire division to pass before him; afterwards he stood us at attention while he harangued us on the joys of military discipline.

General Bernard Montgomery had visited us in England and assembled the division to pass in review before him, and stood us in the driving rain while he lectured us petulantly on the glories of combat.

We had our fill of what we considered to be arrogant, overbearing high brass, eager to impress us with their own self-importance. But Omar Bradley was different -- plain, soft-spoken, considerate, yet a brilliant strategist, and a leader we respected and admired. The combat GI's considered him one of us.

With the coming of V-E Day, the combat draftees were detached from the outfits they had served overseas in and shipped back home to reception camps to await discharge. Mine was near Boston, which I found to be filled with "home front" service personnel, long on sharp uniforms but short on actual war service. One afternoon while still awaiting my discharge papers -- and still wearing my armored division uniform -- I strolled along a Boston boulevard, happy to be almost out of the Army and somewhat scornful of all the rear echelon troops around me.

Suddenly I looked up and saw coming down the avenue towards me, an Army passenger car, bearing the flag and stars designating it to be the car of a general officer. And riding in the car, to my surprise and delight -- General Omar Bradley! He was accompanied by several bemedalled aides and seemed as bored and out of place as I myself was feeling.

Without thinking, I grinned and waved to him, forgetting completely that what I should be doing was saluting him.

When General Bradley saw me, to him just another one of a million soldiers, he suddenly, grinned, too, pointed to my Spearhead Armored Division patch, and waved back to me!

It seemed as though we were two bored soldiers suddenly spotting a fellow combat veteran and recognizing each other's wartime services. We both seemed genuinely glad to spot each other among the throng of rear echelon, non-combat types. We never did salute each other as protocol called for. Just smiled and waved. And I never did get an opportunity to apologize to General Bradley. But I was glad it happened the way it did. I suspect Omar Bradley was too.

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