Omar Nelson Bradley, the GI general, who once told Congress that he considered all wars to be immoral, was buried yesterday afternoon at Arlington National Cemetery. He was 88.
Bradley, the last five-star general from World War II, led the Normandy invasion, then commanded 1.3 million men during the drive across Europe. Ret. Maj. Gen. Francis L. Sampson, a former chief of Army chaplains who went ashore at Normandy with Bradley, eulogized his former commander during services at Washington Cathedral. More than 1,000 people attended, including Vice President George Bush and Mrs. Bush, Mrs. Reagan, Secretary of State Alexander Haig and Mrs. Haig, and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Mrs. Weinberger. Sampson remembered the tall, quiet Bradley as a general "who didn't look like a general except for his stars."
Fulfilling a request from Bradley, the short graveside service was preceded by a Dixieland number, "When the Surf Meets the Turf," played by the Army band, and then the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Bradley was buried under a five-star stone beside his first wife, the former Mary Elizabeth Quayle, who died in 1965. The Last Detail
The blast shook the birds out of the trees. Then there was another blast. And another. That was four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Paul Miller was counting. He always counts. He is the director of ceremonies for the Army, the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department, and every detail is his responsibility. He only appeared to relax, yesterday, when the cannons had shot the 19th round into the air over the flag-draped coffin of Omar Nelson Bradley.
In the shadows, Paul Miller's eyes took in everything. They were late. They'd had problems on the route, somewhere, for some reason. They had lost 2 minutes, 50 seconds at least. But that was something only Miller and a handful of people knew. Miller has directed funerals around the world. But mostly in Washington. And this was the biggest since Nov. 25, 1963.
That one came upon him suddenly.
This one had been planned for seven years.
A half-hour earlier, Miller's eyes had been on the northern sky, looking for the glint of Air Force jets.
"It's pretty routine, actually," said Harry Hubbard. Hubbard had worked with the Air Force on a flyby during the hostage situation. He is the tower chief at Washington's National Airport. All that he had to do was delay the incoming and outgoing traffic for three or four minutes. They would hold the Air Force fighters at 3,000 to 5,000 feet, circling somewhere around Gaithersburg. Then, on command, the fighters would get the word, come out of the pattern, and make a straight line for the Memorial Bridge, the precise approach the commercial traffic would be using.
"That's all it takes, three or four minutes of airspace," Hubbard said.
It would not be quite that routine for the Air Force, though. For one thing, rather than the usual three or four or five jets, there would be 19. For another, they had to cross the bridge precisely when the caisson was in the middle of the bridge. That was scheduled to be at 2:17 p.m.
That schedule was set last summer.
It was called the Bradley Plan. It was bound in lose-leaf notebooks and was locked in military file drawers. The plan had been updated when the Bradleys moved from California to Fort Bliss, Tex. Much of it, of course, was per the manual.
The caisson with the team of white horses.
The riderless horse, the boots turned backwards in the stirrups.
The four ruffles and flourishes, the musical bridge that leads into "Hail to the Chief," only this time leading into "The General's March."
The flyby of jet fighters.
The cordon of full-dress troops of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, one every 10 paces on both sides of the route to Arlington National Cemetery.
The 3rd Infantry, the Army's ceremonial unit, had 782 tasks to perform. "And every one of them," said Col. Don Phillips, the commander of the 3rd Infantry, "had to be rehearsed."
When Lt. Rich Wylie took over the caisson unit a year ago, he had signed for the new black, felt-draped box. It had been there four or five years. He had never actually seen it. Neither had his predecessor. So four or five months ago, Lt. Wylie decided to pull the crate out and have a look. A few of the tassles were a nob or two short, chewed on by rats, he presumed, but, other than that, it was in good shape.
"It wasn't official or anything, but everyone kind of knew it was for Gen. Bradley. They'd talked about it for years."
On the wall beside Lt. Wylie there are pictures of President Kennedy's caisson, the heavy iron frame with four wooden-spoked wheels and a black platform box which held his casket. There are only two caissons in the country; they were forged in 1918. The caisson unit works funerals five days a week at Arlington, but hardly anyone notices. This time, as in few other times, many people would be watching.
So Wylie pulled out the new box and some new chrome whippletrees and trasers -- the hitchings -- which he had been saving. And his platoon began to spit-shine the saddles. This time, double spit. They had spent whole mornings and afternoons since Friday on each saddle, particularly Pvt. Lonnie Solberg of Armstrong, Iowa. He would be riding one of the caisson horses, the wheel horse. He'd never heard of Omar Bradley until he came into the caisson unit.
The horses, in the meantime, were reshod -- all of them -- with the tungsten-carbide borium welded onto the bottom of the shoes to keep them from slipping. It took Pete Cote, the blacksmith, two hours a horse.
"That borium, you can't hurry," he said. "Can't dip their shoe in water. The shoe'll crack. Gotta air-cool 'em."
Then they were all shaved, their manes, and ears, and behind their legs. They were groomed and regroomed. Still, though, they wouldn't be able to do much with them until Tuesday morning. Miller had specified white horses, which get dirty when they lie down at night. They would all be shampooed and brushed before the ceremony.
Takes about an hour," one of the privates said.
And they don't all like it much.
Sometimes coffee -- cream and sugar, not too hot -- beforehand helps. It probably would with Majestic Ked, the lone black horse. Ked would be the caparisoned horse, riderless. He would be walked.
"He's the only purebred we've got." Wylie said.
And he likes to be babied.
"Ice cream and cake, mostly," the private said. "If we baby him, he'll be all right."
Spc. 4 Lonny A. LeGrand Jr., Poplar Bluff, Mo.
His 201 file was perfect.
"I wouldn't be here, if it wasn't," he said.
He is a picture soldier. All of these soldiers on the death watch are. They are tall, 6-2 or 6-3, with wide shoulders, a narrow waist, sculptured face, and they pray to God they don't faint.
That morning, in an arrival ceremony for the chief of staff of the Army of Spain, four had hit the floor.
LeGrand has a 32-inch waist, skin tight. He then puts on a stiff white blouse, his square-shouldered jacket, and the gold belt around the waist of the coat. "I cinch the belt to 28 inches," he said.
His figure is then perfect. His breathing is difficult.
"I've never fallen," LeGrand said, "but it could always happen."
"Any of them fall in here," said the medic, "and we'll have some work to do on his face."
The floor is marble.
About 12:30, yesterday's heavy sky began to lighten. Not enough, though. In a matter of minutes, the jets had to leave Langley in Norfolk, Va. They couldn't use 19 planes in this weather. They'd try three.
The procession was paced at 100 steps a minute. At that pace, from 16th and Constitution to the middle of the bridge, it took 17 minutes, 45 seconds. It took the jets five minutes, from the time they broke their pattern and straightened out, to hit the bridge.
Every detail of Gen. Bradley's funeral was specified -- day one, day two, day three.Nothing was too insignificant, down to picking up the family's baggage at Andrews.
And so Monday, when the body arrived at Andrews Air Force Base via Air Force One, when one of the casket-bearers, a 20- or 21-year-old, missed the visual sign from Paul Miller's assistant, Maj. Thomas Groppel, Miller noticed. The soldier had frozen. He was supposed to turn when Groppel moved. He didn't. His eyes were bearing into Groppel's face but they weren't seeing. Groppel had to step toward the soldier to break the stare.
Then it happened again. Another soldier froze.
It is the intangible in Paul Miller's plan. It's what defeats his visions of perfection.