Bradley, Mark Edward
Test Pilot/Military StrategistEnshrined 1992 1907-1999
When Mark Bradley discovered that two enterprising airmen had obtained an ice machine and were selling ice to several clubs in Okinawa for bottles of booze, he met with them and stated, “I think you deserve commendation for your diligence, and further I’m going to appoint you Wing Ice Officers. Henceforth it will be your duty to furnish ice to the wing, in addition to your flying duties.” Bradley noted that the arrangement worked beautifully, although the profit from the ice enterprise fell off dramatically.
- Project manager for the P-40 in 1940.
- In 1943, as P-47s were arriving in England, Bradley was assigned to ready the planes for combat.
- Large bombers proved effective in destroying German military installations; however, they were inadequate to defend themselves against the faster German fighter planes. Bradley recognized the problem and placed an extra 80-100 gallon gas tank behind the pilot’s seat in a P-51, enabling the plane to escort bombers into Germany. He flew this first test plane himself.
- Became a four-star general in 1962 when he was assigned commander of Air Force Logistics Command.
Mark Edward Bradley was born in Clemson, South Carolina on December 10th, 1907. After completion of three years at Clemson High School in 1924, he attended Clemson A and M College, and in July 1926 entered the United States Military Academy, graduated on June 12th, 1930, and commissioned a second lieutenant in the Field Artillery. After entering flying school that September, he became a pilot and transferred to the Air Corps upon graduation a year after.
General Bradley’s first assignment after finishing flight training was the First Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, Michigan. Here he served for one year with the 36th Pursuit Squadron and two years with the 27th Squadron. Capt. Dennis Whitehead, famous commander of the Fifth Air Force in World War II, was Bradley’s commander in the 36th Squadron. In the early summer of 1933, all of the unmarried officers at Selfridge went to help then-President Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C) camps, and Bradley was one of them. His camp was located at Grayling, Michigan and it was good experience for a short time.
Luckily, Bradley received orders to go to Chanute Field in Illinois in September to attend the Air Corps Maintenance Engineering School. This was fortunate because some of his contemporaries, not so lucky to have orders, had to spend over a year with the C.C.C. Duty with the C.C.C. was enjoyable, but nothing like flying pursuit planes.
While at Chanute, Bradley married Alice Newman of nearby Paxton and in August of 1934, they sailed for Hawaii on the ship Republic for a two-year Hawaiian honeymoon (it was Bradley’s next assignment). In Hawaii, Bradley served with the 6th Squadron of the 18th Pursuit Group at Wheeler Field. Those two years were two of the most satisfying of a very enjoyable 35-year career in the Air Force.
In 1936, Bradley received orders to Scott Field, Illinois, near St. Louis served with the only heavier-than-air squadron, the 15th Operation Squadron. Since Bradley considered himself a pursuit pilot and was not happy to switch to observation, he wrote a letter to the Chief of Air Corps asking for assignment to the Air Corp Engineering School at Wright Field. The Chief approved his request, and in the summer of 1937, the Bradleys reported to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. This change from tactical aviation to the material side proved to be the turning point in Bradley’s career and he spent most of his remaining years on this hardware side of the business.
After graduating from the Engineering School, Bradley spent a year as a test pilot in the Flight Test Section at Wright. While there he was assigned as junior member of the Pursuit Board which was to choose the P-40 as the fighter to lead off the Air Force World War II fighter production program. The Air Force ordered more than 500 P-40s, the biggest production order in the U.S. since World War I, and assigned Bradley as Project Officer for the P-40 program. Nobody said the P-40 was the best airplane around, but it was all that the country had at the time. Appointment as Production Project Officer involved transfer from the Test Section to the Production Division Fighter Branch still at Wright. Not long thereafter, the P-47 production program–which, due to war-time necessity, was practically concurrent with the experimental program–began, and Bradley was given the additional duty of P-47 Production Project Officer.
In January of 1943 the first P-47 wings were arriving in England for their combat role and Bradley was sent to Europe to assist in getting them started. He worked with the Eighth Air Force Fighter Command and the Fourth Group at Debden, England to assist with the P-47’s entry into combat. Combat required installation of the VHF radio so they had recently been installed in the P-47s. Unfortunately, the engine was not properly shielded for the correct functioning of the VHF radios, and the radio was very noisy. It took a couple of months to solve this problem and Bradley returned to the U.S. in May.
When he came back to Wright Field, he was assigned as Chief of the Flight Test Section. This new assignment pleased Bradley because in England he had seen the terrible losses the U.S. bombers were taking due to lack of sufficient fighter protection. He was determined to improve the range of fighter escorts range–and to do so right away.
At the time, the Air Force was depending on a new fighter not yet ready for long range escort. This “fighter” was designated the XP-75 and was being developed and produced by General Motors in Cleveland. The first article had had some flights by the company test pilots but the Air Force had not yet researched it. Bradley made immediate arrangements to go to Cleveland and fly the XP-75. He did this because he was anxious to know whether this Air Force Headquarters solution to the long range escort fighter problem was going to work. He had a feeling that it might not, and he also had an idea that there was another way to solve the problem. In fact, before he went to Cleveland, he went out to the hangar at Wright and took a careful look at a P-51B to see if there could possibly be room for a sizable fuel tank behind the pilot’s seat. He knew that the North American engineers would oppose the addition of a tank there because of the serious effect it would have on the aircraft’s stability. But Bradley reasoned it might be worth trying-especially if this XP-75 did not come through. Certainly anything else was worth trying if it might stop or reduce the terrible U.S. bomber losses.
Bradley then traveled to Cleveland to view the XP-75. The XP-75 was a very big airplane. It was a composite airplane, meaning that it was put together using previously designed and in-production parts of certain airplanes. For instance, the outer wing panels were P-40 wings. The tail was from the Douglas dive bomber, etc. The engine was a double Allison; that is, it was combination design of two 12 cylinder Allisons of about 1100 HP each. The propeller was a double twister, i.e. one turning one direction, the other the opposite direction.
Bradley flew this monstrosity and found it hopeless–too big, too heavy, too slow and unstable. He considered it to be awful and he knew it was not the answer. Bradley returned to Wright Field and went at once to see his boss, General Orval Cook. General Cook was shocked and his first move was to dial General Echols, Chief of Materiel in Washington. General Echols came on the line and Cook handed Bradley the phone and said, “Tell him.” General Echols was livid. He said, “It has to do the job. We have to escort those bombers. What can we do?” Bradley said, “General, I think we can do it with the P-51. I have looked over one and there is room for 80 to 100 gallons of gas behind the pilot’s seat. It will make the airplane unstable during takeoff and during the early flight but I believe it will get better quickly as the fuel is consumed and I believe it will do the job.” General Echols said, “OK, Bradley. Do it.” Bradley called James “Dutch” Kindelberger, head of North American and told him the story. He asked Dutch to take a new P-51B off the line and have it fitted with one of their standard wing-drop tanks, a full load of gas and ammunition, a jury rigged tank behind the pilot’s seat with 80 to 100 gallons capacity and have the airplane on the ramp at Edwards within one week. Dutch did just that and Bradley was there to test it in just one week.
Bradley had all the tanks filled and he took it off. The take-off was tricky as he had expected–very poor longitudinal stability–but he managed it OK and off he went to Albuquerque. He flew at 25,000 feet and combat power. He simulated a mission from English bases to Berlin and return–about 1500 miles altogether–dropping his wing tanks when exhausted, firing his guns during simulated combat near Albuquerque and returning to Edwards with plenty of reserve fuel. The mission to Berlin had been proven. Kits were ordered immediately and by late Fall of 1943, P-51s retrofitted in England were over Berlin and beyond. They came at just the time when things were getting rough for the German Air Force and they pretty well decimated what was left.
General Bradley was proud to have been a four star General in command of one of the Air Force’s major commands. He was proud of his 35 years of service to his country. But he was most proud of all of what he did to put the P-51s over Berlin.
Returning to Europe in January 1945, General Bradley became Deputy Commander of the First Tactical Air Force Service, Command, and that April was assigned to the Intelligence Section of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe. He returned to the United States in June 1945, and ten days later was assigned to the 5th Air Force in the Philippines, became Chief of Staff of the 5th Air Force in Japan in October 1945. In February 1946 he assumed command of the 301st Fighter Wing on Okinawa.
Reassigned in October 1946, General Bradley returned to the United States and that December was appointed an instructor in the Operations Division of the Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia, becoming Assistant Director of the Operations Division of the college a month later.
Returning to the Air Materiel Command in April 1948, the General was assigned the task of expediting and obtaining in-flight refueling capability for the B-29 while he was on duty in the Office of the Director of Procurement and Industrial Planning at AMC Headquarters, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1950 and Major General in 1951. He then was appointed to the following positions in AMC’s Directorate of Procurement and Industrial Planning: Deputy Director, August 1948; Acting Director, July 1951; and Director, September 1951. In December 1951 he was redesignated Director of Procurement and Production.
Moving overseas in April 1953, General Bradley was named Assistant Chief of Staff for Materiel, U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), at Headquarters, Weisbaden, Germany, and that August became Vice Commander-in-Chief, USAFE, with additional duty as Chief of Staff.
Returning to the United States on July 7th, 1956, General Bradley was appointed Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Materiel at Air Force Headquarters, Washington, D.C. He became Deputy Chief of Staff for Materiel on June 30th, 1959 and was appointed Lieutenant General. His position was redesignated Deputy Chief of Staff for Systems and Logistics in 1961. On July 1st, 1962, General Bradley became Commander, Air Force Logistics Command. On the same day his appointment as a four-star General was effective.
Among his decorations are the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal and the French Croix de Guerre. A command pilot, he flew six combat missions during World War II for a total of 32 combat hours. His campaign ribbons–all with battle stars–are Central Europe, Rhineland, Air Offensive Europe, and Luzon.
General Bradley retired from active duty with the Air Force on July 31st, 1965, after over 35 years of active service. On August 2nd, 1965 he joined the Garrett Corporation of Los Angeles, California, as Assistant to the President, became a Vice President of the Corporation on December 14th, 1965, and was elected to the Board of Directors on November 22nd, 1966. On May 12th, 1969, he was appointed Senior Executive Vice President. General Bradley retired from The Garrett Corporation in December 1972.
Mark Bradley died on May 22nd, 1999.
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