Bradley, Hansen & Liebling

I was surprised recently to hear a friend credit A.J. Liebling with ghost writing Omar Bradley’s A Soldier’s Story. That erroneous credit seems to have nine lives, one of which perhaps has enabled it to gain currency on Wikipedia.

As far as I can tell, Liebling – certainly a fine writer and journalist – had no role in writing the book. He did supply a forward for an edition and also did at least one review that I know of, but if he made any other contribution, it’s at least temporarily lost to history.

The real ghost writer of the book – credited in the acknowledgements – was Bradley’s aide Chet Hansen, who served with the general from Africa through VE Day, and remained with him later in the States. Much of the book is based very closely on Hansen’s voluminous diary, a work which is of huge importance to anyone interested in the American command during the European ground war. (There are copies at West Point, where I used it, and at Carlisle. It has never been published.)

There were other helpers and editors, but much of the prose is Hansen speaking in Bradley’s voice. He deserves our thanks – and should get credit as the “ghost.”

There are some Liebling connections beyond the Forward – Liebling served as a war correspondent in Europe, and greatly admired Bradley, as many did, for his straight-forward and unassuming ways. (He also gave extremely detailed and candid briefings on operations, which would endear him to any journalist’s heart.) I’m reasonably certain that he knew Hansen, and it’s not out of the question that the two men might  have discussed the book in depth. But of course that’s not quite the same as being its author.

 Of course, now that it's in Wikipedia, I suppose it will live on in posterity.

(By the way, if you're looking for a breezy, yet informative bio of Liebling, hunt around for Wayward Reporter by Raymond Sokolov. And as always, A Soldier's Story is highly recommended.

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