Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Life of Colonel James C. Bradford a.k.a. My Pappou

As written by his son, LTC James C. Bradford Jr.

"Dad was an interesting and fascinating man who lived a life spanning a full spectrum from humble beginnings to great success. He was a man who cast a giant shadow no matter what his environment was at the time. He started off live in the womb of his mother, traveling in a covered wagon from a cattle ranch in mid Texas to Las Cruces, New Mexico. His youth was spent in New Mexico where his dad had a ranch, farm and dairy. As a very young boy his chores included many tasks, usually done by grown men. These included caring for horses and cattle and assisting his dad with the planting and harvesting of the farms crops. It was not an easy life. It was without the modern conveniences of even the early 1940's (for example, it included plowing fields using a hand-held plow being pulled by a mule or riding the fences on horseback to check on barbed wire breaks and rounding up stray cattle.). But it built Muscles which later sustained him in frequent school yard fist fights and later as a teenage sailor as he marched his way to the light-heavy weight boxing championship of the US Navy.

He was smart and skipped two grades in elementary school and his nick-name "Whiz" stuck with him through old age. He graduated from high school at 16 and until he was 17 traveled the rails as a "hobo". It was the depression and no jobs were to be had. It was in the hobo camps near the rail yards that he learned of the dignity of a man no matter how impoverished one was. It was also in these camps or in cold and windy boxcars that he honed his fighting skills to defend his life from the nastier and more desperate men he encountered.

At 17 he enlisted in the US Navy and served four years, 1931-1934, as an ordinary seaman on destroyer-class ships. During this time he distinguished himself at sports including, boxing, stroke-oar on the "ALL NAVY" crew team, basketball, and football. As a result, he was selected to attend the US Navel Academy at Annapolis. This rare opportunity was subsequently lost due to "sailor mischief", but that's a longer story for another time. In the Navy he learned how to follow orders and observed examples of great as well as pool leadership. This paved the way for his own distinguished leadership style and his very successful career as an army officer for 30 years.

When he left the Navy and returned to New Mexico, his mother insisted that he attend the University of New Mexico from which he graduated in 1939 and also met his future wife "Ruth".
After his freshman year summer jobs were hard to get so he headed to the state of Washington where his brother got him a job as a lumberjack. After about a month of climbing and falling trees for a lumber company, where he ate fried rabbit, mashed potatoes and gravy three times a day at the lumber camp mess hall, he learned of a saloon down the mountain in a town serving the various lumber companies. He had learned to play cards from on of his older Navy shipmates (this included dealing from the bottom of the deck) and in fact was a "card shark". When he demonstrated his skill to the saloon owner he was hired as a "house dealer" - a job which paid more money (percentage of the house take) and his lifestyle was considerably better than that of a lumberjack.

After his sophomore year, the only job he could get was with a traveling circus as the "Wild Man". This consisted of him growing his hair and beard long, wearing only animal skins for clothing and putting on a circus act where he was caged with wild animals and he chased them around the cage attempting to catch something to eat. The finally of his act consisted of him biting off the head of a chicken and drinking the blood flowing from the chicken's neck.
After his junior year, as an ROTC student, he was sent to the National Rifle Marches at Camp Perry where he would have won the national rifle shooting championship if one clip of four rounds hadn't broken causing him to miss getting off two rounds.
Upon graduation he was the only member of his graduating class to obtain a job (the great depression was still on). He worked at Fort Wingate, New Mexico, on the Navajo Indian reservation teaching high school. There he became great friends with the Che Dodge, Chief of the Navajo Nation. He taught for a year until the army commissioned him a 2/LT - Infantry and called him to active duty. He rose rapidly through the ranks and two and a half years later was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel (it took me 14 years) and was a battalion commander fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific. When he came home at the end of the war he was assigned as the Professor of Military Science and Tactics at the University of Utah. This is the time when he coined the phrase that his life thus far had spanned "From bum (hobo) to college professor.".

He then attended and was graduated from the prestigious Command and General staff College at Fort Leavenworth and subsequently was assigned to Munich, Germany, again as a battalion commander and later as deputy post commander.

Next, the army assigned him to be the Scientific Director of the US Army Natick Research and Development Laboratories where equipage was developed and tested for future army needs. He was selected for full Colonel during this assignment and became one of the youngest colonels in the army.

After that he was assigned as senior logistical advisor the the President of South Korea and served in that theater. He never forgot his roots as an enlisted man in any of his assignments and often went on twenty mile, forced foot marches with the South Korean army. He was not one to ride in a jeep when the soldiers walked.

Upon returning to the states, he was assigned as the Senior Logistician and Deputy Army Quartermaster for the entire 2nd US Army. His next assignment was as the commanding officer of a US Army Garrison in Japan, covering all the Japanese islands.

Not included in this list are assignments classified as Top Secret which included great danger and for which no medals are awarded. Suffice it to say that he was a paratrooper, but did not wear paratrooper wings. He was trained at a clandestine site by CIA operatives of a special highly classified unit. Nor did he wear the Navy Seal Badge, but he swam ashore from a submarine to land on a foreign shore with a Seal Team. these assignments are not even listed in his personnel file as they are classified. The awards for valor only those of the spoken work of thanks from the leadership of the special unit. They could not be awarded officially, as the valor could not be officially recognized.

His last assignment before retiring in the mid 70's and moving to California was as the commanding officer of Cameron Station in Virginia.

Throughout this time he was a loving son, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He taught us many lessons and soothed many a hurt or disappointed heart and helped in many ways known only to those he assisted.

Oh, he had his ups and downs, warriors tend to have some rough edges, but the bottom line is that he love and was loved by a great number of people. This extended not only to his near and distant family, but to the officers and men he served with in the navy and army.

I have heard more than a few of them say words to the effect of; 'There goes a man who young boys wish to be like and one which old men regretfully wish they had been.'

In summation, he was our dad, and a great one at that. He will be missed by more than a few of us."

I love you Pappou. I miss you every day. I hope I make you proud.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

All you kids always made him proud, and he is looking down with pride at this very moment, as I am also. Love, Mombo

Hi Barb said...

I hope you get this. I think you may have been my brother, Roger's best friend when we lived in Munich. I would enjoy hearing from you. Barbara Cantley Hartman. Barbwally@aol.com