Holbrook Bradley dies at age 93

Holbrook "Hobey" Bradley, The Sun's last surviving World War II correspondent, who covered the 29th Infantry Division from D-Day to the German surrender and later wrote of his wartime experiences, died Saturday of bladder cancer at a daughter's home in Encinitas, Calif.

He was 93.

"Bradley was very much a flamboyant devil-may-care guy who courted danger. He made it a habit of always being on the front lines," said Joseph R.L. Sterne, former editorial page editor of The Sun, whose book, "Combat Correspondents: The Baltimore Sun in World War II," was published last year.

"He had a hunger for it. His wife had left him, and he was a single man and he was about to embark on this incredible adventure as a war correspondent," Mr. Sterne said Tuesday. "He was a very brave guy."

Mr. Bradley, the son of a professional photographer and a homemaker, was born in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and raised in Scarsdale, N.Y.

He was a 1936 graduate of the Pomfret School in Pomfret, Conn., and earned a degree in 1940 in archaeology from Yale University.

After college, Mr. Bradley took a job at a General Electric Co. subsidiary in Buffalo, N.Y., where he moved with his wife, Polly Chenery Patterson, whom he married in 1940. Her father, Paul C. Patterson, was publisher of The Sun.

In 1942, Mr. Bradley joined the staff of The Sun as a police reporter, and later covered the waterfront before being assigned a year later to cover the 29th Infantry Division — the fabled Blue and the Gray — whose soldiers came mainly from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Mr. Bradley was shipped to England, where the 29th Division was training for the invasion of Europe in Devonshire and Cornwall.

As soldiers packed their equipment on the transports that would take them to the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, Mr. Bradley wrote in The Sun: "The men knew by now that this was the real thing. There was an atmosphere of tense anticipation."

The "doughboys looked seaward. Looked toward the distant shore on which they were about to begin an attack on an enemy they had been waiting to meet," he wrote.

On orders from his editor in Baltimore, Mr. Bradley was not permitted to go ashore on June 6 with the first troops that landed during the bloody assault on Omaha Beach.

"My editor, Neil Swanson, said if I got myself killed, we'd have no one there," Mr. Bradley told The Baltimore Sun in a 2005 interview. "On the 7th, I told my ship's captain I'd be hitting the beach. He said, 'Not from my ship!' He was afraid if I kicked the bucket, he'd get the blame. When the next small boat came, I just went down the rope ladder and got in."

In his own account, "War Correspondent: From D-Day to the Elbe," published in 2007, Mr. Bradley wrote that according to the Geneva Conventions, war correspondents were unarmed and were to be treated as noncombatants — "a rule I found the Nazis rarely paid attention to."

War's grim reality was not long in coming.

Mr. Bradley gazed at the horrific scene as his landing craft coursed toward the beach, which was now littered with the dead for whom the war had ended and the living who had made it this far and were now desperately trying to seek refuge from the heavy German fire that rained down upon them from above.

"The tide was running in, bringing corpses still in life jackets or without — those who'd died trying to make this beach, men with the blue and gray patch of our division, many with the distinctive red one of the First," he wrote in his book.

"The Blue-Gray shoulder patch told us he was one of ours," he wrote of a dead soldier. "He'd been hit in the left shoulder, the uniform ripped and bloody, a temporary bandage on the jagged tear which seemed to cover a quarter of his torso. The wax-like face, eyes closed, no sign of breathing will be with me until I die."

In a dispatch to The Sun at the time, he wrote, "Those first few hours on the beach must have been living hell. And we saw there had been no discrimination in the way the men fell, for the two bars of captains were among the plain uniforms of the privates."

In August, Mr. Bradley's luck ran out when he was wounded in the thigh during the battle for Vire, France. He was awarded the Purple Heart and after three weeks' recovery, rejoined his beloved 29ers in time for the historic siege of the port of Brest. There, because of his fluency in German, he served as a translator during the enemy's surrender proceedings.

A hallmark of Mr. Bradley's wartime reporting was listing in his stories the names of Marylanders he had come in contact with for the benefit of their families back home.

"Don't be surprised if an unarmed correspondent jauntily comes at you from the enemy sector inquiring 'Anyone here from Baltimore?' It'll be 'Brad' Holbrook Bradley, Baltimore Sunpapers, who Saturday got out ahead of our right flank and got back safely," wrote fellow Sun war correspondent Lee McCardell in a 1945 article from "Twenty-nine Let's Go," the front-line publication of the 29th Division.

In the 2005 Baltimore Sun interview, he said that when he got pinned down by enemy fire several times, he wondered, "What the hell am I doing here?"

"If you're not scared, there's something wrong with you," he said. "But often it was just an adrenalin drive."

When the war ended, Mr. Bradley returned to The Sun, where he worked until joining the staff of Time-Life. In 1948, he went to work for the State Department, returning to Germany as an information specialist in Berlin.

As an information officer later for the United States Information Agency, he held posts in Seoul, South Korea; Ankara, Turkey; Calcutta, India; and Vietnam from 1962 until retiring in 1976.

Mr. Sterne met Mr. Bradley in 2008 when he visited Baltimore while on a book promotional tour.

"I found him to be very gracious and not the least bit a swashbuckler," Mr. Sterne said. "He had a very friendly demeanor and was a real gentleman."

A world traveler, Mr. Bradley was 92 when he returned to Normandy for the last time in 2008. He visited the American Cemetery to "say goodbye to old friends," family members said.

The former Roland Park resident, who had lived in San Diego, was married in 1946 to Phoebe Marsh Footner, daughter of author Hulbert Footner. She died in 1999.

There will be no formal services, and according to Mr. Bradley's wishes, his ashes will be spread at Fish Hawk Island, Maine, near Boothbay, where he had spent time in his youth.

Surviving are his three daughters, Elsie Maclean Bradley Mulcahey of Lake Mary, Fla., Phoebe F. Bradley of Encinitas and Susan F. Bradley of Berkeley, Calif.; five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; and his companion of 10 years, Jacqueline Wiseman. A son, William H. Bradley, died in 1993.