Esther 'Kitty' Buhler Bradley, 81; Wife of Gen. Omar N. Bradley

Times Staff Writer

Esther "Kitty" Buhler Bradley, a former freelance writer and screenwriter and the widow of Gen. Omar N. Bradley, the last five-star general of the U.S. Army, has died. She was 81.

Bradley died Feb. 3 at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., according to retired Lt. Col. Charles Honeycutt, a former aide to the general. The cause of death was pneumonia, which she contracted after falling in her Rancho Mirage home some weeks ago.

Born in New York City, Kitty Buhler attended public schools there and graduated from Manhattan Business College. She attended Kansas Wesleyan University during the 1940s and, years later, UCLA.

She had a circuitous life in the 1940s living and working in Washington state, Kansas and Los Angeles, where she was employed at the Hollywood Athletic Club on Sunset Boulevard.

According to Honeycutt, Buhler took a U.S. government job in Japan in the late 1940s and was a freelance writer for the military newspaper Stars & Stripes and the news service United Press.

She was working in Okinawa when she met the general in 1950 on an interview assignment for United Press. They developed a close friendship and she eventually secured the rights to his life story, which she said she wanted to write for the screen.

She returned to Southern California in the mid-1950s and found work as a film and television writer. She is listed as Kitty Buhler in the credits for the 1958 Victor Mature film "China Doll," as well as television productions, including the anthology series "The 20th Century-Fox Hour" and the series "My Three Sons."

In December 1965, Bradley's first wife, Mary Quayle, died of leukemia. Nine months later, Bradley married Buhler in the chambers of a San Diego judge. Press accounts at the time made much of the couple's age difference -- he was 73 and she was 44. It was his second marriage and her third.

During World War II, Bradley commanded the 12th United States Army Group in Europe, which numbered more than 1.3 million combat troops. He was the senior commander of American ground forces in the June 1944 invasion of Europe.

After the war, he headed the Veterans Administration and became the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which he left in 1954 after two terms. He was made a five-star general in 1950.

Though he never actually retired from the service -- generals are always subject to recall for duty -- he was, for a time, chairman of the board of the Bulova Watch Co. and a board member of Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Inc.

After Omar Bradley left Bulova, he and Kitty lived in Beverly Hills and developed a fondness for horse races, which they attended frequently.

Although Kitty Bradley never made a motion picture about her husband, parts of his career were chronicled in the 1970 film "Patton," with George C. Scott as Gen. George Patton and Karl Malden as Bradley. That screenplay was partially based on Omar Bradley's 1951 book "A Soldier's Story." He served as senior military advisor for the film and Kitty assisted with the project.

The general's health went into decline in the 1970s and the couple moved to Ft. Bliss, Texas, for the climate. While visiting New York City, the then wheelchair-bound Bradley suffered a heart attack at a dinner in his honor. He died April 8, 1981, at the age of 88.

Kitty Bradley then lived in Century City, where she was active in Republican politics and did some freelance writing. She moved to Rancho Mirage in the late 1980s.

Over the last few years, she worked with local charities, participated in various Veterans Day activities and became active with the Omar Bradley Foundation.

She is survived by a sister, Lee Rosenthal, of Florida and New York City.

Funeral services are scheduled for 2 p. m. Friday in the chapel at Ft. Myers, Va., with burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

For The Record Los Angeles Times Wednesday February 18, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction Esther Bradley obituary -- An obituary in Sunday's California section on Esther "Kitty" Buhler Bradley, a writer and widow of Gen. Omar N. Bradley, stated in error that the funeral would be held in the chapel at Ft. Myers, Va. The base is Ft. Myer.
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