NEW YORK — Before dawn on June 6, 1944, as the cruiser Augusta headed toward the coast of Normandy, Chester Hansen was up and, as always, at the side of General Omar N. Bradley. And as always, Mr. Hansen, a journalist by training and a top aide to Bradley, made notes in his diary:
‘‘Like others in the Army party, Bradley was up at 3:30. He is on the bridge, a familiar figure in his ODs with Moberly infantry boots and OD shirt, combat jacket, steel helmet. He smiles lightly as though it is good to be nearer the coast of France and get the invasion under way.’’
Mr. Hansen, who died Oct. 17 at 95, had been assigned to Bradley when the general was conducting training in Louisiana and followed him as he rose through the ranks, accompanying him in the North Africa campaign and in the invasion of Sicily and as he led US ground forces on D-day as commander of the First Army.
Mr. Hansen faithfully kept the diary — ultimately amounting to some 300,000 words in multiple volumes whose details of war and military life have become a trove for historians.
The diaries, which are now at the Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pa., have been resources for an untold number of books, including Rick Atkinson’s ‘‘An Army at Dawn,’’ about the Allied invasion of North Africa, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003.
Some of the diary entries report battles and scenes of carnage, but most record the mundane details of important lives during extraordinary times. One entry recounts how General Dwight D. Eisenhower sent Bradley an ice-making machine because Eisenhower was tired of warm whiskey; another reveals that Bradley was in his ‘‘West Point dressing robe’’ when he learned that the war in Europe was over. Later, officers drank cognac in celebration and watched the ‘‘starry skies.’’
‘‘He was a meticulous note-taker and a keen observer,’’ Atkinson said. ‘‘For someone trying to understand the nuances of the war and how personalities interacted or didn’t interact, he is invaluable.’’
Diaries by World War II soldiers were rare because keeping one was forbidden, for fear it might fall into enemy hands.
Mr. Hansen remained as an aide to Bradley after the war, following him — the last of the nation’s five-star generals — as Bradley served in a series of high posts, including head of the Veterans Administration. Mr. Hansen also recorded hundreds of hours of interviews with the general and used them when he ghostwrote Bradley’s best-selling war memoir, a ‘‘A Soldier’s Story’’ (1950).
Mr. Hansen received half the royalties from the book.
Chester Bayard Hansen was born in Elizabeth, N.J. He attended Syracuse University, where he was editor of The Daily Orange and graduated with a journalism degree in 1939.
He died at a nursing home in Raleigh, N.C., after a stroke.
Mr. Hansen resigned his military commission in 1956 and two years later went to work for IBM.