Military History: The MacArthur Revival


America’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region has had many consequences, including a revival of interest in, and appreciation for, the career and worldview of General Douglas MacArthur, whose military exploits spanned fifty years and three continents, and whose reputation for good or ill rests mostly on his campaigns in the Southwest Pacific and the Philippines, his military administration of postwar Japan, and his decision-making during the Korean War.

In 2014, military historian Mark Perry revisited MacArthur’s important, productive, and sometimes difficult relationship with Franklin Roosevelt in The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur. That same year, Seymour Morris, Jr. wrote Supreme Commander: MacArthur’s Triumph in Japan, a thoughtful and admiring re-telling of MacArthur’s successful postwar administration of Japan.

Perry views MacArthur as the greatest commander of World War II, and writes that in the Southwest Pacific he “coordinated the most successful air, land, and sea campaign in the history of warfare.” Morris calls MacArthur’s occupation of Japan “the greatest feat by America’s greatest general.”

In 2015, the prolific and popular military historian Winston Groom (better known as the author of Forrest Gump) lauded MacArthur (along with Marshall and Patton) in The Generals as an exceptionally good soldier and great captain, who was as brave as a lion, bold as a bull, and audacious and inventive in “marshaling huge victorious armies.” MacArthur, Groom writes, served his country with distinction, and his memory “enriche[s] the national trust.”

James Duffy’s War at the End of the World, which appeared earlier this year, provides a detailed history of MacArthur’s New Guinea campaign, which has long been unfairly overshadowed by the Navy-Marine island battles in the Central Pacific.

Walter Borneman’s MacArthur at War: World War II in the Pacific has just been published. Borneman, like other MacArthur biographers, notes the general’s character flaws, but emphasizes MacArthur’s sense of mission, strategic brilliance, and “guiding principles of duty, honor, and country.”

Most anticipated, however, is Arthur Herman’s new biography, just released this month, entitled Douglas MacArthur: American Warrior. At 960 pages, it rivals the most comprehensive one-volume treatments of MacArthur to date: William Manchester’s American Caesar and Geoffrey Perret’s Old Soldier’s Never Die.

Later this fall, H.W. Brands’ The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War is scheduled to be released and, hopefully, will provide a fairer treatment of the Truman-MacArthur controversy than the conventional history that treats Truman as saint and MacArthur as sinner.  The truth, as usual, is more complex.

Those searching for the most complete biography of MacArthur and his times must still turn to D. Clayton James’ magisterial three-volume The Years of MacArthur.

Richard Nixon in his interesting post-presidential book Leaders, noted that in his conversations with MacArthur in the 1950s and early 1960s, “[n]early always MacArthur’s comments got back to Asia.” Nixon wrote that criticism of MacArthur by America’s foreign policy establishment stemmed from the clash between an Atlanticist worldview and MacArthur’s vision of an Asian-centered geopolitics.  Americans, Nixon wrote, are beginning to appreciate the wisdom of MacArthur’s prediction that “the history of the world for the next several generations may well be dictated by the men and women of the Orient.”

Indeed, during the battle of the Philippines in World War II, MacArthur told a news correspondent that “the lands touching the Pacific will determine the course of history for the next ten thousand years.” Those lands are certainly front and center in today’s geopolitics. The MacArthur revival could not come at a better moment.

Read the Original Article at Real Clear Defense


15 thoughts on “Military History: The MacArthur Revival

  1. I, personally, wouldn’t put Marshall in there. He was a bit too political and self-serving. Mac surely had his faults, but proved to be the man for the job at the time. He could usually get somewhat of a fair shake out of FDR, but he insulted Truman’s height (believe it or not) and the pres. took it to heart – never giving a fair shake after that – hence the final firing of Mac in Korea.
    My father worked for Gen. Swing, therefore had some dealings with Mac. He said, as bossy and egotistic as he was, if a Private, Corporal, etc. had a suggestion, he not only listened – he would take him very seriously. To me, that is the true sign of a leader.

    • Thanks GP…love to have your input on these things! I am surprised to hear your opinion on Marshall, would like to hear more when you have time.

    • I had heard it had to be done like 3 times or something because Mac wanted it to look really “regal” is that right? My Grandfather worked on his staff in Korea and my dad has 2 notebooks full of notes plus hours of taped conversations about him.

      • The first picture was taken when the officer in charge of organizing all the landing craft became so engulfed in his duties that he did not even see Mac. He told that boat – if they were in such a rush, get out and walk. Mac was pissed-off!! When he saw the picture, he thought he looked pretty determined, so yes, they tried shooting it over again, but nothing compared to the original.
        I can just imagine what your dad said on those tapes. Mac was 7o when Korea started, he was pretty ornery by then!

      • Yeah it was my late Grandpa on the tapes, my dad recorded it for posterity. Some funny stories on there for sure. My grandpa was not one to really talk about War, but he loved to tell a good joke!

      • GP, as far as the best Bio on Macarthur, which would you recommend? There are some new ones out, but I was considering Starting with the old classic: American Caesar but this new one Macarthur at War looks really good too.

      • I find in biographies, the author tends to become biased, one way or the other. I try to take snippets from all my books and attempt to come to a rational understanding. You know yourself, we all have different sides to our personality.
        Point being – just keep reading and attach your opinion to the facts, not the myth.

      • I agree GP. For me, rather than depend on second hand information about a man I like to read the man’s actual letters, diaries, etc…One of my favorite military historians who follows this pattern of “letting the facts speak for themselves” is Carlo D’Este. His Bio’s of Patton (A Genius for War) Eisenhower (A Soldiers Life) and Churchill (Warlord) are some of the best you can get IMO.

      • I would accept his version over Churchill himself. If you read the PM’s autobiography, his memory doesn’t exactly match that of what actually happened.

      • LOL yeah Churchill had a vivid imagination…let’s put it this way, he was bred for politics, not to be a soldier, which is what he truly wanted to be all his life. I remember reading about his WW1 service and after the disaster of Galipoli, he actually deployed to the front lines in 1916… the Commanding General was confused as to what military rank to assign a Member of Parliament (he had been demoted from his post as Lord of the Admiralty)..of course Churchill wanted to be a General, but ultimately they decided on Lieutenant Colonel. Some accounts say he ventured “Over the bags” several times into no mans land but all in all he was only on the front lines for 100 days.

      • The Norway disaster was his too when he was Lord of the Admiralty. People forgot these little tidbits as they lauded him as their hero.

      • Oh GP, I could list a dozen things that were conveniently swept under the rug with Churchill. How about the Tonypandy Riots of 1910 when Churchill ordered machine guns turned on striking miners.

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