Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rating General Douglas MacArthur

General Douglas MacArthur is somewhat of a problem for American historiography, being rated by many as one of the great geniuses of the American military, but being accepted by most as a vainglorious megalomaniac, whose belated sacking was the only possible solution to his rampant disdain for his elected masters. As usual, the reality is somewhere between.

Douglas MacArthur was from an American military family that had done much to expand the American empire. His father was a General, and an important figure in the conquest of the Philippines (he was briefly Governor-General), and in beating their independence movement into submission. MacArthur senior was one of the wave of American imperialists who incorporated Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the Philippines, and selected parts of central America and the Chinese coast, into the American imperial expansion, after they had run out of territory to ‘liberate’ from the American Indians. Douglas MacArthur's early life experience was little different to that of the son of a British General or Governor in India or Africa.

MacArthur knew that he was born to rule, and born to greatness. Part of the reason he knew this, was that his mother repeatedly told him so. In fact when he went to West Point, she moved into an apartment nearby to supervise, and spent the next decades harassing every public officials she could think of to improve his chances of recognition and promotion.

A good Sample of MacArthur’s attitude to the world is taken from his early attempt to win himself a Congressional Medal of Honour. As a minor liaison in one of the repeated American interventions in Central American affairs - at Vera Cruz - he recommended himself for the medal on the basis of an incredible sounding adventure he had undertaken supposedly for useful military purpose (and without orders or permission). The mythology of this rampage through enemy territory on a hand pumped rail cars, while single-handedly shooting it out and emerging victorious from several conflicts, has been uncritically accepted by far too many people. Historian Jack Galloway, writing a book about the relationship between McArthur and his senior Australian commander General Blamey during the Second World War (The Odd Couple: Blamey and MacArthur at War), employed professional athletes to try and attempt a similar feat with a hand cart to the one MacArthur claimed. They found the whole thing impossible, and concluded that the story was at least partially, if not completely, fantasy.

MacArthur posed with his Great War troops very efficiently, and apparently led them with actual elan. The very flamboyant troop leader apparently inspired his men, and achieved fairly significant results. They were not significant enough to impress General Pershing, who refused to add his name to the list of those to be promoted Brigadier, and was seemingly appalled and disgusted when MacArthur’s mother apparently managed to influence the promotion anyway and wrote him a thankyou letter for the supposed recommendation. (He was only given a brigade the day before the Armistice, and ran it for a mere 10 days after fighting ceased.)

MacArthur rose to the position of Chief of Staff of the army in the 1930s, but failed to impress many in the political establishment with his suitability for the role. His use of troops during Washington protests was not well received, and his attempt to sue journalists for libel fell apart when they threatened to call his Eurasian mistress as a witness. He had to pay the costs. (He was already divorced for 'failing to provide'.) He was soon moved on by a very unimpressed Roosevelt administration, and gratefully took up the opportunity to become the military leader of the national forces of the Philippines. (The Philippines in the 1930’s had its own parliament within the US Empire while training to get full independence later – this makes it approximately the equivalent of India in the British Empire at the same time). He did of course demand rank that he felt suitable to his noble character. For several years, he was able to flaunt the rank and title of Field Marshal, despite the fact that Philippine forces would have been hard put to assemble more than a few very weak divisions. At the start he was still being paid as a Major General in the US Army as well, but they retired him in 1937.

He may well have faded from history, as a colourful if unreliable junior officer whose delusions of grandeur had grown too great, except the intervention of World War Two in the Far East. Even then, he should have been quickly discarded into the waste bin of history, had only his own actions being taken into account. His grandiose plans to defend the Philippines on a broad front, fell apart completely. His air force was destroyed on the ground, despite the clear warnings that have been sent to him after Pearl Harbor. His troops collapsed in the field, and only a portion of them made it through a retreat to a small, fortified peninsula, called Bataan. Frankly, they only held out on this peninsula, and on the nearby fortified island of Corregidor, for as long as they did because they were of no threat at all to the Japanese expansion, and they were left to rot on the vine while the assault troops took care of the more urgent matters in the Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, the Pacific Islands, Burma, and New Guinea. When the Japanese could finally spare the attention for a serious assault, the position crumbled quite quickly.

This ignominious failure in the field was frankly a far worse performance than that of the various other military leaders whose careers did not survive the disasters. Lord Gort’s handling of the British expeditionary Force in France, General Percival’s failures in Malaya, General Fredendall in North Africa, and Gen Lucas in Italy, all failed less disastrously than MacArthur. And he failed in the one place where he had years to prepare his troops and his strategy. The man should have been cashiered, and never seen leading troops ever again. Instead he finally got his Congressional Medal of Honor.

What saved MacArthur was his unrivalled ability with propaganda. He far surpassed his nearest allied military rivals General’s Patton and Montgomery. In fact he could be more closely compared to Joseph Goebbels, both in ability, and in veracity. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin would have acknowledged their equals in the ability to tell a big lie. The lengths his propaganda team went to put his earlier fantasies to the pale. The American public were bombarded with stories about valiant defenders, and glorious victories. Not only were the Japanese dying in their thousands, and being shot out of the sky, but their battleships were being sunk apparently at will by MacArthur’s vastly outnumbered but indomitable forces. For an American public receiving a steady diet of failure and disaster in the Pacific and Atlantic, MacArthur was presented as a shining beacon of steadfast endurance and indomitable will. What a crock. His troops referred to him as 'Dugout Doug'.

Nonetheless he managed to pitch himself in such a way that his surrender would have been a disaster to American morale. MacArthurs name was trumpeted, by a politically partisan Republican press as much as by his own HQ bootlickers, as the most heroic individual since David faced Goliath. Unlike his own field commander Gen Wainright, or Gen Perceval in Malaya, there was no chance that McArthur would go down with the ship. Other generals might go into captivity with their men, but McArthur, or at least the myth of MacArthur, had to escape. His American superiors ordered him to Australia.

There was a problem in this for President Roosevelt and General Marshall. MacArthur’s popularity was so great, that there was a serious move in Congress to bring him back to America and put him in command of all American armed forces. This was theoretically the position that the President was supposed to hold in the American system, and would definitely have outranked the far junior Chief of Army Staff Marshall. Neither regarded McArthur with anything more than disdain, both considered he had failed dismally in the Phillipines, and both needed him as far away as possible. Fortunately for them, an inexperienced and panicky Australian government under Prime Minister John Curtin appealed for American aid. Not being able to send much of any use at the time, and not believing that Australia was facing much of a genuine threat, Roosevelt and Marshall were pleased to offer them MacArthur instead. Like the equally difficult Joseph Stillwell (on whom another post later), it would be a pleasure to have such a loose cannon as far away as possible. Meanwhile the Curtin government was happy to accept him, as they viewed him as a convenient “suction pump” for reinforcements.

MacArthur’s relationship with his Australian ‘allies’ has filled many books on its own. He quickly had the Australian government so trained to heel that it completely ignored the advice of its own military (even those generals who had fought successfully against the Nazi’s in North Africa were treated as unimportant by a government busy fawning over a man clearly more gifted at propaganda than leading troops). MacArthur even managed to get his supposed ‘Ground Forces Commander’ – the Australian Blamey – despatched to isolation at the front. (Curtin later admitted that in his ignorance he had not realized that the commander of the national military forces cannot afford to be supervising a brigade on the front line.) MacArthur then refused to have an integrated HQ, insisted on all divisional heads being from his 'Bataan Gang', and manipulated deployments to ensure that Americans would never fight under Australian command.

MacArthur worked out fairly quickly that he had been expelled to a backwater, and attempted to fight back against his superiors (alwys a far more worrisome enemy to Doug than the Japs). With hardly any American troops available (except for a single division not suitable for front-line service), he was fortunate to discover that the Australian Army was more than capable of winning battles. For the next two years he was to build his reputation as the person fighting hardest against the Japanese on the abilities of these troops who he refused to acknowledge. Buna, Gona, Nadzab, Lae, Salamis and Finsdschafen were the Australian victories that made him a winner again. To the Australian soldiers in the field, the code became very clear. Any radio announcement that said ‘American troops under the command of General Douglas MacArthur’ meant just that. However far more common was the line ‘Allied troops under the command of General Douglas MacArthur’, which actually meant Australians. Not that this attitude was restricted to his allies. A good example of how MacArthur treated his own officers was when he offered one of his American generals (Eichelberger) that if he won a very dicey situation, McArthur would actually go to the extent of releasing his name to the press! This was the highest honour MacArthur could conceive, and reveals what lack of recognition those who served under him would usually receive.

Much is made, by the ignorant, of MacArthur’s achievements at this stage. Much is ignored about use inability to understand the situation, or to make allowances for what was actually happening on the ground. The dreadful hand-to-hand fighting across the Stanley range in New Guinea saw helpful comments from his headquarters about blowing up the passes with dynamite. Considering that this was terrain where soldiers had to crawl on their hands and knees, the fact that neither he nor any of his headquarters lackeys actually went to have a look is damning. (Note: Blamey, also fighting for his political life, committed the same solecism.) MacArthur also repeatedly boasted that could he get American troops onto the ground, their natural superiority would give them easy victory over the Japanese. Inevitably, the green American troops who eventually arrived ground to a halt quickly, and had to be rescued by the more experienced Australians.

MacArthur is given great credit for what is called the ‘island hopping’ campaign. This did in fact bypass various Japanese garrisons on the way back to Japan. It was not actually his idea, as his early plans clearly reveal that he planned to slog past each garrison. Fortunately a lack of resources, particularly shipping, means that more intelligent planners suggested a better alternative, and he was happy to take credit for it. The bypassed Japanese garrisons, with virtually no logistical support and no transport, could be happily left to rot on the vine (in the same way his own troops had been at Bataan and Corregidor). In fact many of them were reduced to spending their available time trying to farm to support their own needs, and played no further role in the war. MacArthur did have the sense to follow this advice, and was a big enough media presence to act as the suction pump necessary to make it possible. So certainly he influenced developments. This is a long way from crediting him with any brilliance.

The re-conquest of the Philippines was not on the agenda for the United States Chiefs of Staff. Their preferred option was to bypass the place, and head on to the island of Formosa (Taiwan). They considered this not only a superior island hopping strategy, and one that would get them closer to Japan, but also a lethal blow to Japanese shipping routes, and a brilliant opportunity to reopen the supply lines to China. MacArthur of course, had promised to return to the Philippines. In the end, his perspective would win out. This is the single most impressive result of his propaganda campaign over several years.

Interestingly, it is here that I actually identify signs of the superior strategic and geopolitical ability in MacArthur. The plans of the United States Chiefs of staff were the simplistic straight-line approach that they wanted to use in Europe. They were paying no attention to the political effects of cleaning up the mess, and re-establishing stable government in the areas that needed liberation. Field Marshal Alan Brooke, the British Chief Imperial General Staff, mentions several times in the course of his diaries about the war that he wished he had been dealing with MacArthur in Washington instead. He recognized some of MacArthur’s weaknesses, but held that he was the only one of the senior Americans who had a clear strategic understanding. It would be fair to suggest that had McArthur been in Marshall’s position, the Allies would have a least liberated Czechoslovakia and as many of the other East European capitals as they could at the end of the war, rather than handing them over to the Soviets in the good-natured stupidity of ignorance that saw Eisenhower refuse to make any efforts whatsoever. MacArthur’s presence in Washington would have made any post-war entente a much different thing.

The liberation of the Philippines did for American prestige, what the failure to liberate Malaya didn’t do for British prestige. The Americans were restored after the ignominious defeats. (It is interesting to note that a British fleet was circling off the coast of Malaya even before the Japanese surrendered, but that it could not invade because McArthur was still technically responsible for Malaya. The plan was that he was to hand this responsibility over to Mountbatten, but he managed to put this off until the chance for the British to regain their prestige had been lost. I would suggest that this may be another example of MacArthur’s conscious geopolitical planning.)

MacArthur had been so successful at setting himself up as the great hero that he was to be the one who would be given the opportunity to command of the invasion of Japan. Fortunately for the troops under his command, that never happened. MacArthur had never been a very good at commanding troops on the ground, and had relied on subordinate generals to take care of that minor detail for him. It is horrible to imagine what might have happened had he actually supervised personally. There is no recognizable tactical flair to his handling of larger forces, and his handling of his subordinates had always been miserable.

Instead, a President who despised him (and feared him as a potential Presidential challenger) and a Chief of Staff who wanted him as far away as possible, agreed to make MacArthur de facto dictator of a defeated Japan. And here, the entire world can be grateful that this man was given the position rather than the more the geopolitically ignorant American commanders who predominated in the European, African, Asian and Pacific theatres. Here, finally, there was a genuine advantage to MacArthurs refusal to ignore the orders from those in Washington who he considered to be ignorant buffoon’s. (Such as the Presidents he served under.)

McArthur, whose childhood had seen him inhale the principles of imperial government at the feet of a colonial administrator - his father - was the ideal person to administer post-war Japan. He completely ignored all the stupid instructions about degrading the Emperor (which would only lead to trouble), or about setting up a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy. He was very well aware that if he wanted a quiet and peaceful administration, American imperial arrogance was not the way to go. (The State Department later admitted that the only thing they could think of which might punish him for completely ignoring them was to cut off his access to the press!) Possibly, his understanding of history was great enough that he realized that the entire problem with the post Great War peace Treaty at Versailles was that this sort of ignorant idealism had guaranteed future problems. Instead, MacArthur played the pragmatist, and can be given almost sole credit to the magnificent Japanese miracle that followed.

Unfortunately for him, MacArthur now believed his own press. When a new crisis arose in Korea, MacArthur knew he was the man to handle it. He managed to assemble enough troops to mount a successful amphibious operation at Inchon to restore the situation, and he and his commanders had enough experience to know that you bypass the front lines and cut the lines of supply. Finally he was demonstrating the skills that would make a useful front-line general. By contrast however, his self-righteous nobility now meant that he felt it unnecessary to pay any attention to the inferior sheep trying to limit his vision. He ignored all instruction from his military superiors, and treated the orders of his President with contempt. There was no choice but to sack him before he started a Third World War. Truman said, “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son-of-a-bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three quarters of them would be in jail.” Bradley (now Chief of Staff - I will do a post on him later) just called him a megalomaniac.

This then is the challenge of analyzing MacArthur. He was a pompous bastard to his troops and to his subordinate generals, and an insubordinate self-righteous arrogant insufferable pain-in-the-arse to his superiors. He was a complete and utter failure as commander of the Phillipines national defences, and an appalling disaster as a manager of allies. He failed whenever he came near a battlefield, and succeeded only when good generals won battles for him - in which case he treated them and their men with contempt and refused to acknowledge them. (When Eichelberger's staff tried to recommend him for a Medal of Honor it was no surprise that MacArthur refused.) It is not possible to imagine any front line soldier in possession of the facts ever desiring to serve under such a person.

On the other hand, he was the closest thing to a strategic thinker that the Americans possessed, and his geopolitical knowledge and understanding during the war possibly came second only to Churchill (certainly above that of the arch manipulator Stalin). Although he was a disaster in direct command, he almost certainly had the ability to organize the actual outcome of the war from a Washington desk far better than did Marshall or Roosevelt. There can be absolutely no shadow of a doubt that some of the ancient European capitals that Marshall and Eisenhower happily left to the tender mercies of the Soviets would have been on the NATO side of the Iron Curtain had MacArthur been in Washington. Perhaps his megalomania would have got him into trouble here to, but the fundamental clarity of his vision at this level could hardly have caused bigger post-war issues than the mess but was actually delivered. Probably Roosevelt or Truman would have found it necessary to sack him anyway, but certainly it would have been an interesting ride.

But the vital point is his attitude to defeated nations, and his brilliance at converting them too loyal allies. Only the very best military leaders in history have been able to achieve this successfully. Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, the Dukes of Marlborough and Wellington, and very few others. The whole world should be grateful that it was Douglas MacArthur, an American not caught up by the fantasy of American democracy, who converted one of the oldest and proudest imperial states into a modern and loyal constitutional monarchy. For that, and that alone, it is almost possible to forgive the rest of the MacArthur myth, and accept him as one of the great captains of history.

The reality though, this is not the stuff of great generals. MacArthur was a brilliant imperial administrator and Governor, with great practical insight and vision when it came to dealing with defeated states on fair terms. But it is not possible to call him a good general.


  1. I must disagree on some of your points. While it is true that he was better on the offence than on defence it should be remembered that the army and defences he commanded in the Phillipines in 1942 were extremely underfunded. Also, his advance through the Southwest Pacific moved farther and suffered fewer casualties than any other theatre command in WWII. Admittedly many of the ideas that led to this success were not his own but the ideas of subordinates and collegues; isn't the ability to be able to adopt good ideas (and drop bad ones) from others part of being a good commander.

    1. I would like to let you know that he had an army, 100 B-17 Flying Fortress Bombers, and $10,000,000 in his hands. I don't think that "underfunded", as what you have stated.

    2. He was neither good at the offense or the defense.

      In the defense he against pre-arranged planning moved his forces out of the planned defensive area's and their supplies to the beaches increasing the area he had to cover thus spreading his forces. Naturally as every other military commander had realized early on before any war this would allow a force to find gaps and land in numbers. By the time he pulled back his forces were forced to leave behind the majority of the weapons and food stocks, Oh and at the Philippines he had a full 9 hours warning after the attack on Pearl.

      On the offense, He consistantly ignored report's from the front, Constantly changed staff and officers around because they didnt deliver 'results' with out taking into account the difficulties they faced oh and even at one point complained that not enough Australians died in a battle, Mind you they actually captured the objective.. Yea great general there, The troops do what they need to with lower casualties and he bitches..

  2. Yes, being a good committee man often makes an adequate CIC, as long as you have good battlefield generals to do the work. He did, and they did, and they got precious little thanks from him (particularly non-Americans).

    But he showed no ability as a battlefield leader, and was almost universally despised by teh troops under him. The Americans called him 'dugout Doug' at best, and what eh Australians called him can't be printed.

    I still think he was a good administrator (and I give thanks for what he achieved in Japan), but it is not really possible to call him a good general if most of his troops despised him and hated serving under him. (Not my definition of general anyway.)

    1. Wow Nigel you have really outdone yourself here. I am going to take you to task for just one offhand remark you make. "MacArthur senior was one of the wave of American imperialists who incorporated Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the Philippines, and selected parts of central America and the Chinese coast, into the American imperial expansion, after they had run out of territory to ‘liberate’ from the American Indians". From a a man that has benefited from the most shameful and extreme treatment both historically and still ongoing of native people in modern history. It was the 60's you finally let them vote . You are now removing their children from the families at higher rates than ever before. The reason given neglect. Meaning of course poverty. No need to worry about honoring broken treaty's. You never made any. A movement gets started to right some of the wrongs and return a tiny portion of stolen land. Your mining companies spend millions to defeat it. The add campaigns are where the name Goebbels should be used not in reference to MacArthur. Your nations efforts to keep apartheid going as an acceptable method of government should also fill you with more of that pride and sense of superiority you love to show when talking about anything American. Are you really an educator ? If so is it really history you teach ? Before you ever make such an asinine statement like that again you should make sure your own house is clean. your nation is going through a bit of a boom. How is that translating to how aborigines are doing today in your nation ? Mine is in a bit of a slump. Yet native Americans have never done better. We are working on getting that prosperity to be universal to our aborigine population. You have yet to admit as a nation you have done anything wrong. Let alone continue to practice vile race relations with people you have harmed so much and still harm today. I found so much information after Googling "australia treatment of aborigines" that I was dumbfounded. I was just going to point you in that direction. One piece I found was such a good short example of it I am going to post a link. http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/20726-mandela-is-gone-but-apartheid-is-alive-and-well-in-australia . Yes you should be filled with so much self righteous anger being so free of any wrong yourself.

    2. Dear Mark,

      I applaud your passion, but I think you should be careful about believing everything you read on the internet.

      Perhaps you could have a look at one of the several articles on this blog where I talk about the appalling effects of trying to impose 1960's socialist 'fixes' on the aboriginal population, which has effectively left them (and North Korea) as some of the few enforced Soviet style commune cultures left in a works that should have moved on from such stupidity.

      The well paid whinging professional (usually white) 'aboriginal' activists who write those 'apartheid' articles of course often being the same people who imposed their socialist lunacy as solutions in the first place, and who are now impoverishing the communities they pretend to represent while accumulating vast sums as 'consultants'.

      You might want to read something by someone with two brain cells to rub together. Try one of the aboriginal leaders who is actually trying to reverse this stupidity. I recommend Noel Pearson…


    3. Mr Smith,
      Your rather off-topic comments are those if someone who knows very little of the reality of the standing of Aboriginals in Australia. As it happens, I am a retired police officer from Australia's Northern Territory. I have lived and worked among Aboriginals close to and within their communities. As Nigel Davies has pointed out, quite correctly, that much, indeed almost all of what you have obviously relied upon to attack my country, has been put abroad by a group I refer to as "professional aboriginals". There is, in this country, an Aboriginal Industry - populated by white do-gooders and part-aboriginals - some of whom claim aboriginality but are of as little as 1/64th Aboriginal blood. Apartheid??? That is an absolute nonsense. The fact is that Aboriginal people are given, as all are in this country, the right to live in the manner they choose. Many of the people depicted as victims of "apartheid" and mal-treatment, live in their own self-conducted communities. These communities are funded, entirely, by the taxpayer. There is no industry or commercial activity to maintain a viable society. They live off payments provided by the government/taxpayer. The communities are provided with health clinics, schools and other government facilities. I have been in communities where the teachers at the schools outnumber the students! In one instance I lived in a large mining town where not one Aboriginal was employed by the mining company. Why? Because the mining company was racist? No! Because, as in almost every case, Aboriginal people there "don't do work". The nearby established Aboriginal community had the potential to provide a significant portion of the workforce who were living, on-site with no requirement for the company to provide housing and ancillary facilities. The reason that none was employed was down to the simple fact that they elected not to work. Very, very few full-blood Aboriginal people in this country have jobs. Those who do almost invariably work as "consultants" for the government. The same can be said for the majority of [art-Aboriginal people as well. Before you rattle on about something you know buggar-all about, get off your arse and go have a look at the reality for yourself. See the endemic child-abuse,neglect and abuse of women and destruction of housing provided by the taxpayers. New homes built at enormous cost (as much as $500,000 EACH) at remote locations reduced to hovels in weeks! My wife worked as a nurse in a large regional hospital.treating mal-nourished, negelected infant Aboriginal children - hundreds of them! Many died as a result of recurring bouts of stomach infections owing to insanitary living conditions. You might like to acquaint yourself with the number of instances where Aboriginal "enterprises" have been initiated by government - fishing, forestry, timber milling, produce production and so on - ad nauseum - not one of which has ever succeeded.
      As for me, racist? Hardly, I happen to have a dash of savage in my blood
      You come across as yet another Yank living in denial of your own imperialist colonial past - in typical hypocritical manner. Physician, heal thyself!

    4. Dear Andy,

      thanks for trying, but I suspect Mark was out for a bit of petty 'and anyway, you've got a big nose' rather than anything reasoned, so not sure what good it will do.

      As a matter of interest, I went to a Lutheran primary school largely staffed by people who had helped run missions in the Northern Territory before the government decided 'we're here to help'!

      They managed to get aboriginal communities to farm by convincing them it led to higher living standards than hunter gathering, but were surprised to find that people of a hunter gatherer background don't see the point in farming surpluses to make profits to invest in better futures for their children. You do only what you need to do to survive, not to grow.

      Unsurprisingly when the benevolent government people arrived to explain that welfare payments would be made to anyone who didn't work, they literally dropped the tools where-ever they were in the fields, and walked away to collect 'sit-down money' instead. The rampant alcoholism and drug abuse since then is completely predictable.

      Hurray for socialist idealism.

      As a side issue, the disgusting 'racism' industry is ensuring that abused children cannot be removed from aboriginal parents the way they would be from any other parent, because this would be 'racist'.

      So it is possible to say that aboriginal children suffer from apartheid in Australia, in that they cannot be protected by normal laws that would apply to everyone else because of their race.

  3. Dougout Doug was a miserable coward. He visited his troops once before making his exit from the Phillipines. He did nothing to protect his air forces there and managed to lose much of the supplies of his army due to his inaction. He also saw fit to give the Japanese Emperor a get out of jail free card. This punk disgusts me.

    1. Not only that, but in Korea he threw his victory away by going for the headline grabbing capitol at Seoul, as opposed to cutting straight across the peninsula cutting off and destroying the North Korean Army. Had he done so, the Chinese probably wouldn't have entered the war, as there would have been no North Korean state to support.

    2. Not to mention in Korea he was warned before hand not to approach the Chinese border to close. Had he stopped when ordered (by this time N. Korean army was destroyed) his forces could have set up a defensive line and likely hood of China attacking would have shrunk, And if any attack they would have run into prepared defenses.

      His plan for China just made him all the worse, Wanting to use 60+ nukes to create a nuclear border and if needed nuke large civilian cities...

  4. I agree with the comments on MacArthur as a general, but I am going to quibble with your comment about the Emperor of Japan.

    Japan was not a western style Constitutional Monarchy, and so the emperor did not have the same powers in the system as would the British or Italian or Spanish monarchs.

    In fact even they would have had problems stopping an elected government doing stupid things, unless the was a way to manufacture a constitutional crisis that would allow them to sack the government and call an election.

    You will note that this is what actually happened in Italy, where the monarch conspired with the Fscist grand council to sack the dictator Mussolini when it became clear that this was the way to go. The constitutional monarchy system do not have all that many breaks on the politicians, but it does have the capacity to get rid of even dictators like Mussolini. (Whereas Republic have no such safeguard... See Hitler, who required the total destruction of Ermany to remove.)

    The Japanese system lacked even this. By centuries old tradition power was divided between the military government (originally the Shogunate), and the 'religious' government of the Emperor. The idea was that the Emperor reigned, but was above politics in a way that went beyond even a constitutional monarchy.

    In practical terms when the Emperor intervened to force the government to surrender, he ws acting 'unconstitutionally' (or at leat way beyond what centuries of traditional practice allowed). His actions were so unthinkable that there was a genuine attempt by the officer corps to mount a coup to stop the surrender happening. Fortunately the reverence for the power of the Emperor caused a popular support that even the die hards could not ovelook.

    The Allied servicemen (American, British, Australian, even Russian) facing the possibility of invading Japan and fighting street by street through the sort of fanatical opposition that had cost hundreds of thousands of dead in Germany, should be very grateful that the Japanese system was not a Republic.

    MacArthur recognized this, and his new Japanese constitution came much closer to a constitutional monarchy than to a republic. That is why I think he deserves credit for reforming Japan. (At least he was not stupid enough to follow his governments preferences and force a Republic into existence, as was done to Germany after the First World War, and to so many places in the modern world that are now best described as dictatorships.)

    1. I'm glad somebody else knows enough about Japanese history to realize that there has very rarely ever been a Chinese-style "Emperor" or European-style Monarch in Japan.
      The only consistent role of Japanese "emperors" is in relation to spiritual matters, and carrying out sacred ceremonies. As such the imperial family in Japan is more similar to a Pope or Dalai Lama.
      Very rarely did they have any actual power -- in fact this is exactly why a single "royal" dynasty has managed to last. There was no reason to kill them off in order for somebody to take power. There's a famous saying in Japan that if the rebels win the battle, they become the "Imperial Army". And there's more than a few instances of exactly that happening; most recently the Sat-Cho Alliance.
      Even from the very first "imperial sovereign" which we have record of (thanks to the Chinese), Himiko, did not actually rule. The Chinese describe her as their leader - but go on to state that her brother handled all the secular affairs. After her death, her brother attempted to take full control but there was unrest. As a result, Himiko's daughter was installed while secular power continued to be delegated to others.
      When Japan's own written record moves out of the mythological stage, we find "kings" being ruled by their maternal grandfathers' line. This was because the mother's family raised their children; and as a result these "kings" were almost always puppets of their mother's family. If they didn't bend to the wishes of their mother's clan, they would be assassinated and replaced.
      Archaeologists also believe the oft movement of capitols prior to Nara was a result of shifting power amongst clans and the imperial line being controlled by these power brokers.
      During the Heian period it reaches such a point where the "emperor" is almost always a child; with the male head of their mother's clan being named as regent. Once the child-emperors reached an age of maturity, they would retire. Indeed, these "cloistered emperors" found it was easier for them to gain some political clout once they were no longer in any official position... and out from under the thumb and close scrutiny of their in-law family.
      These cloistered emperors (as many as 5 living at the same time), attempted to consolidate power in their hands by playing their captors against the rising Samurai warrior class. This, however, proved fruitless. When the Samurai Taira Kiyomori gained the upper hand, he took power for himself and married his own daughter into the imperial line -- and then had his infant grandson declared emperor.

    2. The cloistered emperors then attempted to pit the Samurai against each other in order to oust Kiyomori. But this proved even more disastrous for them. Even though the Minamoto won and ended the Taira line (At the final battle, Kiyomori's wife grabbed the infant emperor Antoku and plunged into the sea -- drowning them both) ... even though the Taira were finished, the victorious Minamoto decided that rather than marrying into the imperial line and becoming weak nobility, they would establish a Military Dictatorship. And thus the first shogunate was born... and all the nobility and the imperial family was completely devoid of any political meaning whatsoever.
      Ironically, however, the pattern repeated nonetheless. As soon as the progenitor of the first Shogunate - Yoritomo - died, his wife's family grabbed power through her sons and ruled as de factor regents to the Shoguns who ruled in the name of a powerless "emperor" which was still controlled by their own regent.
      My favorite example is Yoritomo's 2nd son (the first proved to not be pliable enough for their mother's family and was disposed of) ... Sanetomo. Being fearful of assassination and having no will to rule himself, he devoted his time to poetry. As such, he became the "Right Minister" at the imperial court. The powerless Shogun being a Minister to the powerless Emperor... writing poetry together.
      From 701 to 1924, the Fujiwara clan had a virtual monopoly on marrying daughters to the imperial line. Even though the position of "emperor" or "regent" had ceased to have any political meaning by the end of the 12th century with the conclusion of the Gempei War and the establishment of the Kamakura Shogunate.

  5. I don't know. I mean results are results, and in the case of MacArthur in the offensives in new guinea and the phillipines the results were pretty good.

    1. He actually has a very poor record on results.
      He lost the Philippines easily -- and fled while leaving Americans behind to pay the price. He made poor strategic decisions because he was more concerned with his honor and appearances amongst the Filipino government than he was in making sound military decisions. Nonetheless, he left in the most dishonorable way possible. Songs like "Fortunate Son" are written for people like MacArthur.
      Nor would it be the last time he put his personal glory and political endeavors above sound strategic decisions.

      When we took the Philippines back, the Japanese army was literally starving to death. His "success" on that front is mostly attributable to the successful use of unrestricted submarine warfare and the Navy cracking Japanese encryption. The result was decimated virtually non-existent Japanese supply lines -- leaving their troops in very precarious positions.

    2. But the worst was during his leadership in the Korean War. MacArthur was so busy playing politics; having promised Americans that the war would be over in time for Christmas. He pushed the Army beyond sound strategic limits, stringing them out. He ignored History's lesson with respect to Korea - betting that China won't get involved is like betting against the Russian Winter. It's guaranteed to yield disastrous results.
      When the Chinese did cross, they first dismantled the South Korean Divisions rendering them virtually nonexistent. Despite this, MacArthur persisted with his political endeavors and pushed the US military to become even more strung out.
      With the US 8th Army advancing up the Western side and the X Corps (primarily consisting of 1st Marine Division and a handful of largely untested and ad-hoc Army and National Guard units) advancing up the Eastern side... and the South Koreans linking them in the middle having been utterly destroyed... we were almost driven out of the Korean peninsula entirely.
      Thanks to MacArthur's personal agenda, the ROK II Corps, the 8th Cavalry Regiment, the 2nd Army Division, the Turkish Brigade, the 1st Marine Division, the 1st Cavalry Division suffered heavy casualties.
      Indeed, only the 1st Marine Division actually prepared themselves for the Chinese. Refusing the follow MacArthur's political agenda and realizing the Chinese had entered the war in force, General Oliver Smith's 1st MarDiv took it's time moving around the Chosin Reservoir. Agitated with the Marines, MacArthur's subordinate running X Corps had Task Force MacClean (later Faith) formed out of the US Army's 7th Division take over responsibilities on the East side of the reservoir. Thereby leaving 1st MarDiv with responsibility of just the West side -- and hopefully causing them to hurry up.
      It was this fateful decision - again made for MacArthur's political agenda - which resulted in the almost total annihilation of Task Force Faith.
      Being the only UN infantry which had been afforded the opportunity to maintain their battle order and advance at a reasonable rate - the 1st MarDiv was left surrounded by the Chinese military; and Mao Ze Dong explicitly ordering them to annihilate the Marines. Thus resulting in the infamous Battle of Chosin Reservoir in which the Marine Corps executed a tactical withdrawal surrounded on all sides to the sea. While it was indeed a retreat, they exacted crushing casualties on the Chinese. Whereas the Army retreat on the other side of Korea happened in a state of panic, leaving supplies and material in a headlong run back to Seoul.
      While the Marines demonstrated what makes them a world-class fighting force; I believe their counterparts in the Army were just as capable. What separates them in this instance was leadership. The Army command - under MacArthur - sold their infantry down the river for the promise of political careers. Whereas the Marine command stuck to sound war strategy.

      And indeed, once Ridgway took command of the 8th Army and did as he pleased (allowing MacArthur to play his politics while Ridgway acted as a real military commander) ... the US Army acquitted themselves quite well.
      Quite honestly, I find MacArthur to be a self-serving pos. It's a shame that he was ever allowed to become a General, because he proved quite incompetent at it.
      I will admit, however, that he was a rather able politician. But a politician should never be a general. And a general in active service should never put politics ahead of their job: waging war.

  6. The early victories against advancing Japanese crack troops were won by the Australians, despite MacArthurs interference not because of it.

    Later assaults on Japanese positions by inadequately prepared and supported troops led to mutual slaughter, and such bad results that MacArthur told one US general to force a breakthrough or die trying.

    He never went anywhere near the New Guinea battlefields to find out what he didn't know.

    When the Japanese were reduced to isolated garrisons, his bypassing operations succeeded... as would bypassing operations run by even the worst general of the whole war by that stage. Most of the isolated Japanese troops were reduced to trying to grow enough food to survive, and were no threat to anyone by that stage.

    I am fairly happy to write off his efforts in New Guinea.

    The return to the Philippines is more interesting.

    1. Why? The Chiefs of Staff wanted to bypass it and go to Formosa as both easier and more valuable to winning the war. It was MacArthurs ego that prevented this.

    2. Why that way? Frontal attacks were one way to wipe out the Japanese, but not the best.

    3. Why so simplistic? Amongst other things, his tactics helped cause the bloodbath that was Manila.

    There was no doubt he learned as he went (the Korean operations demonstrate that even the worst general with experience is better than generals with no experience), but that is still a long way from saying he was a good general.

    His troops despised him, his generals hated him, his allies loathed him, he failed more often than he succeeded until the air and sea power supporting him was so overwhelming that all he had to do was insist on taking enough casualties to win the day. Even then his tactics were nothing special, and I suspect many American soldiers should thank God he wasn't commanding the invasion of Japan.

    Great colonial administrator of the US Empire, yes. Great general, no.

  7. Greatest General - Douglas MacArthur

  8. who do you consider a great general?

    1. Geo. Washington. Robert E. Lee. Omar Bradlen. Mahatma Kane Jeeves.

      ~ Respectfully,

      Jacomus d'Paganus-Fatuus

    2. Gearge Washington? One serious comment on teh Wart of Independence is that the Americans never realised how lucky they were that none ofg the good British generals (and they did have some) accepted commissions to fight in a cause they disliked.

      Washington was bvery lucky that only second or third rate generals ever faced him.

      Even then he was lucky to get away with some of his more foolish decisions.

      He was a great political leader, but should not in any way be classified as a good general.

      Lee is better, but lacked decisvieness. I would rank him an upper second.

      I will be posting on teh other two in future posts.

    3. George Washington won few battles due to inadequate troops and supplies, but through brilliant maneuver (and spending a tenth of his entire budget on spies and intel) still achieved strategic victory.

      Saw the same thing in a limited communication historical simulation I refereed for over four years. One side lost nearly every tactical naval battle they engaged in, but their strategic maneuvering and coordination for repair and replenishment was so much more efficient that the other side was constantly retreating, trying to pull back far enough to finally get enough time to properly deal with their damage, casualties and replenishment.

      MacArthur should have been sacked after the attack on the Philippines right after Pearl Harbor, as he had the advance warning that Pearl Harbor did not get. I won't praise his achievements after that, since other generals who did get what they deserved after gross failure did not get the opportunity to come back afterwards, so some of them could very well have come back even better than MacArthur.

    4. Washington made the gigantic mistake of attempting to hold New York without a fleet. Any New Yorker - who can't go anywhere without crossing at least one bridge, if not a tunnel, will tell you what an error that is. Early in the war, he also tried tactics that were simply too sophisticated for the half trained troops he had. His constantly having to defer to the Continental Congress didn't work well. You'll notice that the Constitution, which he helped write, made the President CiC. Although it took 150 years to solve the problem of political generals.

    5. I would disagree with you, Nigel, over Washington. He needs to be given credit for fighting a large, highly trained and well equipped army (supported by the most powerful Navy in the world) with under equipped and under-fed troops who had little to no combat experience and little to no training. What the American military did during the Revolutionary War is nigh a miracle considering the circumstances. Thanks.

    6. Stonewall Jackson, Ulysses Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, James Longstreet, Vo Nguyen Giap, Erwin Rommel, and Stormin Norman.

  9. Very biased review, mostly (I gather) based upon disdain for MacArthur's self promotion and ego.

    British Field Marshal Alan Brooke (who mostly commanded the European Theatre) looked abroad and considered MacArthur the best Allied general of the war, and he probably was.

    1. Dear Anonymous
      I agree with you. Such disdain displayed by MacArthur detractors are based mostly on myths and apocryphal evidence. See for example this recent movie review of "Emperor" on MacArthur, Hirohito et al. GOOGLE: Emperor, movie, armchair general.

      Now back to your point: There was certainly a strong theatrical element in the man's persona (this is nothing new and actually expected of charismatic leaders in Asia), and complete confidence in his own judgement which he did not try to conceal. But many great generals have displayed the same character traits. They did not prevent him from exercising considerable diplomatic and political skill. As you mentioned, Field Marshal Lord Alanbrook himself (Monty's boss) unequivically pronounced him to be the greatest strategist the war produced, and Alanbrooke was by no means indulgent in his judgments on American Commanders. Some of these comments were excerpted from Windrow, M and Mason, F. "The Wordsworth Dictionary of Military Biography." London: Window & Green. 1990.

    2. Bias? I'm not sure about that. Here are a few facts: Largest surrender of troops to a foreign enemy in US history which led to the Bataan Death March; Fact-MacArthur GROUNDED the Air Force AFTER the Pearl Harbor attacks. Fact-His army was woefully underequipped and after more than three years of Japanese aggression in Asia was still not properly trained to fight the war plans that he and his staff had drawn up. Fact-When the Japanese military did attack his Air Force was destroyed-on the ground-and he did not leave his penthouse for two days all the while issuing no orders to his commanders.
      He was by no stretch a good general simply for the fact that his forces were unprepared. It is the responsibility of the "Captain General" to prepare his forces, he did not. Later, when he was for some reason given a new command, he was not a good commander because he did not care what happened to his men, only his image was of concern. He was a poor general, criminally, and not a good person in any respect.

  10. Who do I consider a great general? Well I admit to being very biased to the common soldiers benefit. Note that is benefit, not perspective. Many soldiers have loved generals who are colourful, charismatic, vain, indecisive, incompetent, and useless. By contrast many soldiers have not loved careful and clever generals, and therefore probably do not give their best to them.
    The best generals have both the technical abilities for command and the leadership abilities to inspire. Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar, Edward I, the Duke of Wellington. In WWII Marshall Zhukov is a good example. Precious few of these on the Western Allied side (at least at the highest ranks).
    The second rank have excellent technical ability first, and develope the leadership veneer second. Montgomery probably is a good example, but note he never really mastered the second craft, letting it get out of control in his persona.
    The third rank have leadership in spades, and develope technical skills as they go. They need time to mature into their craft, but become good if they are mentored carefully. (This is the default for the vast majority of reasonably good generals.) Alexander made it this far, and Patton had the potential to be here too.
    The fourth rank are just competent across the board. Eichenberger and Horrocks spring to mind.
    The fifth rank have enough competence in enough areas to survive, but have real weaknesses in some vital areas. This is the most common 'successful' general, and the skill of higher command is assigning these to the right roles, and never promoting them to the wrong roles.
    Equally common are the 'unsuccessful, who may be exactly the same sort men as the 'successful', but with less thoughtful higher commanders.
    The dangerous ones are those who have charisma, and a smattering of ability, but who then get completely carried away by their own propaganda and ignore reality. Patton skirted the edge of this, and I would say that Alexander struggled to cross from this to the third rank.
    MacArthur is difficult in that his list of weaknesses and losses are longer than his list of strengths and successes. Given overwhelming resources he eventually managed the same sort of Blitzkreig that any other moderately competent general could have managed with the same resources. But in the real tests, on the defensive, under pressure, and in management of his own subordinates and allies: I would go with the opinions of his subordinates, the vast majority of whom despised him.
    He did not care for his troops, he was wasteful of their lives, and disinterested in their problems, and he treated the battlefront generals trying to deliver for him with contempt. Any armchair strategist (and admittedly there are many) who imagines that these are indications of greatness, is exactly the sort of person who appoints the wrong man for the wrong job and pays for it with the lives of the troops.

  11. Yes, I largely agree with Brooke's comments on MacArthur, but your point that Brooke had very little to do with fighting in the Pacific underlines my hesitations. And you can always quote selectively from the emotional releases Brooke made in his diary and get quite the wrong impression in comparison to his overall viewpoint (even about people he knew well like Churchill, let alone distant and vague figures like MacArthur.).
    Still Brooke made several comments about MacArthur in his diaries, so lets list every one of them that is more substantive than just his name in passing reports.
    According to the index of the 2001 'unexpergated' release of his diaries, here are a grand total of 6 of them.
    15.4.1942 "MacArthur... constitutes another threat by asking for more forces"
    12.5.1942 "If we did not see that MacArthur's requests were met we would be forced to part with 9th Australian XX... or 2nd British Infantry XX and 8th Armoured XX... [His envoy/lackey the Australian Minister Evatt] failed to see that defeat in the Middle East, India and the Indian Ocean would inevitably lead to invasion of Australia."
    21.11.1942 [Commenting in retrospect about being particularly appalled with Marshall] "I have often wondered since the war how different things might have been if I had had MacArthur instead of Marshall to deal with. From everything I saw of him I put him down as the greatest general of the last war. he certainly showed a far greater strategic grasp than Marshall."
    14.2.1944 "apparently Nimitx and MacArthur have never yet met... King and MacArthur are totally opposed in their plans..."
    26.5.1944 "Curtin entirely in MacArthur's pocket... I know this outlook was not shared by the rest of Australia."
    1.6.1944. "We have to steer clear between the rocks of Winston's ramblings... Curtin's subjugation to MAcArthur, MacArthur's love of the limelight, Kings desire to wrap all the laurel's around his head, and last but not least real sound strategy!"
    Now I know many people think the throw away line about 'greatest general' is significant, but in the context of his whole diary he makes many throw away lines about Winston being a menace and Smuts being a genius and Eisenhower being shallow, which are not the context you get from reading the whole work.
    These 6 statements tell you virtually all he knew about the man.
    The main point of his quote is to acknowledge that, as far as Brooke could tell from a distance, MacArthur's strategic ability was clearly far far superior to any other American he had met. In the overall context of the diaries this is not saying much, and it would be drawing a pretty long bow to hang MacArthur's reputation on such a thing. (Particularly as Brooke had also called Montgomery, Zhukov and Rommel the greatest generals at other points in his diaries - which might argue that he just meant 'in that particular army'.)

  12. On Brooke's comments on MacArthur - part 2
    Now my personal viewpoint is to agree that MacArthur had a better strategic understanding than any other American general. I think that Brooke was 100% correct to think that the world would have been better off with MacArthur behind the main desk in Washington rather than Marshall. (Of two generals who had no idea how to run an army in the field, you are always better having the strategist in the back office than the accountant.)
    In fact I would go so far as to say that MacArthur was second only to Churchill in the war for a sense of Geo-Political advantage, and probably more successful at outwitting Washington to get things the way he wanted than Churchill was (largely because he was more duplicitious).
    But that in no way changes my sense that he was a disaster in the field. More importantly, anyone who has read Brooke's diary in detail will be well aware that Brooke would have sacked any general who behaved like MacArthur to his men, so it is hard to imagine that he would have been so casual with his comments had he known any more of the truth than these 6 comments reveal he already knew.

    1. Actually in an army that depends on it's logistics, as the American Army did, you are better with the accountant. Amateurs talk strategy and tactics, professionals talk logistics.

  13. I can't help agreeing with Mr. Davis, though I know several people who would be appalled. I do believe that a dual axis of advance in the Pacific was truly wasteful, and mostly a function of interservice rivalry between Army and Navy. In my opinion, MacArthur's axis was the more correct of the two rather than the preferred Navy route across the Pacific in search of a grand slogging match between battle fleets. MacArthur's plan makes more sense in that it would have quickly strangled the Japanese trade routes which were absolutely vital to her remaining in the war. While I think he was correct in his preference, I still do not afford him credit for his assertions that the Navy plan was wasteful of American lives because when finally presented with the opportunity of returning to the Philippines, he became obsessed with liberating every single island of the archipelago, thus completely discrediting his purported enthusiam for bypassing Japanese garrisons, or "hitting them where they ain't."

    1. The advance across the Central Pacific was preferred by the Navy and the Army, not to mention the Army Air Forces. The Navy wasn't looking for a slogging match, they simply recognized that Naval strength depended upon industrial power, and the US far out weighed the Japanese - as even the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto recognized. MacArthur only got his own separate front because of his publicity value. Although the two fronts turned out to be supportive of each other. The Japanese never knew where to turn or to mass their forces. An the American ability to man and support those two fronts, made Admiral Yamamoto's forebodings prescient.

    2. Dear Anonymous
      Here I go again agreeing with you. I find that your overall input in this blog is right on target than say 95% of what I've read so far, incl. much of the long-winded, knee-jerk reaction that usually comes from those inveterate MacArthur bashers and Truman partisans.

      A salient point on the Philippines: True - sentiment, politics and personal vanity all played a part in this but MacArthur wanted to retake at least the island of Luzon (the size of Ireland and Belgium combined) vs. Formosa (Taiwan)because Manila Bay had one of the world's finest harbors, and aircraft based in Luzon, would command the entire south China Sea and finish off Japan from its oil-producing (and other critical raw materials) southeast Asian empire, subsequently ending its capacity to wage war earlier.

      Seizing the Philippine island of Leyte on Oct 1944 would enable MacArthur to invade Luzon two months ahead of schedule. Taking Formosa would have to wait until after victory in Europe, because Nimitz would require up to 200,000 army service troops for the operation and they did not exist. But there were enough troops for operations in the Philippines, whose friendly inhabitants would provide much of the needed labor.

      In the end,almost no one except Admiral King, head of US Naval Operations and Nimitz' boss, liked Formosa as an objective, and on October 3 he finally gave in. The Joint Chiefs then directed MacArthur to invade Luzon in December. Much of this source is taken from Prof. William O'Neill's "Essential Guide to WW II. Oxford University Press, Inc. 2002.

  14. To Oscar:

    MacArthur was a coward? 2 Distinguished Service Crosses, 7 Silver Stars, 3 Purple Hearts, 3 times nominated for the Medal of Honor. I would like to see how impressive your battle record is son.

    Best wishes,


    P.S. Mac also achieved the third highest score in West Point's academic history when he graduated first in his class in 1903. It is safe to say that the posters here on this blog possess less than one-tenth of Mac's intellect. And it would be nice for the Aussies to "man up" and not bitch at Mac for their own failures in battle.

    1. Macarthur had the highest academic score in the history of modern West Point. The other two higher scores were both in the same earlier class ( with Robert E. Lee was second)
      You ignore his WW I record which was as a fighting field commander who was greatly lived by his troops.
      His two great faults were his airfields on Dec 7 1941 and his flight from the phillipines - where he was denied..
      the resources to defend effectively.
      In WW2 his island-hopping strategy implementation ( which you snidely refer to as born out of necessity rather than genius - and which you say he has no claim to authorship)is required study in all military schools. Alanbrooke calls it one of the all-time great military strategies.He also had the lowest loss-of-life numbers of any WW2 field commander. You mention Inchon in a passing note - it was also one of the greatestlandings/strategies of all time. Japan was just the icing on the cake of genius.
      He was an ambitious self-promoter as was Cesaer, Alexander Napoleon ( it seems to be part of military genius DNA) Would you rather go into combat under a commander who was a confident egomaniac or a commander with an inferiority complex??? He was a realist,a genius, a self-promoter - AND HEW WALKED THE WALK AND THANK GOD WE HAD HIM RATHER THAN THE japanese

    2. Where MacArthur fought, the Japanese always had the choice of withdrawing, either into the jungles of New Guinea, the Philippines, or some of the jungle islands like Biak. On some of the islands of the central Pacific there was really nowhere for the Japanese to go. Not to mention that the troops defending them knew that these islands would bring the Americans within bombing range of the Home Islands. Suffice it to say the defenders fought suicidally.

    3. "...7 Silver Stars..."

      5 more silver stars than Rambo...how much credibility do we give this man?

      Did Macarthur personally destroy 7 pillboxes or haul 7 dying buddies back to his line under suicidal fire, dive on a grenade 7 times to protect his squad etc etc...I strongly doubt it.

      He won the medal of honour for supposedly doing a good job defending Philippines, even though he slinked off aboard a submarine to live another day, while his poor minions got death marched out of Corregidor.

      Hardly a John Basilone.

  15. Nigel Davies said... but it is not really possible to call him a good general if most of his troops despised him and hated serving under him. (Not my definition of general anyway.)

    REPLY: I hope you are not a manager of people. You should study the management essays regarding the movie "Twelve O'Clock High" and General Frank Savage. Being a successful manager does not mean having your troops Love you- quite the opposite. Better they fear you and learn to respect their own abilities as demanded of them by such men. Some people confuse respect with hatred.

    The more I read about McArthurs accomplishments, they more I have come to realize how underrated his achievement have been appreciated. His post Japan attitude should have been a model to the US after the Soviet Afghanistan war, and almost every other Middle East War they have since screwed up and left a population hanging in the breeze.

    Regarding his desire for fighting the Chinese: strategically he was right, but at the wrong time. Yet the fact is, it was the Communists agreed to the starting of the whole N Korean mess. Yet would WWW3 been the outcome- maybe not. Hindsight?

    But no doubt Japan and his previous campaigns had amazing long term outcomes. Could his number have been up with trying to keep N. Korea?

    1. I've never understood why the US was afraid that the Soviets would intervene on the part of the Red Chinese. what exactly did they have to gain? I've always wondered if this had much do with an objective strategic analysis, or more to do with the communists infesting the State Dept.

    2. "Regarding his desire for fighting the Chinese: strategically he was right, but at the wrong time."

      Absolutely ridiculous, the whole thing about China is the next big bogeyman since the Soviet Union is bogus.

      Managed carefully, China's appearance as a superpower is perfectly reasonable and theres no need for the western world to pee its pants.

  16. I second the comments dated 23 dec 2011 and 28 Dec 2011. I'm a retired Army LTC and believe MacArthur was one the bravest and best Generals this nation ever produced.

    There was a moral imperative along with military reasons for liberating the phillipines. Real world logistics ruled out Formosa at the time. Plus- the Phillipinos actively supported us during the operations and fought valiantly as a Guerilla force believing we would return.

    It would have been interesting to see MacArthur as Chief of Staff or Chairman of the JCS in WW2.

    For the critics- would do you think could have done a better job at defending the PI in 1941-42? Given the severe underequipping and underfunding of the PI army and US forces in the PI? MacArthur @ 1937 visited Washington to try to get 1917 Enfield rifles in storage for the PI- Got turned down- who's to blame for that?

  17. I don't know who the Oscar who called MacArthur a coward is, and I don't think I entirely agree with the perspective, but it reads like a comment from many of his men (both American and Australian), so I won't criticise it too much.

    On the issue of whether MacArthur was a coward, I would say probably not. Certainly not in his wild younger days in Central America and even in France. But there is evidence that he became far more safety conscious in the Philippines.

    This actually raises the interesting point of when senior offices get too important to risk at he front. Churchill, Brooke, and Marshall, perhaps even Nimitz, were too important to risk at the front. Alexander probably was too as an Army Group and later Theatre commander, and it is possible to criticise him for rashness near the front. (Slim complains of him setting a bad example to the troops in Burma by refusing to duck.) But Patton was known to make himself scarce pretty fast in the face of artillery fire in 1944, and as a relatively minor Army commander a sense of being invaluable was clearly more in his own mind than in those of his men.

    Personally I believe that MacArthur had fallen for calling himself a Field Marshall for years, and actually felt he was too valuable to lose, which was probably wrong, but not necessarily much of a reflection on his bravery.

    On the other hand all the medals listed for him do not impress either. Eisenhower had as many medals, and the closest he got to combat was shooting at (and missing) a rat in a bathroom in Italy. (Americans are often considered a bit of a joke for awarding campaign medals to people sitting in offices in Washington anyway.)

    But my gripe with MacArthur's so called heroism is the obvious and blatant propaganda, and lies, in his many attempts to claim medals he probably didn't deserve. If you want a really good laugh, read the write up he did when he put himself forward for a Congressional Medal of Honor in his unauthorised and highly unlikely antics in Central America.

    There is a difference between being genuinely brave and heroic, and being showy and a braggart. The evidence on this is not in MacArthur's favour.

    1. One of the many decorations awarded MacArthur was the Distinguished Flying Cross, on the recommendation of his staff due to him flying over the Nadzab Valley in a DC3 to observe operations. He was reported to be as "proud as a schoolboy" upon having the medal pinned on him. He loved medals and acquired enough to melt down and build a jeep. As for his Medal of Honor [sic] ... one can but wonder what his award did to the standing of that decoration.

  18. Very much well researched regarding the true nature of Douglas MacArthur. However you are mistaken on the assault made by the Japanese on the Bataan peninsula. The defenders of Bataan fought bravely against a much stronger opposition who controls the air and sea with sufficient logistics. The fall of Malaya and singapore was not due to prioritization on that theater as mentioned but due to Japanese superior skills, planning and support. In the Philippines while this was on going the Japanese was thwarted due to tenacity of the defenders refusing o surrender or even to give grounds. The Japanese had to wait for additional reinforcement plus the lack of logistical and medical support on the defenders that doomed Bataan. Due to the failure of the part of gen homma, he relieved of his command. This is very much different on the statements that you made. Singapore fell with almost intact force. The bataan and Corregidor defenders were decimated thus the surrender.

  19. Not convinced about Bataan sorry.

    Even Wikipedia - notoriously pro American in viewpoint - makes this point about Bataan:

    "The Japanese high command, believing they had won the campaign, made a strategic decision to advance by a month their timetable of operations in Borneo and Indonesia, withdrawing their best division and the bulk of their airpower in early January 1942.[4] This, coupled with the decision of the defenders to withdraw into a defensive holding position in the Bataan Peninsula, enabled the Americans and Filipinos to successfully hold out for four more months."

    The simple fact was that once the only effective opposition in the Philippines had been bottled up in an out of the way spot, it was left to quietly stew while troops and materials finished more urgent tasks. Only after the end of the Malayan, Burmese, Netherlands East Indies, and most of the island campaigns were complete, did the final assault on Bataan come. (During the interregnum before the second wave operations around New Guinea and Guadalcanal and Midway. April 3, when it was launched, coincided with the Imperial Japanese Navy's Indian Ocean raid... ie: all vital operations over, so time for a few tidy up efforts.)

    The Japanese records, and the journals of their generals, make it clear that surprisingly quick retreat to Bataan allowed rediversion of resources to more important area. (I also disagree with the concept of Homma 'failing'. He is probably amongst the more balanced Japanese generals. Try his wikipedia article.)

    This is not to say that the troops on both sides at Bataan did not fight hard, or that the battle did not tie down some Japanese resources for a while. But I sometimes wonder if having civilians around as in Singapore might have led to an earlier surrender and less suffering for the troops? Perhaps that would have allowed the Japanese to expand further in other areas, so the sacrifices were worthwhile. And perhaps not (given that logistics was the real Japanese bottleneck, not troop numbers).

    I am always willing to applaud noble sacrifice (particularly for a useful purpose), but unfortunately I am not convinced that the suffering at Bataan did very much to help the allied war effort.

    1. This to me is the real point, not whether MacArthur was a great general or not. The fact is, for the most part he was an irrelevant general. The Pacific War was won with supply lines (including manufacturing might), code-breaking, and the US Navy -- planes and ships. You can argue all you want about how good a fighter MacArthur was in New Guinea and the Philippines, but the war wasn't won in those places. His strategic emphasis, expressed in his constant whining to Marshall, was for the most part wrong. Nimitz is the guy who won the damn war in the Pacific.

      As for whether he was a "good person", or his troops liked him or not, or he was a "coward" or not, I couldn't care less.

    2. I disagree with the statement that the pacific war was won with supply lines. I think it was an important think to consider and one thing the Americans did well that should have been massively expanded was the use of roving submarines to attack the Jap supply lines. It was devastating, but the Americans should've deployed more and more subs to this role. Its amazing they didn't when it was so effective.

      The American commanders in the Pacific suffered from severe fog of war and information problems. Peleliu and Iwo Jima have gone down in history as 2 of the most bloody battles ever fought, but later in history have been shown to be (1) in the case of Peleliu completely unnecessary and (2) in the case of Iwo Jima, very likely unnecessary.

      The attack on Philippines was unnecessary, Formosa was aborted...thankfully. The truth about the pacific war is that was effectively won by the allies after Midway and Guadalcanal...the IJN was neutered, Japan was basically wide open, the supply lines were bleeding. Attacking Marianas then Okinawa then mainland ... or ... attack north from Alaska to Hokkaido...or...sail straight through, smash airpower along the way...land in southern china and attack along the coast in a lightning offensive to Korea and then threaten Japan from the Asian mainland...these 3 options are the ones that made the best sense imo.

      People were scared that the Japanese were more capable and had more than they really did in my opinion. It was an era with no internet or emails...no sat phones...it was snail mail and telegrams...phones if you were lucky...generals didn't know so much and this fog of war...this situation of hidden information...bred strategies that were way too conservative and paradoxically ended up being way more wasteful in men killed and wounded.

  20. Aside from his personallity which you obviously dislike, I don't see any true criticism of Macarthur here. He used the recources available to him to great success. That is what all generals do. So he was not a good person, neither was Napoleon, or Alexander, or Wellington whose troops hated him. (Wellington once said of his troops "they are the scum of the earth") They were still great genreals and so was Macarthur.

    1. Out of the commanders you mentioned...the only one that I can agree with was Alexander. A brilliant commander...although like many others, lacked the ability to hang on to his conquest...which to me is probably THE most important part of military conquest, as there is no point conquering only to a few years later lose it all.

      Macarthur was the guy the yanks put here...he wasn't that great...the Australian commander Blamey was pretty terrible too. If general marshall had been in charge down here in Australia, things would've no doubt been very different. And indeed, if a commander like Montgomery (GB) or Manstein (Nazi) was commanding the defence of Australia and the SE Asian area...strategy would've been much more interesting and effective in my honest opinion.

  21. It's not surprising to see by these posts that so many people are still taken in by the Douglas macarthur myth,especially ex-servicemen who have clearly been brainwashed by the political and military propaganda.Every so called 'achievement' of this poncing poseur was either invented or exaggerated by himself or by subsequent court historians.Nigel Davies article is very perceptive though i do think too much credit is given to Macarthur re the occupation of japan.The amnesty offered to Hirohito[and the royal family]meant that the second greatest war criminal of world war 2 walked free and the repercussions are felt to this day with many japanese refusing to accept their nation's responsibility for the war and the horrific war crimes perpetrated by imperial Japan.It should also be mentioned that on Macarthur's insistence many of the worst war criminals of the entire war were secretly protected[unit 731].
    As for the man himself,he was a liar,an egotist,an opportunist,a self promoter and a dangerous narcissist who put himself first and his country and his troops a distant last.The great publicity machine which he exploited may have fooled the general public but his own soldiers and his masters in Washington were wide awake to his true nature.When this self-aggrandizing maniac sought to provoke China and use nuclear weapons in a tactical situation during the korean war, the time had come for him to be dismissed for his renegade attitude and failure to obey orders.Ironic,it is,that the one order he was only too happy to obey throughout his career was the order to flee like a rat from the Phillipines and leave his command to its wretched fate.

    1. So who is the villian then? MacArthur for being himself, or the Allied High Command who you say knew his "true nature" but still placed him in such an important position?

    2. in my opinion,both were the villain.Macarthur may have been a wretched self-serving PR man of no substance but that is quite in keeping with the usual Washington political mindset!It was only when his recklessness got out of control with his loose cannon antics of the korean war that he had to be cut down.During the pacific war The lionizing myths of the 'war hero' returning to the philippines married nicely with the government's own great propaganda campaigns of the war which emphasized the courageous fight for freedom,delivery from tyranny etc etc[which were in reality not what drove foreign policy...and still don't].They were happy to go along with the ridiculously exaggerated accounts of the brave defence of the philippines and all the heroic nonsense because it was important for their political survival too.Roosevelt would have sensed the opportunity of reflected glory in having the Macarthur myth roll on while the war continued.
      The shameful episodes of the Hirohito amnesty which corrupted the proceedings of the war crimes trials,and the amnesty granted to one of the principle players in The rape of Nanking[because he was royalty]could not have happened without the U.S government's consent.Nor could the pardon granted to one of history's worst war criminals Dr.Ishii[who made Mengele look like an amateur] and his staff,have happened.

    3. Most of your points I find reasonable, but again, I have to disagree on the Japanese Emperor.

      Americans (and French and other people's with an elected Presidential executive rather than just non-executive head of state), seem to fail to understand that in other societies the head of state is not to blame for the governments activities.

      Queen Elizabeth II 'rules' over (meaning she is head of state, but not executive government) dozens of different states, with dozens of different governments. Some have been good, and some bad. Some have been disastrous, and some evil. but most have been elected executives, and it is NOT her role to stop them carrying out their stupid, and sometimes criminal, plans, unless they start playing silly beggars with the constitution which it is her role to protect.

      In practical terms a constitutional monarch provides the stability role the US system thought it could put into the Supreme court (before politicization of that body undermined most of that).

      The Italian king sacked Mussolini's government and declared peace, DESPITE the fact that the Mussolini government was the 'democratically' approved system.

      The Japanese Emperor also sacked his government when he thought he could get away with it. (The atomic bomb being his 'excuse' to finally act.)

      I do not think much of either these two monarchs, but at least they were willing to save their states. Who was around to do that for Germany? (Also an elected dictator…)

      Please, please don't confuse head of state with executive… Bad history.

    4. "The Japanese Emperor also sacked his government when he thought he could get away with it. (The atomic bomb being his 'excuse' to finally act.)"

      And this should confirm to people that the Japanese Empire as a nation and with the Emperor as its figurehead was a despicable thing. I completely disagree with the reasoning that there would've been civil strife if the emperor had been removed from power and executed.

      I personally believe that America should've declared Japan a territory of the US and absorbed it eventually, similar to what they did with Hawaii and go from there.

      The US was too isolationist and probably too nice tbh...its good that they have a nice attitude to the world...and love democracy etc....but who can really deny how awesome it would've been if Japan was now a series of US states.

  22. RobM1981@yahoo.com here.

    MacArthur was a political problem for Roosevelt, so Roosevelt gave him something that kept him busy - but had no real impact on the war other than absorbing supplies that could have been better used elsewhere.

    The only theater that mattered in the Pacific was the Central Pacific. Nimitz and LeMay won the Pacific War, period. They knew that the winning strategy involved sinking the IJN, starving the island-nation, and getting air bases close enough to bomb it to dust.

    There was never a need to invade. There was never a need to take New Guinea or the Phillipines. These were side-shows, much like using Stillwell to appease Kai-Shek and Churchill. The actual war - the part that involved getting Japan to surrender - was the road to Saipan.

    You can argue that the threat of MacArthur kept the Japanese from further reinforcing the Solomons in 1942. That's a valid point. Guadalcanal might have been lost if the Japanese were really confident that they could divert more to it. Maybe.

    By Summer of 1943, however, there was no stopping Nimitz. Once the torpedo problems were solved, the Essex carriers and their flood of well trained crews and aircrews were deployed, the modern BB's, the flood of DD's came online, etc. Japan was doomed.

    Deploy just enough to Australia to ensure security.
    Take Central Pacific islands, ending with Saipan and Guam.
    Guam becomes the new Pearl Harbor and is the main base for the USN
    Saipan becomes a giant USAAF base
    Take Iwo (arguable) as a USAAF rescue-airfield.
    Sink the IJN, sink every merchant, and raze the Japanese homeland (with or without nukes). Starve and isolate the whole nation.

    Demand surrender.

    If Yes, you win.

    If No, re-deploy the victorious ETO assets to China, and crush the Imperial Army there, while continuing to starve/bomb Japan.

    That would definitely do it. By December 1946 Japan would cease to exist.

    No need to even look at New Guinea, the Phillipines, etc.

    MacArthur needed to be kept busy and to assuage his ego, but he never led a meaningful piece of the war.

  23. Yes, the point about Roosevelt and Marshall wanting Mac as far away as possible is well re-enforced. The fact that another President had to sack him for being 'too successful' is too. For all everyone goes on about some of his successes and ignores his many many failures, the point remains that if your troops hate you, your generals distrust you, and your President and Chief of Staff despise you, there may be a problem...

  24. I can't agree that Hirohito was the 'figurehead' he has been made out to be.Comparisons of Hirohito's role to Western monarchs are simply not valid due to the vast differences in the de facto application of both power structures.As Herbert Bix and other scholars are increasingly discovering,Hirohito was a driving force behind japanese expansion over two decades and a part of the actual decision making process in a way which could never happen in the West.The lie that he was merely an unwilling puppet was fostered by the Americans to serve their ends as they positioned themselves for the Cold War.Macarthur,the ultimate representation of amoral warmongering didn't give a damn about justice.His career was all that mattered to him.
    The consequences of this lie were not only the injustice of the imperial amnesty which disgraced the memory of the millions of victims of japaness aggression but also the enduring resistance in Japan to the notion of war guilt.Contrast this with the position taken by the allies in Germany where war guilt and Nazi atrocities [bad though they were] were exaggerated and rubbed into the noses of the population for generations to come.

  25. Macarthur's ego resulted in the death of many thousands of US troops in the Phillipines and hundreds of thousands of civilians. None of it was necessary. A bold counter attack from Bataan at the right time could have created a real headache for the Japanese forces. As a general he truly was awful. His appeal was due more to the republicans who loved his snubbing of the President.

    1. Bull. The general was quite skilled.

      Field Marshall Alan Brooke, as was noted, called MacArthur the greatest Allied general of the war (and Alan Brooke was familiar with fighting with or against the best... Rommel, Patton, Montgomery, Zhukov, etc...).

      General Patton said MacArthur was "the bravest man I ever met", possibly referring to MacArthur's calm and cool during shelling in WW I.

      Read your history and stop maligning generals just because their interpersonal skills might have been grating.

    2. Bravery is an interesting thing. General Percival, who failed miserably at Singapore, was very brave. Lord Gort, who failed with the BEF, had a Victoria Cross (as did several other failed British general). I am not entirely convinced that bravery is vital to good generalship, and have to point out that many of the most foolhardy generals in history have been considered stupidly brave...
      A modicum of skill as a commander of men appears to perhaps be of more value as a good general...

    3. Alan Brooke had a formidable reputation as a strategist but did very little actual battlefield command in WWII. He was archly critical of almost everyone apart from his fellow British generals - seemingly capable of overlooking or making no adverse comment in the case of some abysmal failures. Montgomery was held in check by his school-masterly oversight - consider Montgomery's antics post-war in the absence of Brooke. As for Brooke's comments concerning Macarthur, it seems to me to be overly gratuitous considering that he was commenting on someone whose war was conducted far, far away from his purview. I suspect that in some way it may have been a means of disparaging Marshall. Both Brooke and Marshall fought the war a long way from the front - apart from the time Brooke was with the BEF in France. Can't say that I would give much credence to Brooke's assessment of Macarthur.

  26. Actually his interpersonal skills are the least of his problems.

    Montgomery was an arrogant self righteous arse, but his men loved him, and even his greatest enemy (Bradley) eventually admitted that the Allies were very lucky to have him in charge in Normandy.

    Patton was a pompous and obnoxious git, but he was a great battlefield leader.

    MacArthur could be as obnoxious as he liked if he got results.

    But the positive results he got were as a Colonel or temporary Brigadier in WW1, or as a political commander after WW2. They were NOT as an actual battlefield general commanding armies, or army groups (which was his job in World War Two, and is what I am rating him for).

    His results in the Phillipines in 1941-2, or in 1944-5, are not those of a great general. Pathetic would be a better description of the former, and lucky to have good juniors to cover his mistakes would be a fair assessment of the latter.

    The in between period was when he failed to understand that the Australian generals and troops who were slowly winning 'his' theatre back were not nearly as ignorant and incompetent as he himself was. Or indeed where he threw his own inexperienced and badly trained American units into offensives where their failures made him threaten commanders with sacking for not doing the impossible in terrain he had never seen or under conditions he never bothered to check. (Bit of Pot calling the Kettle black there I think, and we all know which of them deserved to be sacked.)

    As a general of troops in the field, actually leading men into combat, his few months in 1918 were the high point. His time in Washington not so good, particularly the riots. his time in the Philippines, abysmal. In New Guinea, appalling. In the Philippines again, uninspiring at best, seriously unfortunate in most people's opinion.

    Fortunately for Allied troops, he never got to command an invasion of japan. there is nothing in his record to suggest that he knew how to manage anything bigger than a division on a simple front like France in WW1. (Until he got to play against a completely inexperienced and badly equipped North Korean force using all the advantages of Blitzkreig by well equipped professionals that have worked for anyone who has such advantages since 1900... Note he had some pretty good subordinates to make it work too... And lets not talk about what happened when his ego took over. Again, his troops paid for his arrogance.)

    Interpersonal skills aren't the problem. Failures with your subordinates; lack of interest in their situation; never bothering to find out the reality; demanding impossibilities; threatening people who are doing a better job than you could; generally refusing to look beyond your own fantasy reality; and sacrificing lives through arrogance and incompetence: those are the problems.

  27. I knew a few of the men of the 32nd Division (New Guinea). They
    distained MacArthur, calling him Dugout Doug...

    1. Dear BB-Idaho
      Distrust of great commanders by their troops is nothing new; the British rank and file loathed Wellngton, and during the American Revolution, as Gore Vidal has pointed out, "the private soldiers disliked Washington as much as he disdained them."

      In MacArthur's case, it was ironical, however, for had his bitter men understood the consequences of the General's strategy they would have taken a very different view.

      FOR EVERY ALLIED SERVICEMENT KILLED, THE GENERAL KILLED TEN JAPANESE (emphasis added). Never in history had there been a commander so economical in the expenditure of his men's blood.

      In this respect, certain comparison with ETO (European Theater of Operation) campaigns are staggering. During the single Battle of Anzio, 72,306 GIs fell. In the Battle of Normandy, Eisenhower lost 28,366. Between MacArthur's arrival in Australia and his return to Philippine waters over two years later, his troops suffered just 27,684 - and that includes (the oft ignored Battle of) Buna (where MacArthur lost 2,300 killed, 12,000 injured in the first decisive land victory in the Pacific by any U.S.-led force, predating Guadalcanal by almost 3 weeks).(parenthetical comments added) Quoted from Manchester, Wm. "American Caesar." Boston: Little Brown. 1978.

    2. "Never in history had there been a commander so economical in the expenditure of his men's blood."

      Im not sure if you're being serious...

      Macarthur ordered men in New Guinea to move faster and charge the beachheads and Gona and Buna. Ordered his fresh American division to basically march through almost pristine malaria rain forest instead of up the main kokoda track...by the time they linked up with the Australians they were already in a bad way.

      Nigel already alluded to this in his blog and posts...Macarthur fail to develop an information system where he understood what frontline troops and commanders were dealing with and so lived in a bit of a fantasy land of markers on a map and dreams of conquest.

      He relieved the general in charge of the American division with instructions to the new general to get things moving...at whatever cost.

      He convinced Prime minister Curtin to force Blamey to take charge of Port Moresby, displacing a general who was doing a much better job and who was appreciated by his men. Macarthur had no clue really.

      Macarthur spent basically the whole battle in the safety of his presidential suite in Brisbane...he may as well have been commanding the new guinea campaign from the other side of the planet imho.

      If he were a Nazi general, like Rommel, or Manstein or Model or Guderian or Kesselring...he would've been fairly close to the front...talking to survivors, in constant contact with his officers and in charge of the situation.

      We are lucky tbh, that the Japanese and Germans failed in other important areas and also in their own flawed command structures....that it allowed the Allies to get away with even more flawed commanders, information systems and doctrines.

      As the book Kokoda points out...the Aussie 39th militia battalion was disbanded quickly and quietly so not to embarrass our idiot leadership that regular Australian and American army units performed as good as or worse than what were at the start of the war considered to be inferior 'chocolate soldiers'.

  28. Dear BB-Idaho
    It is notable that those who served under MacArthur generally despised him, and it is mainly those who never had to put up with him in person who idolise him.

  29. I was doing some general reading on Australians in WW2 and while MacArthur didn't seem to think much of the Aussies in New Guinea I'd read quotes Rommel had apparently made in Africa that were high praise for Aussie and Kiwi troops. Is there any basis to this or are the just the unreliable internet quotes? Were the Australians even on his radar at the time?

    1. Dear Anonymous (Jan 4)

      The Australian defenders at Tobruk were the first allied troops of any nation to break the myth of the invincibility of German offensives in World War Two. Asked to hold out for 8 weeks, they held for 5 months and were then rested.

      The same division in North Africa (Australian 9th) broke the German defenses at 2nd El Alamein, and helped cause Rommel's retreat, and the beginning of the end for the Germans in North Africa. When General Alexander congratulated the divisioinla commander on Asutralian efforts he responded "Thank you general, the boys were interested..."

      Other Australian divisions (6th and 7th) were also very good. The 6th smashed the Italians in the first offensives before moving on to beat the French in Syria for instance.

      Rommel was very aware of the value of Australian forces (Mind you the crack Indian 4th division was at least as good, and eventually the South African and Free French units and British 7th Armoured or Guards were equally effective, and the SAS and Long RAnge Desert Group were even scarier, so don't fixate too much.)

      This could be partly because the Australian Imperial Forces were all volunteers, but you will note that the AIF's 8th division did very poorly in Malaya, not least due to poor leadership at both British and Australian levels, so there may be an argument for building experience rather than natural talent.

      But it is interesting to note that Australian volunteer divisions were considered - by both allies and foes – to be elite troops in both world wars (as was the Canadian Corps in WW1 and the New Zealand division in WW2).

      As to MAcArthur... Australian units were also the first to break a Japanese offensive in New Guinea, and the first to start a successful counter-ffensive in the same place... not that you would find this information in MacArthurs records... (The key there is if he says "American troops" he means Americans, but if he says "Allied troops under General MacArthur" he means Australians.)

      MacArthur (like his contemporary Admiral King) was violently opposed to any mention of participation by non Americans in the defeat of Japan. MacArthur was appalled to discover that inexperienced second line American troops (32nd div for instance) were less effective than Australian militia units with a sprinkinlg of desert war veterans. He certainly didn't want to admit that the vast majority of Australian generals had far more combat experience than he did.

      When I did research in the Australian military archives, I was surprised to find a paucity of documents. The staff there had two comments that they kept repeating. "MacArthurs HQ supressed that", and "We don't have that, MacArthur took it home with him".

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  31. While you have touched on several aspects of MacArthur's lack of leadership, you failed to mention his total ignorance of the situation in North Korea in November 1950, when the Chinese Communists crossed the Yalu and laid waste to the UN Forces marching north. Earlier reports stated the Chinese Army was massed on the northern side of the Yalu, that some Chinese prisoners were taken while the UN forces drove the NKPA north. Even when the 16 Chicoms were captured in October, the leadership command in Tokyo failed to recognize these signs that the Chinese just might be in the war. Total ignorance of an obvious situation......

  32. Dear onehistorybuff,

    I agree on Korea, but WWII generals whose self proclaimed greatness had gone to their heads are not limited to Mac. As CIGS, Monty toured the world telling everyone how to run it better, and Ike gave up much attention to fighting the Germans to campaign for the White House instead when his troops were only halfway through France. (Though note, some generals, like Bradley (Korea as "wrong war, wrong place"), come out looking better in their post war roles than during the war.

  33. The Australian army gets discredited for everything except Gallipoli, they get to much credit for that.

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  35. I'm not a big fan of MacArthur and I like most of your posts Nigel but I cannot help but feel that this post is overly biased against MacArthur. Your post on Auk I feel is a more balanced view in my opinion. For this one you seem to suggest that MacArthur only did well due to the Aussies. I certainly believe the Aussies were great troops and do not get alot of recognition that they deserve but I dare say that being Australian you are allowing yourself to be too patriotic here at the expense of the Americans in the Pacific.

    To be honest I think many of your arguments and points are valid, but much if your language seems very scathing and personal towards the man. However, I realize this is a blog and not an academic paper so maybe that was your point. Either way this post seems a lot more emotional than other ones you've written. That is fine, especially if you were trying to be provocative, I have written plenty of posts like this, but I can understand some of the defensive attitudes shown by some of the Americans for this blog.

    However if your post was trying to be an objective assessment of MacArthur's accomplishments, or lack of them, I find it slightly wanting, if only due to a noticeable bias.

    1. Dear Andrew,

      I like Mac, as a politician/geo-politician, and dislike him as a general and commander of men. That simple.

      I agree that what started as a fairly unemotional commentary has become more and more a slanging match, and I admit that I have teased the morally outraged mercilessly to get them to prove my point for me, but I don't really take any of these blogs very seriously.

      I have lectured with a straight face on IQ tests to qualify as a voter, or the right to cannibalism as a social justice issue, without necessarily expecting to be taken too seriously.

      Blogs should offer the opportunity for exploring ideas with a bit of fun, rather than be considered replacements for peer reviewed academic texts.

    2. Please consider this purely as an observation of the cultural differences between Australians and Americans. The fact is that Australians can, and do, lionise good performers - in all fields of endeavour (especially sport) but, it seems to me that in order us to lionise the subject needs to be really, really outstanding. To have qenuine merit - in all respects. Big-noting grandstanders are cut down to size ruthlessly. The problem for many Australians when considering the military likes of Macarthur, Clark, Patton is that they were overblown as a result of their own egos and a media that described them and their activities in a manner that make many of us squirm.with embarrassment Gross over-statement is the stock-in-trade of the American media and, in many instances, historians. Carlo D'Este titled his biography of Patton "A Genius For War" ... GENIUS ? ... exalted intellectual power? Patton? By the standards of many, it seems to me that there is an amazing lack of balance and perspective in the way these three, for instance, are considered by so many. To get back to my point, Australians tend to use words like hero, great, genius and so on by comparison with Americans, sparingly, stingily - so as to retain true meaning and, when used to describe an individual, the description has credence.
      The way that Macarthur and his sycophantic entourage conducted his self-promotion was, essentially, dishonest. That leads many to consider him a fraud. Militarily, he did very little post-Bataan to redeem himself. The three I mention were generals. They commanded armies - as did many others - and they did so to the best of their ability. They were better than some others but some of those others were vastly better and have receded into the anals of objective history where they belong.

    3. Dear Andy,

      good point, and I have probably underestimated how much my Australian style 'bullshit' meter kicking in automatically confuses Americans who are more at home with hyperbole.

      Calling a purely American beauty pageant 'Miss Universe', or calling competitions only played in the US 'the World Series' would be (and is I am afraid) considered childishly laughable in Australia, but many American's seem genuinely confused that foreigners would be offended by such hyperbole.

      Possibly I should try to keep that in mind when American's are shocked by how much fun I like to poke at 'FIGJAM'.

    4. Nigel,
      They just don't get it, do they? So often due regard is diminished by their grandstanding. Just one point on your comment, The "World Series" was called that because it was originally sponsored by a New Tork newspaper, "The World" ... ergo, "The World Series." A common misunderstanding.

    5. It is urban legend that the 'World Series' was ever sponsored by the New York Tabloid with the same name. Detailed research can find no such association (not even a hint) - but you will find direct quotes indicating that it's real source relates to the view that ultimately it would become the preferred world sport.

    6. To that chap "Anonymous", I stand corrected - my information must have been something I read in the Annals of American Sport. The post-season "World Series" was, in fact, a purely American competition to determine who was the best team in the world at the game of rounders and, was by all accounts, never promoted or sponsored by the New York "World" Newspaper..

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    1. I'm not sure why you think there is an anti-American bias here. I see a balanced approach. If you read a lot of the literature on Macarthur, there's much, much harsher stuff than this. For example, Macarthur's campaign in the Philippines was beyond inept; Nigel doesn't even go into that. It's not anti-American to say Macarthur was a poor field commander; it's just accurate.

      Yet the same Nigel who is called anti-American and anti-Macarthur said Macarthur was one the best US strategic minds, would have supported Macarthur in Marshall's job, and believes Macarthur was the savior of postwar Japan (and therefore of the US's strategic position in the western Pacific).

      I wish everyone would be as anti-American as Nigel!

    2. Dear Anonymous (April 26)

      Thanks for the comments.

      But as you will see from the next several thousand words below, some people's views of the world are learn't at primary school, and then take on a religious significance that makes any attempt to re-consider them a personal attack. They spout thousands of words to justify their perspective (often wrong - Lord knows where he got the idea that no Commonwealth troops fought in New Guinea, but I suppose it is possible to believe that if you only read Mac's reports and never look further).

      For myself my response to what I am told is 'obvious' is to challenge it (and I suspect it would have been the same in 1880 or 1780 or 280 as in 1980), but I am just as willing to demand my students convince me why democracy is good, or why cannibalism is bad, as to challenge their views of why their interpretation of history is not equally unthinking.

      I am not, of course, anti-American. Simply anti-unthinking conformity. I may be wrong, but at least I will not be uncontroversial. Hopefully a few people will challenge their own perspectives after reading this. But apparently some will not.

      (Mind you if I keep getting thousands upon thousands of words of endless repetition like the below, with no new points whatsoever, I may finally have to start editing some of the comments. After all, they have proved my point more effectively than I could possibly have wished.)

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  40. Did the Russians do nothing?

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Actually the Russians did very little in the war against Japan, except possibly drive the Americans to drop unnecessary atomic bombs to impress the Russians when their intelligence knew Japan was trying to negotiate... but that is another argument.

      IN the European theatre the Russians (and their other minor allies) did a great deal indeed. But I doubt you will get people like Kurt to admit that the Americans could not have made it on to the mainland of Europe without British/Canadian/French/Polish etc support, and Russian effectiveness. In his fantasy view of the world the efforts of others are as nothing compared to the magnificence of the greatest race on earth... It is a view remarkably familiar to those who study Nazism...

      In fact I am constantly amused that the semi-religious veneration MacArthur is held in by some people can only be compared to some people's perspective on that other demi-god of WW2 - Adolf Hitler.

      Throughout this discussion you will find two types of people. Those who adore Mac without any first hand experience, and those who actually listen to the people who worked with or under him who almost universally despise him.

      I think both viewpoints are over the top, but then I think the same of both extreme viewpoints of Hitler...

    2. What about the final Manchurian offensive and Kurile Islands invasion? Looks just a tad more than "very little in the war against Japan" to me...

  41. Kurt.

    You say “The great achievement of the Army of the United States in World War II was to rapidly mold a large army of citizen soldiers into an effective fighting force. “ Could this not also be said of the British and Commonwealth forces or do you think they kept armies and navies in boxes in a big box marked “open in an emergency”. Britain alone conscripted 5.8m servicemen from a population 46m. You could probably double this if you include Commonwealth forces which would include the largest volunteer army of 3m. They all did it and if you are talking numbers the Soviet achievement of rebuilding a completely shattered army in very little time is truly astounding.

    “America defeated Japan despite the British.”

    This would suggest that the British were hampering the US efforts to win.

    I was in the process of writing a long researched comment on your remarks but I came to the conclusion it would be a wast of my time writing it and yours reading it. You have a warped idea of what other nation were doing and the US could do no wrong. War is a team game and off the top of my head I can not think of a single incident in modern time when one country has won over another without the help of others.

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    2. Tim ("This would suggest that the British were hampering the US efforts to win")

      If you mean "most of the British ruling elite" then yes: they hampered US efforts - and the war efforts of most British combatants and support, Canadians, etc. The British ruling elite are generally not the team player types we expect of warfighters.

      I believe that's what Kurt was getting at in his generalization; if not, then I'd have to object to his comment too.

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    4. Kurt.

      As I understand it the idea of this blog is to question what you believe. In doing so you may re-enforce your belief or may have to change your mind as you are provided with more information. You continually post the same thing but fail to ask yourself simple questions.

      Why were there no BCW force involved in any of these island and why were they not on the Philippines? Could it be that:

      They were too scared that they would loose against the overwhelming power of the IJA?
      The box was empty and they had no troops to commit to the operations?
      They had no general officers capable of fighting the IJA
      They did not have the ships to transport the troops they had for one theatre to another?
      That MacArthur did not want BCW troops involved in his operation because they were so badly trained they would be a hindrance?
      Having more than one nation in an army would cause confusion?
      BWC forces refused to operate under the command of a US general?
      MacArthur did not want to share the glory with other nations/forces?
      I would be interested to know what you think and if any of the above is relevant. Have you ever question why there were no BCW forces involved?

    5. Matt,
      you are a little bit vague, who are these elite you talk of and how did they hamper the war effort?

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    7. Dear Tim,

      a series of excellent points, and ones that, as usual, some people dismiss without consideration. (Someone somewhere has noted that some of these commentators couldn't recognise people 'taking the piss' - sarcasm - if they tried.)

      to take your points in order.

      1. Scared: British Commonwealth had more troops fighting against the Japanese on more fronts than the Americans until late 1944. but 3. they were under-resourced, and had inadequately trained troops to put against the elite forces the Japanese used against the Allies. (And yes people like MacArthur, Percival, Hutton, and Stillwell, were not good enough or experienced enough to face some experienced and skilled Japanese generals.)

      2 & 4. Box Empty/transport: dozens of spare divisions in Europe, but no way to transport them while keeping Russia going and dealing with the disaster that was US failures against u-boats. Also in 1942 British sending more Indian troops towards Iran/Iraq than towards Burma because a Russian collapse was incomparably more dangerous to the Allies than one in Burma or China. Frankly, in a world wide conflict, the loss of Burma and Malaya was of much less danger than the loss of Middle Eastern oil, and that is reflected in deployments.)

      5, 6, 7, 8. MacArthur had more British Commonwealth troops in his command, and fighting the Japs, than American, right up until the Phillipines campaign. At which point he had enough Americans to avoid using the elite Australian Corps (which could and did run rings around most of the inexperienced US troops in the theatre). He did not want any mention of the fact that most of 'his' early victories were won by Australians, and he did not want them in his later campaigns. (There was an attempt by General Blamey late in the war to get the Australians swapped back to the British command to take out the Indonesian oil fields while Mac played in the Philippines, but it led to little except the last minute invasions in Borneo that Kurt fails to mention in his lists.)

      In fact Kurt is very impressed by 79 landings, failing to mention most of the big ones not done by Americans, and gloating over dozens of little ones by Regimental Combat teams that did very little to develope the war.

      There is a serious argument by some that the Italian campaign was a wasted way to bring down Germany, as once the southern Italian airfields were occupied the campaign resources could be better utilised. Americans take that at face value. But there is a much better argument that once the Australians had defeated the Japanese advance in New Guinea and the US Marines held Guadalcanal the rest of MacArthurs operations were equally a waste of resources that could have been better utilised.

      The fact that immense resources were put into the Pacific campaign is not at doubt. Immense resources were put into the Italian campaign, and the bombing campaign, and the Chinese campaign, etc. Whether any of them were actually wort a fraction of the resources applied is the question. Of them all, I suspect that MacArthurs campaigns were by far the least useful towards Allied victory.

    8. Thank Nigel

      I have been reading you for about a year or so. I am looking forward to you blog on Slim when you get round to it.

      Some of my points were tongue-in-cheek but not all. I an off to Normandy tomorrow and will think about your reply when I am away. As to cost of operations/campaigns I saw a the cost of the Manhattan project the other day it make the rest seem insignificant.

  42. MacArthur's vanity and incompetence cost millions of lives by making World War II in the Pacific stretch into 1945. Once the Americans had assembled an unbeatable naval fleet, the obvious and correct thing to do would have been to ignore the southern campaign and go immediately for Okinawa, which would have been much easier to seize in '44 than '45. Invading the Philippines just got a lot of people killed for nothing.

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    2. Dear Jim,

      I am not sure 'millions of lives' is correct.

      I suppose when you count in the casualties from a longer war in Burma, China, Russian operations, and deaths on the Japanese home islands, the number could approach millions, but I think even that is pushing it.

      But your fundamental point is sound. The extended Philippines campaign had more to do with American imperialism and MacArthurs ego than most people are willing to admit.

      In practical terms if you were going to reclaim imperial possessions to undermine the Japanese war fighting capacity, operations against the Indonesian oil fields would have been of more use than most of the Philippines fighting.

      Please ignore the above irrelevant comment. He appears to think anybody who doesn't have his viewpoint is attacking him personally, and the more he phrases his responses in emotionally loaded terms, the more he is conceding he has no point of value to make.

      I am, very reluctantly I admit, coming to the conclusion that I am going to have to start deleting some of the more puerile and repetitive angsts from some of these comments.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  43. Kurt,

    but did they have to retake the Philippines. Once the Home Islands had been taken the others would have followed orders and surrendered. Island hopping had a strategic aim, was it necessary to invade the Philippines? A very minor example of this from the invasion of Europe would be the Channel Islands. They were the only part of British territory that the Germans took. They were given up without a fight because holding them was untenable. Retaking them would have been costly and they served no strategic importance. They were by passed and eventually surrendered.

    Or was it hubris on the part of MacArthur so that he could have film and public adoration of him strolling through the waves to retake the islands.

    At that point in the war was the Philippines of strategic value?

  44. Whoa, Jim! Some very big calls there, and very ahistorical too. This interjecting reply aims at the other points too, not just the "little bit vague" goad.

    Grand Strategy & Geo-Politics

    1. The Allies determined their "Europe First" policy from ARCADIA, the very start of their conferred war deliberations by January 1942. That was a sound priority given enemy industrial strength in occupied Europe (then only behind the US itself), and the genuinely greater threat from technological research there - including atomic, missile, jet propulsion - underway in the 3rd Reich much more than in Imperial Japanese counterpart efforts.

    So Mac had no say in deciding an Allied drive and victory against Tokyo coming later than the pushes on Berlin. I've seen no evidence he objected either but, of course, let me know if you're aware of any.

    2. By early December 1943, the Combined Chiefs agreed, after British objection, that the Central and SW Pacific area commands would launch as primary and secondary axes of advance against the enemy. We know Mac had agitated for his regional interests in SWPAC, but the combined chiefs were hardly the types to be under Mac's spell.

    The really crucial issue in such decision is that obvious danger of Japanese force projection and logistics, especially POL supply, northbound out of their Imperial jewels: Indonesia and Singapore. I understand that the SW Pacific Area Comd crippled and blocked that vital maritime link, and I fail to see how an early isolated push on Okinawa could have otherwise avoided serious threat from a very wide flank stretching from Rabaul to Taiwan. But Okinawa 44 and Olympic early 45 would make for interesting wargames.

    3. By contrast, the British had wanted to simply hold fixed defensive lines, nothing else, in the Pacific and Southeast Asia until Germany's defeat. To his eternal credit, Mac had absolutely nothing to do with that idiocy. Moreover, Marshall, King, Nimitz, etc., and just about any Australian not afflicted with pseudo-English identity problems, all saw the need to strike fast with the means available. Surviving Allied POWs too could probably add their own more compelling reasons in favor of those Pacific campaigns.

    Therefore, Tim's above quote of Kurt ("America defeated Japan despite the British") actually holds up well against the historical fact of Britain's senior command and staff opposition to any serious offensive action in the Pacific Theater before Europe was finished.

    On the geo-political angles postwar, the British demonstrated quickly the real motive of their fence-sitting preference once they replaced Japanese domination in Indochina, Indonesia and their own more direct imperial claims. The Dutch and French colonies offered the return of parasitic British shareholding interests anyway, with British servicing via Singapore and Honk Kong. Therefore, British re-arming and deploying of several divisions' worth of Japanese troops was really just another day at the War Office.

  45. Dear Matt,

    as you so often do, you start sounding sensible, and then go off into ridiculous and unsubstainable viewpoints (your 3 above is a hodgepodge of selective and contortionist crap for instance).

    On a more general point, you cause me to remember an East African student I once had at university, who tried to write classic Marxist ideological responses to every question - even the one where he was specifically supposed to discuss Hitler and Stalin as comparable dictators. (Probably because it had got him good marks at home, so he thought it was what you did for marks.) In your case I wonder whether you do it for marks, or - even more scary - you actually believe it.

    I don't know if you think you are a Marxist class warrior, or just a Paul Keating style racist point scorer, but if you keep going on about evil ruling classes conspiring to make the world... I don't even know what you think they are conspiring to do... then I will delete your comments automatically.

    This would be a shame, because I have made a point of trying not to delete anything (even the endless mindless repetition of Kurt that usually adds absolutely nothing new to the debate).

    But sexism, racism, castism, or classism, when expressed as unthinking foaming at the mouth hostility, are not going to remain on this blog any longer than my next edit. (And I do note that the above is quiet tame compared to some of your spittle infested ravings.)

    Say something that is sensible all the way through without wandering into offensive stereotyping, or don't say anything.

    Having said that, when you can contain your prejudices, you sometimes make good, ocassionally even relevant, points. Good luck on stretching your thinking a bit further.

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    2. Dear Kurt,

      I am going to give you the same warning I have given to a couple of others.

      I only comment if people make useful and constructive points that have not already been hashed over dozens of times. You will note that I did reply to very early posts where I thought you were trying, but soon had to give up.

      I don't usually bother editing endless repetition (after all it demonstrates you have no good points to make), but I am going to start editing for offensiveness. Personal abuse, racism, classism, sexism, etc, are going to get people bounced. If you can't communicate without personal abuse, don't try. (So I am deleting your useless and offensive comment below.)

      At the risk of setting you off again, I will however comment on the above to show why I don't usually bother answering your endless droning. (I suspect nothing will ever imprint on your fixed viewpoints anyway, so I am very much afraid that this is wasting my time really.)

      You are very often wrong. Just a few samples from the above.

      Despite your victim mentality, everybody on this blog has agreed US made big efforts. (Much of it mostly wasted - MacArthur, China, Northern Burma, etc.) Most sensible people would agree that re-diverting some of that incredibly expensive and wasteful effort into something more useful would have been helpful.

      Almost everyone is bemused by your fantasy that only the Pacific counts when 80 Japanese divisions were engaged against the Australians, British, Chinese and eventually Russians.

      Dieppe was a raid, not an invasion. According to Lucian Truscott (who led most of the real US invasions, not the piddling little RCT ops in the Pacific), it was an incredibly valuable learning experience.

      Darwin would not have been invaded.

      The US didn't have a small expeditionary force in France, as a small part of a major war, waiting to have them thrown out by the entire Wehrmacht: because it had spent 50 years entrenching in the Philippines, facing no other possible threats, and waiting to be thrown out by a few Japanese divisions.

      The fact that you find me, and anyone else who disagrees with you, arrogant and petty, is so much a the case of pot calling kettle black.

      Be polite, make actual sensible statements, and try not to automatically dismiss anything not in your world view, and I will leave your contributions in. Otherwise, I will just delete them.

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    4. I know you will be glad to hear this, I am so effing sick of you and your completely pompous rhetoric against anything and everything American, and anything the Americans did in the Pacific Theatre. The plain and simple facts are the AMERICANS did many times more to defeat the Japanese than the the ENTIRE BCW.....I will not be back to your bullshit blogs, which I am sure you will be jumping for joy. You're an arrogant, self-absorbed, pompus asshole. It must be a pre-requisite to be that way and be a subject of the Crown. Go ahead enjoy your little blog that was a little entertaining for awhile, now I clearly see you know nothing but your own predjudices....so in the words you will understand....just go and sod off....goodbye you POS...ask an American what POS means...

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  47. I don't know what the Marx Brothers have got to do with all this. I did refer to Mel Brooks on another thread here, but still, that hardly makes me “Brooks-ist”. At this stage the discussion probably calls more for a Woody Allen anyway. A pity I have no such skill...

    If readers offer me some political objection then fine, but it's best they know what ideology they oppose. I believe that FDR, George Marshall, Harry Hopkins and Dwight Eisenhower, inter alia, all demonstrated some of the greatest, most humane leadership ever seen on this planet. Their stated aims check very well against their achievements, whether in grand strategy and reconstruction, or Glass-Steagall and the New Deal. And how such glowing precedent condemns us today, as a global economy continues to implode in a long monetarist and imperialist tragedy.

    Truly great leadership comes only from a meritocratic culture. Sure, feudalist empires can spawn exceptionally good leaders, even good leadership cultures. But an overriding high moral purpose of justice distinguishes great leaders from the merely competent, and between those whom we know to have died well from those whose deaths came after following an uncalibrated moral compass – or no such compass at all. The US-British alliance often revealed such distinctions in sharp relief.

    However, in the context of the Pacific War, we see how FDR and the US chiefs brought some of the best out of their British allies too. Admiral Cunningham was clearly the man the British needed to sway the general staff out of their torpor and resist Churchill, Eden, Attlee, etc., and their insistence on costly imperialist operations like CULVERIN. Without such guts as Cunningham's, it's doubtful the RN would have even joined the push on Okinawa. As David Rigby suggests in his 'Allied Master Strategists', if Cunningham had been appointed earlier, it is conceivable that the US' ROUNDUP plan could have gone ahead for mid-1943, and the Mediterranean waste avoided.

    The perverse notion that MacArthur's drive on the Philippines was imperialist does not stand the simplest check of Philippines' history, or Mac's own expressed sympathy for Huk independence fighters, for example. The Philippines made a fast move to independence in 1946 after FDR's watch repealed much earlier the imperial-adventurism of his unrelated, race-baiting namesake, instead ushering in definite self-government by 1935 within a direct, open commitment to Philippines independence.

    If we reflect on the role of Mountbatten's SEAC in 1945, and its grubby and often bloody reclamation of vast and rich European colonies, it is offensive and ahistorical to imply a comparison with the liberation of the Philippines and its concurrent removal of any Japanese chance at supplying a serious imperial redoubt.

  48. Dear Matt,

    Well done. No abuse, and some reasonable points. I even found a couple I agree with. Of course most of them are wrong...

    I agree on ABC. Probably the best Allied Admiral of the war, and possibly one of the best higher leaders too. You are of course wrong on him being the only British Chief of staff who preferred Pacific operations to Indian Ocean ones... the entire BCOS threatened to resign to get their way over this.

    Roundup in May or June 1943? Before American armies ready, before shipping available, before invasion craft built, before Italian surrender, before Mediterranean clear, before the vast battles that ground down the Luftwaffe, or the German armies, before even the new German armoured divisions being assembled in Germany for the Kursk campaign started to head east... Good luck with getting ABC to go for that.

    You also seem to think that Philippines independence was in some way different to say Indian independence, also due 1948 since well pre-war, also advanced, also local parliaments for decades... main difference being independent India did not finish up as a fascist dictatorship like the Philippines.(Though Burma did, possibly because independence post war was rushed too much).

    Not sure how you fit Peurto Rico and various other American dependencies in to your world view... imperial possession that STILL does not get federal votes, only local votes (i.e. - still taxation without representation...)

    Harry Hopkins was in fact a great man. (Note that he was never elected, but appointed... proper meritocracy there.)

    Pity about the other three you mention. Ike was a much better President than General. Marshall was a great administrator, and the Marshall plan was a noble effort. His army 'replacement' system, leadership choices, tactical knowledge, strategic understanding, and dismal record on China counterbalance this quite a bit.

    Roosevelt was a well meaning disaster, and his attitude to Stalin and the Poles is absolutely unforgivable. Period.

    The last three named caused the Cold War, and caused much of the eventual suffering and repression in Eastern Europe and Asia by their foolishness and lack of understanding (or, in Roosevelt's case, even of caring).

    I am also amused that you think the New Deal was a good thing. The current world financial problems are caused far more by bad government decisions (including the Democrats legislating to make banks lend money to people who could not re-pay... same tactics that caused Weimar Republic to collapse economically incidentally) and Keynsian deficit spending than your fantasy of 'a long monetarist and imperialist tragedy'.

    You might note that the US was so far behind British Commonwealth states in recovery in the 30's because of Roosevelt's stupidity here. (Stupidity repeated by most elected leaders today... have a look at any 'Republic' in Europe to see where this is going... There's Socialism and Keynsianism for you.)

    Finally your fantasy about meritocratic culture.. For your information democracies, particularly 2 party states, are NOT meritocratic. They have professional political classes where you get advancement by loyalty to the party. The idea that the 1940's US, with its racism and restrictions on voting, was more meritocratic than the British Commonwealth system with local princes and parliaments and military leaders throughout the various Commonwealth countries being groomed to join Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland, Egypt, India, etc in the establishment of independent governments, is just weird.

  49. For your reflection, the current British House of Lords consists of a proper meritocratic system. A small selection of the hereditary peers are elected (and frankly the resulting group is better than any democratic party I have seen), and the rest of the Lords are excellent individuals chosen for superior performance as Scientists, Artists, Charity Workers, Church leaders, Business Leaders, even Unionists. (Most of whom could never get elected under a party dominated political system like the houses of Commons, or Representatives.) It is FAR more meritocratic than elected senates anywhere on the planet.

  50. Macarthur was pretty much the Montgomery of the US ARMY, a man that was far more important as a symbol then a operational commander.

  51. Dear Anonymous July 3,

    a fair and accurate summary. Both were too vital for their propaganda value to be properly stamped on when required (as it often was).

    One difference being that Montgomery did back down if Churchill or Brooke or even Eisenhower insisted. Mac never did until he was finally sacked.

    But the main difference was that Montgomery, no matter what you think of his approach and his weaknesses, was always successful in the tasks set him, and was always trusted and admired by those who served under him - of any race or religion or nationality.

    MacArthur, despite some considerable successes when everything was on his side, had much greater failures when he had to actually shift for himself.

    And the vast majority of his men hated and despised him - again, of any race or religion or nationality.

  52. Your account of him is an unabashed bash job by someone who is obviously prejudiced against him. To say that Gort's and Percival's losses were less than Mac's is laughable. Did they hold out for five months??? Did Mac lose an entire country in six weeks, like Gort and the French? I notice you didn't mention Los Negros or Hollandia, or his kill ratio in the Philippines or the fact that EVERYONE was lined up against the Inchon invasion. Your article is worthless.

    1. Let me use small words.

      Mac: great strategic understanding, best geo-politics American of war, best American colonial administrator ever.

      Mac: hopeless army commander in Phils - both times; terrible army group leader (say his generals and troops); appalling ally (say his direct subordinates); constantly let his ego undermine his strategic sense.

      Did he lose and entire country in less than 6 weeks? Yes. Despite having years to prepare, he did. Hiding in to his bunker for a few months is irrelevant. The German garrisons in French ports in 1944 were at least a genuine problem for the Allies. Mac's remnants in 1942 were at best a minor inconvenience.

      Only on Inchon are you correct. Inchon shows he did have strategic understanding (despite his stupidity afterwards). Another sample of his ego over-riding his strategic sense. (As was the Philippines. Casualties? Manila?)

      Try and accept that everyone has both strengths and weaknesses. All of them. Churchill, Eisenhower, Montgomery, Halsey, everyone. Embrace it.

  53. Mr. Davies:

    As radio talk show hosts like to say, I am a "long-time listener, first-time caller." An American anonymous.

    You can call me Mike Lowrey until further notice. I am still deciding whether I want my real name or email associated with a blogspot product again. Back when I used to have a blog here, the spam volume ruined my future faith in that host.

    This post was the first I've ever read from your wonderful blog. I am happy to see it spark comment even three years on. I reread it on occasion, as even now I find it sparks new questions.

    For once, I thought I direct one at you.

    You said:
    "MacArthur [was installed as the] de facto dictator of a defeated Japan. And here, the entire world can be grateful that this man was given the position rather than the more the geopolitically ignorant American commanders who predominated in the European, African, Asian and Pacific theatres. Here, finally, there was a genuine advantage to MacArthurs refusal to [follow] the orders from those in Washington who he considered to be ignorant [buffoons]."

    My question:
    But how much of a difference could MacArthur have actually made? Weren't those same "politically ignorant" commanders in charge in postwar Europe? Weren't Washington's "buffoonish" orders more faithfully followed in Europe?

    I presume the answers to both questions are affirmative. Yet neither fact prevented an economic and political miracle in Europe, every bit as amazing as Japan's. A miracle that had the defeated western Germany at its center.

    It's often said that the two Germanies or two Koreas created natural experiments comparing the long-term effects of capitalism and socialism. It is further said that the CONTRAST within each pair "proves" the virtues of capitalism, freedom and republican government over socialism and dictatorship.

    Couldn't we also say the ABSENCE of contrast between the European and Japanese miracles "proves" the irrelevance of MacArthur's contribution to the Japanese occupation?

    I am not an expert on either postwar Europe or Japan. So maybe I'm missing something subtle or even obvious.

    Please forgive if you have already dealt with this issue in the comments. Frankly I could not go through them all.

  54. Dear 'Mike'

    Thanks for the comment. I take it you are interested in testing my ideas for clarity, and assume I need to be more precise in what I mean.

    RE Japan vs Europe and economic miracles. Hard to see the US pushing anything but capitalism, but quite notable that these countries were very successful industrial powers pre war as well as after. Whereas Italy can hardly claim an economic miracle can it? Economically, I think the US involvement in the 'miracles' was more about not interfering than any sort of guidance. But I am not really sold on a particular viewpoint here.

    On the Political result however, I will be a bit more clear. The liberated Western states - principally the northern/protestant ones it must be admitted - had great economic recoveries. The southern/catholic/orthodox ones, didn't.

    Republics? Scandinavia, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium did as well as Germany despite NOT being republics. Italy and Greece were disasters, despite (in fact, I would suggest party because) they became republics. I think Japan was FAR better off not being a republic.

    Republics are a dumb idea (statistically disastrously bad), and should never, ever be imposed as a solution on an ill educated and illiterate tribal society with no established legal and property rights. (See Egypt and Libya now; Afghanistan or Iraq recently; New Guinea and the Philippines postwar; or anywhere in Africa or Asia at any time.

    Germany was extremely lucky that it was not illiterate and with no established property rights etc, and had a long history of all the necessary requirements for making some sort of democracy at least potentially possible. It also helped in many ways that it was occupied, and divided, and facing constant threat of invasion: which focused their minds quite wonderfully. (Other and similar great successes... Israel... note the similarities, and note the differences... principally the US had bugger all to do with their economic miracles. Consider South Korea being under the same threats? Was US influence decisive, or was the nation simply going to have to pull together and succeed economically to survive?)

    Italy can hardly have been considered as successful as Germany, can it? Either politically or economically? Or Greece? Or the Philippines? (A genuine US colony long administered by Americans, and theoretically far more likely to have an economic miracle if US influence had anything to do with it... Hail Marcos!)

    Or anything behind the Iron Curtain?

    I will say more about the military buffoons next...


    1. On the military result, and therefore the geo-political result, I am going to insist on the concept of buffoon. The buffoons I am talking about made the decision to sacrifice a large swathe of Central Europe to occupation by the Soviet Union.

      The buffoons - principally Eisenhower and Marshall - specifically decided not to liberate Czechoslovakia and Berlin and other places that were easily within reach.

      In fact Eisenhower apparently said in later life that he made Montgomery go to Denmark rather than Berlin to 'spite him'. (His redirection of Patton against a fantasy was even more peculiar.) Both Monty and Patton were insane egomaniacs, but both had a much better understanding of how the real word worked than their idiot superiors. Eisenhower was to admit that he had "condemned millions to life behind the iron curtain by this desire".

      (I am quoting from an amusing documentary here that also quoted Germans suggesting that their victory at Arnhem was their greatest disaster, condemning half of Germany to communist occupation for half a century. If anyone has references for the validity of either of these two 'quotes' I would be interested in original sources. But I approve of the theories being stated even if I am skeptical of the exact phrasing or the validity of primary source material.)

      So I will very happily claim that Mac would never have sacrificed so much of Europe to communist occupation if he had been there (or in Washington), and would almost certainly never have been so dumb as to try and impose a republic on places where other solutions would work much better... as in Japan.

  55. I believe MacArthur was a great general. To blame him for the fall of the Philippines is grossly unfair. Without reinforcement the Philippines were doomed. Alexander the Great couldn't have saved the situation. His New Guinea campaign especially the relatively bloodless victories at Hollandia and Los Negros was the finest example of the use double envelopment in American Military History. To say this was standard military tactics is to ignore how MacArthur employed them. Over 80 amphibious landings and not a Tarawa. Peleliu , or Anzio among them. He was the only Allied Commander of WWII who won victories without overwhelming superiority in numbers and fire power. He took more territory with fewer casualties than any other Allied commander. His Inchon landing reversed the tide of the Korean War. I don't to object to your pointing out his character flaws. Nor do I believe that Truman was wrong in sacking him.

    1. 'He was the only Allied Commander of WWII who won victories without overwhelming superiority…"

      Fantasy world stuff this.

      First, the vast majority of the actions you talk about were invasions against small garrisons of undersupplied and sometimes starving troops. It didn't take much to mop these up when overwhelming air and naval firepower support could smash all opposition like a bug. For equivalent Allied invasions with equivalent lack of losses, see Madagascar, North Africa, Italy (the boot and heel), Southern France and Rangoon... just to name a few at random.

      For the ridiculous 'without overwhelming superiority' thought bubble, I will point to O'Connor in the Western Desert, and all operations in Madagascar, Iran, Iraq, French North Africa (until Germans arrived), Southern France (regardless of Germans), etc. Admittedly most of these were so successful because the opposition was so weak, but that sort of defines MacArthur's successes doesn't it?

      After all any general can have an easy victory against poorly lead and badly equipped people who have little ability to put up a good fight… such as MacArthurs army in the Philippines.

  56. You seem to miss the point. Macarthurs' brilliance was in using small invasions against light opposition (instead of attacking head on) to neutralize large enemy forces such as at rabaul.

    1. Well, you could argue it is always clever to train inexperienced troops by mounting carefully planned and massively supported attacks against inadequate opposition. If htat's what Mac thought he was doing, then yes, very helpful. (Alexander for instance specified in North Africa that he tried to give new American forces 'victories on plates' to build their confidence. It really is helpful.)

      On the other hand you could just as easily argue that two thirds of Mac's attacks were pointless, and usually made on isolated and helpless garrisons that had far less to contribute than those on Rabual (and could have been even more easily bypassed). In which case most of his 'victories' were pretty pointless exercises in headline grabbing.

      Australian troops under Mac fought a series of campaigns against these isolated garrisons late in the war which appeared to be completely pointless. Most of the garrisons were by that time reduced to simply trying to grow enough food to survive, and should just have been left to 'rot on the vine', rather than be reduced with pointless effort and casualties.

  57. dear Nigel, for the past 20 years I have been the custodian of the papers of General MacArthur, 18 of his Generals, and thousands of veterans of the wars he served in. I have not seen you cross the threshold of the repository once, therefore I can't take your blog seriously at all

    1. Dear James
      You raise an interesting point about how much detailed research is necessary to hold an informed opinion. Personally I feel comfortable to hold opinions on Ghenghis Khan, Jesus Christ and Alexander the Great, through secondary sources, without bothering to look at their original documents (if any).
      But then, I am an unashamed dilettente, and am happy to dip into a vast range of topics from the persepctive of the educated layman.
      I remember one of my honours supervisers dryly commenting that 'in a fe months you will be the world expert in a subject that 99.99% of huanity doesn't give a shit about'. Some people could take a reality check from that statement.
      My personal version of talking about history is taken from Carlyle when someone complained he got the colour of something in the royal escape coach wrong in his seminal History of the French Revolution...
      "I am interested in the grand sweep of history, not in registering it's upholstery".

  58. MacArthur---Certainly no one can be Neutral about him....his record speaks for himself.....true he actually did rebuild Japan into a industrial Power without shaking their social structure too much....in that he was a political Caesar...the downside is that he did not prosecute certain War Criminals such as the members of Unit 731. His direct battlefield record in Bataan, New Guinea and Korea were hardly success...One of FDR mistakes I feel was in ordering MacArthur home from Bataan...it would have been better certainly to have had MacArthur died in heroic definace In 1942 and then posthumously awarded him the MOH. His Battlefield tacitcs in the Phillippines New Guinea and Korea started Quite similiar using an untried understrength units agaiinst more seasonsed enemy troops. ANd who can deny then whenever troops under his command did score victories-under subornaties such as Eichelberger or Kenny the USMC ; US NAvy or Austratlians Amy and navy MacArthur always got the credit in his press releases. Bataan was bad enough but Korea was his nadar..having his won Chief of Staff also be a Corps Commander at the same time. {For ALmonds record speaks for itself as well} The Plan was insane -use 3 divsions {understrengh and untrained and agmented with untrained Koreans} to not just push North koreans into China but using Chaing Kai Sheck forces--to invade China-which the Japanese hadn't been able to do in 14 years!

    1. Dear anonymous,
      thanks for the comments.
      Korea is a real issue for MacArthur fans. THey are amazed by his tactical brilliance, (outflanking a fairly limited and force by sea being the only things the Allies had going for them in WWII), and then seem to ignore his strategic ... aah, incopetence is not strong enough... your word 'insanity' is probably better.

  59. To the author of this article: I would greatly appreciate it if you could provide at least some of the sources you used to write your article since I am currently writing a paper on General Douglas MacArthur and although I can cross-reference your article with other sources in order to verify parts of it, knowing exactly what sources you used would be very helpful

    1. Dear anonymous,

      most of my sources are just the secondary ones that are readily available, but I did spend some time in the Australian military archives and at the Defence Forces Academy and War Memorial looking at some original papers, including the papers of some of his Australian subordinates.

      In fact though, MacArthur took a lot of the best Australian records home with him, so if I ever do get to the MacArthur papers, I will be interested to look at the Australian stuff at least.

    2. Read Manchester's The American Caesar

  60. MacArthur was perhaps the worst "high rank" commanders in American military history. His blunders in the Philippines: poorly supplied troops, leaving the air-force on the ground, refusing to use that air force to counter attack Japanese shipping on Dec 8th because Japan had "not fired the first shot" even though the day before they attacked Hawaii, not leaving his hotel room for two days after the Japanese began attacking etc. As well as some of his command decisions in the jungle campaigns cost thousands of lives as well as loss of supplies. Obviously you know the facts much better than I. But the guy was not a good officer (in fact a really horrible one) or good person for that matter. His "true" story is one of the real blunders committed by the American govt. during the war.

    1. In fact Roosevelt and Marshall were appalled by MacArthur, which is why they were more than happy to dump him on that idiot Curtin. I am sure they would have been delighted to scapegoat him for the Philippines collapse if they could have, but Congress was doing what ignorant politicians do… believing hype and ignoring reality.

  61. Nigel,
    Curtin was doing about the only thing he could do at that time ... grasp at the straw that was MacArthur. To our (Australian) dismay, some of our worthy politicians were beginning to panic and Curtin needed to steady the ship ... by any means. MacArthur, at that time was the living, tangible epitome of the redeeming military might of the US. The time-worn shibboleth of Imperial Defence - read, Poms saving Oz with mighty Royal Navy etc - had been cast asunder by events and, reality. At the time, Australia had a population of a mere seven million (ultimately, and quite incredibly, one million men and women would be under arms - almost all volunteers) and Curtin, like many others, knew that Australia could not defend itself, on its own against Japan. We needed the Yanks.
    That we performed well against the Japanese is not surprising, like the Turks had shown us at Gallipoli, you fight hard for your country. The Japanese freely admitted that their hardest opponents were "the Australians" - mind you, so also said Rommel.
    As for MacArthur being embraced by the Australian and US public, what else is to be expected in those times? Both were assailed by constant propaganda telling them that, at least, somewhere, victories were being gained by the valiant Americans/Allies owing to the military genius of General Douglas MacArthur. His Medal of Honor [sic} was presented in Canberra by the American Ambassador on behalf of the US President, "at a brilliant ceremony". The citation is a load of tripe - it was actually written by General George C. Marshall, no doubt in obedience , good soldier that he was, to a direct order from his CIC - Roosevelt. Some members of Congress were pressing for the award and no doubt Roosevelt decided, give him the medal: what does it matter, so long as it ultimately keeps him off his back and very far away. So much for the US system of government and the means resorted to to maintain office. Interestingly, even the "Bataan Gang" resisted writing the citation, owing, one suspects that at least even within that bunch of sycophants there remained some respect for the MOH.
    It has often been said that the first victim of war is the truth. Western pro-Soviet propaganda had the Western public believing that Joseph Stalin was a benevolent dictator, depicted as "Uncle Joe". The British press lauded Montgomery to the point where it became impossible for him not to be given command of Overlord land operations or, due to the belief in some quarters that his performance was unsatisfactory, replaced. MacArthur, due to the media hero-worship, instigated by him, became pillard by myth. Critics were branded as heretics. Such is the power of the press and the menace that propaganda can serve a cause. One wonders whether Admiral William "Bull" Halsey succumbed to believing his own publicity and, to what extent it influenced his actions at Leyte. He was the US Navy "star of the show" but, how well did he compare with the likes of Spruance, Mitscher, Fletcher ... remember them? How does Nimitz's renown compare with MacArthur's?
    Propaganda is the fourth arm of war. It is, of necessity, hype, It is rarely entirely - even remotely- truthful. It ignores failure and gilds minor deeds. It produces MacArthurs. MacArthur was a fraud - but try and tell that to many Americans. Patton has been described as "A Genius For War" ! - by an American.
    I happen to be a Yankeephile, a massive admirer of the US Navy's performance in the Pacific, 1941-1945 - not to mention the US Marine Corps.
    I agree with you, though, Douglas MacArthur was an over-blown military commander, unworthy of his standing and reputation. American Shogun though, yes, by all means.

    1. Dear Andy,

      I agree with a lot of what you say, but particularly with the comments on the value of high propaganda leaders in wartime above and beyond their real abilities.

      I agree that Halsey was probably not as good as better admirals like Spruance et al.

      I also note with amusement that I have seen various 'great captains/admirals of history' books that try to squeeze in MacArthur or Nimitz, more in an apparent desire to try and have an American that can be ranked with Julius Ceasar and Napoleon and Nelson and Wellington than for any realistic comparison.

      Nimitz did a good job by comparison to the US's other desk warriors, but he was comparable to Admiral Horton who won the U-Boat war from a desk, not to genuine seagoing commanders who also excelled behind desks like ABC (Cunningham) or Somerville .

  62. No "naval person" former or otherwise would deny ABC's place on the roll of great admirals.

  63. Pershing tried to scoop MacArthur's wife. Packed him off to the Philippines after he married Henrietta Louise Cromwell Brook. She was hot!

  64. The article conveniently skips Douglas' father's Medal Of Honor and his important role in the Civil War. He also skips the 5 Silver Stars won IN BATTLE during WW1. Alomg with several Medal of Honor recommendations then, overriden by Pershing because of jealosy!

  65. One other comment. Everyone takes easy shots at leaders. "Dugout Doug is known as a misnomer by anyone who reads the record. I commend The American Caesar as a biography because it was written by Wm. Manchest, a very good,writer and historian and most important a COMBAT MARINE in the Pacific during WW11. If he didn't know, who would?

    1. I've read Manchester on Macarthur and found it covered the massive breadth of his subject's life-span. One can but wonder as to how Manchester's WWII role as a combat Marine can give credence to his biography. Like almost all combat Marines - according to what they are on common record as saying - their perspective was limited to their immediate surrounds and far from the overall strategic situation. Manchester did a workmanlike job.

    2. Manchester's book is a terrific romance novel. History, I'm not so sure.

    3. Dear Andy,

      Yes, a great read (like many fantasy romances).

      And I agree that the viewpoint of the 'grunt' is not necessarily the most objective. Which generals were loved and lauded by (at least some of) the 'common infantryman' whether they deserved it or not… Well MacArthur, Montgomery, Patton, Bradley, Alexander, Slim… um, actually who WASN't lauded by some grunt type?

      On the other hand which general was not condemned, unequivocally, by someone in their command… None that I can think of, and Mac is certainly no exception here.

    4. Let us not forget that Manchester is one of the few American writers to admit that The USA actually has a exactly the same dark history as everyone else, he points out that at best the 19th century US Army was a paramilitary police force keeping apart groups of fractious settlers and at worst it was conducting a colonial campaign of imperial expansion every bit as brutal and exploitative as any conducted by a European power, and that's a direct quote from "American Caesar" when he is describing MacArthur's childhood.

    5. To be fair, every Imperial power has black marks on the record sheet. the issue is only if some people try to pretend the US wasn't an imperial power... ridiculous of course.

      Having said that, I still say the MacArthur family were some of the best Imperial Administrators the US, or indeed the entire western world, have ever produced.

  66. Just for laughs, Zhukov, who gets favourable mention above, is on the record for praising Eisenhower as the greatest commander of WW2. I don't know whether that is justified or not. However, Eisenhower's seemingly tepid campaign in France and Germany was in fact perfectly rational - he did exactly as much as was needed to make good the Allied positions in central Europe that had already been agreed upon before in Yalta. Had he moved faster, he would simply have caused more American casualties - he let the Russians take the heavier ones right to the end, leaving to them the conquest of a heavily defended Berlin, while he took in some weakly defended East German prairie on the cheap to trade in later for West Berlin. Smart move.

    MacArthur is rightly criticized for disregarding presidential orders - well, Eisenhower followed orders and still gets bashed. Makes no sense.

    Oh, and about that Dieppe raid. An invaluable learning experience, huh? Maybe we can use that line for the charge of the light brigade, too. Lesson learned: A charge performed by an inferior attacking force against an entrenched enemy, without the benefit of surprise, may fail. Whatever the political rationale may have been behind that misadventure - it certainly made no sense at all in military terms.

    1. Dear Unknown,

      it is absolutely fair to point out that most of Germany had been given to the Russians already, so why fight for it. Central Europe though?

      As for Dieppe, you are absolutely correct. If stupid Americans - Marshall, Eisenhower and others - had not been quite seriously campaigning to invade France in 1942, I don't think the British high command would have ever considered it as more than a planning exercise.

      But the disaster there did convince enough Americans (not Marshall or Eisenhower of course) that suicidal stupidity in 1942 or even 1943 was not clever. I hope all the Canadians who died in the process can be glad they at least managed to prevent a hugely greater and even more pointless slaughter!

    2. For amusement though, I will note that one of the reasons people are called 'greatest general' or 'excellent general' is because they are fitting the roles that the commentator wants them to fit.

      I am very sure Zhukov was delighted that Eisenhower's strategy left most of central europe to Russian domination. Very delighted.

      Equally Brooks called MacArthur a 'great strategist', because he favoured the style of peripheral 'crumbing' campaign that weakened the enemy enough for a frontal attack that Brooke himself was trying to convince Marshall and Ike was correct for Europe.

      (Don't know if MacArthur's credit in Brooke's eyes would have survived actual face to face negotiation though…)

  67. Excellent post. Though I am more impressed by your mindset shown in your replies Nigel.

    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

    One of my favorite quotes and one that is apt here. If only dullard fanatics like this Kurt understood this, the world would be a better place. Oh well.

    1. I could say that it is the mark of a cynic to be so desiring to dismiss convention… but that is just because I like stirring a little.

      In general the point of the blog is challenge conventional beliefs. People don't have to be convinced, but I do prefer chatting with people who can at latest consider...

  68. Buna, Gona and Sanananda, (Battle of Buna-Gona Nov 42/Jan 43) was reason enough for me to rate MacArthur as a type of "Butcher of the Somme." The same goes for his advisors and staff including Lt.Gen Sutherland, Gen. Kenney and even Lt. Gen Eichelberger. These fellas gave insane orders let alone absurd tactics to the troops caring little about casualty rates or the iron will of the Japanese defenders and their near impenetrable defences.

    Kokoda, Milne Bay and Buna-Gona battles were, if you like, Aussie victories aided by the Papuan Infantry Battalion and of course the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels whom MacArthur gave little or no credit to for saving the countless lives of his 'green' GIs. Consistenly under-estimating his enemy, he told his commanders during the Buna-Gona offensive, "time was of the essence" and to persue the objective "at all costs." However, after the campaign he joked to the press that he was in "no rush at all" to complete the task.....absolute poppycock if you ask me.

    And youre right about school text books not containing this material....heck, even The history on History Channel is hysterical!!!

  69. I just found this blog and I find the comments as interesting as the blog itself, However I noticed some inaccurate information being thrown around. MacArthur did no have years to fortify the Philippines as someone posted. MacArthur was only recalled to active duty on July 26th, 1941 and was given $10,000,000 to mobilize the forces in the Philippines. On July 30th he had a total strength of 22,500 men with nearly 12,000 of them Philippine Scouts. By Nov 30, 1941 he had increase this to about 31,100 men This was only 1 week before Japan attacked. Secondly the reason the air force was destroyed on the ground was because of fog over Formosa that morning delayed the launch of the Japanese aircraft by a few hours, by the time the arrived over the airfields in Luzon the US planes that had been patrolling all morning had landed to refuel and get the pilots something to eat. The retreat to Bataan and Corregidor was actually the war plans that had been in operation for twenty years so that the army could wait for relief from the Pacific Fleet of course no really expected the fleet to be able to arrive in time and the expectation was to hold out for about 5 months which is what happened. MacArthur's real problem in the Philippines was that I don't believe he truly expected the Japanese to attack at all. That is the only reason I can think of for not sending military dependents back home, at the same time that Admiral Hart order all Navy dependents to leave.

    1. Well, recalled to service in US Army does not alter the fact he had spent several years as 'Field Marshall' of the Philippines army. He was the one who had designed, and redesigned, and then changed at the last minute, all their defence plans.

      (But I agree that some people overstate his air force disaster.)

    2. I really enjoyed the education of this blog on MacArthur.

      There is some thinking that MacArthur's lack of following orders was due to
      bribery by the Philippines president Quezon. He hoped the Philippines could
      remain neutral. He asked MacArthur to disobey orders and not send the planes
      to Formosa to attack the Japanese there. MacArthur's USAF commander gave the order to get the planes off the ground while MacArthur was virtually unavailable. One theory he was selling stocks.

      On why he was never court martialed a theory is that after Pearl Harbor and the unending bad news of the early chapters of the war. Americans were thirsty for any morsels of good news, to help rally the homeland. MacArthur's PR machine would find roses and roses to the delight of Washington and the New York Times.

      All I can throw out for the food for thought dept.

      An American living in the Philippines surrounded by Aussies Haha.


  70. I still see Nigel is filling the heads of the readers with Commonwealth Superiority...and saying how bad everything was the Americans did.....and how bad US equipment, plans, Command was compared to British....The Aussie POS blogger still thinks he is the be all and end all of WW2 history....you're still a POS Nigel, and 90% of your conclusions are pure predjudice against any allied country...I hope our paths cross one day so we can discuss your predjudices and racism against Americans...

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Absolutely. If people are spouting crap - be it 'America did everything single handed aren't we wonderful', or 'poor little outclassed Imperial Britain weren't we evil' - I will call them on it. Unreflecting bullshit is bullshit.

      (By the way, America is only about 50 years behind Britain on the 'weren't we evil' front... It has already come in in your native American studies, and is starting to bite in your international relations studies. IN another 20 years I fully expect to have to argue that the US is not nearly as bad as American academics are trying to point it... but not quite yet...)

      By the way, if you think my military history stuff is 'racist', try my posts discussing the appalling failures of Republican systems of government. The fact that more than 200 Republics have been founded – and failed, collapsing into dictatorship, civil war, and often genocide – in the last couple of centuries, seems to me to make a fairly obvious argument that it is a stupid and dangerous system compared to just about any other form of historical government. But I note that many of the people who dislike this perspective assume I am being anti-American... as though Americans invented the idea of republics, or were the only ones to ever be a republic... Is that reverse racism do you think? Or am I being racist to think it is racist? (Or is it just picking people up for thinking crap?)

  71. I'm a little confused. This may sound stupid, but can someone explain what exactly the General does? He said he was a good strategist but a bad general. I thought general was kind of a strategist.

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Good question. This comes down to the range of duties of generals of different ranks, and is one of the reasons it is impossible to say that a good general at one level will become a good general at another.

      Very roughly, you could say the following.

      1 star (Brigadier Genreal) is concerned with how to take that hill.
      2 star (Major General) is concerned with which of several hills should be taken.
      3 star (Lt. General) is concerned with which side of the country they should advance through.
      4 star (General) is concerned with which country should be attacked.
      5 star (Field Marshall/General of Armies - this last unwieldy title being chosen to avoid the first American Field Marshall being called Field Marshall Marshall), is concerned with which continent the next campaign will be on.

      The lower levels are purely tactical decisions, and the higher ones purely strategic (or even geopolitical). The most interesting generals are those of 3 or 4 star rank who get to balance off a bit of both.

      There are many examples of good tactical generals who failed at strategic level, and several of people like MacArthur who had good strategic sense, but apparently very little tactical ability.

      The real skill with making or breaking a general is working out what he is good at, and giving him that role, and not expecting him to manage a role where he is not skilled enough.

      IN practical terms some generals can also be mentored through a learning process, and some simply have ceilings that can't be breached.

    2. A good example of a good 'tactical' leader at Division level is the commander of the New Zealand Division in WW2, Bernard Freyberg (sometimes known as the Salamander because he kept coming back from wounds).

      He is a prime example of working well as a divisional commander in Greece, poorly as an overall commander for the defines of Crete, well as a divisional commander in the desert, and poorly as a Corps commander in Italy.

      It would appear that his ceiling was divisional commander. Or at least that he needed a lot more mentoring to advance from there.

  72. Not generally known is that in April 1951, the U.S. Seventh Fleet under MacArthur's control succeeded in provoking the Chinese to confront a lone American destroyer with an armada of over 40 armed motorized junks off the coast of Swatow (now Shantou), China. The Seventh Fleet's fast carrier task force was conducting air operations 145 nautical miles away off the coast of Taiwan, but did not dispatch planes to assist the destroyer for over an hour. Had the Chinese not shown restraint and attempted to sink or capture the destroyer, MacArthur's desire to expand the Korean War into a full-scale war with China might have been realized.

    1. MacArthurs arrogance by this stage, like Montgomery's as CIGS, knew virtually no bounds. They were both dangerously simplistic in their world views for playing at such a level. But then the same applies to Eisenhower, Alexander, Bradley, Mountbatten, etc.

    2. Nigel, have you considered rating Mountbatten?

    3. Dear Andy,

      yes. Planning to.

      As a quick comment, a great small unit leader (destroyer), who pretty much failed as a flotilla leader, and then was promoted way beyond his ceiling.

      His best contribution to the war was his pursuit of anti-malaria medication and practices in Burma.

      His worst was in trying to out MacArthur McArthur from his palatial control centre in Ceylon. Delusional.

      What he did to India for political expediency post war was unforgivable. The millions of deaths that resulted from his amateurish behaviour are a permanent stain on him and the Labour government that thought they were being clever.

      But he was a superb political operator and showman. I have often wondered what would have happened if he had been assigned as Churchill's representative to Roosevelt and the US Chiefs of Staff, rather than letting Dill be rep to a combined Chiefs of Staff. The US military seemed dazzled by him, and he could have soft soaped and manipulated Marshall and Roosevelt with the best of them. Wonder how much less fractious Allied strategy might have been had he been in a place to use his strengths, not in one where he had few strengths?

  73. While I do think MacArthur is overrated by his fans, I did have a couple of quibbling points.
    1. I'm not really sure how much MacArthur had to work with in the Philippines in terms of defense-making abilities.
    2. The defense of the Philippines was, in American strategic planning, supposed to be a holding action until the American fleet showed up to relieve them. I'm not sure if anyone except Yamamoto--and maybe Cunningham--realized the full effects airpower would have on naval warfare--specifically, ensuring that War Plan Orange was a no-go.

    1. Field Marshall MacArthur, as he insisted on being called for the several years he ran the defences of the Philippines 'Republic' (read 'Dominion' in Biritish terms), had an awfully big impact on Philippino policy long before he was recalled to US service.

      One of my favourite comments from Eisenhower, was when someone asked if he had studied public speaking. he replied 'I studied dramatics under MacArthur for 3 years'. (In response MacArthur said of the 3 years Ike was his COS in the Philippines in the late 1930's, 'the best clerk I ever had'.)

  74. I think it a pity that so many commentators here resort to selecting "Anonymous" as their profile when posting. Even a nom de plume would at least allow one to follow threads a little more easily if used.

  75. Nigel, great blog. I'm glad to see its still getting hits and reads years after you wrote it. Who knows, you might even educate some people!

    I read with interest the ignorance of your (presumably American) commentors who still seem set on believing 60+ year old propaganda...promulgated by Dugout himself mostly.

    His MoH? Please! A political propaganda device to provide the nation with a 'hero' in the face of unrelenting Japanese victories in the Pacific and the embarrassment of being caught with their pants down at Pearl Harbor. As for his other MoH 'recommendations', puerile fabrications made up purely by the 'great' man himself. His 'Silver Stars' for WW1 were nothing more than the equivalent of 'Mentioned in Dispatches' for Commonwealth forces (the Silver Star award was not instituted until 1932) and considering he only entered battle in the final few months of the war he was hardly a 'decorated veteran'. Oh, and his Purple Hearts were awarded because he was too stupid/arrogant to carry a gas mask and managed to get himself gassed twice...not exactly 'taking one for the team'.

    So much for his 'battlefield heroics'.

    WW2 you have covered accurately. His misuse of Australian troops and profligate wasting of lives in New Guinea is 'legendary' in these parts. As was his inflated opinion of his own troops, which much to his embarrassment proved at odds with their actual ability. As Blamey said when ordering the 39th Militia BATTALION to relieve the 32nd American DIVISION, "At least I know they'll fight"..

    I wont comment on his return to the Phillipines, but while I agree that his post war efforts in Japan should be mostly applauded, his efforts to have Shiro Iishi and other members of the infamous Unit 731 absolved of any war crimes in return for their studies on biological and chemical warfare conducted on thousands of live victims was an absolute disgrace to himself and his country.

    A reasonable administrator, yes. A 'General' in any sense of the word? Not worth $1

  76. On the matter of MacArthur diverting resources for the Korea flanking amphibious operation. I seem to remember being taught at staff college that the tactical brilliance of the move was a myth and the logistical costs were enormous. Any truth behind the idea that it was an operation at unnecessary cost undertaken for his aggrandisement?

  77. Thanks For Your valuable posting, it was very informative. Am working inCloud Erp In India

  78. At the risk of becoming an "urger", I would be interested to see a blog of this nature conducted with respect to Charles deGaulle. In WWII, Great French Champion or Mere Marplot?

  79. Dear Andy,

    Charles De Gaulle.

    amusingly, I think he was a better general (at divisional level anyway) than a great national leader! I do plan to blog on him someday, but I am having a hard time getting any spare time to even answer these queries these days, let alone write new stuff.

    Thanks for the continuing interest.

  80. It was an interesting analysis. It seems to me that after the success of the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign, that capture of neither the Philippines nor Formosa would serve any military purpose. I'd think that next objective step should have been the Volcano and Ryūkyū Islands campaign. I'd been interested to see your take on it.

  81. In a TV biography of President Truman he remarks on his morning walk that a mistake FDR made was in recalling MacArthur from the Phillippines -instead of reacalling Wainwright; actaully Truman didnt speak this out loud-but he did write this in his diary!
    McArthur had shown himself to believing his own explantions-his excuses in routing the Bonus Army ! He also presided over two of the worst defeats of the US Armed forces-his lackluster responce to USing the Army Air Corps to defend Clarkd Field on Dec 7, 1941 and his poorly conceived plan to defend the Phillippines {stiil the troops under his command did fight the IJN for five months} and the nearly 10 year anniversary of his Dec 1941 defeat was also his insane plan to Invade North Korea and possibly China with a few Understrengh undertrained underequipped US Army/USMC Regiments-if the IJN Armies in China could defeat China in 14 years of occupation-how could the US Hope to reverese the Chinese CiviL War of 1949? There was always a group of US people who wernt content with a US Empire of the Phillippines--they wnated ASia under US Control-ignoring tha fact that the US could realistically defend either Europe..or expand to a Asia Pacific empire-but not both at the same time....

    1. To Bad MacArthur didnt remember his own clan motto when he was with Truman...the motto is Listen Oh Listen...

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  83. I might be seeing problems with this quote:
    "The liberation of the Philippines did for American prestige, what the failure to liberate Malaya didn’t do for British prestige. The Americans were restored after the ignominious defeats. (It is interesting to note that a British fleet was circling off the coast of Malaya even before the Japanese surrendered, but that it could not invade because McArthur was still technically responsible for Malaya. The plan was that he was to hand this responsibility over to Mountbatten, but he managed to put this off until the chance for the British to regain their prestige had been lost. I would suggest that this may be another example of MacArthur’s conscious geopolitical planning.)"

    Malaya was part of the initial land forces operational area for the Southeast Asia Command of which Mountbatten was Supreme Commander. So I don't see how MacArthur was responsible for Malaya. Also, wasn't British prestige recovered with the massive defeat of Japanese forces at Imphal and Kohima? According to historian Raymond Callahan,"Slim's great victory ... helped the British, unlike the French, Dutch or, later, the Americans, to leave Asia with some dignity." Also, one must note that Malaysia and Singapore stayed in the Empire much longer than India or Burma did.

    In addition, how do you say it could have been an example of MacArthur's geopolitical planning? He couldn't have known when the war was ending before it actually ended. They were preparing for an invasion of the Japanese home islands (Operation Olympic) up to the very end

    1. Incorrect in at least two particulars.

      Malaya was in MacArthur's area, and the plan to swap it to Mountbatten's was actually put on hold 'for a few days' once MacArthur realised the Japanese were looking at surrendering.

      And the Americans had known well before dropping the atomic bombs that the Japanese were trying to get the Russians to open surrender communications... in fact many people have argued that it was this very knowledge that convinced the US higher command to drop the bombs ASAP as a lesson to the Soviets, even more than to the Japs.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. According to this map:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_West_Pacific_Area_(command)#/media/File:Pacific_Theater_Areas;map1.JPG (just copy/paste in the URL bar, the link doesn't seem to be working)

      Malaya was in under Southeast Asia Command of which Mountbatten was incharge.

      Yes, it is true that the Allies knew about Japan's dealings with the Soviets but this was only about 3 weeks before the bombs were dropped. When exactly was the date MacArthur supposedly handed over Malaya?

    4. Correct, I phrased that badly.

      Malayan land was in British area, but Malaya's East coast, and much of the invasion seas were not.

      So let me re-phrase.

      The South China Sea, which was one of the necessary places for British ships to operate for the invasion of Malaya, was under MacArthurs command, and he delayed the planned swap of it back to British command when he worked out the war was ending.

      In fact one of the reasons that the 30 Dutch and similar numbers of British submarines (most of them unsuitable for tropical operations), based in the Indian Ocean, had such poor sinking records against the Japanese merchant fleet, was that they were specifically excluded from this area of operations. They (and some American subs operating from Freemantle WA) swept the Indian Ocean clear, but there was no reciprocity, and they were never welcome in USN areas. MacArthur and King wouldn't allow it.

      That was why any invasion was delayed.

      Apologies for poor phrasing.

    5. I see but:

      1) Operation Zipper (The planned liberation of Malaya) had its landing areas on the west coast of Malaya, not the east - the plan was to capture either Port Swettenham or Dickson on the Western Coast.

      2) As far as I know, I don't think Operation Zipper was delayed - in fact it was executed ahead of schedule.

      3) Even if the British invasion plans were delayed by transfer of command in the east coast, is there any solid proof rather than speculation that MacArthur had purposely delayed handing over command for geopolitical reasons? Would not the reasons have been legitimate?

  84. Once again, what in the world are you thinking? (I actually like your argumentative style, as defined in your self-description, and heretofore will be using that myself.)

    I think you've fallen for the modern popular definition of MacArthur--heavily reliant on personality--rather than his actual accomplishments. Pompous? Yes. Egotist? Yes. Jackass? Absolutely. But let's separate that from what he was able to accomplish.

    Now, if you are capable of disconnecting the outright screw-ups he made at the beginning of the war: the Philippines and Buna, from there on out he pulverized the enemy while taking an extraordinarily few casualties inso doing. Including New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and the Philippines the forces under his command accounted for 578,000 dead enemy troops and hundreds of thousand more left behind to wilt on the vine, many to succumb to starvation and disease. His forces pushed straight across the Pacific ultimately cutting Japan off from its troops located in Southeast Asia and all the resources it had gained in the first few months of the war leaving Japan without critical raw materials and oil.

    He did so occupying the barest resources of capital ships, and--as you were so good to point out in your "Whose Troops Did the Actual Fighting . . ." article--a remarkably few amount of soldiers to do so. And what was the sum total cost in allied lives for essentially gutting the enemy alive? About 20K dead.

    And you've got problems with MacArthur? What more could you possibly ask of a commander?

  85. Sorry, that was about 40K KIA for the allies under MacArthur. (Thought that sounded a little low, so I double checked.

  86. Well, if you want to believe that the numbers successfully mopped up in the closing stages of the war, when the Japanese troops were largely isolated, under equipped, badly supplied, and often starving, counts as much as the serious fighting done when they were on the offensive and with the advantage in 1941-2, then I will throw a few numbers back.

    The Soviet attack on Manchuria killed 84,000 Japs, and captured about 600,000 (including about 900 aircraft and maybe 500-600 tanks and a500 artillery pieces), in only a few days! Clearly they fought much harder than MacArthur?

    The occupation of Malaya saw 100,000 Japs surrender for no Allied casualties at all. Must have been a great Allied general there?

    Frankly any sub standard WWI 'lions led by donkeys' general could have done what MacArthur did in the reclaiming of the Philippines, IF IT WAS NECESSARY? A good strategist would have known the difference between 'necessary' and 'ego'.

    But frankly only Gamelin, Percival, Fredendall and Stalin himself, stuffed up as badly as MacArthur did when the Japs attacked, and the last two only survived for political reasons, not military skill.

    And his political idiocy saw him sacked smartly next time.

    All of which has nothing to do with how he treated his junior generals, his supposed soldiers, and the troops under his command. That, way above his arrogance and incompetence in some areas, is what makes him a bad general.

    1. Let's first define what "largely isolated, under equipped, badly supplied, and often starving" is NOT:

      It is not an army that has spent months and months or even years building up the best fortified positions that country can assemble. It is not an adversary that prior to the invasion has the benefit of full supply from its homeland. And it certainly is not an enemy using mostly elite first-rate troops. This is what the American forces encountered throughout the war (and Australian forces at the beginning of the war).

      Now let's take an example of what a force "largely isolated, under equipped, badly supplied, and often starving" actually is:

      It IS where Australia racked up half of its kills. Bougainville, where the Japanese were a spent force after hurling themselves against the American defenses located at the center of the island. The Australians only began their offensive at the beginning of 1945 after a period of 14 months during which the Japanese forces had been effectively isolated and were forced to grow their own food and eat insects for protein (thanks to the US Navy).

      The exact same conditions applied to the Aitape-Weewak campaign. This from Wikipedia:

      "The Japanese lacked air and naval support, and many troops were sick and short of food, with resupply efforts being limited to occasional deliveries by aircraft or submarine."

      Now THOSE two operations would be an excellent definition of fighting a force "largely isolated, under equipped, badly supplied, and often starving.” The same might be claimed of what the British were fighting late in the war where they were actually able to make any substantial gains. One would be hard pressed to find a single one of the multitude of US operations that could be included in this category at the commencement of the operation. Of course later on, as that particular operation progressed, the enemy did indeed come to resemble your description. But that was due to the attrition that force incurred as a direct result of combat in that battle.

      What you seem to be implying in your first paragraph is that by the end of '42 all Japanese forces had suddenly become incapacitated. This is a ridiculous assumption. Their ability to continue to thrust outward against allied defenses may have been stopped, but an army of 5 million still fully connected with both their homeland and resource-rich conquests was certainly not in any way incapacitated by losing 10,000 troops when going up against the Australians in the first year of the war in New Guinea (or even combined with the 30,000 they lost to American forces on Guadalcanal at the same time).

      Even the great Australian victory where 6,600 Japanese met their demise on the Kokoda Track that accounted for most of those 10,000 Japanese dead wasn’t quite the victory it was made out to be. The Japanese had only stopped pushing forward and started retreating when they were ordered to do so because the Americans at Guadalcanal were about to send them packing. Now the Japanese at the end of a long supply line came up against an Australian force now suddenly resupplied by American air forces right at the beginning of their long withdrawal. That is where the casualties were amassed; not during the Japanese offensive.


    2. At least I would have thought that anybody who had read accounts of the endless battles that were about to follow could possibly conclude that by the end of '42 Japan was spent.

      (From above)

      You claim that MacArthur's drive was unnecessary. Please explain "unnecessary." I can only assume you mean that Nimitz's central Pacific drive alone could have had the same result. Here you would have to assume that Japan would have been able to dedicate almost all of 1943 reinforcing their positions because the end of 1943 was the first time the US was able to amass a navy capable of transporting, defending and resupplying an invasion force able of taking strongly defended islands. After nearly a year of Japanese preparation and without its resources being directed toward MacArthur's southern drive, we can only guess what our troops would have come across. Without a credible force coming from another front, they could easily have predicted when and where the next invasion would take place.

      The outcome could only be guessed at by looking at any one of Montgomery's campaigns. Wait until fully settled and prepared and then fight against an enemy in the same condition. No wrong-footing allowed; nor imagination. Then, straight ahead! Forward, charge!

      The battle for the Marianas Islands--as bad as it was--could have been far worse if the Japanese hadn't thought that the invasion of the Philippines would be next. In fact a lot of the war materials that actually had made it to Saipan were still in crates as the Americans overran their positions.

      One could just have easily asked if Nimitz's drive was necessary. The nightmares of Tarawa and the Peleliu would never have taken place. Of course MacArthur's job would then have almost certainly been more difficult.

      One thing you are not considering is the value of attrition in defeating an enemy. WWII was a war of attrition. Why didn't the allies directly attack Germany from the Baltic Sea instead of Normandy? Access and supply in an area extremely difficult to reach but with the greatest facility by a strong enemy is one. Crossing the Reine was a cakewalk in comparison because the German army had been reduced after fighting the Allies all the way from Normandy. Certainly we couldn't have ignored the entire Pacific Ocean defenses and gone straight to Okinawa and won against a fit, fully backed and enforced, enemy with unmatched esprit de corp.


    3. (From above)

      When tasked with the job MacArthur had--perhaps after Buna (BTW: the claim that the Australians pulled the Americans butts out of the fire is an extraordinary assertion that focuses on a single engagement in a long battle and was only possible because the Australians brought with them American supplied tanks)—what, exactly, would you have done differently? Which battles were unnecessary OTHER than the clearly unnecessary battles the Australians fought after the Huon Peninsula? The one rationale the Australian command gave for doing so? That it would force the Japanese further from Australia. Now THERE’S an example of economizing.

      Perhaps you are claiming the southern Philippine campaigns were unnecessary, but—even if true--they were conducted with the tiniest of casualties, many fought with Philippine troops who were dead set on killing the hated Japanese and expelling them from their homeland. All the places he chose to invade throughout his campaigns were either comparatively lightly defended or even undefended—chosen consciously for being so. Knowing the supreme vulnerability of ships to aircraft strikes, he jumped ahead only as far as his ground-based air forces could back him. One exception being Leyte Gulf where, at that particular moment, a suddenly discovered weakly defended island well beyond the range of his ground based air forces combined with the opportunity to bring in a—by then—enormously strengthened navy. Here he exhibited flexibility and rightly broke with his own doctrine. The result being at least an easy landing. Though Japanese forces were able to reinforce the island to some extend from Luzon, they lost thousands of men and materials in transport (or foregoed them altogether).

      As for Korea, I never said MacArthur wasn't a jackass. But here again we're talking about personality flaws, not abilities of command. Who would have had the audacity to invade Inchon? What a decision, in a place seemingly without the possibility of landing an army with two waves of troops arriving on separate ocean tides on a distant side of a peninsula deep in enemy controlled territory. End result? An enemy thoroughly defeated having to rely on hundreds of thousands of troops being committed by their ally in order to save them. Here, what you would narrowly define as a character flaw becomes an immense advantage.

      I know you’re about to bring up with 20-20 hindsight whether he should have pushed as far north as he did. Please do challenge this decision. I await with my argument.

    4. Dear Lex,

      I, like the USN and most of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, am of the school that supports bypassing the Philippines and going on to Formosa instead.

      So shoot me.

      But I fully agree that the ridiculous Australian campaigns against isolated and starving Jap garrisons late in the war was even more pointless than MacArthurs Philippines crusade... which at least had a long term geo-political advantage... of sorts.

    5. Nigel you are correct. There was really nothing that MacArthur accomplished that made any real difference in the Pacific. All of the pivotal battles were fought by the Navy and supported by the Marines and at times the Army. The Navy's victory at Midway and later at Guadalcanal decimated the Japanese Navy and Naval air power. Even at the Philippines the major victory was by the Navy in the battle of Leyte Gulf. All of the victories after the Philippines were accomplished by the Navy and primarily Marines. The contributions of the Army Air Force were independent of MacArthur. MacArthur was able to buffalo FDR but he was really worthless in the Pacific campaign.

    6. Would be interested to hear why you think a one-front war in the case of the Pacific would have been superior to a two-front war. Also why you think the island battles made more sense than MacArthur's southern drive or why they made it unnecessary altogether.

      Two fronts ensures no threat from flank attack, a particular worrisome issue when leaving behind your newly won but now isolated islands. A two-front Pacific war ensured any enemy forces that were "pinched out" stood little chance for evacuation or resupply.

      What would make this strategy different from Germany's decision to split it's forces between Belgium and the Ardennes at the onset of WWII or any other successful maneuver utilizing divided forces?

    7. Dear Lex,
      the 'fronts' against Japan were:
      1. China
      2. Burma
      3. Macarthurs drive
      4. Nimitz's drive
      5. The Russians
      6. The possible 'Middle Way' the RN and the British and Australian Armies looked at in the South China Sea (before deciding on sending a British Pacific Fleet to help the Americans off Japan instead).
      7. The submarine campaign against Jap shipping.
      8. the bombing campaign against Jap cities.
      Of these, the one that had least impact on defeating Japan was probably Macarthur.
      In fact if I was to put them in order of what had most effect, the Russians were the straw that broke the camels back, after the bombing campaign (including atomic bombs) had already convinced most Japs to surrender; after their ability to fight had been wiped out by the submarine campaign, after their armies advances had been stopped at - in order - New Guinea, Guadalcanal and Burma; after their navies vaunted offensives had petered out, then reversed at - in order - Ceylon, Coral Sea and then Midway.
      You will note that the victories that first stopped Japan were in New Guinea by Australian troops long before MacArthur had a clue what was going on there.
      Did he contribute, yes. (But not as much as the USN, Burma, China, or the Russians).
      Was his contribution vital. No.
      Was what he did contribute done badly, and could have been done better by a less egotistical incompetent. I believe so.

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  88. MacArthur should have been relieved after his shockingly inept reaction in the Philippines after the attack at Pearl Harbor. I cannot imagine another more incompetent senior officer during WW 2. Invading the Philippines by the US was a total waste of men. The only bright spot was the massive destruction of the Japanese navy.

    Giving him the Medal of Honor was the least deserved Medal of Honor awarded in modern times. He deserved a court martial for his ineptitude.

    1. One possibility for his delay in acting was that the the Philippine president was considering at the time declaring the nation neutral and that any show of reaction by the American forces against the Japanese would negate that option.

      Also remember that the only naval landing on a hostile, defended shore in memory was Gallipoli. At that time, everyone was questioning whether it was even possible. It at least explains why he wanted to try to stop the Japanese on the shores. In fact it was his only chance for success. The strategy that history seems to have deemed his better option--holing up in Bataan--offered nothing other than delayed defeat.

      In a war that ultimately forced the allies to judge their dodgy commanders not by who was the most brilliant but by how little they screwed up, to expect MacArthur to have defied the common logic at the time in order "not" to have screwed up here is asking a lot.

      In fact given MacArthur's perspective at the time, what better decision could have been made? None, if the commander's goal was to win.

  89. He was a pompous, self serving, incompetent ass. Give it a rest.