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American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880 - 1964 Hardcover – September 30, 1978

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Editorial Reviews


''Listening to [audibook narrator]Parker (-aka- Grover Gardner), one imagines a jovial uncle delivering a slap on the back and sitting down to describe war experiences in a rich voice filled with humor and pathos. The 'you-are-there' quality grabs and holds. This is a carefully done, seamless audio presentation.'' --AudioFile

''Gracefully written, impeccably researched and scrupulous in every way - a thrilling and profoundly ponderable piece of work.'' --Newsweek

''A through and spellbinding book...a dramatic chronicle of one of America's last epic heroes.'' --Saturday Review

''A blockbuster of a book...It reads like a novel, but all of it is based firmly on the complex but fascinating record.'' --New York Magazine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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12 1.5-hour cassettes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 793 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (September 30, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316544981
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316544986
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (242 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

William Manchester is Professor of History Emeritus at Wesleyan University. His bestselling books include The Last Lion, a multi-volume biography of Winston Churchill; American Caesar, a biography of Douglas MacArthur; The Death of a President, The Arms of Krupp, and A World Lit Only by Fire. He lives in Connecticut.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

132 of 134 people found the following review helpful By Mike Powers TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 2, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
"American Caesar " is William Manchester's superbly crafted and supremely well researched biography of Douglas MacArthur, one of the greatest but most controversial military leaders in American history. MacArthur has been praised for his brilliant strategic and tactical abilities during both world wars and accomplishments as Military Governor in post-World War II Japan, and criticized for his overweening egoism and inability to subordinate himself to the wishes of his civilian superiors.

William Manchester writes with wit and candor as he chronicles MacArthur's life from his earliest days to his death in 1964, at age 84. Manchester's portrait of his subject is balanced and objective. We see MacArthur at his finest: capable and courageous on the battlefield during World War I, rising quickly to general officer rank as a result of his abilities; between the world wars, a progressive, reform-minded superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, and later U.S. Army Chief of Staff; during World War II, a Medal of Honor winner, and the gifted but overly vainglorious commander of all Allied forces in the South Pacific, who achieved brilliant military successes with his "island-hopping" strategy; and later, as Military Governor of Japan, displaying a surprising magnanimity toward the conquered Japanese by introducing American-style democracy and liberal reforms. We also see him at his worst: pompous and vain, always seeking personal glory, often at his subordinates' expense; vindictive toward his subordinates when they disagreed with him; and finally, during the Korean War, the Supreme Commander whose hubris led him to openly defy his commander-in-chief, resulting in his relief by President Harry Truman.
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81 of 83 people found the following review helpful By David J. Chmiel on March 13, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It is a sad fact that many people in this day and age would be unable to state who Douglas MacArthur was or what place in history he has assumed. As the Second World War drifts further into the annals of history, the lives and accomplishments of the war's great commanders are in danger of , as MacArthur himself said "slowly fading away".
Douglas MacArthur was a colossus. He did not merely play an important role in the war in the Pacific, he dominated it and went on to play a crucial role in the West's early response to Communism in the Far East. William Manchester's exhaustive biography paints a warts and all portrait of the General. Manchester expresses rightful admiration for MacArthur's strategic brilliance and his amazing role in the recontstruction of post-war Japan. Yet, he does not shy away from criticism of MacArthur's extraordinary vanity which, in many cases, almost led (and during the Korean War did lead) to the General's downfall. I finished the book far more enlightened on the character of this individual and yet was left to draw my own conclusions as to his place in history.
Manchester's book is not just an immensely readable, throughly documented portrait of Douglas MacArthur. It also serves as a valuable work on the prosecution of the war in the Pacific and the early years of the Cold War and draws some very valuable and raises some interesting questions on the origin of America's entry into the war in Vietnam.
Individuals such as Douglas MacArthur should not be forgotten. Love them or hate them, they played a critical role in the history of the 20th Century and to the lives which each and every one of us live today. "American Casear" does justice to all aspects of Douglas MacArthur's life and character and I have no doubts that it will fascinate anyone who picks it up.
5 stars without any hesitation whatsoever.
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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Manchester has produced a book that covers the entire life of the controversial five star general, from his infancy to his death, in the finest of detail and in a lively literary style. - If you want to know about MacArthur, this is the book for you. The author very carefully presents facts about the general and lets you the reader make up your mind on where the truth lies. Manchester does not appear to "take sides" in this book; he does not take the general and make him a god, nor does he denigrate what the general has done. He presents the many sides of this mysterious general and lets you, the reader, put it all together which is not difficult, since Manchester provides you the tools to do it: plenty of rich detail, plenty of quotes, excerpts of memos and messages, much detail on his private family life. Again, Manchester does not tell the reader what to think. For example, with the fall of the Philippnes, it seems that the general has made up his mind to stay and, along with his family, expects in a matter-of-fact way to commit suicide rather than be taken prisoner by the Japanese. You wonder about his wife and child, but Manchester doesn't tell you what they want to do: he lets them speak. - An excellent biography and significant historical account. Probably the best ever on MacArthur whether you like the general or not.
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64 of 70 people found the following review helpful By C. P. Heinze on August 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
John Gunther wrote, "General MacArthur took more territory, with less loss of life, than any military commander since Darius the Great." To which I'll add...there've been a lot of commanders between the great Persian potentate and the great SCAP.

William Manchester's incisive "American Caesar" is an 800-page argument that the Supreme Allied Commander of the Southwest Pacific Area was, for all his numerous personal faults and jarring pomposity, the most brilliant, compelling commander in American history. For every GI killed under MacArthur, thirty Japanese were killed, a ratio Eisenhower or any other commander could only dream of. A scant fifty years after his Inchon landing, historians of even the most measured ilk, are proclaiming that radical move one of the most daring and decisive in history. The numbers alone are staggering. When the dust had settled from an amphibious assault that was discouraged by nearly every officer around him, just 500 Americans had died to 40,000 North Koreans, and the entire complexion of the war had completely changed.

So why is MacArthur's name largely forgotten in a popular culture that still holds iconic names like Patton and Bradley, Eisenhower, and Doolittle? First, it's a discouraging inevitability that only the worst battlefield tragedies are remembered. Gettysburg, Antietam, the Battle of the Bulge, the Battle of Verdun in 1916. Terrific loss of life was the uniting feature in all these battles; not commanding excellence.

When 500 Americans die landing in a remote Far Eastern locale, what's the chance that ground will be hallowed and memorialized?

MacArthur also suffers at the expense of his politics, which were unabashedly conservative.
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