Douglas MacArthur, in William Manchester's memorable phrase, was an American Caesar, a general accustomed to having his own way on or off the battlefield. He surrounded himself with fawning aides, commanded imperiously and sometimes impetuously, and did not kindly accept criticism.
Stanley Weintraub, who served as an Army lieutenant during the Korean War, makes the persuasive case that MacArthur's character and methods as commander of the Allied forces in Korea led him to commit disastrous errors of judgment--among them his failure to anticipate the Chinese entry into the war when MacArthur's troops approached the Yalu River, and his odd plan to seed South Korea's defensive perimeter with nuclear explosions and thus make the border impassable for generations.
Weintraub praises MacArthur's brilliance as a tactician and student of military history, pointing out that MacArthur's audacious landing at Inchon was straight out of Xenophon. He also notes that MacArthur correctly predicted that the Allied conduct of the Korean conflict would lead to stalemate. Still, Weintraub quietly insists that President Harry Truman was right in removing MacArthur from command on the grounds of insubordination, an act with enormous political repercussions at the time. An outstanding contribution to the literature of the Korean War--a conflict that is again in the news--Weintraub's book spares no detail in examining the end of Douglas MacArthur's checkered career. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Weintraub's popular military histories string together firsthand reportage and testimony to create compulsively readable, blow-by-blow accounts of key events. His latest covers the early Korean War, from June 1950 to April 1951, when Truman removed Douglas MacArthur from command. Journalistic accounts, memoirs, papers and previous histories let Weintraub cover the backroom, high-level maneuvering, the evolving public relations of the conflict and the dismaying and bloody facts on the ground. He narrates the first year-and-a-half of the peninsular "police action" along with all the related Cold War issues without which Korea would make no sense--among them debates about Formosa (Taiwan); slippery dealings between Stalin and Mao; and disputes over when, where and whether to use the Bomb. The superbly paced and detailed volume differs from Weintraub's previous works (like his account of Pearl Harbor, Long Day's Journey into War) in its clear focus and partisan stance: Weintraub's story line follows, and blames, MacArthur as the general tries both to escalate the war and to take responsibility for its conduct. Using dispatches and books by war reporters from Murrow to Keyes Beach and Marguerite Higgins, Weintraub creates a finely wrought sense of how the war looked as it was being fought: some readers will cherish this volume for that reason, while others will want more academic analysis--more views of institutions, theories and budgets. Analytically inclined readers may also quarrel with Weintraub's decision to cast MacArthur as bullheaded antihero. But even Weintraub's fiercest detractors (that is to say, MacArthur's defenders) will admit that he writes a densely gripping narrative, taking and defending with power and verve one position about the early Korean War. The volume also differs from Weintraub's other war books--as the foreword acknowledges--because it describes a war in which Weintraub fought: this one difference perhaps produced the rest.
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