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MacArthur's War : Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero Hardcover – May 15, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (May 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684834197
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684834191
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #528,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on June 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
No other modern American military leader engenders such controversy and hotly-expressed differences in opinion than General Douglas MacArthur. Certainly, there can be no argument against the fact that his previous treatment by other authors such as William Manchester ("American Caesar") etc. does a much more comprehensive and objective service than does this book to anyone attempting to understand the man, his eccentricities, and his actions during the tenure of his fifty-year career as a virtual American military institution in the Orient. Yet, it should also be noted that this volume adds considerably to our understanding of MacArthur the man, the general, and the legend in an intriguing, unique, and somewhat different take on Macarthur, his character, vanity, conduct, and a blow-by-blow account of his prosecution of the Korean campaign.
At the outbreak of the Korean conflict MacArthur was preoccupied as the Governor-General of Japan with overseeing the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the defeated nation, and his first efforts to conduct the Korean campaign were through an attempt at long-distance management of the actions & ministrations of his field commanders. Of course, MacArthur couldn't stay out of the action long, & soon began actively interfering with command decisions from afar, and this led to a number of strains, breakdowns in communication, and military setbacks. The miscommunications and lack of clear and achievable military objective resulting from this situation soon turned into a both a political and military debacle, and according to Weintraub it was clear that MacArthur's fingerprints were all over the place in terms of poor planning, strategy, and tactics.
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Brent Tomberlin on June 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am a fan of MacArthur. I am interested in his life. I am interested in his faults and his successes. If Inchon was his best, the rest of Korea was probably his worst. The author does a great job of detailing the faults in generalship and character of this man. Weintraub does a fantastic job of intertwining the story of the generals and the politicians with the stories of how the "forgotten war" plays itself out for the American GI. The book was very well researched and documented. I am still a fan of the general. I understand more, however, what perhaps his private ambitions truly were and what motivated him. While Truman was a great president and thought MacArthur's speeches were a bunch of bull----; I think they are inspiring. For further reference on Korea and MacArthur, Geoffrey Peret's "Old Soldiers Never Die" does a fairly good job describing the challenges at the end of the general's life. Without Marshall, Truman clearly wouldn't have faired as well as he did. As a history teacher, I find that George C. Marshall is not given his just due in the history texts of our time. Weintraub tries to credit him and brings him into the picture well. Overall, the author does a fine job to bring this often skipped-over piece of American History to life. I would like to thank him for that and for reminding us that there was a war before vietnam, because a lot of students do not.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Charles R. Bowery Jr. on June 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It is difficult to write history that appeals both to the academic and to the layman, but Weintraub does it quite well with this book. He deftly weaves vignettes describing MacArthur's eccentricities and megalomania with some rarely heard viewpoints of the early days of the war- the correspondents on the ground, for example. The narrative also contains (barely) enough detail on ground combat operations to keep the reader oriented. It's a small criticism, but I longed for more detailed description and analysis of Mac's ground commanders-- even though that isn't really the purpose of the book. I would recommend T.R. Fehrenbach's "This Kind of War" and Russell Geugler's "Combat Actions in Korea" for those interested in a combat narrative.
While I understand the author's reasoning for leaving out footnotes, I still would have appreciated at least endnotes for specific pieces of evidence.
This is an attractive, well- written book that adds to our understanding of MacArthur. Especially now, with the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the war approaching, it is refreshing to see new and challenging interpretations of the Korean War emerge. Recommended reading.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Douglas MacArthur will forever be remembered as one of America's outstanding generals. Nonetheless, every great warlord, if he survives long enough, has his twilight, and MACARTHUR'S WAR documents his - that period from June 1950 until April 1952 when his career and reputation became mired in the Korean War, the first of America's post-W.W.II Asian debacles.
Author Stanley Weintraub's volume is a well researched, albeit dry, history of the general's last campaign. Within its pages, we encounter a wealth of players, both major and minor. MacArthur himself, America's aging postwar proconsul of a defeated Japan, sometimes brilliant, too often insubordinate, but always egotistical, self-aggrandizing, and militantly anticommunist. The staff toadies who surrounded him and sustained his narrow view of the universe, at the center of which was always Douglas himself: generals Wright, Willoughby and Whitney. His combat commanders: the hapless Gen. Walker (8th Army) and the self-important flunky Gen. Almond (X Corps). The wretched South Korean dictator, Syngman Rhee. General Peng Dehuai, the capable Chinese commander who infiltrated 200,000 of his troops into North Korea right under MacArthur's very nose. The plucky female war correspondent, Marguerite Higgins, who defied the clubbish, men-only mindset of her peers to go out and bring back the story. The home-front military and ex-military, in particular JCS Chairman Bradley and Defense Secretary Marshall, both so in awe of Douglas as to be rendered virtually ineffectual. Truman, the politically beleaguered Commander-In-Chief, who finally brought MacArthur to heel in a fit of righteous pique. And finally, MacArthur's eventual replacement as Supreme Commander, the humorlessly efficient Gen. Ridgeway.
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