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Professor Emeritus of History at Indiana University, Robert H. Ferrell is the author or editor of many books in American foreign relations, presidential history, and military history, including Five Days in October: The Lost Battalion of World War I;Collapse at Meuse-Argonne: The Failure of the Missouri-Kansas Division; and most recently Argonne Days in World War I (all available from the University of Missouri Press). He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
After serving us a rather pretentious title (it seems to imply MacArthur's entire reputation is in jeopardy, but the author is only focusing on a single incident from World War One) the opening shot of Mr. Ferrell's book is stated thus: " General Douglas MacArthur made his reputation from an action toward the end of the World War on October 14-16, 1918: the taking of the Cote de Chatillon...." This of course is quite inaccurate, ignoring as it does MacArthur's other medals and decorations in his nearly one and one half year tour of duty in the Europe of World War I. MacArthur's reputation rested on more than just one battle. From this opening misfire, Mr. Ferrell goes on to accuse MacArthur of claiming all the credit for this victory (Cote de Chatillon) which is also simply wrong. In his own memoirs MacArthur gave credit to his subordinates whom he described as "indispensible". Simply put, MacArthur never claimed full credit for the Cote de Chatillon. That was a small part of his contribution to WWI. No one doubts MacArthur's flaws, they are quite evident in more comprehensive books such as William Manchester's brilliant "American Caesar". A single incident in life does not make or unmake any individual. We should of course, also remember also D. Clayton James multivolume "Years of MacArthur" which Mr. Manchester seemed to think superior to his own. Manchester once asked James for s short appraisal of MacArthur. James replied :"Hated him on Tuesday, loved him on Wednesday". And so it is... The following is from Col. Cole Kingseed's excellent review at the AUSA site. It points out not some of the foregoing issues and still other problems with this book: "Reviewed by COL Cole C. Kingseed USA Ret.Read more ›
Robert H. Ferrell's account and analysis of General Douglas MacArthur during the major engagment at Cote de Chatillon is what he claimed MacArthur was guilty of, distorting the record and exaggerating his own role. I am a military historian with the Department of the Army, a World War I historian and published on the Meuse-Argonne offensive and especially the 42nd Division's role in the battle. It is hard to accept a sweeping revision of facts from a historian that does not understand the profession of arms and military history. It is just another example how the study of military history and scholarship has been lost in present-day academia. As a 25 year veteran of the Army and retired Lt. Col. I was amazed at Dr. Ferrell's lack of military scholarship. One does not have to a veteran to write military history but it sure helps. As for the scholarship of this work, I find that he began with a thesis and then went out to prove it collecting facts to support it. He completely ignored how MacArthur as a colonel and the division CofS went out on night patrols himself many, many times to ascertain and gather intelligence so "he" could brief the commanders of the division, brigades and regiments on the up coming operations. This was usually a task for a captain at best, but MacArthur often did it himself and he was awarded seven, count them, Silver Stars (star citations) for valor! Ferrell's weak premise that a night bayonet attack was a foolish tactic is not based on what a commander's true assessment should be. Yes, LTC Bare of the Alabama 167th Infantry was probably right in convincing MacArthur not to do it, but for other reasons more grounded reasons such as fatigue and lack of fire-support, other than the reasons that Ferrell outlines.Read more ›
Douglas MacArthur is remembered as one of America's most outstanding five-star generals. His military reputation was built at the hill of Chatillon during the great battle of Meuse-Argonne in World War I. Historical accounts have lauded his leadership and bravery, in his alleged (and self-proclaimed) act of seizing the hill of Chatillon and breaking the main German line in northern France, inspiring the Eighty-fourth Infantry Brigade to greater heights. The Question of MacArthur's Reputation: Cote de Chatillon, October 14-16, 1918 dares to examine the question of what really happened on those critical few days - though it is undisputed that MacArthur's forces were victorious, there are to this day no detailed accounts of how exactly the battle progressed. Robert H. Ferrell (Professor Emeritus of History, Indiana University) has pored over a multitude of imprecise accounts of the battle found in regimental and divisional histories, as well as Army records, to determine whether MacArthur's claims were, in fact, true. Presenting a moment-by-moment reconstruction of how the battle unfolded, Ferrell offers surprising new insight into history, with the revelation that MacArthur's subordinates were the true heroes. A fascinating re-examination of a critical span of days in American military history, highly recommended.
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Quite frankly, Sam Bloberg, I will have to side with Robert Ferrell on this one. As a combat veteran and a military historian myself, nothing I have ever read about MacArthur's service in WWI rings true. From what it appears, Douglas was awarded a medal and a promotion almost every time he left his bunker to go to chow. Undoubtedly, his parent's immense influence among the Army's leadership had a lot to do with his contrived success. However the fact remains, the staff officers' responibilities, especially on the divisional level, are so great that they do not have the time nor the inclination to go wandering around "No Man's Land", that is if they want to fulfill their required duties. In many ways, MacArthur's WWI service record remains me of the stories I have read about George Armstrong Custer's Civil War record. In referring to Custer's sudden rise, more than a few officers publicly stated "That they had never seen a fellow receive so many promotions for doing so little."
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