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The Question of MacArthur's Reputation: Côte De Châtillon, October 14-16, 1918 Hardcover – November 30, 2008
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" 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:
COL Cole C. Kingseed
"No American commander has generated more controversy than General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. He was a man of remarkable contradictions with a fragile ego where matters of personal honor were concerned. His World War II air commander, GEN George C. Kenney, may have penned the most accurate description of the controversial general when he stated, "Very few people really know Douglas MacArthur. Those who do, or think they do, either admire him or dislike him. They are never neutral on the subject." Robert H. Ferrell, professor emeritus at Indiana University and author of many books on American foreign relations, presidential history and military history, clearly falls in the camp of those who view Mac-Arthur in a less than favorable light.
In the past, those critical of Mac-Arthur have generally focused on his generalship in either World War II or Korea. World War I, in which Mac-Arthur emerged as one of the most highly decorated officers in the American Expeditionary Forces, has been generally off-limits. Until now, that is.
In The Question of MacArthur's Reputation, Ferrell examines then-BG MacArthur's leadership during a critical phase of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, when MacArthur's 84th Brigade of the 42nd (Rainbow) Division captured a group of hills called the Côte de Châtillon, the pivot of the Hindenburg Line.
In an effort to "set it all out," Ferrell ponders, "How did MacArthur end up with a reputation as a leader of men in battle, without actually leading his men in battle?" In sifting through the evidence, Ferrell concludes that MacArthur greatly exaggerated his role in the victory and that the true heroes of the battle were MacArthur's subordinates, chiefly battalion commanders Majors Lloyd D. Ross and Ravee Norris. Indeed, Ferrell asserts that the attack would have been an unmitigated disaster had the brigade followed MacArthur's original plan and launched a bayonet attack at night.
Where Ferrell's analysis fails upon more careful scrutiny is in his flawed premise and lack of familiarity with how military operations are actually conducted. MacArthur's reputation as "the greatest frontline general of the war," to use Secretary of War Newton Baker's term, was not defined by three days of combat in the Argonne Forest, but over the entire period of American involvement on the battlefields of Europe. Prior to the action in mid-October 1918, MacArthur served as chief of staff of the 42nd Division and as a brigade commander on the Western Front, receiving four Silver Stars and the Distinguished Service Cross. Côte de Châtillon merely added to his legend as a superb battlefield commander.
When the 42nd Division's field order to seize Côte de Châtillon was published, it called for MacArthur's brigade to do so in three hours. For not protesting this "dramatically silly" order from higher headquarters, Ferrell's MacArthur is either "incompetent" or "no leader of men." When subordinates make adjustments to the brigade's attack order, Ferrell's MacArthur does not decide--he merely "acquiesces." The reader gets the general impression that the 84th Brigade's regimental and battalion commanders make all the tactical decisions and the brigade commander merely goes along for the ride.
Ferrell also chides MacArthur for directing the operation from his command post 3 miles behind the front lines instead of leading the forward battalions in the assault. Ferrell opines that during several stages of the battle, MacArthur's presence with the forward elements might have eliminated confusion--far better to leave such decisions to the tactical commanders who routinely control forces in combat without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.
Finally, Ferrell tackles "the question of GEN MacArthur's immodesty, his willingness to take credit" for the brigade's success.
As historian William Manchester notes in American Caesar, "All MacArthur's life, he was given to superlatives, and facts usually modified them," but Ferrell's allegation that MacArthur accepted all the credit for the capture of Châtillon simply does not ring true. In his own self-serving Reminiscences, MacArthur cites both Norris and Ross as indispensable to victory. Though his division and corps commanders recommended MacArthur for promotion and receipt of the Medal of Honor, MacArthur neither claimed that he was solely responsible for the brigade's success nor did he deny recognition to his junior officers.
If Ferrell's intention is to challenge the conventions of history, he has certainly succeeded. This brief monograph, less than 80 pages of text, calls into question MacArthur's tactical acumen and his heroism under fire in World War I.
One wonders how MacArthur received two Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal and a record seven Silver Stars in less than 18 months in France. You will not find the answer in MacArthur's Reputation."
-COL Cole C. Kingseed, U.S. Army Retired