Wednesday, May 28, 2014

MacArthur reconsidered

A quite good and long-overdue reappraisal of Gen. Douglas MacArthur

Rethinking Douglas MacArthur
Fifty years after his death, it’s time America’s most misunderstood military genius got his due.

Great lives, fully lived, cast long shadows. Fifty years after his death, it’s not unusual to hear people rank Douglas MacArthur among America’s worst generals—alongside Benedict Arnold and William Westmoreland. His critics say he was insubordinate and arrogant, callous in dealing with dissent, his Korean War command studded with mistakes. “MacArthur could never see another sun, or even a moon for that matter, in the heavens, as long as he was the sun,” once said President Eisenhower, who had served under MacArthur in the Pacific. Some of what the critics say is undoubtedly true, but much of what they say is wrong. And all this noise seems to have drowned out the general’s tremendous accomplishments. What about his near flawless command during World War II, his trailblazing understanding of modern warfare, his grooming of some of the best commanders this country has ever seen? What about the fact that he is—as much as any other general in the war—responsible for the allied victory? It’s time to give “Dugout Doug” credit for these merits and not just cut him down for his mistakes—real and imagined. It’s time to reconsider Douglas MacArthur.
Field Marshall Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, did not share the American disdain for MacArthur and his abilities. He considered him "the greatest strategist of the war and his campaign in the Southwest Pacific as a masterpiece"

I have often wondered since the war how different matters might have been if I had had MacArthur instead of Marshall to deal with. From everything I saw of him I put him down as the greatest general of the last war. He certainly showed a far greater strategic grasp than Marshall.
Arthur Bryant, The Turn of the Tide (1957)

Worth noting MacArthur's willingness to adapt in the Southwest Pacific in contrast to a more highly esteemed general's performance in Europe:

Bradley, who had no experience with amphibious landings, did not take advice from officers who had seen service in the Pacific. Moreover, he disliked the Navy and was uninterested in their work on fire support and ship to shore movements under enemy fire. At Tarawa the Marines learned that amphibian tractors were worth their weight in gold. Bradley left 300 amtracs in England. Nor did Bradley see the value in the specialized engineering vehicles developed by Gen. Sir Percy Hobart to overcome the extraordinary challenges presented by the German beach defenses.

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