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American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880 -…

American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880 - 1964 (urspr publ 1978; utgåvan 1978)

av William Manchester (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1,516169,259 (4.08)37
The acclaimed biographer and historian examines the career of the legendary soldier-hero and paradoxical four-star general, a military genius who suffered from lapses in strategy.
Titel:American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880 - 1964
Författare:William Manchester (Författare)
Info:Little, Brown and Company (1978), Edition: 1st, 793 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek


American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880 - 1964 av William Manchester (1978)


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MacArthur, the public figure, the private man, the soldier-hero whose mystery and appeal created a uniquely American legend, portrayed in a biography that will challenge the cherished myths of admirers and critics alike.

Preamble: Reveille
First Call
Ruffles & Flourishes (1880-1917)
Charge (1917-1918)
Call to Quarters (1919-1935)
To the Colors (1935-1941)
Retreat (1941-1942)
The Green War (1942-1944)
At High Port (1944-1945)
Last Post (1945-1950)
Sunset Gun (1950-1951)
Recall (1951)
Taps (1951-1964)
Copyright Acknowledgments
Upon the death of General Douglas MacArthur - 5-star general, Medal of Honor Winner, Field Marshall of the Philippines, proconsul of Japan, Republican presidential hopeful, and creepy mommy's boy - an obituary observed that MacArthur's "[m:]emory will never know peace."

So true. Even today, almost 50 years after his death, people are arguing about his legacy. Well, at least I am. With anyone who will listen.

By any measure, MacArthur had an extraordinary career, filled with incredible ups and downs. He succeeded spectacularly, and he failed spectacularly. It can truly be said of MacArthur that he never did anything half-assed. He was in some ways a genius, and in every way his own worst enemy. His impulses warred with each other and eventually handed him his greatest defeat.

Manchester identifies this duality in the first few sentences, which is an amazing hook for a biography:

He was a great thundering paradox of a man, noble and ignoble, inspiring and outrageous, arrogant and shy, the best of men and the worst of men, the most protean, most ridiculous, and most sublime. No more baffling, exasperating soldier ever wore a uniform...[H:]e carried the plumage of a flamingo, could not acknowledge errors, and tried to cover up his mistakes with sly, childish tricks...Unquestionably he was the most gifted man-at-arms this nation has produced.

There are a couple things going on in this opening paragraph. For one, you are introduced to the Manchester style, which is as subtle as a hammer blow to the forehead, and always skates that line between eloquence and pomposity (and is peppered with allusions to literature, history, and the classics). You are also promised an honest look at a complex man, a man who was both great and petty. Unfortunately, while the writing style remains constant throughout the book, the promised equanimity when it comes to exploring MacArthur's life gradually fades, until an engaging biography has become an unsupported hagiography.

American Caesar - aptly titled, vis-a-vis MacArthur's service in Japan - begins in the American Civil War, with the charge of Mac's father, Arthur MacArthur, up Missionary Ridge. The book then traces Arthur's life till his son Douglas' birth. The reason, I gather, is to show the heroic lineage that Douglas shared. However, I noticed the subtle elisions in Arthur's life that would mark the rest of this biography. Specifically, Manchester writes of Arthur's time in the Philippines in a purely positive light. This completely ignores the brutal repression undertaken by his troops, including summary executions and water boarding (back when that was considered torture). The civilian body count was as high as 200,000, yet you wouldn't know a single innocent soul had been bruised relying on this book.

MacArthur's early life is dealt with cursorily, relative to the book's length. MacArthur grows up on frontier army posts, attends West Point (where he excels), is sent to the Philippines (where he shoots a couple bushwhackers), and rises to the rank of general during World War I. His career rise was helped in no small part by his mother, Pinky. The Douglas-Pinky angle is one of the creepily enjoyable sideshows in Mac's long life. Think of MacArthur like Tony Perkins in Psycho, except that his mother is alive, instead of a corpse. He deferred to her in everything, which probably led to his divorce, and caused him - a fully grown man - to hide from his mother the fact he had a girlfriend. Reading Pinky's fawning letters to General Pershing still makes one cringe nearly a century after they were written.

The interwar years saw MacArthur as the superintendent of West Point and the Army Chief of Staff. MacArthur wasn't successful in either of these endeavors, yet Manchester bends over backwards to stress the positives while shifting blame for the negatives. At West Point, for instance, MacArthur's legacy was his love for the football team, and a now-famous quote about how the sports-field prepares a man for the battlefield. Of course, Mac tried to do other things, like change the curriculum so the focus was on tanks and planes instead of Roman legions and Napoleon's choices at Waterloo. In this, MacArthur failed, but Manchester gives him all the credit for trying, without ever stopping to ponder why MacArthur failed. Could it have had something to do with his insufferable preening, his unbridled arrogance, and his pedantic soliloquies? As for Mac's stint as Chief of Staff, his legacy was designing a new jacket. Again, his failure in getting the US to increase the military budget wasn't entirely his fault; but then again, that was his mission. Manchester doesn't fail to mention MacArthur's shameful behavior during the Bonus March, but he doesn't explore it at any depth. This is odd, to say the least. Isn't it important to analyze this incident in which a man who professed to love the Army, and love his men, took to the streets with bayonets to run off thousands of veterans?

When MacArthur goes to the Philippines, his greatness and his pettiness come into stark relief. MacArthur eventually leaves the US Army and becomes a Field Marshal in the Philippine Army and adviser to President Quezon.

The Philippines were MacArthur's destiny. His lasting failure was in failing to protect the islands, while he is etched in history as the man who vowed to return. In the section leading up to World War II, Manchester finally shows his hand as a MacArthur-phile. He continually stresses the low budget MacArthur had to work with, while giving precious little space to MacArthur's disastrous plan for fighting off a Japanese invasion (he planned to fight the Japanese on the beaches, so he cached supplies nearby the landing zones, instead of locating them at his central defensive point - the Bataan peninsula and Corregidor). When the Japanese eventually attacked, many hours after Pearl Harbor, MacArthur still managed to be surprised. He became paralyzed for a time, though Manchester never bothers to wonder why.

Eventually, MacArthur is beaten back to Bataan, where his men have no supplies because MacArthur had cached them all near the beaches. Manchester contends that MacArthur fought a series of brilliant battles; the problem, though, is that he tells, and doesn't show. This problem continues throughout the rest of World War II. Manchester will speak of MacArthur's genius, but never explain how that genius was manifested. There is absolutely no account of MacArthur's orders, troop dispositions, or battle plans. Further, there isn't a single battle map. You have to take it for granted that MacArthur really was a great commander (and that argument doesn't hold on the Philippines; I mean, MacArthur outnumbered the Japanese! The defensive force had more men than the invading force, yet the invaders still win? That's embarrassing.)

One of the book's highlights, though, is MacArthur's thrilling escape from Corregidor. There are a lot of criticisms justly applied to Mac, but bravery isn't one of them. Just because he got away doesn't mean it was easy, and Manchester shows that by recreating the fraught PT Boat journey that ferried Mac, his wife and son from danger.

The balance of World War II is told with deference to MacArthur. Time and again we are told, without support, that his battle plans were spectacular. Manchester fawns over MacArthur's courage - his disdain for snipers, his plane trips over enemy territory - while utterly ignoring the obvious point that thousands of his troops were doing the same thing every day, while Mac rarely came to the front. Manchester also takes the odd tact of defending MacArthur against the criticism of his own troops! These portions of the book - and there are several - are elitist and condescending. They are also truly shocking, since Manchester was a Pacific grunt himself, and wrote a well-received memoir of his experience called Goodbye, Darkness.

The highlight of Mac's career was as proconsul of Japan. Here, as a benevolent despot, he showed off a liberal side he hid in America. Undoubtedly, he did a great deal to turn Japan from a hated enemy into a staunch friend and an economic powerhouse. Again, though, there was the pettiness, the vindictiveness; to give Manchester credit, he thoroughly analyzes MacArthur's kangaroo courts in Manila, which executed Generals Homma and Yamashita, the two Japanese soldiers who's forces had defeated him.

By the time the Korean War came around, I mostly liked this book. The writing style gives it a certain literary cachet, but never bogs things down. It also, by and large, maintained objectiveness. Korea changed that. Manchester, channeling MacArthur's ghost, comes up with every excuse and rationalization to place the blame on others. He ignores the fact that MacArthur's occupation troops were under-prepared; he ignores MacArthur's Philippines-like reaction to the Korean invasion (short version: we're doomed!); he over-hypes Inchon; and then he forgives the reckless push to the Yalu. I almost soiled my pants when Manchester tried to excuse the Chosin Reservoir debacle. According to Manchester, the piecemeal approach of his Army towards the Chinese border was actually "von Moltke's classic maneuver - action by separated forces off the enemy's axis of movement." (I guess that would make Pearl Harbor Admiral Husband E. Kimmel's "rope-a-dope"). In actuality, it was a failure of Mac's boy, Genera Almond, to appreciate the existence of Chinese troops in Korea; this brought him into conflict with General Smith of the 1st Marines, who had a brain and realized the 8th Army was heading into a trap. As a result, the Army units weren't operating in concert, and they were almost destroyed following Chinese encirclement.

Manchester's treatment of Korea moves from farce to insult. He bashes everyone who isn't MacArthur, especially Mac's bete noire, Harry Truman. According to Manchester, Truman was a foul-mouthed dimwit playing politics with American lives (recent historians would beg to disagree). Despite MacArthur openly flaunting the Constitution by challenging Truman's authority, Manchester still sides with his beloved Caesar. And what of Mac's genius plan for China? Dumping radioactive waste along the border between North Korea and China, coupled with an amphibious landing of North Korea. At this point, Manchester might have questioned MacArthur's sanity, or his senility, but he doesn't. And he completely ignores Mac's overt threats to drop atomic bombs on China (threats to which Mao reputedly responded: "So we lose a million or two.")

MacArthur in Korea was a madman, and Manchester abets him. He constantly backs MacArthur's contention that America should have sought to achieve total victory, and Korean reunification, no matter how many millions would've died. Both Mac and Manchester believed that returning to the status quo antebellum was a waste of American lives, and that the strategy of limited war was flawed. By the time this book was published, Manchester should've realized how wrong he was. Entirely, absolutely, 100% wrong. Korea is a misunderstood war, but suffice it to say, it's not Vietnam. By deciding to fight there, Truman maintained South Korea's independence. Today, North Korea is a black hole; her citizens are stunted, starving, gray-faced peasants. On the other hand, South Korea is a thriving democracy, an economic powerhouse, and a leader in high-tech industries. Plus, her citizens aren't eating corn husks and shoe leather. So yeah, I'd say the tactics chosen by Truman, Ridgeway, and Bradley bore fruit, while MacArthur's atomic-bomb-frenzy don't seem quite so prescient.

I really limped to the finish line on this one because, frankly, I couldn't trust the author anymore. Every time I thought that we'd reached the bottom of the MacArthur-plaudit well, Manchester would dig a little deeper. He highlights MacArthur's Old Soldiers speech before Congress while downplaying the fact that MacArthur was eviscerated by Senator Richard B. Russell's committee (if you want to know the gist of MacArthur's testimony, all you have to do is think back to Mark McGwire's steroid testimony; in essence, Mac kept saying "I'm not here to talk about the past").

In the last pages, I actually tossed the book in disgust. This occurred when Manchester noted that large sections of MacArthur's memoirs appear to have been plagiarized from the reminisces of his officers.
  Alhickey1 | Oct 5, 2020 |
MacArthur, the public figure, the private man, the soldier-hero whose mystery and appeal created a uniquely American legend, portrayed in a brilliant biography that will challenge the cherished myths of admirers and critics alike.
  MLJLibrary | May 1, 2018 |
A well written book about a great American - Definitely a complex man. I wish that William Manchester had been less apologetic about the negatives in MacArthur's. life. I found it irritating when the author would insert phrases like "we can understand his failure" or some such wording as he starts to explain MacArthur's behavior. Manchester's glossing over his receipt of the Medal of Honor in World War I was disappointing at best.
Definitely a good read about a complex leader. ( )
  busterrll | May 8, 2015 |
The biography of General Douglas MacArthur, written by one of the men that served under him in the Pacific theater of World War 2. Sometimes the reading was kind of laborious, but I finished it feeling that I really did understand what made the man. I especially enjoyed the account of the war with Japan and MacArthur's superior tactics. ( )
1 rösta troybert | Sep 30, 2011 |
This was a very fascinating book, very detailed, and very well researched. Only about the last 6 paragraphs of the book did not have end notes associated with them.

MacArthur was, as a Japanese statesman said to John Gunther in 1950, “Not a simple man”. And this book could not have been a simple book to write. Neither completely sympathetic to the General, nor a trashing of the General, I felt this book took a very good “middle-of-the-road” approach to the subject. Manchester treads a fine line in praising the General when it is richly deserved, and knocking him justly when that to is deserved.

It feels like Manchester truly tried to understand a man that is very hard to understand. And what a man to try and understand! Perhaps one of the most brilliant strategic offensive Generals in the history of the United States (if not the world), but it could be argued, he wasn't too good at defensive fighting. The inexcusable lack of judgment leading up the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, for example, is outweighed by the brilliancy of the strategic fight he lead in the Pacific after that. And by all arguments, the amphibious landing at Inchon was a master stroke of military leadership.

Where I think he will (and should) go down in history as a great leader is by the people of the Philippines, and Japan. His proconsul-ship of the defeated Japan, the very same Japan he defeated on the battlefield, is what will always cement his reputation, both there, and here at home.

The book spent almost a full chapter on the public fight between the General and Truman. And pretty much lays the blame for it in both corners. Both men made drastic mistakes, both men did the right things, in the wrong manner, and neither man would surrender. It is my opinion, after having read several Truman biographies, and now this book, that neither man could get through to the other. Neither made an effort to see things from the others point of view, and both were pig-headed enough to never back down.

All and all, a very good book, well written, and enjoyable to read.

On a side note: In this book, Manchester debunks Merle Miller's claims in “Plain Speaking” that MacArthur slighted Truman at Wake Island. The only documented source of this slight is Miller himself, all other sources do not concur with that. Ref page 588 of Manchester's book for that discussion. ( )
2 rösta Bill_Masom | Jun 17, 2011 |
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American Caesar, no less: from the title onward, Manchester has produced a biography of MacArthur so grandiose and so singleminded as to satisfy even the giant ego of its subject. But this "great thundering paradox," "the best of men and the worst of men," is not without his manifold, if more life-size, fascinations. He was, ineluctably, his father's son: at 18, Arthur MacArthur dashed up Missionary Ridge to plant the Union flag and win the battle--and later, his insubordination as military governor of the Philippines cost him his pest and his career. Young MacArthur learned everything from his father, it appears ("It's the orders you disobey that make you famous," he said in World War I), except what his paranoia perhaps did not permit him to learn; how to escape his father's fate.
tillagd av smasler | ändraKirkus Reviews (Sep 1, 1978)
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He was a great thundering paradox of a man, noble and ignoble, inspiring and outrageous, arrogant and shy, the best of men and the worst of men, the most protean, the most ridiculous, and the most sublime.
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The acclaimed biographer and historian examines the career of the legendary soldier-hero and paradoxical four-star general, a military genius who suffered from lapses in strategy.

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