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The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War Paperback – October 3, 2017
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"Fast-paced, dramatic, and amply illustrates why Truman’s stock has been on the rise in recent decades." —Boston Globe
"A vivid accounting of an event that was, on the surface, a personality conflict between two strong-minded figures and, at the bottom, a courageous act that solidified civilian authority over the military in wartime." —Dallas Morning News
"Brands spikes the shadowboxing between [Truman and MacArthur] with vivid dispatches from the battlefield that give his tale a get-along kick." —TIME
"A highly readable take on the clash of two titanic figures in a period of hair-trigger nuclear tensions. . . . History offers few antagonists with such dramatic contrasts, and Brands brings these two to life." —Los Angeles Times
“Two American heroes tested and tried at their most inspired hours. . . . An exciting, well-written comparison study of two American leaders at loggerheads during the Korean War crisis.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
About the Author
- Publisher : Anchor; Reprint edition (October 3, 2017)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 480 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1101912170
- ISBN-13 : 978-1101912171
- Item Weight : 1.32 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 1 x 9.1 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #215,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The errors: On page 14 the author says General MacArthur signed the Japanese surrender document on behalf of the United States. Not true - MacArthur signed as SCAP (Supreme Commander Allied Powers) and Admiral Nimitz signed for the United States. Just a page later the author says General MacArthur's offices in Tokyo "soon acquired the name Dai-Ichi, or "Number One," by implication tieing the name of the building to MacArthur's status as the number one person in Japan. In actuality the building was named for the Dai Ichi Mutual Life Insurance company that occupied the building beginning in 1938. As with any book, when one catches things early on that should have been caught by an editor/fact checker, one wonders what other less obvious nuggets also made it though.
Overall: good read that could have been better.
And then it all unraveled. The Chinese enter in to the War & everything changes. MacArthur an advocate for total war, increasingly encourages not only bombing Communist China, but even the Soviet Union. He advocates "seeding" atomic material in a chain across Communist supply lines in North Korea.
The most interesting side of this story to me was the timidity of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, themselves giants of WWII. Men like Omar Bradley, J. Lawton Collins, Admiral Radford, and former Secretary of state George C. Marshall, who hesitated to confront MacArthur until they finally had no choice. The other interesting aspect of the book was it's revelation of just how vulnerable the American military was in 1950.Not to mention most of the American peoples obliviousness to the fact that by mid 1951, the American armed services, which had swept all before it just 5 years before
was dangerously over stretched in Korea, & the JCS were aware of this fact.
The tension builds & the President & JCS finally have to make a decision.
Very good read! My only problem with this book was the author's seemingly more sympathetic view to Truman (however it's hard not to be).
Top reviews from other countries
In 1945 General Douglas MacArthur accepted the surrender of Japan at the end of the second world war and took up residence in Tokyo as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in the Southwest Pacific and the new de facto sovereign in Japan. He adopted a benevolent style as commander of the occupying force and was viewed as the most knowledgeable military man when it came to the subject of southeast Asia. In 1950, when communist forces from North Korea invaded the south, MacArthur was the logical and obvious choice of commander for the United Nations forces which were tasked with assisting the South Koreans in repelling the invasion, one in which they unable to defend themselves. At first MacArthur displayed military brilliance by repelling the invaders with a surprise assault at Inchon. MacArthur boldly promised an end to the war by the next Christmas. But when UN forces were routed in an attack aided by Chinese troops, MacArthur performance as commander was criticized firstly for a lack of intelligence about the presence of the Chinese, and secondly by his previous assurances to the Truman administration that the possibility of Chinese or Soviet intervention in the war was highly unlikely.
Brands tells the story of how MacArthur's disagreement with the Truman administration, his insubordination and his public criticism of his commander-in-chief and other superiors led to the loss of his command. At the heart of this conflict was Truman's concern that MacArthur's actions would escalate the situation into one which would invite China and the Soviet Union into a much larger conflict, one that would also put European nations at risk because of the need to concentrate allied forces in Korea. Conversely, MacArthur believed that a greater show of force was called for in Korea, including an attack on China, and even the use of nuclear weapons if called for.
Brands ably describes both the military maneuvers as well as the political machinations, including MacArthur's return to America, the highly charged congressional hearings over MacArthur's dismissal that captivated public interest, and MacArthur's attempts to advance his own political fortunes, while still wearing the uniform of his country. An especially fascinating aspect of this story is those portions of the testimony before the Congressional committee about the risks that MacArthur caused for his nation, and how, while not made public at the time, they nevertheless torpedoed the general's aspirations to become president.
H. W. Brands once again demonstrates his skill and ability as an outstanding historian and author in clearly explaining all of the important details and nuances of this fascinating chapter in American political and military history. He also ably makes the case for why this was such an important chapter in the nation's history and how the facts in this story assist in the rehabilitation of Truman's legacy. Most importantly, he explains how more timid or deferential action on Truman's part may have led to nuclear catastrophe. This is an interesting book for the story it tells. It is an enjoyable book for the author's talent as a story-teller. It is an important book for the lesson it imparts.