Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Review - The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur

The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur by Mark Perry
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Basic Books (April 1, 2014)

Douglas MacArthur was an interesting character.  To put it differently would be an understatement.  Those admiring MacArthur were outranked nevertheless by those that, to put it simply, were not fans.  MacArthur could be described as headstrong, vain, he had a rebellious streak, and a massive ego.

Mark Perry examines the general and sees that his actions have been misunderstood and overshadowed by his faults--thus the general's significant contributions to become marginalized, unfortunately.

In this new biography, Perry sets the record straight.  What we have is a new reconsideration of the American hero.  It was MacArthur's combined-arms operation in the Pacific (a first of its kind during war) that enabled America's triumph during World War 2.  During World War 2, MacArthur had to overcome both personal and professional challenges to lead his troops.

But this isn't just MacArthur's story.  No.  It's also the story of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the men that acted behind the scenes.  It was MacArthur's subordinates who had to tame the general, make him useful, and help him achieve victory on the battlefield.

The title of this book comes from a phrase that FDR once uttered about the general even though he also described him as an intelligent and brilliant soldier.  FDR was not alone in having polarizing feelings.  MacArthur, depending on who one talks to, is a gifted general or the most reviled military figure in history.

As time passes on from MacArthur's death, his hazardous faults have eclipsed his incredible genius.  With this new biography, perhaps the time has come to reconsider MacArthur's character, both controversial and equally brilliance.

Perry traces the general's path from the Great Depression to the end of World War 2.  The author shows how the general's military genius was matched by a massive ego and sense of decorum.  This was a guy that commanded a great deal of respect from the Republican Party and the American public.  There's no mistaking how powerful a figure that he was and FDR was right to fear him.

After the Great War, MacArthur was sidelined with a ceremonial position in the Philippines but faced with the threat from Japan in the lead-up to WW2, FDR promoted MacArthur to Commander of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East.

His capricious personality led to more casualties than any other general during WW2.  His success in the Pacific, Perry notes, can be attributed to combat commander Robert Eichelberger and aide Dwight Eisenhower.  Without them helping to sideline his faults and draw on his strengths, he would not have been able to fight one of the most visionary campaigns of all time.  It was the first combined-arms operation in the history of warfare.  It was this bold innovation that paved the way for Japan to be defeated.

What Perry has done is revisit MacArthur's legacy, as unfairly skewed as it was, and rehabilitates his image by displaying how the general not only led the United States to victory in the Pacific but reshaped modern warfare while doing so.

No comments: