In Caesar's Shadow: The Life of General Robert Eichelberger

By Paul Chwialkowski | Go to book overview
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7
STRUGGLES FROM THE SIDELINES

Shortly after the Buna campaign, MacArthur decided to put his I Corps commander "on ice." From March 1943 to March 1944, Eichelberger spent his time in Australia, training the 32d, 41st, and 24th Divisions.

Eichelberger was puzzled and angry about this demotion. Although he was aware that MacArthur was displeased by some of his actions at Buna, he did not yet fully comprehend the complexities of his chief's personality. He could not understand how MacArthur could set him aside for merely personal reasons. In his daily letters to his wife in March 1943, Eichelberger expressed confusion and bitterness toward the "ingratitude." and insensitivity of MacArthur. "You have no idea," he wrote, "of the mental torture we endure and the body English we exert as we watch from the background." Eichelberger confessed, "I shall do my duty towards my country . . . but I shall not do it with quite the same élan and enthusiasm as I had last winter."1

His depression deepened when he discovered that MacArthur had requested the transfer of the 6th Army to the Southwest Pacific. After the arrival there of the 6th Army headquarters staff in February 1943, Eichelberger visited GHQ and asked MacArthur to define the role of I Corps. MacArthur replied that I Corps would be placed under the command of General Walter Krueger, the commander of the 6th Army. "Krueger," MacArthur stated, "is the one who will determine how and when you will fight." Several days later, Eichelberger asked Krueger for further clarification; Krueger replied that the directives from GHQ restricted the use of corps-sized units, and limited future corps operations to small combat teams under the jurisdiction of the 6th Army, which effectively ruled out any participation by I Corps in future operations. "How unfair," he added, "when one considers that he [ MacArthur] brought General Krueger out to be an army commander and that I had been placed to a large extent out of the picture."2

In April 1943, another problem arose. It quickly became apparent that Eichelberger and Krueger had serious personality differences. This was an un

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