MacArthur and the American Century: A Reader

MacArthur and the American Century: A Reader

MacArthur and the American Century: A Reader

MacArthur and the American Century: A Reader


General Douglas MacArthur has been hailed as the greatest soldier in American history. While not everyone would agree with that assessment, there is no question that MacArthur played a prominent role in the emergence of the United States as a world power in the twentieth century. A distinguished combat soldier during World War I and an innovative educator at West Point in the 1920s, MacArthur became the army's chief of staff during the Great Depression. He went abroad in the 1930s to prepare the Philippines for war. His stand against the Japanese following Pearl Harbor made him a national hero, and his subsequent campaign against Japanese forces in the Southwest Pacific only added to his reputation. The Korean War gave MacArthur a final opportunity to display his military skills. MacArthur and the American Century assembles for the first time a nuanced and full scrutiny of MacArthur's entire career. Essays by such experts as Stanley L. Falk and D. Clayton James accompany materials by Dwight D. Eisenhower and MacArthur himself, providing analysis and evaluation of the immense impact this dramatic figure had on war, peace, and the American imagination.


It is intriguing to imagine what historians might have written about Douglas MacArthur had he faded into obscurity after stepping down as army chief of staff in 1935. It certainly seems unlikely that he would have attracted much attention beyond a handful of scholars. At best, his life might have been the topic for a dissertation that might or might not have been published, depending upon the literary and analytical skills of the author.

MacArthur, it would be noted, had a distinguished military career, at least in the institutional sense. The son of a Civil War hero who rose to three-star rank and command of U.S. forces in the Philippines during the turbulent years that followed the Spanish-American War, MacArthur compiled an impressive record at West Point. Graduating in 1903 at the top of his class and as first captain of the Corps of Cadets, he received his commission as a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers.

Over the next ten years MacArthur saw duty in a variety of military postings in the Philippines, Panama, and the United States. In 1914 he conducted a hazardous reconnaissance mission during the U.S. occupation of Veracruz, Mexico, and was recommended for the Medal of Honor. To MacArthur’s immense disgust he failed to receive the high honor.

MacArthur was serving on the general staff of the War Department when the United States entered World War I in April 1917. He suggested and then implemented a plan to form a National Guard division that would be composed of units from several states. MacArthur became chief of staff of the resultant Forty-second Infantry, or “Rainbow” Division.

The Forty-second Division went into combat in France early in 1918. Colonel MacArthur, in his turtleneck sweater and long purple muffler, quickly made his mark on the field of battle. Whether personally leading a patrol through enemy lines or standing coolly aloof in the midst . . .

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