Academic journal article Military Review

Truman and MacArthur: Policy, Politics, and the Hunger for Honor and Renown

Academic journal article Military Review

Truman and MacArthur: Policy, Politics, and the Hunger for Honor and Renown

Article excerpt

TRUMAN AND MACARTHUR: Policy, Politics, and the Hunger for Honor and Renown, Michael D. Pearlman, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2008, 352 pages, $29.95.

Truman and MacArthur focuses on relationships--between people, between institutions of the government, and between nations. In this engaging narrative of the collision of President Harry Truman with General Douglas MacArthur, author Michael D. Pearlman uses Truman and MacArthur's relationship to highlight the larger relationship between civil and military institutions in U.S. polity and the tension that naturally results. Pearlman shows how the Cold War intensified this tension and, in part, led to the most famous civil-military conflict in American history when Truman fired MacArthur in 1951. The author also makes a good case that the wonder of MacArthur's relief has more to do with why it did not happen much earlier.

Pearlman's life-long research encompasses a comprehensive array of primary and secondary sources. Information from official documents and personal memoirs adds value when interwoven with the ongoing political commentary in the U.S. national news media. Pearlman includes judgments in just about every sentence along with his facts. For example, "MacArthur trusted no one loyal to someone in the White House ..." Far too many historians these days shy away from these kinds of useful judgments. Although primarily about Truman and MacArthur, some of the cameos that Pearlman tosses out, almost casually, are worth their weight in gold. Among the most fascinating is the story of General Frank Lowe, a true citizen-soldier who tried to bridge the gap between the two men. Lowe was sent by Truman to fulfill this function on a short fact-finding trip and ended up staying eight months and transferring much of his loyalty from the president to MacArthur. …

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