Shedding New Light on a Forgotten Commander

By Kingseed, Cole C. | Army, August 2007 | Go to article overview

Shedding New Light on a Forgotten Commander


Kingseed, Cole C., Army


Shedding New Light on a Forgotten Commander General Walter Krueger: Unsung Hero of the Pacific War. Kevin C. Holzimmer. University Press of Kansas. 329 pages; maps; index; $39.95.

By CoI. Cole C. Kingseed

U.S. Army retired

To the vast majority of Americans, World War II in the Pacific is perceived as primarily a naval war. Sixty-two years after Gen. Douglas MacArthur received the formal Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri, few but veterans and historians recall the heroic efforts of the American Army's frontline commanders. To correct this imbalance, Kevin C. Holzimmer, an associate professor of comparative military studies and vice dean for academic affairs at the U.S. Air Command and Staff College, has produced a highly flattering biography of Gen. Walter Krueger, the commanding general of the Sixth U.S. Army during the Pacific War.

General Walter Krueger is an important volume in the University Press of Kansas' Modern War Studies series, hi examining the career of the commander of the Sixth Army in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA), Holzimmer has undertaken a daunting task. Though Krueger received "slight but positive wartime exposure" during his lifetime, history has not been kind to him. Denied the publicity that surrounded army level commanders in the European Theater, Krueger has been all but lost to history. In rediscovering Krueger, Holzimmer hopes to "fill a glaring gap in American military historiography by examining the career of Walter Krueger, specifically his role in World War II."

Three broad themes characterize Holzimmer's biography. The first involves Krueger's personal life and personality. At times Krueger was abrasive, condescending and extremely stubborn. Upon recommending Krueger to command Third Army in 1941, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall remarked that Krueger was a man "of decided opinions" and had developed the reputation for having a "hard time hearing other people's views and adapting them to [his] use." Marshall warned that in the future, Krueger should follow another pattern if the best results were to be obtained.

The second theme places Krueger at the forefront of the Army's development of a sophisticated operationallevel doctrine before entering the war in 1941. Enlisting in the Army in 1898 to fight in the Spanish-American War, Krueger later served with distinction in the Philippines, on the Mexican border in 1916 and in France during the Great War. During the interwar period, Krueger attended the Army War College and Naval War College and served on the Joint Army and Navy Planning Committee. A frequent contributor to armed forces journals, Krueger wrote prodigiously on myriad topics, including desertion, wartime preparedness and the need for unity of command.

Krueger's star shone most brilliantly during the series of War Department maneuvers in the early 1940s. Holzimmer credits Krueger, not Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower, his chief of staff, as the architect of Third Army's strategy in the General Headquarters maneuvers in Texas and Louisiana in September 1941. According to Holzimmer, Krueger's method of command was consistent with his earlier emphasis on unity of command, combined-arms operations and reliance on maneuver to annihilate the enemy.

Holzimmer's central theme focuses on Krueger's World War II years. Summoned by Gen. MacArthur in January 1943, Krueger quickly established himself as an integral member of MacArthur's team. …

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