'The Taming of Douglas MacArthur'

By Kingseed, Cole C. | Army, August 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

'The Taming of Douglas MacArthur'


Kingseed, Cole C., Army


'The Taming of Douglas MacArthur'

The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur. Mark Perry. Basic Books. 416 pages. $29.99.

In 1932, during a lunch in Albany, New York, with Rexford Tugwell, one of his economic advisors, New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt called Gen. Douglas MacArthur "the most dangerous man in America." As Army Chief of Staff, MacArthur had recently dispersed the "Bonus Army" from its encampment on the Anacostia Flats in Washington, D.C. Roosevelt feared that Americans would turn to a "hero on horseback" to rescue them from their economic plight. The subsequent rela- tionship between Roosevelt and Mac- Arthur remained extraordinarily com- plex. Seeded by mutual suspicion, it was "less a voluntary partnership than an indispensable collaboration."

In this book, Mark Perry explores how Roosevelt and MacArthur "en- gaged in a delicate political minuet that recasts our understanding of one of the most important soldiers of our history." Perry specializes in dual bi- ographies, and in compiling this book, he relied on memoirs and reminis- cences, standard biographies of Mac- Arthur, and each military service's offi- cial history and operational reports.

Though Roosevelt and his advisors provide an intriguing backdrop to Perry's story, MacArthur commands center stage. Subtitled The Making of Douglas MacArthur, this book proba- bly ought to be titled The Taming of Douglas MacArthur, because that is ex- actly what Roosevelt sought to do from the beginning of his presidency. As Roosevelt informed Tugwell in 1932, "We must tame these fellows and make them useful to us." Perry posits that as Roosevelt set to tame MacArthur, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall worked to make him "useful" by implementing Mac- Arthur 's strategic vision to shape vic- tory in the Pacific.

Perry explores the dual-sided Mac- Arthur: the flawed character who at times was his own worst enemy and the brilliant general who won the Pa- cific War. When MacArthur perceived that Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had accompanied him to the Philippines in 1935, was becoming more popular with Philippine President Manuel Quezon in 1937, MacArthur sought to limit Eisenhower 's access to the president. In the remaining years that Eisen- hower served as MacArthur 's aide, the general proved narrow-minded, para- noid, vindictive and jealous of his se- nior aide. Years later, when time and circumstances delayed MacArthur 's timetable to liberate the Philippines, MacArthur appeared "small-minded, embittered, and suspicious."

On the other hand, Perry assigns MacArthur relatively high marks as a military commander. MacArthur's most significant defeat, the loss of Luzon in early 1942, was the result of senior com- manders, including MacArthur, who "were mentally unprepared for war. …

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