Besides this newfound confidence in Eichelberger, MacArthur also had a more subtle reason for returning his Buna commander to the front lines. Since March 1943, General Krueger had been responsible for most of the combat assignments in the Southwest Pacific. MacArthur was concerned that Krueger had demonstrated a lack of aggressiveness in some of his operations. MacArthur hoped that Eichelberger's presence would spur Krueger on to greater efforts, and that the threat of being replaced would eliminate the "timidity" in Krueger's offensives.
In posing Eichelberger as a threat to Krueger, MacArthur hoped to get the best possible performance out of both men. MacArthur was fully aware that Walter and Bob did not "get along." The two men, he believed, were sensitive, jealous, and insecure. MacArthur was confident that he would be able to turn these insecurities to his own advantage. A keen student of human nature, MacArthur reasoned that the presence of Eichelberger and Krueger in the same theater of operations would cause both men to work doubly hard; each man would fear that the other was "breathing down his neck." MacArthur assumed his two subordinates would fight for his favor; both would need the support of their boss to gain additional combat assignments at the other's expense. Since MacArthur held all the advantages, he felt little concern about placing them on the same battlefield. He understood the likelihood of interpersonal conflict, but gambled that the friction would be offset by an increase in initiative and competition, even if this competition had the potential to be mean-spirited. 35