Review of “MacArthur at War”by Walter Borneman

MacArthur at WarMacArthur at War by Walter R. Borneman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A pretty strong military look at the WWII Pacific campaign of the U.S., as seen through the prism of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. We do get some initial and very interesting biographical information on MacArthur, and a totally unvarnished look at how he conducted himself, and the military campaign, against Japan in the Pacific. The book does get into some military detail, but it also sheds some light on the often difficult chain of command issues between the military services in a theatre that required coordinated action by sea, air and land forces to overcome the initial Japanese military success. These command and control issues would likely have been difficult in any case, but when you add the super ego of Douglas MacArthur into the mix they could have been exceedingly harmful to the war effort. We get a look at MacArthur interacting with Nimitz, Halsey, King, Marshall, and his staff. The book, in my opinion, shines in looking at those relationships, and how George Marshall managed to keep all of those massive egos in check, and on plan.
The author is clearly exceedingly respectful of the vast brain of MacArthur, but is not afraid to call him out for some bad calls made, and shows how he even grew militarily, finally grasping the vital importance of being able to project land based air power, which he was slow to come around to. MacArthur, despite some faults, was able to be one of the great leaders of the Pacific Campaign, and deserves much praise for those efforts. The book leaves us with MacArthur leading the signing ceremony of Japanese surrender, getting ready to become the supreme authority in occupied Japan.
MacArthur remains one of the most talked about military leaders in U.S. history, and one of the most controversial. The book details his great love of, and ability to generate, large amounts of positive publicity. Sometimes this drive for publicity placed him at odds with his superiors, but this book shows how the shrewd FDR saw the upside potential for the American public to have, and respect, a military hero, especially in the early stages of American involvement, when we needed good news.
I recommend this book, for folks who like some of the military minutiae, but also for those who want some insight into a most fascinating man, and one of the great military thinkers in American history.

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