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The General vs. the President: MacArthur and…
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The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of… (edició 2016)

de H. W. Brands

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235784,959 (3.72)1
"From master storyteller and historian H.W. Brands, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, comes the riveting story of how President Harry Truman and General Douglas MacArthur squared off to decide America's future in the aftermath of World War II. At the height of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman committed a gaffe that sent shock waves around the world. When asked by a reporter about the possible use of atomic weapons in response to China's entry into the war, Truman replied testily, 'The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of the weapons, as he always has.' This suggested that General Douglas MacArthur, the willful, fearless, and highly decorated commander of the American and U.N. forces, had his finger on the nuclear trigger. A correction quickly followed, but the damage was done; two visions for America's path forward were clearly in opposition, and one man would have to make way. Truman was one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. Heir to a struggling economy, a ruined Europe, and increasing tension with the Soviet Union, on no issue was the path ahead clear and easy. General MacArthur, by contrast, was incredibly popular, as untouchable as any officer has ever been in America. The lessons he drew from World War II were absolute: appeasement leads to disaster and a showdown with the communists was inevitable--the sooner the better. In the nuclear era, when the Soviets, too, had the bomb, the specter of a catastrophic third World War lurked menacingly close on the horizon. The contest of wills between these two titanic characters unfolds against the turbulent backdrop of a faraway war and terrors conjured at home by Joseph McCarthy. From the drama of Stalin's blockade of West Berlin to the daring landing of MacArthur's forces at Inchon to the shocking entrance of China into the war, The General and the President vividly evokes the making of a new American era"--… (més)
Membre:WilliamW72
Títol:The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War
Autors:H. W. Brands
Informació:Anchor, Kindle Edition, 466 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
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Etiquetes:to-read

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The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War de H. W. Brands

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If the Cold War never erupted into World War III, it still gave us some incredible history of close calls where the forces of Communism and the forces of freedom walked right up to the line. The Korean War is probably second only to the Cuban Missile Crisis for having the stakes so high. THE GENERAL VS THE PRESIDENT, subtitled MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War, by H. W. Brands is a good account of one of the Cold War’s most dramatic incidents, a real clash of titans. Coming in at just under 400 pages, it’s a quick read with a lot of information, especially for those not familiar with the story.

Brands does a good job of giving the reader a quick history of how war erupted on the divided Korean peninsula in June of 1950, with the Communist North attempting to use force of arms to quickly crush the new republic in the South. The Communists were backed up politically and militarily in their invasion by the newly Communist government in China, and Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, both of whom sharing a border with the North, and both whom having huge military forces just across that border. It fell to General Douglas MacArthur, the WWII hero and rebuilder of Japan after the war, to command the UN forces (mostly American) to stop the Communists. At first, the General had tremendous success on the battlefield, reversing the North Korean offensive with a surprising counterattack at Inchon, and then driving north (with the support of the President and the UN) toward the Chinese border on the Yalu River in an all out effort to reunify the country under the government of the South. At this point, in November 1950, with the harsh Korean winter closing in, the Chinese Communists came into war, sending three armies across the Yalu, halting the American offensive, and forcing a retreat. This is where the rub came, as MacArthur wanted to bomb Chinese supply lines on the other side of Yalu, introduce Formosan troops under the command of Chang Kai-shek into Korea, while blockading the Chinese coast, and if necessary, using nuclear weapons. President Truman, along with the State Department and the Pentagon, wanted to avoid widening the war beyond the Korean Peninsula at all costs, fearing a military disaster if MacArthur had his way. The General did not like getting his way, and made his objections to the President’s policy known in public, thus setting up an epic confrontation.

As it has been pointed out in other reviews, Brands does not take sides, but he does let the facts on the record, along with the actions and words of both MacArthur and Truman speak for themselves giving us a good feel for both men. Douglas MacArthur was a capable and inspiring military commander, bold and possessing great physical courage. He was also vain, egotistical, and clearly believing his own good press; he knew better than anyone else, especially the mere politicians who occupied the office of Commander in Chief, whether they were named Hoover, Roosevelt, or Truman. Harry Truman had been a small time office holder in Missouri until the age of 50, when, with the help of the Kansas City political machine, he was elected to the United States Senate. Ten years later he was the compromise choice for Vice President at the Democratic National Convention in 1944, where FDR was nominated for a fourth term. Three months into the that term, Roosevelt’s sudden death elevated the new Vice President to the Oval Office just as the Second World War was hurtling toward its conclusion. Though in the eyes of many, Truman could barely stand in the shadow of his illustrious and charismatic predecessor, the man was a quick study and learned on the job, while possessing a rock solid sense of values and quiet self confidence. He was also a good politician, and a good judge of talent, surrounding himself with able men like Dean Acheson and George Marshall. The book gives us a blow by blow account of where MacArthur and Truman clashed; starting with their only face to face meeting at Wake Island in October of 1950, where they discussed how to end what they thought would be a decisive victory over Communism in Asia. MacArthur discounted the possibility that the Chinese would get into the war, and belittled their military prowess on the battlefield. He would be proven wrong time and again, but the General was a hero in the eyes of most Americans, many of whom wanted him to be the Republican nominee for President in 1952. MacArthur apparently agreed with them, and may well have deliberately brought on his dismissal when he wrote a letter to the Republican Speaker of the House in which he openly criticized Truman’s policy of limited war in Korea; that nothing short of unconditional surrender of the Communist commander in the field to him personally was acceptable. This was the bridge too far for the President.

It has been well documented how MacArthur returned to America (a land he’d last seen in 1937) hailed as a conquering hero, given a ticker tape parade in New York and invited to give an address to a joint session of Congress. Everywhere, the crowds were enormous. But one of the best things about Brands’ book is that he goes into detail about what happened next when the General, and his critics from the Truman Administration, gave testimony in executive session before the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees. Using verbatim excerpts from MacArthur, Secretary of State Acheson, Secretary of Defense Marshall, and especially JCS Chairman, General Omar Bradley, Brands makes a clear case for who was in the right, and who was most definitely in the wrong. MacArthur’s Presidential hopes would fade, not in the least because the imperious General totally lacked the common touch necessary to become President in the 20th Century. But he would retain his supporters among hard line Cold Warriors, who, even decades later, would insist that the sacking of MacArthur was an act of rank cowardice on Truman’s part, and that America had squandered an opportunity to throw back Communism in Asia, one that would have spared America the debacle in Vietnam.

Brands does a good job of putting the reader in the shoes of the protagonists, giving us a snapshot of what they knew and believed at any given time in the narrative. But we are given little to no information on what was happening behind closed doors in Beijing and Moscow at this time, which after all, factored greatly in the decisions made in Washington. It is a blind spot. I did like how Brands raises the issue of quotes about MacArthur attributed to Truman in Merle Miller’s PLAIN SPEAKING that are now considered embellishments by an author out to write a book that helped rehabilitate Truman’s reputation in the post Vietnam and Watergate era 1970s.

Brands is a good writer, and this book is excellent read for those not familiar with the history of this era, the chapters are short and to the point, breaking down a lot of information, along with many characters and changing perspectives into something manageable. But there is so much more to the story of Douglas MacArthur, Harry Truman, and their epic confrontation during the Korean War, and for those who want to know more, I’d heartily recommend AMERICAN CAESAR by William Manchester, and TRUMAN by David McCullough. ( )
  wb4ever1 | Dec 21, 2020 |
Solid read. Lots I did not know about the Korean period. MacArthur seems like a piece of work. Brilliant - but maybe nuts? ( )
  bermandog | Aug 29, 2020 |
So what did I learn from investing my time in reading this book? There was some fill-in and some new data. There was one startling element: that the US was pretty much all-in with little left in the military cupboard in 1950. Even at a distance of nearly 70 years, it is not clear that we accomplished much of anything. Of course, our adventure in Korea proved once again that if a country goes into battle without a clear plan about the end will be it should not be surprising it's hard to bring it to an end. Many people have tried to explain Truman and MacArthur. My best guess is that one man found himself in a position bigger than he was but determined to do his best while the other knew he was great but didn't know how to lower himself to ordinary situations. ( )
  DeaconBernie | Mar 15, 2020 |
A readable, but hardly insightful, history of the conflict between Truman and General Douglas MacArthur over the conduct of the Korean War. The book alternates perspectives between the two—who only meet once on Wake Island, when MacArthur infamously downplays the chances of Chinese intervention in the war. Yet we learn more about MacArthur's personality and flaws. MacArthur strongly advocated for escalating the war after the Chinese limited intervention, even up to including spreading nuclear material behind enemy lines in order to disrupt their supply lines, blockading and bombing China and bringing Chiang Kai-Shek's army into the war. He publicly contradicted Truman, who wanted to keep the war limited so as to, for example, maintain US alliances and deterrence capability in Europe against the USSR. Eventually, this led to MacArthur's dismissal. Returning to the US with presidential ambitions, MacArthur is feted while Truman's popularity sags. In the wake of victory in World War II, the public preferred MacArthur's confident, strong leadership. The subsequent Senate hearings somewhat reduced MacArthur's appeal, and history ultimately vindicated the Truman containment doctrine compared to a policy that well could have started World War III.

It is an interesting story, written as a page-turner with short chapters. There weren't many insights or surprises, though. Even with my limited history background, I knew most of the story already. The book could have been edited down considerably. I don't know that we needed every blow-by-blow, including the full names of each reporter who asked questions at press conferences, and exactly when the congressmen clapped during MacArthur's highly political speech to a joint session after his dismissal. ( )
  breic | Jul 7, 2018 |
I’ve read several histories of the Korean War along with many accounts of the Pacific Theater of World War II and David McCollough’s magnificent biography of Harry Truman. Each of these works dealt tangentially with the primary subject matter of this nice, narrowly focused book, namely the conflict between President Truman and the most highly decorated and beloved (with the exception of George Washington, and possibly U. S. Grant) military figure in American history, Douglas MacArthur.

All of that to say, this is not a history of the Korean War or a detailed biography of either Truman or MacArthur. While it certainly contains aspects of each of those things, there are many, more detailed works if that is what you are looking for. The author of this book provides a very balanced treatment of the issues which created the numerous clashes and near crises which developed as a result.

As I said, I’ve read numerous works on this and other Cold War conflicts of the era. I must say, however, that until reading this book, I was unaware of the knife’s edge that Truman and his foreign policy team had to straddle in the face of a potentially atomic World War III; this in the face of a rogue General whose very actions worked at cross purposes to that of the civilian American leadership. MacArthur’s primary goal was to win the Korean War, at all costs; Truman’s was to avoid an exchange of nuclear missiles or a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, a real threat at the time.

Again, this is a very narrowly focused book, with just enough historical detail to tell the story for which it was written. Prior to reading this book, I would read others on the Korean War (Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter is excellent) and McCollugh’s Truman biography, in order to provide a historical basis from which to better appreciate this work. ( )
  santhony | Jun 14, 2017 |
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"From master storyteller and historian H.W. Brands, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, comes the riveting story of how President Harry Truman and General Douglas MacArthur squared off to decide America's future in the aftermath of World War II. At the height of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman committed a gaffe that sent shock waves around the world. When asked by a reporter about the possible use of atomic weapons in response to China's entry into the war, Truman replied testily, 'The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of the weapons, as he always has.' This suggested that General Douglas MacArthur, the willful, fearless, and highly decorated commander of the American and U.N. forces, had his finger on the nuclear trigger. A correction quickly followed, but the damage was done; two visions for America's path forward were clearly in opposition, and one man would have to make way. Truman was one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. Heir to a struggling economy, a ruined Europe, and increasing tension with the Soviet Union, on no issue was the path ahead clear and easy. General MacArthur, by contrast, was incredibly popular, as untouchable as any officer has ever been in America. The lessons he drew from World War II were absolute: appeasement leads to disaster and a showdown with the communists was inevitable--the sooner the better. In the nuclear era, when the Soviets, too, had the bomb, the specter of a catastrophic third World War lurked menacingly close on the horizon. The contest of wills between these two titanic characters unfolds against the turbulent backdrop of a faraway war and terrors conjured at home by Joseph McCarthy. From the drama of Stalin's blockade of West Berlin to the daring landing of MacArthur's forces at Inchon to the shocking entrance of China into the war, The General and the President vividly evokes the making of a new American era"--

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