A defining episode in the career of the martial prima donna, dispassionately examined by British military historian Connaughton (The Battle for Manila, not reviewed).
MacArthur, the favored son of a general, always looked upon his own image and found it good. After graduating at the top of his West Point class, he began service in 1903 in the Philippines, whence he wrote fawning messages to superiors much in the style of Uriah Heep. Quickly rising in the ranks, he even had the effrontery to steal the affections of Black Jack Pershing’s mistress, while later on during the Depression he broke up with great zeal the hungry veterans of the Bonus Army when they marched into Washington. During his putative retirement, MacArthur, sporting many ribbons and a baton, became field marshal of the Philippine military—and assumed command of all US forces in the region when WWII broke out. Undeniably brilliant, he and his five-star vanity caused vexed relations with President Quezon, subordinates like Eisenhower and Wainwright, the US Navy, and the US government in general. Most of Connaughton’s text analyzes the archipelago’s military predicament, and, despite his assertions of MacArthur’s mastery of the situation, it’s made plain that his reaction to Pearl Harbor was dilatory and confused. Exhausted forces (ill-equipped, ill-trained, ill-served, and ill-led) sought refuge in doomed Bataan and Corregidor—where they subsisted on half-, then quarter-rations until the cavalry horses had to be butchered. Throughout, MacArthur filed reports that only lightly resembled reality. Before escaping from the scene of the awful defeat, the Potentate of the Pacific secured a considerable emolument from the Philippine government. The historic rout may not have been all his fault, but he sure didn’t help either. Connaughton’s report ends with the famous vow: “I shall return.” Which he did.
A powerful, terrible story told in exacting detail. (14 b&w photos, 2 maps).