THE YEARS OF MACARTHUR, VOL. III, 1945-1964 by D. Clayton James
Kirkus Star

THE YEARS OF MACARTHUR, VOL. III, 1945-1964

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KIRKUS REVIEW

James' authoritative, three-volume MacArthur biography, of which this is the final installment, combines thoroughgoing research and meticulous scholarship with persistent inquiry into MacArthur's motives, feelings, judgments. Why the ""unfair rules"" and ""pressures for haste"" in the post- WW II trials of generals Yamashita and Homma? Why the confidence, conveyed to Truman at Wake, that the Chinese Communists would not intervene in Korea? In the latter instance, James finds Washington intelligence as faulty as field intelligence--but clarifying controversial episodes is only one part of his accomplishment. (On occasion, as in the former instance, he can only regret the lack of evidence.) During this period of the occupation of Japan, MacArthur's vain tries for the presidency, the Korean War and MacArthur's dismissal, James' pronouncements are firm and sharp: MacArthur hoped to go down in history for a constructive, wound-binding occupation (hence his wish for an early peace treaty); he was ""a political animal,"" for all his coyness (James reports a marathon 1946 conversation in which MacArthur urged Ike to run for the presidency in 1948, calling himself ""too old""); he was at his best, upon his dismissal, ""in the role of aristocrat in uniform."" Thus James provides a basis for his later observation that individuals of varying sorts--Kennedy and Johnson more than Nixon--were attracted to MacArthur. On the actual events of the years under review, James is orderly and comprehensive, balancing a chronological and a topical approach (individual sections on the early/reformist and the later/conservative political and economic policy, on social and cultural matters, on MacArthur's inner circle and home-life). On points of long-standing contention--like the precise origin of the article in the new Japanese constitution renouncing war and armed forces--his detective-work is exemplary. Overall, he shows MacArthur's limitations without disparagement, and his strengths without acclamation. If the detail restricts the book's readership, both lay and professional students of history will find it broadly rewarding.

Pub Date: April 25th, 1985
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin