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The Life and Legend of Douglas MacArthur

by Geoffrey Perret

Pub Date: May 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-42882-8
Publisher: Random House

 WW II historian Perret (Winged Victory, 1993, etc.) has produced a fully comprehensive biography that does evenhanded justice to a great, if flawed, man and his considerable achievements. Capitalizing on unrestricted access to his subject's papers, the author provides a consistently engrossing account of the general who ``was the quintessential twentieth century incarnation of the tragic hero.'' MacArthur graduated first in his class at West Point in 1903. After earning a chestful of medals for bravery in WW I France, his meteoric career included a four-year stint as superintendent at West Point and service as the Army's chief of staff. He retired in 1937 but was recalled to active duty in mid- 1941. In 1942 MacArthur assumed command of the Allied forces battling Japan in the Southwest Pacific. In 1945, he received Japan's surrender in dramatic ceremonies aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. MacArthur subsequently served as supreme commander of the forces occupying Japan, a post he used to institute enduring economic and sociopolitical reforms. Given command of United Nations forces at the inception of the Korean war, MacArthur landed American troops at Inchon in a daring amphibious assault that led to a to routing of the invading enemy. By marching north through the partitioned country, however, MacArthur drew Communist China into the conflict. In the wake of bitter disagreements with his superiors about American strategy, the aging general was recalled. Perret makes a fine job of evoking not only the qualities that helped MacArthur become a world-class soldier but also the quixotic arrogance and vanity that eventually brought him to grief. He also offers affecting glimpses of a remote commander's surprisingly warm personal life and occasional walks on the wild side. In brief, then, a balanced, warts-and-all portrait that could renew interest in a justly celebrated but ever elusive warrior. (30 pages photos, not seen; maps)