Email this review


A worm’s-eye fable of how Machiavellian General Douglas MacArthur, having won the war in the Pacific, goes on to wage peace against his subtle former adversaries. When V-J Day catapults MacArthur from five-star general to Supreme Commander of Occupied Japan, the old fox reacts as if he’s spent his entire life preparing for this chance. Laying siege to the princes and diplomats whose country his forces have so recently been bombing, MacArthur craftily wangles his way into a position of unprecedented power and prestige. The general sees his calling as a high one: to prepare the way to an orderly peacetime economy and culture for the conquered nation, to bring war criminals to speedy justice, and to urge a democratic constitution on a country whose dynastic history stretches back thousands of years. Yet his private prejudices and grievances, dispassionately recalled by his aide-de-camp, Captain Jay Marsh, sway his every plan, first obliquely and then ever more directly, as he vows to protect Emperor Hirohito’s family from prosecution because he needs an intact monarchy to sponsor his reforms, and as he prosecutes honorable, innocent General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the Tiger of Malaya, for the 1937 rape of Nanking in order to shield perpetrators he can—t afford to accuse. MacArthur’s visionary flaws are echoed in a minor key by Jay, who, like his boss, compromises his romance with a beautiful Filipina at the Army’s behest, and—encouraged by the example of an exasperated prosecutor who manipulates MacArthur into dismissing him from the judge advocate’s staff and shipping him back stateside—ends up gambling his principles and future on an attempt to outmaneuver the wily general. Despite a lumbering opening and some plummy prose, Webb (Something to Die For, 1991, etc.) makes winning the Japanese peace look every bit as challenging and tragic as winning the war. (film rights to Scott Rudin/Paramount; Book-of-the-Month Club selection; $150,000 ad/promo budget; author tour)

Pub Date: April 28th, 1999
ISBN: 0-7679-0076-6
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1999


NonfictionI HEARD MY COUNTRY CALLING by James Webb
by James Webb
NonfictionBORN FIGHTING by James Webb
by James Webb
FictionLOST SOLDIERS by James Webb
by James Webb