MACARTHUR IN KOREA: The Naked Emperor by Robert Smith


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Lest we miss the subtitle reference to Hans Christian Andersen's famous story, it is spelled out in the epigraph; lest we overlook the implicit retort to William Manchester's American Caesar, we hear on the first page that a subordinate's nickname for MacArthur, Sarah Bernhardt, ""suits him far better than Caesar or Hannibal or Alexander the Great."" And the book as a whole is just about that crude. Like Joseph Goulden's Korea (p. 46), it is a work of demolition; unlike Goulden's book, it is totally incoherent as an account of the Korean War--much of the patchy text isn't even about Korea--and totally unsupported by documentation (save for an occasional in-text quotation). The first chapter has chiefly to do with the mistakes of American General Hodge, a MacArthur appointee, during the post-WW II occupation of Korea. (One was welcoming Syngman Rhee: ""There were policy makers in the Department of State who nearly went bananas when they learned that this old self-aggrandizer had been wafted off ostensibly to become leader of Free Korea."") The second, ""Minor Matters,"" deals with MacArthur's purported ""skill at closing his eyes to details""--from the prewar unreadiness of the Philippine forces to the ""sybaritic life"" of officers during the occupation of Japan to the unpreparedness of the troops who made the Inchon landing. (Why the Inchon success? MacArthur's staff: ""There probably never was a more talented array of naval and military experts gathered for one job."") The third chapter, ""Small Lies,"" expands on MacArthur's notorious self-serving evasions; the fourth, ""Plots and Counterplots,"" winds its way, via diverse intrigues, to MacArthur's dismissal. The final chapters, ""The Price of Glory"" and ""The Real MacArthur,"" review the damage he did in Korea and the ""fairy tales"" and ""fables"" he propagated about his achievements in Japan. (Quoted out of context, even a bemused aside by Edwin Reischauer comes off sounding critical of the occupation.) For any serious purpose, a disgrace.

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster