We all know about Bush derangement syndrome, but some historians seem to suffer from MacArthur derangement syndrome (MDS). Logic, facts, fairness, and intellectual honesty all leave when Douglas MacArthur is mentioned.
The poster boy for MDS is Stanley Weintraub author of “15 Stars and “MacArthur in Korea”. Widely touted as a “Military Historian”, Weintraub is nothing of the sort. A former English Lit Professor who specialized in George Bernard Shaw, Weintraub took up Military History in his early 60s, no doubt to pay the bills. Weintraub’s pop histories while superficial and full of errors are given wide play in the media and I assume sell well because of their sensationalist, easy to understand prose.
An excellent example of MDS is the New York Times review of Weintraub’s book “MacArthur in Korea”“ I’ve quoted selected paragraphs along with a response.
"MacArthur now championed a hair-raisingly bold scheme to launch an amphibious landing at Inchon behind the enemy's lines. Given Inchon's tricky 30-foot tides, the general himself estimated that success was a 5,000 to 1 shot. But on Sept. 15, 1950, he pulled it off, vastly enhancing his already formidable mystique. Victory at Inchon bewitched almost everyone in the American chain of command, up to and including the president. Once-cautious men who had declared the restoration of the 38th parallel boundary as their only war aim now recklessly sought to bring all of Korea under Syngman Rhee's rule. Truman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff authorized MacArthur to cross the 38th parallel -- but only after swallowing the sorcerer of Inchon's claim that China would never intervene on North Korea's behalf. The only conditions they imposed were that he undertake no air or naval action against China and that he permit only South Korean troops into the zone of the Korean-Chinese frontier along the Yalu River.”
This paragraph is a lie. First, Truman, Acheson, and the JSC in NSC 81/1 dated September 9, 1950 had decided to cross the 38th parallel; and unite South and North Korea. In fact, NSC 81/1 states the political goal the UN in Korea was to unite Korea under a free democratic government. On September 27, 1950, the JCS implemented NSC 81/1 and authorized MacArthur to cross the 38th parallel. The delay occurred because the NSC saw no advantage to authorizing the crossing of the parallel before we could physically do it. In other words, MacArthur was not the key factor in the decision to cross the parallel.
As for MacArthur’s “guarantee” of Chinese intervention. The fact is the NSC had already decided on September 9, 1950 that neither China or the USSR would intervene if we invaded North Korea. Next paragraph:
“To ensure that MacArthur understood those limitations, Truman flew 7,000 miles to parley with his imperious general at Wake Island. If China tried to put ground troops across the Yalu River, MacArthur assured his commander in chief at their October 1950 meeting, there would be ''the greatest slaughter.'' The war, he predicted, would be over by Thanksgiving.”
Again this is a lie. The October 15, 1950 meeting was a political junket. MacArthur brought no staff with him and not given an agenda before the meeting. MacArthur and Truman met for only 3 hours. Most of the discussion was about what to do after the victory had been won in Korea. Truman was receiving intelligence reports from the CIA, British Intelligence, and other military and diplomatic sources in Japan and Korea. He didn’t need MacArthur to tell him about the Chinese. In any case, MacArthur had already been authorized to occupy all of North Korea. There is no evidence Truman met with MacArthur to emphasize that MacArthur couldn’t attack China.
Finally, no one was predicting the Chinese could intervene and defeat MacArthur’s troops. Everyone thought the war would be over by Thanksgiving. If MacArthur underestimated the Chinese so did everyone else, except a few front line commanders.
“But meanwhile, Weintraub says, MacArthur fell to his knees nightly to pray for Chinese intervention, so that he might have the climactic Asian military showdown that he not-so-secretly wanted.”
This is just an unsupported accusation. One might as well say that Weintraub prayed nightly in 1950 that Stalin would drop the A-bomb on New York City and establish world revolution.
“Two days before Thanksgiving, American soldiers, dispatched by MacArthur far northward in direct violation of Truman's orders, were urinating triumphantly into the Yalu. Hours later, some 260,000 Chinese troops appeared as if from nowhere and hurled MacArthur's troops southward in a grisly repetition of the flight toward Pusan. By Christmas, the battered and humiliated Americans were struggling in sub-zero cold to re-establish a defensive line near the 38th parallel.”
False. MacArthur informed the JCS of his plans and other military men were informing the JSC of what MacArthur was doing. The JCS did not object. There was no “direct violation of Truman’s orders”.
his second rout infuriated MacArthur. He requested 34 atomic bombs. He contemplated sowing a belt of radioactive cobalt to interdict further Chinese advances. He demanded authority to blockade and bomb China and to unleash Chiang Kai-shek's troops from Formosa (now Taiwan) against the Chinese mainland. In short, he threatened to turn the Korean War into a full-blown war against China -- the outcome that civilian authorities were most determined to avoid. When Washington demurred, MacArthur publicly accused the administration of appeasement.
There is no evidence that MacArthur recommended using A-bombs in Korea in 1950 let alone against China. MacArthur thought sowing radioactive cobalt to protect Korea from further Chinese assault. He did not advocate a “full blown war” against China. He never advocated an invasion of US troops, dropping A-bombs on China, or even bombing Chinese cities. His wanted to use Air power against the Red airbases in Manchuria.
"All this was too much for Truman. On April 11, 1951, the president relieved MacArthur of his command. Truman was excoriated by the general's legions of worshipers, but most historians have praised him for asserting the principle of civilian authority over the military.”
Absurd. Truman as C-in-C had a right to fire MacArthur or any other general. I don’t know any General or political in the last 100 years who has advanced the idea that civilians don’t have control over the military. The dispute between Truman and MacArthur was about the conduct of the Korean war. MacArthur wanted to bomb the bases in Manchuria and the bridges over the Yalu. He wanted reinforcements and to destroy the communist forces in Korea and achieve “victory”. Truman had no strategy. He told MacArthur that he could not expand the war, that he would receive no reinforcements, that Europe wold be given priority, and that he was simply to hang on to as much of Korea as he could . MacArthur was disgusted by this attitude. He felt we should achieve victory in Korea or negotiate a settlement. As he stated, the purpose of the war was victory not “prolonged indecision”.
Truman’s “strategy” left us at the mercy of Mao and Stalin. Mao would launch an offensive and we would counterattack. Thousands of Americans were killed from December 1950 to September 1950 with no result. According to Chinese records, it wasn’t until September 1950 that Mao finally accepted the fact that the PLA could not achieve victory. Yet even then both Mao and Stalin felt in to their advantage to continue the war. And it wasn’t until Stalin’s death that an armistice was signed.
“Here ''MacArthur's War'' abruptly ends. Weintraub offers neither a comprehensive history of the Korean War, which continued for two years after MacArthur's dismissal, nor a thorough exploration of Truman's side of the controversy. But for depicting the agony of the war on the ground, and for cutting MacArthur down to size -- or off at the knees -- this impassioned book has few equals.”
Yes, “An impassioned book” about “cutting MacArthur off at the Knees”. IOW, an example of MDS and not history.