Douglas Macarthur: 4 screw ups?

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,501
1) Disobeys orders attacking bonus marchers, 2) Mishandles defense of the Philippines, 3) Pushes for invasion of the Philippines, and 4) Provokes China to enter Korean War.

He was brilliant, well-connected, and had a flare for showmanship, but it is hard to understand how he was allowed to make so many mistakes. Or do you disagree they were mistakes?
 

DIVUS IVLIVS

Ad Honoris
Jan 2008
18,740
Virginia
1) MacArthur was not responsible for provoking the Chinese to enter the Korean War. The decision to cross the 38th parallel and take North Korea was made in Washington by Truman and his advisors. MacArthur was only following orders. However, he did screw up by failing to give credence to the possibility that the PRC might come in until it was way too late, and his decision to divide his forces during the advance was a major and costly blunder.

2) Invading the Philippines in 1944 was the right thing to do, in my opinion.

3) The defence of the Philippines in 1941-1942 was mishandled pretty woefully. Under ordinary circumstances this should have ended MacArthur's career.

4) No excuses for the wretched affair with the bonus marchers.

He was brilliant, well-connected, and had a flare for showmanship, but it is hard to understand how he was allowed to make so many mistakes.
The reason can be summed up in three words: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

It was FDR who kept MacArthur on as Army Chief of Staff through most of his first term (and refused to accept his resignation, when it was offered), and later resurrected his career to give him a new command in WWII, ordered him to escape to Australia from Bataan, supported his campaign to reconquer the Philippines, and made him commander in chief of the Pacific forces, which effectively set the stage for him to take charge of the Japanese occupation.

The President's motives for doing all this were murky and complex, but it basically boiled down to his view of MacArthur as a distasteful but highly convenient political tool, who could be made useful as long as he was kept under control.
 

OpanaPointer

Ad Honoris
Dec 2010
11,643
Near St. Louis.
The invasion of the Philippines was a mistake. It delayed the end of the war and cost thousands of American and Filipino lives while achieving nothing more than the keeping of one man's promise to his own ego. MacArthur's record makes Patton look like a very rational man. Mac had to keep his impulsive promise because he had plans to run for President some day. Or was it "king"?
 

DIVUS IVLIVS

Ad Honoris
Jan 2008
18,740
Virginia
The invasion of the Philippines was a mistake. It delayed the end of the war and cost thousands of American and Filipino lives while achieving nothing more than the keeping of one man's promise to his own ego. MacArthur's record makes Patton look like a very rational man. Mac had to keep his impulsive promise because he had plans to run for President some day. Or was it "king"?
The question of whether the strategic value of invading the Philippines in 1944 outweighed the costs incurred is a subject of legitimate debate. However, there should not be any doubt that, for better or worse, it was undertaken for significantly more important reasons than "keeping one man's promise to his own ego."

If MacArthur's ego had been the only reason for us to liberate the Philippines, then we would not have done it, simple as that. Regardless of how badly he might have wanted it, the decision did not belong to him. It belonged to Franklin Roosevelt, and to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They would not have signed off on the invasion if Mac's pride was the only thing at stake.

It was felt at the time - correctly in my opinion - that the U.S. was under an essential political imperative to take the Philippines back from the Japanese, so the promises that had been made to the Filipino government and people could be redeemed. It wasn't just MacArthur's credibility that was on the line - it was America's. If we'd waited until after the Japanese had surrendered before we went back (shades of the British failing to re-take Singapore before the war was over) the geopolitical consequences would like as not have been real and serious.

More to the point, it made military sense to invade the Philippines in 1944 - which is why Leahy and Nimitz argued for it as well as MacArthur. The other option on the table was Formosa, and I don't see much reason to doubt their conclusion that that would not have worked out better for us than the Philippines. It was generally agreed at the time that re-taking Luzon was essential, for a variety of reasons. And before we could get to Luzon, we needed to take back Leyte.

There's also the point to make, that invading the Philippines inadvertently resulted in the coup de grâce being delivered to Japanese naval power in Leyte Gulf. This could obviously not have been anticipated in advance, but it was a nice outcome all the same.
 

OpanaPointer

Ad Honoris
Dec 2010
11,643
Near St. Louis.
The political imperative was created by MacArthur and his supporters. The campaign cost more than it was worth. Mac didn't help this by demanding the Leyte landing, despite the advisories that its primary function, as an air base for the invasion of Luzon, was impractical given that it was unsuitable for runway construction.

As for the reduction of IJN forces, that was going to happen somewhere, somewhen, and the longer they sat at anchor the more fuel they were going to burn, reducing their attack radius still further.

ETA: When Mac went to Hawaii to see FDR his staff were ordered to stop wearing "MacArthur for President" buttons.
 

DIVUS IVLIVS

Ad Honoris
Jan 2008
18,740
Virginia
No, the imperative was created by the promises that had been made to the Philippines by the Roosevelt administration early in the war, before MacArthur had even left Bataan. It therefore behoved the U.S. to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese at the earliest feasible opportunity, otherwise America (to put it crudely) would look like geopolitical chicken-s--t.

It was generally agreed by highly competent strategists, who had no reason to butter MacArthur's ego (Roosevelt, Leahy, Nimitz, etc.) that we needed to reconquer Luzon for sound military purposes, never mind the politics. Taking Leyte before Luzon (after bypassing Mindanao) was also correct. Even though it didn't afford us much in the way of useable runways (irrelevant since MacArthur's initiative to capture Mindoro paid off in spades) the fight for Leyte was a catastrophe for the Japanese, and a great victory for us. Apart from losing the backbone of their navy, by trying so hard to save that island from MacArthur, the Japanese lost sixty-five thousand crack troops and virtually all of their air force except for the kamikazes - assets which would have been much better used buttressing the defences of Luzon. The fight over Leyte sealed the outcome of the entire campaign.

MacArthur's delusions about his future political prospects are irrelevant to the fact that he was right to advocate so forcefully for liberating the Philippines. That country was worth a lot more to us than Formosa (which is where we would have gone if the Philippines campaign had never taken place). And for the most part, Mac did a good job of conducting the campaign when it was entrusted to him.
 
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jackydee

Ad Honorem
Jan 2013
4,569
Brigadoon
That's a pretty weak rebuttal...
The poster you are responding to does have a history of flippant one line replies. It's something I have noticed previously in a couple of threads. Not much substance behind his contributions in those threads if truth be told.