Was Douglas MacArthur really that great of a military commander ?

Oct 2011
537
Norway
If you look at the record. Start with his incoherent strategy to defend all of the Philippines that ended in the disastrous surrender at Bataan in April of 1942 (the largest mass surrender of American troops in U.S. history). Follow that with an antagonistic ego that made him frequently unable to work with the Australians defending New Guinea and the ill-advised decision to invade Peleliu (a Japanese stronghold of no immediate strategic value that cost 10,000 U.S. casualties and took two months to secure). Then there is his insistence that Roosevelt invade the Philippines—despite the fact the archipelago had no real strategic value—so he could keep his promise to the Pilipino people that he “would return” (as though they cared). The operation at Leyte Gulf took up so much in terms of military assets that Doug may have single-handedly extended the war by months. But what about Korea, you ask? Wasn’t he the mastermind behind the Inchon landing that broke the back of the North Korean Army and (almost) secured victory on the peninsula? Yes he was, but considering that Inchon was defended by only a small garrison of Korean troops—the rest being locked in battle with U.N. forces around Pusan—meant that only the most incompetent commander would have failed to take it. It’s what happened later, however, where Doug shows his true nature; ignoring intelligence reports that a million Chinese troops were massing along the Korean border ready to invade, he suddenly found himself overrun by Mao’s best and brightest and was forced to retreat well past that pesky 38th parallel. Only his timely firing by Truman (probably Truman’s best decision as President) and General Ridgeway’s (his replacement) tactical sense saved Korea from becoming another Soviet satellite state. Okay, he was a decent military governor in Japan after their surrender and kept the Russians out of Japan, but beyond that, there’s not much that can be said for him, either as a general or a person. Unfair appraisal, you say? Consider that this is the man who had to pull in favors and lobby Congress to get them to award him the Congressional Medal of Honor for his inept defense of the Philippines in 1942. Talk about gall.

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pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,987
American Generals just tend to be totally over rated. At least he had some real experience in warfare unlike Patton, he might be a miserable failure and a loser but at least he was tested. Patton never was.
 

Edgewaters

Ad Honorem
Jul 2007
9,098
Canada
American Generals just tend to be totally over rated. At least he had some real experience in warfare unlike Patton, he might be a miserable failure and a loser but at least he was tested. Patton never was.
This is like concluding a rich man is not wise with his money because he's never been poor.
 
Feb 2013
169
Maryland, USA
I don't think MacArthur was even a good general, let alone a great one. His failures in the defense of the Philippines speak for themselves, as does Korea, but even in the case of his greatest contribution to the overall Pacific War effort (the campaign to re-take the Philippines), it was ultimately of secondary importance in comparison to the Central Pacific advance and was marked with some rather questionable moments (e.g. Buna) as well. Even if you can't outright call him a bad general, then IMO he was definitely a mediocre one. But as far as Peleliu goes, in MacArthur's defense he was far from the only one who thought the island should be taken and shouldn't take all the blame for it. Nimitz also favored Peleliu's capture, so the resultant bloodbath should be on the heads of both Pacific commanders.
 
Apr 2013
1,041
St. Augustine
Well he had the sense to use Krueger and Eichelberger well. I read he used to get mad at Krueger for disregarding his attempts at micromanagement but he knew Krueger was a fighter and usually let him fight his way.

Krueger seems to be a guy there's much disagreement on; some see him as lacking imagination and a plodder but others see him as focused, determined and quite capable.

I read a recent book about Marshall and American army commanders during the war and the writer rated both Krueger and Eichelberger very highly as army commanders, indeed as I recall he thought they and Patton were the three best American army commanders. My books are packed away for a move from Chicago to Florida and I can't reference the book.

He used Kenney well too.
 

Underlankers

Ad Honorem
Feb 2013
6,724
He was one of America's greatest political leaders. As a military commander, he at best can be considered inconsistent and more accurately one of the worst and most dangerous generals to ever hold the position of general in the history of the United States military.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,949
T'Republic of Yorkshire
Much as I don't like MacArthur, his personality and his actions, he made Japan what it is today, and I love the place so he gets one brownie point for that.