Introduction to Reminiscences by Douglas MacArthur
Few generals have captured the public’s imagination in the same way that General Douglas MacArthur did during World War II. Perhaps George Washington did during the American Revolution, or Rommel did in North Africa, as you can read about in Washington’s Crossing or An Army at Dawn, respectively. But, on the whole, no military leader since Julius Caesar has received as much adoration or praise as MacArthur did. After reading Reminiscences by Douglas MacArthur, it’s easy to see why.
In Reminiscences, General MacArthur mainly stays away from the politics of his military career. Rather than discussing the justness of war, as Ulysses Grant did in his Memoirs, MacArthur mainly sticks to the battles he fought in and the performance of the units he commanded during them.
However, Reminiscences is a great book not because of those stories, although they are excellent, but rather because of his ending chapters on the Korean War. The war that set America back decades in its fight against communism and the consequences of which we are still dealing with today in the existence of North Korea.
Summary of Reminiscences by Douglas MacArthur
Part 1: MacArthur’s Early Career
MacArthur begins Reminiscences with recounting of his family’s military history. While not particularly important, it is interesting and shows how his father was a brave soldier, just as he was.
Pretty quickly, however, MacArthur jumps into describing his own career. Beginning with the US action in Mexico before World War I, MacArthur displayed bravery, ingenuity, and decisive leadership in a way that few others could.
Never one to rest on his laurels, MacArthur then fought with distinction in World War I. Leading attacks of inexperienced American doughboys against dug-in, hardened German troops, MacArthur was still able to win. Those victories were a testament to his brilliance and bravery.
While on the topic of his bravery, MacArthur won many awards for valor throughout his military service. There are far too many to record here, they’d take up the whole post! Suffice it to say that he was well-decorated.
After returning home from World War I, MacArthur held a variety of leadership positions. One of his most trying assignments in the interwar period was sending soldiers to deal with the Bonus Army in D.C. What I found interesting about that was that MacArthur picked up on the communist leadership of the Bonus Army, which is something few historians discuss. Far from being a group of dispossessed veterans, the Bonus Army was more like a group of Antifa thugs; communists there to inflict harm and cause riots.
Part II: World War II for MacArthur
The next main part of Reminiscences was MacArthur’s description of the leadup to World War II and the war itself.
Beginning with the leadup to the war, MacArthur mainly focuses on the Philippines. While in command there, he was put in charge of organizing a Philippine Army to potentially resist Japan, but given few resources with which to do so.
Underarmed and undermanned, MacArthur’s army had little hope of long-term resistance against the Japanese. Congress, focusing on entitlement programs rather than national defense, was unwilling to spend enough to adequately defend the island nation.
Then, hostilities broke out. After putting up a storied resistance in the Philippines, MacArthur was ordered to leave his men and retreat to Australia. He vowed to return and then campaigned ruthlessly to fight his way back to his home in Asia.
Much of the combat described by MacArthur in the section on World War II is also described in The Two-Ocean War. However, I thought that it was interesting to hear it from the commander’s perspective and see the differences.
Eventually, as we all know, World War II was won. The Soviets helped defeat the German Army on the Eastern Front, led by Field Marshall Eric von Manstein, while Eisenhower crushed the Germans in France. Meanwhile, Nimitz and MacArthur had campaigned across the Pacific, winning victory after victory.
Then, the war was over. But, the Cold War had just begun.
Part III: MacArthur during the Korean War
MacArthur, like General George Patton, understood the threat posed to the world by socialism. They knew about the vast atrocities socialists committed, that socialists are bent on world domination and that appeasement of the USSR was a huge mistake.
Yet the American government didn’t get that, and it kept making mistake after mistake as it attempted to appease communists. That was the greatest mistake of the 20th Century, and MacArthur saw it. He spends lots of time in the section of Reminiscences on Korea discussing why Truman was wrong to give in to Stalin and Mao on so many occasions.
Any student of the Cold War or American military history knows that MacArthur was eventually fired by Truman despite all of his successes. That firing largely resulted from Truman’s inability to see communism for what it really is and crush it once and for all.
We’re still dealing with his mistake. So, Truman fired MacArthur from his last command. But not before MacArthur had dealt some serious damage to the Chinese and North Koreans.
Analysis of Reminiscences by Douglas MacArthur
As a World War II general’s autobiography, Reminiscences is ok. I think it’s not quite as good as Lost Victories by Manstein. It is similar in tone to Memoirs by Ulysses Grant but contains a bit less explaining away of mistakes than Memoirs.
As a book about the Cold War though, Reminiscences is excellent. Far more insightful about Cold War political theory than The Best and The Brightest or Bridge of Spies, Reminiscences does an excellent job of explaining why the communists were the aggressors and why America had to fight them. Unfortunately, few Americans understand that fact today.
Instead of seeing the Cold War as a great, patriotic struggle, they see it as an expensive boondoggle that we should have avoided. That’s completely wrong. America needed to fight in Korea. Communism is an evil force and it was eating away at freedom around the world. We had to step in and stop it’s spread.
MacArthur understood that fact better than anyone. Reminiscences clearly shows why intervention was the right thing. Furthermore, it shows why we should have fought a wider conflict to win the war fought during those Frozen Hours.
We had nuclear bombs. The Chinese didn’t and the Soviets had few of their own. We could have won, helped the Nationalists recover China, and rolled back communism in Asia. Instead, we’re stuck with Red China and North Korea. It’s too bad that no one saw that other than MacArthur.
The Lasting Effects of Truman’s Weakness
Because Truman was too weak to act decisively in Korea, America is worse off today. We’re in a new Cold War with China and North Korea continues to be problematic. China is rebuilding it’s military and acting up globally, meaning Trump needs to spend time fighting a trade war to reign it in.
America needs to learn from that experience in Korea. We can’t try to bargain with communism; its proponents hate the market system. Nor can we try to appease communism; its ambitions are global and omnipresent. No, the only way to deal with communism is to defeat it. MacArthur knew that. We just need to learn from him and fight against the communists, especially the Democratic Party that is the Marxist Party of America now, as it was full of communists during MacArthur’s time.
Furthermore, MacArthur understood that the communists win by eroding the national will of capitalist nations through removing the common identities of citizens in those nations.
His arguments about how Americans grew weak and divided eerily echo what Huntington says in Who Are We? Challenges to America’s National Identity. Americans had lost their common creed after World War II and needed to find one if they were to defeat geopolitical rivals like the USSR.
Reminiscences by Douglas MacArthur will appeal to two types of people. One group is people who enjoy reading military history. Especially World War II history. If you liked Lost Victories, The German Army on the Eastern Front, or The Two-Ocean War, then you’ll like Reminiscences.
I fall into the first group, so I loved Reminiscences. It’s interesting, full of history, and clearly shows the dangers of communism. What more could you want from a book?
Douglas MacArthur was a great man who knew how to win wars, unlike those that have carried out the war of terror as described in Hunting in the Shadows. Every patriot should strive to emulate him.
Finally, some will say that for supporting crushing China he was a warmonger. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like our Founding Fathers, he thought the government should promote peace, not war, and avoid foreign entanglements. But, he knew that if we wanted true, long-lasting peace, then we needed to defeat our enemies. Americans need to remember that.
By: Gen Z Conservative