Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur

by Mark Perry

This book is largely limited to an account of the Pacific war during World War II and the part MacArthur played in it. MacArthur is treated quite fairly - despite the title. For instance, he did not ‘flee’ Corregidor - a calumny often expressed - he was ordered to leave. 

It was Roosevelt who called MacArthur “the most dangerous man in America”, realizing early on that he had ambitions to one day be Commander in Chief. Unlike Roosevelt, MacArthur was a conservative. He was also autocratic and prone to clashes with others of high rank. Men like Marshall and Eisenhower disliked him, yet MacArthur and Roosevelt  were able to - more or less - work together with minimum clashes. They had a mutual respect despite their differences.

It is amazing that MacArthur was successful in the Pacific Theater. The European war took precedence with Washington and it was like pulling teeth to obtain the men and supplies he needed. In addition, he had to cope with the Navy which tried to claim ascendence over the Army - considering the Pacific “their war”. There was so much infighting between the Army and Navy that’s it’s a wonder we won!

The accounts of various battles, the invasion of island after island are harrowing. The men were fighting through tropical conditions on thickly forested islands, enduring terrible heat. The Japanese would not surrender. They preferred death - some officers, facing defeat, committed hara kiri - disemboweling themselves with their Samurai sword. 

The account ends with the surrender of Japan and mentions MacArthur’s governance of Japan but does not go into the Korean War or his ultimate removal from command by President Harry Truman.

Friday, May 30, 2014

George Washington's Secret Six

 by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

This is an account of Washington’s little known, organized spy ring operating out of New York City during the Revolution. It’s also a fascinating account of what New York City and environs were like during the British occupation. The men who were recruited were ordinary citizens and businessmen who served with some trepidation but served faithfully. The authors had to do some real ‘digging’ since little was known about them - not even their names in some cases. Most lived on Long Island and at least one lived in New York City, where he maintained a printing shop and was known as a Tory sympathizer.

Long Island was occupied by the British who moved into the homes of citizens. They were often abusive to those known as Patriots as opposed to the Tory families who favored the British. The descriptions of life on the Island - and in the city - at that time are vivid.

Everyone knows the story of Benedict Arnold and Major Andre. Arnold, who was the hero of Champlain married a woman from a Tory family. He was later given command of West Point, the crucial fort on the  Hudson. He always felt that he was not appreciated and - with the probable encouragement of his wife - plotted to turn West Point over to the British. 

What is so interesting is the detailed account of the personalities of both Arnold and Andre. Andre in particular comes to life here. The reader will be surprised by many of the vivid details of his apprehension and trial. I recommend this book as both a ‘good read’ and most enlightening.

*An amusing footnote: I bought the book before reading the back cover where various notables wrote blurbs — words of praise. I was stunned when the names read like a roster of Conservative stars, among them: Karl Rove (!), Donald Rumsfeld and (oh my) the eminent ‘birther’, Donald Trump. Author Kilmeade himself is host of “Fox & Friends”! It made me approach the book gingerly. Shame on me.