Supreme Commander: MacArthur's Triumph in Japan

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He is the most decorated general in American history—the only five-star general to receive the Medal of Honor. Yet Douglas MacArthur's greatest victory was not in war, but in peace.

As Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in postwar Japan, General Douglas MacArthur was charged with transforming the defeated militarist empire into a beacon of peace and democracy, a task he called "the greatest gamble ever attempted." A career military man, MacArthur had no experience in ...

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Supreme Commander: MacArthur's Triumph in Japan

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He is the most decorated general in American history—the only five-star general to receive the Medal of Honor. Yet Douglas MacArthur's greatest victory was not in war, but in peace.

As Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in postwar Japan, General Douglas MacArthur was charged with transforming the defeated militarist empire into a beacon of peace and democracy, a task he called "the greatest gamble ever attempted." A career military man, MacArthur had no experience in politics, diplomacy, or economics. Vain, reclusive, and self-centered, he had many enemies in Washington who considered him a flaming peacock. Few thought he could succeed, not even President Harry Truman's closest advisors. But MacArthur did succeed—brilliantly—defying timetables and expectations. He announced eleven objectives and achieved them all, establishing a bond between two countries that survives to this day.

Supreme Commander combines political history and military biography, to tell for the first time how MacArthur achieved a nation-building feat never before attempted, nor replicated since. Seymour Morris Jr. reveals this flawed man at his best—as one who treated a defeated enemy with respect; made informed, thoughtful decisions; yet could also be brash and stubborn when necessary, leading the occupation with intelligence, class, and compassion.

Reviewing MacArthur's key tactical choices and accomplishments, Morris presents a detailed, intimate portrait of a great American—a patriot and a man of strong conviction—who proved to be an outstanding and effective leader under extraordinary circumstances.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Lynne Olson
…the story [Morris] tells is a fascinating one.
Publishers Weekly
Businessman and historian Morris (American History Revised) argues that success of the occupation of Japan after WWII was primarily due to the enlightened leadership of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the only American to ever receive the “majestic title” of “Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers.” Mostly derived from first person accounts and secondary sources, Morris examines all of the major achievements of the occupation including MacArthur’s triumphant arrival in Tokyo, his first meeting with the Emperor, the forging of the Japanese Constitution, the Japanese war crimes trials, and the shift in U.S. policy toward economic revival. He analyzes events from the perspective of MacArthur’s decision making and concludes that MacArthur’s actions were most impressive for their effectiveness, stating that “for his performance in Japan, Douglas MacArthur rates a seat of honor.” The book also addresses MacArthur’s personal flaws, most notably his incredible ego and the general disdain he held for—and which was reciprocated by—most of his contemporaries. The conclusion reached is that MacArthur’s successes are that much more incredible because they were accomplished despite his abrasive personality. Morris has produced not just a good general history of the occupation, but a powerful argument that MacArthur continues to warrant his place as one of the great generals in American history. (Apr.)
Evan Thomas
“MacArthur was more right than wrong as the post-war ruler of occupied Japan. A very readable and instructional treatment of a misunderstood figure. ”
James Bamford
“Morris tells in dramatic fashion how this ultimate warrior, almost overnight, became the ultimate peacemaker, turning a devastated, militarized Japan into a functioning democracy in five years without firing a shot.”
John Steele Gordon
“Seymour Morris Jr. has done General MacArthur’s reputation a great favor by spotlighting his now nearly forgotten service as the American viceroy in postwar Japan. With entertaining prose and good research, he shows us how MacArthur brilliantly midwifed devastated Japan’s rebirth as a modern, democratic state.”
Gautam Mukunda
“A fascinating study of the greatest success of Douglas MacArthur, one of the most consequential and controversial Americans of the twentieth century.”
The New York Times Book Review
“The story he tells is a fascinating one”
Thomas Fleming
“This remarkable book tells us how America — and a great general — revealed to the world that peace can be waged as triumphantly — and far more creatively — than war.”
Kirkus Reviews
An unabashedly admiring reappraisal of Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) as supreme protector of a great fallen nation at the close of World War II. Publishing around the same time as Mark Perry's The Most Dangerous Man in America (2014), the pursuit of the many lives of the five-star general continues in this enthusiastic breakdown of MacArthur's wildly successful five-year occupation of defeated Japan, a model to be followed and studied. Author and entrepreneur Morris (American History Revised: 200 Startling Facts that Never Made It into the Textbooks, 2010) believes the record regarding MacArthur's administrative coup in helping Japan recover needs elucidation, from his initial decision to arrive in Japan unarmed for the surrender ceremony of Sept. 2, 1945, to his insistence on sparing Emperor Hirohito to his radical push for emancipating Japanese women. Above all, MacArthur was a keen student of history and modeled his magnanimity toward the vanquished Japanese on Gen. Ulysses Grant's honorable treatment of Gen. Robert E. Lee, among other examples, hoping to gain trust in his new charges rather than instill fear and provoke alarm from reactionary elements. Hence his highly controversial decision to keep the emperor in power, although he was stripped of his godlike status: MacArthur recognized that the emperor could help "bring about a spiritual transformation of the Japanese people." Moving swiftly as supreme commander on the orders of President Harry S. Truman yet with powers so vast that he was able to operate over the heads of the War Department, the general brought food to the starving people, neutralized the Japanese military, repatriated millions of Japanese troops and civilians, instituted land reform, kept the Russians at bay and implemented the "Nuremberg of the East" trials. Most astonishing was how MacArthur's wily team managed to rewrite the Japanese Constitution—with codification of more sweeping rights for women than in any other country except Russia. A gung-ho, breezily entertaining study for lay readers.
Library Journal
Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) continues to intrigue historians. While Mark Perry (see review below) traces MacArthur's career from 1932 through World War II, Morris (American History Revised), a businessman-turned- historian, looks extensively at secondary sources to examine the general's tenure as supreme commander for the allied powers in Japan from 1945 to 1951. Morris accessibly shows how MacArthur managed to implement a number of reforms in postwar Japan, including a new constitution, land reform, and giving women the right to vote, while at the same time encouraging Japan to disarm peacefully and formally renounce any future war plans. By keeping in place the highly respected Emperor Hirohito, he was able to effect a relatively smooth transition to peacetime, creating an economic environment that would make Japan a powerful force by the end of the century. Morris shows that while MacArthur has been rightfully honored for his leadership of American forces in the Pacific during World War II, his performance in leading Japan from war to peace should be considered one of his finest accomplishments and one from which we could have learned more. VERDICT A well-crafted history of an underappreciated aspect of MacArthur's career. Recommended for students of the postwar era.—Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062287939
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/15/2014
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 202,275
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Seymour Morris Jr. is the author of American History Revised: 200 Startling Facts That Never Made It into the Textbooks. He is also an international business entrepreneur and the former head of corporate communications for the world's largest management consulting firm. A resident of New York City, he holds an A.B. and M.B.A. from Harvard University.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 5, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The information in this book is a gold-mine. Runs counter to pol

    The information in this book is a gold-mine. Runs counter to politically correct history, wealth of detail and one audiobook I listened to in a single day.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2014

    Who is this author and did he self-publish? All you have to do

    Who is this author and did he self-publish? All you have to do is read to page xv in the Preface to know that the author knows little about WWII, as that's where he credits Jimmy Doolittle with Curtis LeMay's role in the war. Obviously, it was good that no publisher proofread the book because this goof, this mind-boggling dufus bozo mistake tells you up front how little the author knows. Just another tale of the war by a very amateur member of the fan club -- a member that Mac himself would have scorned.
    (my guess: the author picked up this "story" in the "dog & pony" presentations that the expensive consultants do in trying to relate successful historical figures, especially successful generals. to their consulting projects, implicitly comparing the ceo client with the general. Takes more than such schmoozing to write real history.)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2015

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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