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

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

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by Mark Perry

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A revisionist biography of one of the greatest American heroes of the twentieth century, revealing how incredible—and improbable—Douglas MacArthur’s Pacific victory in World War II truly was.


A revisionist biography of one of the greatest American heroes of the twentieth century, revealing how incredible—and improbable—Douglas MacArthur’s Pacific victory in World War II truly was.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Lynne Olson
In The Most Dangerous Man in America, an account of MacArthur's conduct of the Army's war in the Pacific, the military and foreign policy historian Mark Perry provides a well-written, insightful portrait of a commander whose occasional military genius vied with an overweening ego that alienated his superiors in Washington and led to his eventual downfall.
Publishers Weekly
Relying on personal accounts, letters, diaries, and interviews, Perry (Grant and Twain) provocatively reinterprets the volatile relationship between F.D.R. and Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Calls for “a man on a prancing steed” were widespread during the tumultuous Depression; the obvious candidate was then army chief of staff MacArthur. Angling to claim the White House, F.D.R. desired to “tame” this man of considerable abilities and make him “useful to us.” For 15 years he succeeded, making optimal use of “the most dangerous man in America” by channeling MacArthur’s ego and talents instead of opposing him outright. MacArthur’s 1941 assignment as commander of U.S. forces in the Far East was a lost cause from the beginning—and both Roosevelt and MacArthur knew it. But returning to the Philippines became MacArthur’s obsession, and despite his prickly persona Roosevelt kept him in command for “sound military reasons.” MacArthur established the institutional and doctrinal framework for one of WWII’s most successful economy-of-force campaigns, developed America’s most successful senior combined-arms command and logistics team, and convinced Roosevelt that America’s debt to the Philippines could be paid only by their liberation in arms. It is a distinguished list of achievements and Perry demonstrates the debt MacArthur owed to Roosevelt’s insight as well as his thick skin. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

Boston Globe Best Books of 2014

New York Times Book Review
“[A] well-written, insightful portrait of a commander whose occasional military genius vied with an overweening ego that alienated his superiors in Washington and led to his eventual downfall.”

Wall Street Journal
“Mark Perry's enjoyable The Most Dangerous Man in America amply captures the general's ‘proud and egotistical’ streak."

Washington Post
“[An] engrossing book on the great, though greatly flawed, general… fans of military history and general readers will have much to enjoy and to ponder: The author offers a vivid and convincing recounting of MacArthur’s tremendous skill as a pioneer of air-land-sea battle in the Pacific, along with ample evidence that ‘proud and egotistical’ MacArthur ‘was his own worst enemy.’”

Boston Globe
“[A] dazzling biography…[a] deft portrayal centered mainly on MacArthur’s World War II years.”

Foreign Affairs
“Without ever denying MacArthur’s flaws and mistakes, Perry revives the general’s reputation by carefully and positively appraising his role in some of the war’s key moments.”

Dallas Morning News
“Perry sets out to demonstrate how FDR ‘tamed and used’ the general as the principal tool that would defeat the Japanese. Perry accomplishes this efficiently through an entertaining narrative that will satisfy MacArthur’s defenders…”

Christian Science Monitor
“A perceptive, authoritative biography of the legendary general.”

Weekly Standard
“Perry has written an engaging and fresh story about Douglas MacArthur that also sheds light on some of the lesser-known figures who supported him…The Most Dangerous Man in America will introduce Douglas MacArthur to a new audience and compel readers already familiar with him to consider this dynamic personality in a different light.”

Washington Independent Review of Books
“A riveting and accessible biography of General Douglas MacArthur...simultaneously providing insights into his behavior and filling in needed and appropriate biographical nuggets in order to illuminate his bigger than life persona.... A noble portrait of an often misunderstood and complex 20th-century American.... Without diminishing the humanity of the book’s central protagonist, Perry captures the conundrum of being a great man and presents a story that is full of its own kind of romance and adventure.”

Shelf Awareness for Readers
“A compelling, succinct account of a deeply flawed but brilliant leader, a man seemingly created for the circumstances through which he lived… With fluid prose and fascinating personalities, The Most Dangerous Man in America should appeal to military history and biography buffs alike.”

San Antonio Express-News
The Most Dangerous Man in America is Perry’s tour de force as a biographer. With scholarly precision and a desire to present MacArthur as a man, minus the myth and the legend, he gives us a detailed look into our nation's top soldier in the east during World War II. Despite MacArthur’s flaws, and they don’t go unrecognized here, his brilliance when it came time to enact the first combined-arms operation in the Pacific is captivatingly told for all to understand.”

Roanoke Times
“Perry’s skill as a storyteller brings the reader into the action of MacArthur and the officers with whom he interacted, and those who were relegated to talking with MacArthur’s adjutant, Richard Sutherland…[The Most Dangerous Man in America] is certain to have an impact on those who read it, and they will come away with a better understanding of the challenges of the Pacific campaign.”

ARMY Magazine
“In The Most Dangerous Man in America, Perry has made a monumental contribution to our understanding of two extraordinary leaders…who shaped a strategy for the defeat of Japan.”

American History Magazine
“Provocative and stimulating.”

Buffalo News
“Perry undertakes a thorough re-examination of MacArthur’s role in World War II, with the goal of bursting the myth promoted by Roosevelt’s inner circle that this dangerous, uncontainable commander, and possible Republican foe, deserves the judgment accorded him by modern historians…In making his case, Perry dazzles in his telling of the Pacific narrative through the eyes of his general…That is Perry’s story and he tells it superbly: The political infighting, the inter-service rivalry, the president who favored the Navy, all overlaid on the internal bickering within MacArthur’s talented and high-powered staff.”

Military Heritage
“Easy to follow prose and insightful judgments of the decisions not only of MacArthur, but his opponents and fellow Allies.”

History Net
“Well written and researched, The Most Dangerous Man in America is bound to foment renewed debate.”

“An excellent…limited examination of MacArthur’s life in the critical years preceding and including WWII....informative and easily digestible.”

“A study of quiet authority… A majestic overview with an engaging sense of the nuance of character.”

Library Journal
“A gripping read, this book will be valuable to the novice and specialist alike.”

Publishers Weekly
“[Perry] provocatively reinterprets the volatile relationship between F.D.R. and Gen. Douglas MacArthur.”

Lewis Sorley, author of A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam
“Second only to his monumental self-regard was Douglas MacArthur’s ability to polarize those who encountered him. Thus Mark Perry’s achievement in this even-handed and insightful assessment is all the more remarkable. Concentrating on the events of World War II, he reveals in telling detail the strengths and weaknesses of this most controversial military figure.”

David Crist, Senior Historian, Joint Chiefs of Staff
“The book is extremely well-written and the story simply enthralling. It pulls you in from the first page. Mark Perry has written balanced, accurate book on one of the most important men in American military history. If there is one biography to read about Douglas MacArthur, this is it.”

John Prados, Author of Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun
“Mark Perry intrigues with his inquiry into Douglas MacArthur, one of the most fascinating, frustrating characters in modern U.S. history. In The Most Dangerous Man in America, Perry not only illuminates General MacArthur’s actions and motives in the Depression-era U.S. Army and World War II, he shows MacArthur’s human side, sheds new light on the relationship between him and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, reframes FDR’s wartime leadership, and gives deserved attention to such comrades as Robert L. Eichelberger. Don’t miss this fresh vision of the general who returned to the Philippines.”

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, former Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs
“A pleasure to read, Mark Perry's The Most Dangerous Man in America is a revealing and topical biography on arguably the greatest general in American history. It shows MacArthur at the pinnacle of greatness and the nadir of vanity—usually simultaneously—during the most critical periods of the Japanese campaign in WWII. Replete with new information, insights and perspective on this most enigmatic of American generals, MacArthur's legend is thoroughly but respectfully dissembled to show him, and the generation of political and military leaders that won WWII, as petty, vindictive but brilliant military strategists and ruthless political infighters. Mark Perry's well-balanced book stands far above the crowded collection of official military histories, biographies, hagiographies and analyses of General Douglas MacArthur and should be mandatory reading for those that aspire to command—that most humbling of military experiences—at any level.”

Eliot Cohen, author of Supreme Command and Conquered Into Liberty
"MacArthur's reputation has been in eclipse for some time. Mark Perry restores much of it in this vivid and compelling account of his career before Korea. Without scanting MacArthur's faults and failures, he makes a convincing case that during World War II he was not merely an able but at times a brilliant commander."

David Kaiser, author of The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy
"A balanced and wide-ranging portrait of one of the United States' most brilliant and controversial military leaders, reminding us that MacArthur had great strengths as well as weaknesses."

Library Journal
Douglas MacArthur loomed over the America of World War II and the Korean War. Despite much existing scholarship (e.g., D. Clayton James's The Years of MacArthur and Geoffrey Perret's Old Soldiers NeverDie), there is room for foreign affairs analyst Perry's (Partners in Command) focused study of MacArthur's career from the early 1930s through World War II. Perry explores in particular the complicated relationship between President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and the man he considered a potential presidential opponent. Perry provides illuminating sketches of many of the war's major players, both in Washington, DC, and in the Pacific Theater, including Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, MacArthur's superior in Washington; and Admiral Chester Nimitz, who led the U.S. Navy in the Pacific. Perry recounts MacArthur's loss and gain of the Philippines, as well as many of the other battles that he waged in the South Pacific during 1942 to 1945 as commander in chief of the army in the Pacific. The book ends with the conclusion of the war with Japan in September 1945. VERDICT While much has been written on the general topic, Perry is strong on discussing MacArthur's relationship with FDR as well as his fellow officers in the Pacific. A gripping read, this book will be valuable to the novice and specialist alike and is recommended for all collections.—Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-01-19
In a study of quiet authority, Perry spotlights the presumptuous commanding general at the moment of his evolving maturity during the Pacific theater and apotheosis in the Philippines. Working by comparison and contrast as he has done in previous works on George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower (Partners in Command, 2007) and Ulysses Grant and Mark Twain (Grant and Twain, 2004), Perry draws Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) in sharp relief against the actions and policies of Franklin Roosevelt, who recognized his rival's power and perversity and privately called him the most dangerous man in America. Roosevelt admired the war hero and Army chief of staff, inherited from Hoover's administration, and mistrusted his motives and ambition, but Roosevelt resisted dismissing him, as recommended by his New Dealers. Instead, he shrewdly employed him as a foil to his Republican opponents. While Perry is not blind to MacArthur's overriding character issues—including arrogance, vanity and paranoia—the author does suggest that the general has been judged overwhelmingly by his strong-arm tactics, his leadership obtuseness after the Pearl Harbor attack and his later confrontation with President Harry S. Truman—and also underappreciated for some of his actions during his wartime command in the Pacific, namely the coordinated land, sea and air assault of Operation Cartwheel. "Exiled" to the Philippines yet providentially situated in 1940 when chaos was unleashed in the Pacific, MacArthur nonetheless underestimated the Japanese threat and overestimated the Philippines' troops. His "dilatory" response on the morning of Dec. 8, 1941, led to the Clark Field debacle and the "dooming" of the Philippines. Perry impressively moves through each of the seminal arenas of the Pacific war. A majestic overview with an engaging sense of the nuance of character. Thankfully, Perry doesn't become mired in familiar biographical detail.

Product Details

Basic Books
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6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Mark Perry is a military, intelligence, and foreign affairs analyst and writer. His articles have appeared in The Nation, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and The Los Angeles Times, among other outlets, and he is a frequent guest commentator and expert on Al Jazeera television network. He is the author of eight books, including Grant and Twain, Partners in Command, and Talking to Terrorists. Perry has served as editor and Washington bureau chief for a number of publications, including Washington D.C.’s City Paper and The Veteran, the largest circulation newspaper for veterans in the nation.

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The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
tim-1969 More than 1 year ago
I don't know if I would call Douglas MacArthur the most dangerous man in America, but I would call him one of the most interesating men in the first half of the Twentieth Century. There is no doubt that MacArthur had a huge ego, and even to this day he is not the easiest personality to like. The author does a nice job of relating the clash of personalities between FDR, George Marshall & Ernest J. King in Washington. The clash of egos in the Pacific Theater between MacArthur, Nimitz & Halsey was mild compared to the interservice rivalries in the Japanese command structure between the Imperial Army & Navt.