Truman and MacArthur: Policy, Politics, and the Hunger for Honor and Renown

Overview

Truman and MacArthur offers an objective and comprehensive account of the very public confrontation between a sitting president and a well-known general over the military's role in the conduct of foreign policy. In November 1950, with the army of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea mostly destroyed, Chinese military forces crossed the Yalu River. They routed the combined United Nations forces and pushed them on a long retreat down the Korean peninsula. Hoping to strike a decisive blow that would collapse the...

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Truman and MacArthur: Policy, Politics, and the Hunger for Honor and Renown

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Overview

Truman and MacArthur offers an objective and comprehensive account of the very public confrontation between a sitting president and a well-known general over the military's role in the conduct of foreign policy. In November 1950, with the army of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea mostly destroyed, Chinese military forces crossed the Yalu River. They routed the combined United Nations forces and pushed them on a long retreat down the Korean peninsula. Hoping to strike a decisive blow that would collapse the Chinese communist regime in Beijing, General Douglas MacArthur, the commander of the Far East Theater, pressed the administration of President Harry S. Truman for authorization to launch an invasion of China across the Taiwan straits. Truman refused; MacArthur began to argue his case in the press, a challenge to the tradition of civilian control of the military. He moved his protest into the partisan political arena by supporting the Republican opposition to Truman in Congress. This violated the President's fundamental tenet that war and warriors should be kept separate from politicians and electioneering. On April 11, 1951 he finally removed MacArthur from command.

Viewing these events through the eyes of the participants, this book explores partisan politics in Washington and addresses the issues of the political power of military officers in an administration too weak to carry national policy on its own accord. It also discusses America's relations with European allies and its position toward Formosa (Taiwan), the long-standing root of the dispute between Truman and MacArthur.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Military History
"... a well-researched, familiar story which provides historians with a comprehensive look into the swirl of controversy surrounding Truman's decision to remove MacArthur from command in Korea." —Thomas W. Zeiler, Journal of Military History, October 2008

— Thomas W. Zeiler

Naval War College Review

"... a first-rate research effort by a distinguished historian, writing in a lively style... of considerable value and interest to students of the period." —Naval War College Review, August 2008

The Weekly Standard

"... the author has researched his subject extensively, frequently displays a fine sense of irony, and has produced probably the best study of this subject to date." —The Weekly Standard, February 23, 2009

Journal of American History

"... represents a useful addition to the literature on the Korean War." —Journal of American History

Parameters: US Army Senior Professional Journal
... this book is something of a rarity among academic publications these days: great man history, history from above. Truman and MacArthur is a reminder of just how compelling such history can be—especially in the hands of someone who knows what he is about. Michael Pearlman certainly fits the description.—PARAMETERS : US Army Senior Prof Jrnl, Summer 2009
Military Review

"[T]he book is among the best civil military histories to come out in the last 10 years.... It deserves a wide, adult readership and has my highest recommendation for military and cilvilian professionals of all stripes." —Military Review

Pacific Affairs

"Michael Pearlman's timely study of the Truman-MacArthur controversy is a carefully researched and original work of scholarship that expertly illuminates the treacherous terrain of civil-military relations in the United States." —Pacific Affairs, Fall 2009

Parameters: US Army Senior Profesional Journal
"... this book is something of a rarity among academic publications these days: great man history, history from above. Truman and MacArthur is a reminder of just how compelling such history can be—especially in the hands of someone who knows what he is about. Michael Pearlman certainly fits the description." —PARAMETERS : US Army Senior Prof Jrnl, Summer 2009
A. Theoharis

Retired history professor Pearlman (US Army Command and General Staff College) revisits the history of President Harry Truman's relationship with General Douglas MacArthur during the critical years 1945-51, culminating in Truman's controversial decision to fire MacArthur in April 1951. Pearlman's thoughtful, comprehensive survey of the intertwined relationship of "policy, politics, and personality" offers fresh insights into US military strategy, Truman's controversial Far Eastern policy, the politics of McCarthyism, and the internal and public debate over Truman's Korean War policy. Based on extensive research into accessible primary sources and the relevant secondary literature, this skillful if densely written monograph is a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on Truman's presidency and, as importantly, on the bitter political debate over Truman's limited war strategy in the conduct of the Korean War. Fleshing out the differing personalities of these two prominent national leaders, Pearlman recounts how both men shaped and were shaped by the evolving crisis in US-Soviet and US-Chinese relations during the early Cold War years. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. --ChoiceA. Theoharis, emeritus, Marquette University, March 2009

Journal of Military History - Thomas W. Zeiler

"... a well-researched, familiar story which provides historians with a comprehensive look into the swirl of controversy surrounding Truman's decision to remove MacArthur from command in Korea." —Thomas W. Zeiler, Journal of Military History, October 2008

PARAMETERS : US Army Senior Prof Jrnl

"... this book is something of a rarity among academic publications these days: great man history, history from above. Truman and MacArthur is a reminder of just how compelling such history can be—especially in the hands of someone who knows what he is about. Michael Pearlman certainly fits the description." —PARAMETERS : US Army Senior Prof Jrnl, Summer 2009

Paul Edwards

"Pearlman understands far better than most the underlying and widespread consequences of the clash between two highly motivated and somewhat egotistical giants. He rightly places the debate between MacArthur and Truman into the larger context... of the questions of civilian and constitutional authority, much like those being raised now about the war in Iraq." —Paul Edwards, Director, Center for the Study of the Korean War

Colonel (Retired)Donald W. Boose

"Drawing on a lifetime of study and research, Michael Pearlman expertly analyzes the relationship between President Harry S. Truman and General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, demonstrating how policies, politics, and personalities entwined to shape their confrontation. He deftly places that confrontation within the context of grand strategy, military operations, history, culture, and domestic politics, portraying with verve and color the panorama of conflict in East Asia during a critical period of American history." —Colonel (Retired)Donald W. Boose, Jr., author of U.S. Army Forces in the Korean War.

From the Publisher
"Pearlman understands far better than most the underlying and widespread consequences of the clash between two highly motivated and somewhat egotistical giants. He rightly places the debate between MacArthur and Truman into the larger context... of the questions of civilian and constitutional authority, much like those being raised now about the war in Iraq." —Paul Edwards, Director, Center for the Study of the Korean War

"Pearlman's thoughtful, comprehensive survey of the intertwined relationship of "policy, politics, and personality" offers fresh insights into US military strategy, Truman's controversial Far Eastern policy, the politics of McCarthyism, and the internal and public debate over Truman's Korean War policy. Based on extensive research into accessible primary sources and the relevant secondary literature, this skillful... monograph is a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on Truman's presidency and, as importantly, on the bitter political debate over Truman's limited war strategy in the conduct of the Korean War.... Recommended." —Choice, March 2009

"[T]he book is among the best civil military histories to come out in the last 10 years.... It deserves a wide, adult readership and has my highest recommendation for military and cilvilian professionals of all stripes." —Military Review

"... this book is something of a rarity among academic publications these days: great man history, history from above. Truman and MacArthur is a reminder of just how compelling such history can be—especially in the hands of someone who knows what he is about. Michael Pearlman certainly fits the description." —PARAMETERS : US Army Senior Prof Jrnl, Summer 2009

"... a well-researched, familiar story which provides historians with a comprehensive look into the swirl of controversy surrounding Truman's decision to remove MacArthur from command in Korea." —Thomas W. Zeiler, Journal of Military History, October 2008

"Michael Pearlman's timely study of the Truman-MacArthur controversy is a carefully researched and original work of scholarship that expertly illuminates the treacherous terrain of civil-military relations in the United States." —Pacific Affairs, Fall 2009

"Drawing on a lifetime of study and research, Michael Pearlman expertly analyzes the relationship between President Harry S. Truman and General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, demonstrating how policies, politics, and personalities entwined to shape their confrontation. He deftly places that confrontation within the context of grand strategy, military operations, history, culture, and domestic politics, portraying with verve and color the panorama of conflict in East Asia during a critical period of American history." —Colonel (Retired)Donald W. Boose, Jr., author of U.S. Army Forces in the Korean War.

Retired history professor Pearlman (US Army Command and General Staff College) revisits the history of President Harry Truman's relationship with General Douglas MacArthur during the critical years 1945-51, culminating in Truman's controversial decision to fire MacArthur in April 1951. Pearlman's thoughtful, comprehensive survey of the intertwined relationship of "policy, politics, and personality" offers fresh insights into US military strategy, Truman's controversial Far Eastern policy, the politics of McCarthyism, and the internal and public debate over Truman's Korean War policy. Based on extensive research into accessible primary sources and the relevant secondary literature, this skillful if densely written monograph is a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on Truman's presidency and, as importantly, on the bitter political debate over Truman's limited war strategy in the conduct of the Korean War. Fleshing out the differing personalities of these two prominent national leaders, Pearlman recounts how both men shaped and were shaped by the evolving crisis in US-Soviet and US-Chinese relations during the early Cold War years. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —ChoiceA. Theoharis, emeritus, Marquette University, March 2009

"... a first-rate research effort by a distinguished historian, writing in a lively style... of considerable value and interest to students of the period." —Naval War College Review, August 2008

"... represents a useful addition to the literature on the Korean War." —Journal of American History

Choice

"Pearlman's thoughtful, comprehensive survey of the intertwined relationship of "policy, politics, and personality" offers fresh insights into US military strategy, Truman's controversial Far Eastern policy, the politics of McCarthyism, and the internal and public debate over Truman's Korean War policy. Based on extensive research into accessible primary sources and the relevant secondary literature, this skillful... monograph is a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on Truman's presidency and, as importantly, on the bitter political debate over Truman's limited war strategy in the conduct of the Korean War.... Recommended." —Choice, March 2009

Choice

"Pearlman's thoughtful, comprehensive survey of the intertwined relationship of "policy, politics, and personality" offers fresh insights into US military strategy, Truman's controversial Far Eastern policy, the politics of McCarthyism, and the internal and public debate over Truman's Korean War policy. Based on extensive research into accessible primary sources and the relevant secondary literature, this skillful... monograph is a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on Truman's presidency and, as importantly, on the bitter political debate over Truman's limited war strategy in the conduct of the Korean War.... Recommended." —Choice, March 2009

Armchair General

[This] meticulously documented, painstakingly researched book removes the shroud of folklore that has clouded the controversy for decades and shatters long held myths . . .

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253350664
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2008
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael D. Pearlman retired in 2006 as a professor of history at the United States Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth. He is author of Warmaking and American Democracy: The Struggle over Military Strategy, 1700 to the Present and To Make Democracy Safe for America: Patricians and Preparedness in the Progressive Era. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction
List of Abbreviations

1. Truman and MacArthur, before Korea
2. Defense Policy on the Eve of the Korean War
3. The War against North Korea: From Commitment to the Pusan Perimeter
4. The War against North Korea: From Inchon to the Yalu River
5. The War against China: Winter 1950 to Spring 1951
6. Truman Fires MacArthur
7. Public Verdict and Consequences: Military and Political, Home and Abroad
8. Ending the War without Truman or MacArthur
9. Truman and MacArthur: Summary, Conclusion, and Postscript

Notes
Selected Bibliography
Index

Indiana University Press

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2008

    The Truth About the Truman-MacArthur Controversy

    Michael D. Pearlman, PhD, an award-winning historian, surgically dissects the Truman-MacArthur confrontation in his outstanding new book, Truman & MacArthur: Policy, Politics and the Hunger for Honor and Renown. In doing so, he cuts through over fifty years of partisan mythmaking by the champions of both men to present the most accurate and in-depth account to date of what led Truman to relieve MacArthur of command on April 11, 1951 and the firestorm of controversy that act produced. Pearlman¿s insightful account was not written to please advocates for either Truman or MacArthur. The author set himself a different task: ¿My job, writing some fifty years after the fact, is not to produce another partisan polemic for one individual or the other ¿ in short, he did not set out ¿ as many books on this subject have done -- to make a case for justifying the actions of either man. His meticulously documented, painstakingly researched book removes the shroud of folklore that has clouded the controversy for decades and shatters long held myths -- instead of perpetuating them. Despite the fact that any political-military-diplomatic historian of long standing could not possibly embark upon such a book without having at least some preconceptions about the principal actors, Pearlman reveals that ¿I no longer have certain opinions held when beginning my research several years ago¿ ¿ evidence of a rare open mindedness about a subject usually dominated by fixed opinions and partisanship. The result, to borrow a well-known news network tag line, is the most ¿fair and balanced¿ presentation of this complicated, highly-nuanced civil-military crisis yet published. Pearlman does history a great service by using well documented facts to destroy the mythology surrounding the controversy, much of it purposely created by Truman and his partisan supporters in the wake of the relief in an attempt to weather the storm of public outrage and to fix the ¿feisty old Harry¿ image in the public conscious. Indeed, much of what today is presumed to be ¿known¿ about the Truman-MacArthur controversy is little more than myth or folklore, peppered with a scattering of ¿facts¿ removed from the context within which they occurred. Those who have accepted the mythology regarding MacArthur¿s relief and assume they know what really happened would be well advised to read Pearlman¿s Truman & MacArthur, the most revealing, well written account yet published about this watershed event in U. S. civil-military relations.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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