The MacArthur Version

English: General of the Army Douglas MacArthur...

English: General of the Army Douglas MacArthur smoking his corncob pipe, probably at Manila, Philippine Islands, 2 August 1945. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are histories aplenty of World War II in the Pacific, and the biographies of General Douglas MacArthur would fill a long bookshelf. Anyone interested in the man or the period, however, would do well to read The Campaigns of MacArthur in the Pacific, Volume 1.

This account of Douglas MacArthur’s World War II, published by the U.S. Army and compiled by MacArthur’s staff, is excellent source material, but should not be seen as a definitive history. Indeed, the work seems a tad more biased than both contemporary and recent works by distinguished historians, and there are those who would read into the portrayal of some of the events and battles a overly flattering picture of MacArthur, his generalship, and the performance of his staff.

That said, the account of the war against Japan could use a little bias away from the accepted narrative, if only to prevent important campaigns from vanishing from memory. As the saying goes, there were two wars being fought in the Pacific, the one between the Allies and Japan, and the one between the US Navy and the US Army. If history is written by the victors, the Navy won the latter, and as a result the role of the US Army in the region has been minimized by a focus on the Navy by academic and popular historians alike.

This begs for some rectification without taking from the sacrifices and achievements of the Navy/Marine Corps team. MacArthur’s account, although compiled by men intensely loyal to the general personally, is a first step in that direction.

Using this account as a starting point, it is also worth studying the experiences of General Alexander “Sandy” Patch with the Americal Division and XIV Corps on Guadalcanal and Walter Kreuger’s Sixth Army in New Guinea and the Philippines. The U.S. Army did a lot of brutally hard work in the Pacific and deserves its place in the sun.

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