CRF Blog

MacArthur and Truman face off

by Bill Hayes

In MacArthur and Truman face off, the Los Angeles Times reviews The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War by H.W. Brands.

To seize the initiative, MacArthur launched a daring amphibious landing at Inchon, behind enemy lines, in September 1950. A month later, U.S. troops captured Pyongyang, the northern capital, and then, despite orders from Washington, pushed north to the Chinese border. They’d be home by Christmas, the general promised.

Instead, the Chinese invaded that December, overwhelming and outmaneuvering American troops. MacArthur again claimed utter surprise and Brands surprisingly ignores scholarship that shows he and his aides discounted or dismissed multiple reports of a Chinese military buildup in the area.

Refusing to concede any errors, MacArthur urged Washington to let him expand the war by bombing bases in China. His threats — including one to plant minefields with radioactive waste — worried allies, created turmoil in Washington and irked Truman no end. [more]

For a free related classroom lesson, see Truman, MacArthur, and the Korean War from  CRF’s Bill of Rights in Action Archive.