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View Full Version : Was MacArthur fatally deluded about his mission in Japan?



Rising Sun*
03-11-2012, 09:23 AM
I have always been mystified by MacArthur being appointed to run the Occupation as a supposed expert on Japan, and specifically the acceptance at Allied government levels of his views on retaining the Emperor, when he had no relevant experience there before the surrender.

Considerations following on from this thread http://www.ww2incolor.com/forum/showthread.php?12897-An-unnecessary-insult-to-Japan-at-its-surrender , have led me to wonder if his claims to expertise on Japan were just another example of his hubris and his conceited sense of manifest destiny, as exemplified in this grossly inaccurate statement in his speech during the surrender of Japan on the USS Missouri.


We stand in Tokyo today reminiscent of our countryman, Commodore Perry, ninety-two years ago. His purpose was to bring to Japan an era of enlightenment and progress, by lifting the veil of isolation to the friendship, trade, and commerce of the world. But alas the knowledge thereby gained of western science was forged into an instrument of oppression and human enslavement. Freedom of expression, freedom of action, even freedom of thought were denied through appeal to superstition, and through the application of force. We are committed by the Potsdam Declaration of principles to see that the Japanese people are liberated from this condition of slavery. It is my purpose to implement this commitment just as rapidly as the armed forces are demobilized and other essential steps taken to neutralize the war potential.

Perry's letter to the Emperor offered nothing in the way of bringing to Japan "an era of enlightenment and progress, by lifting the veil of isolation to the friendship, trade, and commerce of the world.". It was just a gun held to the Emperor's head to open Japan to trade with America.


Letter of Commodore Perry to the Emperor, July 7, 1853.

United States Steam Frigate Susquehanna,
Off the Coast of Japan.

To His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of Japan.

THE undersigned, commander-in-chief of all the naval forces of the United States of America stationed in the East India, China and Japan seas, has been sent by his government of this country, on a friendly mission, with ample powers to negotiate with the government of Japan, touching certain matters which have been fully set forth in the letter of the President of the United States, copies of which, together with copies of the letter of credence of the undersigned, in the English, Dutch, and Chinese languages, are herewith transmitted.

The original of the President's letter, and of the letter of credence, prepared in a manner suited to the exalted station of your imperial majesty, will be presented by the undersigned in person, when it may please your majesty to appoint a day for his reception.

The undersigned has been commanded to state that the President entertains the most friendly feelings towards Japan, but has been surprised and grieved to learn that when any of the people of the United States go, of their own accord, or are thrown by the perils of the sea, within the dominations of your imperial majesty, they are treated as if they were your worst enemies.

The undersigned refers to the cases of the American ships Morrison, Lagoda, and Lawrence.

With the Americans, as indeed with all Christian people, it is considered a sacred duty to receive with kindness, and to succour and protect all, of whatever nation, who may be cast upon their shores, and such has been the course of the Americans with respect to all Japanese subjects who have fallen under their protection.

The government of the United States desires to obtain from that of Japan some positive assurance that persons who may hereafter be shipwrecked on the coast of Japan, or driven by stress of weather into her ports, shall be treated with humanity.

The undersigned is commanded to explain to the Japanese that the United States are connected with no government in Europe, and that their laws do not interfere with the religion of their own citizens, much less with that of other nations.

That they inhabit a great country which lies directly between Japan and Europe, and which was discovered by the nations of Europe about the same time that Japan herself was first visited by Europeans; that the portion of the American continent lying nearest to Europe was first settled by emigrants from that part of the world; that its population has rapidly spread through the country, until it has reached the shores of the Pacific Ocean; that we have now large cities, from which, with the aid of steam vessels, we can reach Japan in eighteen or twenty days; that our commerce with all this region of the globe is rapidly increasing, and the Japan seas will soon be covered with our vessels.

Therefore, as the United States and Japan are becoming every day nearer and nearer to each other, the President desires to live in peace and friendship with your imperial majesty, but no friendship can long exist, unless Japan ceases to act towards Americans as if they were her enemies.

However wise this policy may originally have been, it is unwise and impracticable now that the intercourse between the two countries is so much more easy and rapid than it formerly was.

The undersigned holds out all these arguments in the hope that the Japanese government will see the necessity of averting unfriendly collision between the two nations, by responding favourably to the propositions of amity, which are now made in all sincerity.

Many of the large ships-of-war destined to visit Japan have not yet arrived in these seas, though they are hourly expected; and the undersigned, as an evidence of his friendly intentions, has brought but four of the smaller ones, designing, should it become necessary, to return to Edo in the ensuing spring with a much larger force.

But it is expected that the government of your imperial majesty will render such return unnecessary, by acceding at once to the very reasonable and pacific overtures contained in the President's letter, and which will be further explained by the undersigned on the first fitting occasion.

With the most profound respect for your imperial majesty, and entertaining a sincere hope that you may long live to enjoy health and happiness, the undersigned subscribes himself,

M. C. Perry,
Commander-in-chef of the United States Naval Forces in the East India, China, and Japan seas.

I'm wondering if MacArthur's actions and opinions relate to him supposedly being a cousin of Perry, which is stated on various internet sites. I haven't been able to confirm this alleged relationship, which seems a bit unlikely as Perry died in 1858 and MacArthur wasn't born until 1880. However, MacArthur does appear to be descended from the Perry line, as does FDR: http://www.familyhistorypages.com/Perry.htm

I think there's an interesting line of enquiry to be followed on this topic.

royal744
01-29-2013, 11:56 PM
I think it's been amply demonstrated elsewhere in this forum that Macarthur was 1) courageous, 2) outrageous, 3) generally a good commander, 4) also a terrible, dithering commander, 5) had a highly exaggerated opinion of himself and his importance, 6) had a "court" and not a "staff" (General Marshall), 7) was capable of innovation and daring even in his dotage (Inchon), 8) often confused himself with the deity, 9) was perfectly capable of calling for nuclear war in order to pull his endangered irons out of the fire (Korea), and 10) equally capable of rank insubordination towards his Commander-in-Chief. All in all, a piece of work. Thank God he never became President!

Rising Sun*
01-30-2013, 08:29 AM
I think it's been amply demonstrated elsewhere in this forum that Macarthur was 1) courageous, 2) outrageous, 3) generally a good commander, 4) also a terrible, dithering commander, 5) had a highly exaggerated opinion of himself and his importance, 6) had a "court" and not a "staff" (General Marshall), 7) was capable of innovation and daring even in his dotage (Inchon), 8) often confused himself with the deity, 9) was perfectly capable of calling for nuclear war in order to pull his endangered irons out of the fire (Korea), and 10) equally capable of rank insubordination towards his Commander-in-Chief. All in all, a piece of work. Thank God he never became President!

The most concisely expressed and accurate view on the complex MacArthur I've ever seen.

Congratulations!

Nickdfresh
01-30-2013, 10:20 AM
A rather mixed, imperious persona. I think for the most part he was a failure in Korea and only mildly vindicated himself with the Inchon landings, which I think has served to cover his more prevalent incompetence in that conflict - evidenced by his call for the use of nuclear weapons when his successor, Gen. Matthew Ridgeway needed only to retrain his Army that I think MacArthur in no small way let lapse as far as training...

royal744
01-31-2013, 11:22 AM
A rather mixed, imperious persona. I think for the most part he was a failure in Korea and only mildly vindicated himself with the Inchon landings, which I think has served to cover his more prevalent incompetence in that conflict - evidenced by his call for the use of nuclear weapons when his successor, Gen. Matthew Ridgeway needed only to retrain his Army that I think MacArthur in no small way let lapse as far as training...

I agree, Nick...

muscogeemike
01-31-2013, 11:33 AM
I would think that Macís refusing to keep his opinions to himself (a constant embarrassment for the Joint Chiefís) and interest political (a threat to the Democratic Party) had a lot to due with Wash. DC keeping him as far away as possible from the capitol.

Nickdfresh
01-31-2013, 12:33 PM
I would think that Macís refusing to keep his opinions to himself (a constant embarrassment for the Joint Chiefís) and interest political (a threat to the Democratic Party) had a lot to due with Wash. DC keeping him as far away as possible from the capitol.

Well, he was on assignment in Japan, if you'll recall, and I'm certain he was delighted to command U.N. forces in Korea. The Joint Chiefs didn't like him in many respects (nor did their predecessors like Gen. Marshall in WWII), but his failures upon reaching the Yalu and his willful ignorance of several hundred thousand Chinese "Volunteers" infiltrating into North Korea, who went about sending the U.S. military on its longest retreat, are virtually unforgivable. Also, while Mac was certainly not solely responsible, his troops were woefully unprepared when they entered Korea leading to the Task Force Smith debacle in no small part because U.S. soldiers (but not U.S. marines) lacked basic infantry training to the extent they often never bothered to tie-in their flanks - making them very vulnerable to Chinese PLA infiltration tactics. That was something of a problem Army-wide in the "Atomic Age," but Mac's troops were particularly soft...

I don't think he would have been much of a threat to the Democratic Party with his advancing age and increasingly (possibly age-related) bombastic and bizarre behavior he often was able to keep out of the public eye previously in the Pacific Theater, but no longer in Korea. I think MacArthur's mind was "softened" while leading the Occupation of Japan as well as his troops. Mac certainly had his fan club, but I think his popularity would have eroded as legions of former subordinates and members of the press covering him since WWII may not have been kind in public. His successes were certainly trumpeted by Mac, but I think his failures such as blatant incompetence in the Philippines and rivalries with Nimitz would have been more publicly discussed. His (what can be termed a) meltdown in his statements regarding nuking the Chinese would have been enough to destroy any potential candidacy alone. Especially when Ridgeway replaced him and completely turned around the U.S. Army in Korea in a matter of weeks by re-instituting regimented infantry training and boosting his troops' morale and confidence - and ultimately their effectiveness against a numerically superior and experienced enemy, but one that lacked their firepower and command and control - showed Mac was out of touch and "losing it"...

Ardee
01-31-2013, 02:11 PM
...supposedly being a cousin of Perry...However, MacArthur does appear to be descended from the Perry line....

Some might see this as a nitpick, but here's the first three dictionary definitions of the word "cousin" --

1. A child of one's aunt or uncle. Also called first cousin.
2. A relative descended from a common ancestor, such as a grandparent, by two or more steps in a diverging line.
3. A relative by blood or marriage; a kinsman or kinswoman.

I won't hazard a guess about being "first cousins," but if not, it seems likely the more general usage of the term would apply. I am reminded of the old Norse sagas, in which people like Beowulf kept track of relationships up to being ninth cousins. I guess there is more than one way to spend a long northern winter night. Certainly these days we have trouble remembering what a "first cousin once removed" is, much less "second cousins!" ;-)

Regardless, I can also easily see MacArthur stretching the connection, or making it "sound" more substantive than what most people would take him to mean.

Rising Sun*
02-01-2013, 07:01 AM
Some might see this as a nitpick, but here's the first three dictionary definitions of the word "cousin" --

1. A child of one's aunt or uncle. Also called first cousin.
2. A relative descended from a common ancestor, such as a grandparent, by two or more steps in a diverging line.
3. A relative by blood or marriage; a kinsman or kinswoman.

I won't hazard a guess about being "first cousins," but if not, it seems likely the more general usage of the term would apply. I am reminded of the old Norse sagas, in which people like Beowulf kept track of relationships up to being ninth cousins. I guess there is more than one way to spend a long northern winter night. Certainly these days we have trouble remembering what a "first cousin once removed" is, much less "second cousins!" ;-)

Regardless, I can also easily see MacArthur stretching the connection, or making it "sound" more substantive than what most people would take him to mean.

Good point.

I confess that I was assuming that MacArthur was Perry's first cousin, but on the wider interpretation he could well qualify.

That's not to say that he mightn't qualify as a first cousin despite the gap in years between him and Perry, as sometimes there is a big spread of years in families that could explain it.

Rising Sun*
02-01-2013, 07:13 AM
... had a lot to due with Wash. DC keeping him as far away as possible from the capitol.

It is sometimes claimed that this was also Roosevelt's [primary] reason for appointing him head of the SWPA in WWII, to keep him down here.

It's an issue as an Australian that I've occasionally made minor efforts to investigate as part of the reasons for understanding how he came to be appointed as our savior after a magnificently incompetent defence of the Philippines.

Perhaps his incompetence wasn't recognised in Washington, or Australia, at the time?

But if Roosevelt wanted to rid himself of this troublesome general, why not leave him in the Philippines and let him fall with his troops instead of ordering him, over Mac's protest, to head to Australia to run the SWPA command?

The other unexplained piece of this puzzle is that it also said that our Prime Minister specifically requested MacArthur, although I've never been able to track that down with my equally sporadic and superficial attempts at research.

A possible explanation for our Prime Minister requesting him is that MacArthur had boosted his public persona in the Philippines with the same sort of relentless, shameless and at times quite dishonest publicity that he did after he arrived in Australia early in 1942, but I don't know anything about that aspect of his time in the Philippines.

Can anyone throw any light on that aspect?

Rising Sun*
02-01-2013, 07:39 AM
Well, he was on assignment in Japan, if you'll recall, and I'm certain he was delighted to command U.N. forces in Korea. The Joint Chiefs didn't like him in many respects (nor did their predecessors like Gen. Marshall in WWII), but his failures upon reaching the Yalu and his willful ignorance of several hundred thousand Chinese "Volunteers" infiltrating into North Korea, who went about sending the U.S. military on its longest retreat, are virtually unforgivable. Also, while Mac was certainly not solely responsible, his troops were woefully unprepared when they entered Korea leading to the Task Force Smith debacle in no small part because U.S. soldiers (but not U.S. marines) lacked basic infantry training to the extent they often never bothered to tie-in their flanks - making them very vulnerable to Chinese PLA infiltration tactics. That was something of a problem Army-wide in the "Atomic Age," but Mac's troops were particularly soft...

That level of detail on MacArthur's responsibility is beyond my limited knowledge of his command in Korea.

However, I'd suggest that it is entirely consistent with his poor preparation of US and Filipino troops in the Philippines pre-WWII. This laid the groundwork for a defeat which, although perhaps inevitable in the end*, would have been vastly more costly to the Japanese if he had, among other things, paid a lot more attention to training and logisitics when he had ample time to do it.

* Okay, this is getting into the 'What if' category, but Gen Homma stalled badly and his troops were heading towards starvation in the closing stages of their advance on the US and Filipino troops retreating to Bataan when they captured significant food supplies stupidly left for them by MacArthur's inadequate logistical planning and management of the retreat.
That was a potential turning point where, if the US and Filipino troops had been well fed facing starving Japanese troops who had outrun their lines of communication and were unable to live off the land satisfactorily instead of the reverse which happened on Bataan, the US / Filipino defence would certainly have been much stronger. The prospect of it resisting, let alone turning, the Japanese advance in the long term is highly improbable. Still, the fact remains that MacArthur covered himself in incompetence from the moment the Japanese attacked the Philippines.

MacArthur's history suggests very strongly that he was a lazy and incompetent commander in preparing for well anticipated major attacks in the Philippines and, apparently, Korea, but a useful commander when well resourced for thrusts against a declining enemy as evidenced by his thrust from New Guinea to the Philippines in WWII.

His history also suggests that he was the greatest general who ever lived so far as baseless self-promotion and manipulation of the news media is concerned.

Ardee
02-01-2013, 11:20 AM
But if Roosevelt wanted to rid himself of this troublesome general, why not leave him in the Philippines and let him fall with his troops instead of ordering him, over Mac's protest, to head to Australia to run the SWPA command?

Well, one possible concern would be the impact on national pride and morale if such a senior officer were taken prisoner by the Japanese. Plus a possible propaganda coup for the Japanese. And ... might a MacArthur snuck out in the dead of night by a submarine be a more humble MacArthur, a little quieter, tractable, etc? Dunno all that might have gone into the thinking, even if you assume the premise is correct for why MacArthur was in the SWPA.

Rising Sun*
02-02-2013, 06:34 AM
Well, one possible concern would be the impact on national pride and morale if such a senior officer were taken prisoner by the Japanese. Plus a possible propaganda coup for the Japanese.

I think the impact of the defeat in the Philippines and the capture of American forces, including Wainwright as commander in MacArthur's place, was a far, far greater blow to national pride and morale than if MacArthur had been captured (except possibly in MacArthur's own mind. ;) :) ).

Washout
02-03-2013, 10:08 AM
MacArthur's history suggests very strongly that he was a lazy and incompetent commander in preparing for well anticipated major attacks in the Philippines and, apparently, Korea, but a useful commander when well resourced for thrusts against a declining enemy as evidenced by his thrust from New Guinea to the Philippines in WWII. Well what commander wouldn't be successful when leading an overwhelmingly well supplied Army against a declining enemy? That's also how Eisenhower "earned" his lofty status.

Nickdfresh
02-03-2013, 10:45 AM
Well what commander wouldn't be successful when leading an overwhelmingly well supplied Army against a declining enemy? That's also how Eisenhower "earned" his lofty status.

Ike "earned his status" by juggling a series of massive egos under his command and getting the best out of them. And history is littered with commanders that have squandered numerical superiority against a well led, but weaker enemy. The Union at the beginning of the American Civil War might be a prime example of this...