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Thread: The sad military politics of war

  1. #1
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    Default The sad military politics of war

    MacArthur, a spectacular failure as a commander in the Philippines with an endless eye on the US Presidency, converts himself into a hero while commanders at Pearl Harbor who performed rather better than him (any commander who did anything on the first day of being assaulted by the Japanese did better than MacArthur who did nothing, including failing to carry out pre-arranged orders such as bombing Formosa while his air force commander sought orders and on his own initiative put his planes into the air to minimise losses from Japanese attacks).

    Why was MacArthur immune from well-deserved investigation of his woeful 'defence' of the Philippines?

    On the other side, General Yamashita planned in short time and fought a successful campaign against the British Commonwealth forces in Malaya, which surprisingly resulted in Tojo denying him the honours he deserved and instead relegating him to a backwater post in Manchuria.

    It is remarkable that a second rate failure like MacArthur was given the opportunity to do a Lazarus in succeeding years in not particularly clever operations against a steadily declining enemy weakened in large part by the operations of the USN which increasingly isolated IJA land forces by denying them logistical support to enable MacArthur's successful thrust back to his obsession with the Philippines, which was of questionable importance in the overall assault on Japan.

    It is equally remarkable that Yamashita, who was probably the most distinguished and successful commander in Japan's southern thrust, was denied the opportunity to engage further in that thrust by being sent to Manchuria by Tojo, only to be finally dragged back to combat operational command late in 1944 for the defence of the Philippines.

    The net result was that Japan denied itself a commander who could have made a major contribution to Japan's aim of isolating Australia while America placed a demonstrably failed commander in Australia to resist Japan's aim of isolating Australia, when both Japan and America knew that it was critical to prevent Australia being used as a base for America to strike back at Japan.

    There are countless other examples of inexplicable decisions motivated by political or at least not militarily ideal aims, such as moving Wavell from the Middle East where he was regarded as inadequate to the Far East / Pacific at exactly the time that Churchill and others feared a Japanese attack where Wavell proved inadequate, although ably assisted by the absence of forces Churchill chose to ignore were required.

    How is it that such decisions are made by the politicians who run the show on all sides?

    So far as Yamashita is concerned, it seems that Tojo saw him as a potential rival.

    The same might be said of MacArthur and Roosevelt, although that rivalry wasn't overt for a year or two after Bataan etc. Or maybe Roosevelt saw it coming.

    As for Churchill and Wavell and Malaya / Singapore, that was just Churchill at his arrogant ignorant best thinking that his refusal to provide Malaya / Singapore with what his military advisers had advised was necessary wasn't, as he had done from Gallipoli in 1915 to Greece and Crete in the year before his stupidity lost Singapore in what he rightly called the greatest defeat of British arms, shortly after he had given orders for the tens of thousands of British Commonwealth troops to fight to the death of the last man.
    ..
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: The sad military politics of war

    I think Mac's failures in command of the Philippines were overlooked mainly because the United States and her Allies needed heroes and Gen. MacArthur fit the bill for this. It certainly wasn't the best possible choice, but to have abandoned Mac to the fate of his troops on Bataan, the way Hitler abandoned Paulus, would have been a propaganda coup for the Japanese - who were already up to their asses in propaganda coups. And since Mac was plucked off the the islands, then his failures needed to be overlooked for political reasons...

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    Default Re: The sad military politics of war

    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh View Post
    I think Mac's failures in command of the Philippines were overlooked mainly because the United States and her Allies needed heroes and Gen. MacArthur fit the bill for this.
    Certainly. His forces were the only American ones fighting the Japanese on land for the first few months of the war, so they got all the American press attention. However, that press attention was probably corrupted by the motives of some of the press, notably the rampantly capitalist press barons Hearst and Luce who were hostile to Roosevelt and his New Deal and saw MacArthur as some sort of antidote to the Roosevelt administration.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh View Post
    It certainly wasn't the best possible choice,
    On experience in combat and strategic command, certainly not. MacArthur didnít really do all that much in WWI compared with other American senior officers. Apart from beating up WWI veterans claiming their benefits during the Depression, he didnít do much of any distinction between the wars fitting him for combat or strategic command.

    His experience during and after WWI to the outbreak of the Pacific War was vastly inferior to the Australian General Thomas Blamey, who had been commanding three divisions in the Middle East against the Germans and French in WWII and had won significant victories long before America entered WWII. The measure of the two is that Blamey had winning experience as an outstanding staff officer under Monash in WWI in France and previous experience against the Turks, long before MacArthur joined that war, and had had much greater and much more successful field command experience during WWI and WWII than MacArthur.

    But, as Australia was going to be a base for larger American land, and other, forces than Australia could muster, there was no way that Blamey could be made supreme commander. So he was made deputy land commander to MacArthur, who held him in contempt (on justified grounds of moral turpitude, which was rather hypocritical given the misconduct of the Bataan gang senior officers on MacArthurís staff in Australia and New Guinea) and sidelined Blamey for the duration of the war while MacArthur engaged in his relentless press manipulation to enhance his public reputation without regard to reality.

    MacArthur, like Churchill, was in many respects an erratic, arrogant, incompetent and dangerous man to be in control at the time but, like Churchill, he was inspirational for public morale to a degree that went a long way to overcoming his command blunders in his theatre.

    Oddly enough, MacArthur may well have been the best choice at the time, not least because his failures in the Phillipines were not widely understood at the time (or even now) while he had been boosted and lionised by the likes of Hearst and Luce to seem like some defiant gladiator holding the Japanese menace at bay and all that stood between Japan and defeat of the American way etc.

    In fact, all he had really done was to mismanage the defence of the Phillipines during the six or so years preceding the Japanese attack and then to **** it up beyond all belief from the start of the attack until he left. But none of that was realised at the time by an adoring public in America and Australia nor, unsurprisingly, by MacArthur himself. So everybody was publicly agreed that he was the man for the job.

    And, as often happens, he grew into the new job and didnít do a bad job of it judged by results, although nowhere near as brilliantly as his self-promoting propaganda would suggest.

    Judged at the time, I canít think of any American land commander who could have been sent to Australia to fill the same position who would have inspired the same level of public confidence in America and Australia, which in turn led to strong government support for him in Australia which was enhanced by a fortunately strong relationship between him and the Australian Prime Minister.

    MacArthurís disgraceful self-promoting conduct from the time he arrived in Australia until the end of the war qualifies him as an all time *****, but at least he was our ***** and a good ***** when we needed someone special.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh View Post
    but to have abandoned Mac to the fate of his troops on Bataan, the way Hitler abandoned Paulus, would have been a propaganda coup for the Japanese - who were already up to their asses in propaganda coups.
    As it was, the Japanese made much of his Ďdesertioní of his troops for propaganda purposes.

    I donít know that it would have been any worse if he had gone into the bag with his own troops, as Percival did in Singapore.

    However, I think it was fortunate that he didnít because, for all his many faults, he made a major contribution to the defeat of Japan, but not really until late 1943-1944 so far as American ground troops under his direct command were concerned.

    In the critical period after MacArthur arrived in Australia in March 1942, the tide was turned against Japan largely by the USN with useful RAN assistance in the Coral Sea; exclusively by the USN at Midway; largely by the USN and USMC around Guadalcanal; and largely by the Australians with useful American assistance in Papua New Guinea.

    It was only the last of these that were in MacArthurís theatre, during which he distinguished himself again by having no conception of the battlefield and how to manage it, and duly mismanaging it to a glorious extent which was concealed by his vainglorious management of the press. And other pieces of disgusting venality such as giving Lyndon Johnson a Silver Star for going on a routine bombing mission on a plane which retired U/S long before reaching the target and was never even under fire.

    All of which confirms that MacArthur was a self-seeking, venal, and manipulative but highly complex character who somehow managed to end up in a position where he did a lot better in the assault phase, ably aided by a massive build up of forces and logistics not under his exclusive control, than he ever managed in defences under his exclusive control.

    Meanwhile poor old Yamashita was rewarded for his magnificent Malaya / Singapore victory by being relegated to Manchuria by Tojo and brought out of there under a different and desperate government when Japan was desperate for an outstanding land commander, so that he could be captured by the Allies and duly executed in 1948 under MacArthur's occupation of Japan as a war criminal for the sacking of Manila in 1944 which was done largely under IJN, not IJA, command. A year or so later MacArthur and America pretty much abandoned the pursuit of Japanese war criminals in preference for recruiting Japan as an ally in America's war against communism in China and the USSR. Which allowed a lot of Japanese 'war criminals' to escape prosecution (I carefully chose prosecution instead of justice) for having done a lot worse than Yamashita.

    So MacArthur who couldn't defend the Philippines when he had six years to arrange it gets to occupy Japan where the Allies try Yamashita who conquered Malaya and Singapore when he had only a couple of months to plan it, and executed it a little over a couple of months after landing.

    Oh, the irony!
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    Default Re: The sad military politics of war

    "Dug out Doug" MacArthur had the wrong Japanese commander executed...[should've been Hirohito] - possibly due to Yamashita being a far better general..

    & U.S. politics has always found it difficult [if not impossible] to accept a foreigner as being in charge of G.I.s

    He WAS finally sacked when Truman had to stop him nuking China over the Korean war..

    Amateur politician commanders such as Stalin, Hitler & Churchill were prone to over-rule/sack their military commanders on ideological/political/ego grounds partly due to the perceived poor performance of WW1 Generals when given a free hand.

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    Default Re: The sad military politics of war

    All true. A great many mistakes were made but the fog of war does tend to obscure clear vision at any given moment. Every one of our leaders, it turns out, puts their pants on one leg at a time. To my knowledge, not a single one ever succeeded in putting them on with both legs at once, but I could wrong. This site does a pretty good job of exposing the weaknesses, foibles and strengths of both sides. The indisputable facts are these: somebody(ies) started it and somebody(ies) finished it and I'm delighted to report that the Allies won on all fronts. How "we" got there and how we managed to avoid snatching defeat from the jaws of victory was a close run thng and is the stuff of which endless debates and speculation is made. Hallelujah!
    Last edited by royal744; 07-02-2013 at 09:38 PM.

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    Default Re: The sad military politics of war

    There actually are a few ways to put pants on 2 legs at a time..
    I understand that Astronauts have to do it that way.. when suiting up for a space walk..

    But the point made about big ego'd polititicans in power not accepting reasonable/professional dissenting views & thus surrounding themselves with sycophantic, arse-licking, yes-men.. goes back to the Pharoahs at least, I'd reckon..

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    Default Re: The sad military politics of war

    Quote Originally Posted by J.A.W. View Post
    There actually are a few ways to put pants on 2 legs at a time..
    I understand that Astronauts have to do it that way.. when suiting up for a space walk..

    But the point made about big ego'd polititicans in power not accepting reasonable/professional dissenting views & thus surrounding themselves with sycophantic, arse-licking, yes-men.. goes back to the Pharoahs at least, I'd reckon..
    Given our climate and our drought, an air-conditioned space suit sounds like a good idea about now. It was 108F here today which is quite unusual for San Antonio, although 100F is not unusual in these parts at this time of year.

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    Default Re: The sad military politics of war

    War is war. Searching for justice is a far easier job in peace time. The only justice in war is the fact one is fighting aggressors and tyrants. The way it is done is never just.
    It is nice to have big heavy tanks, it is even nicer not to need them

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