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"Nimitz vs MacArthur" Topic

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03 Jul 2018 4:39 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian09 Nov 2017 5:26 p.m. PST

Which commander did the best job in WWII in the Pacific?

23rdFusilier09 Nov 2017 5:28 p.m. PST

Nimitz, hands down.

daler240D Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member09 Nov 2017 5:31 p.m. PST

agreed, Nimitz.

KniazSuvorov09 Nov 2017 5:50 p.m. PST

Well, MacArthur first failed to follow the war plan to defend the Philippines. Then he compounded the error by wasting vast amounts of men, resources, and time retaking the Philippines later in the war, at a point when the country was no longer strategically important, and could have been bypassed. Big mistake.

And I write this as a half-Filipino, someone whose family certainly appreciates the sacrifices made by MacArthur's men in order to liberate the islands. Nevertheless, a great general shouldn't be making decisions based on pride, or honour, or sentimentality.

Another vote for Nimitz.

rustymusket Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2017 5:53 p.m. PST

Nimitz although I am far from an expert.

Tgunner09 Nov 2017 6:07 p.m. PST

Cold logic supports K, but to me the Second Philippines was worth it to save the survivors of Corregador and Bataan
Those guys were left out to dry and it was the right thing to do: sacrifice to save them.

Also, MacArthur sort of started the island hopping idea with his ops on New Guinea and skipping strong positions.

princeman09 Nov 2017 6:20 p.m. PST


Ragbones Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2017 7:06 p.m. PST

Nimitz. Not even close.

Kevin C Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2017 7:09 p.m. PST

Nimitz -- but MacArthur had far better PR.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2017 7:17 p.m. PST

Question on this. I'am not A Mac Arthur fan but his New Guinea campaign and later in the Philippines were masterful.

Nimitz lead from behind and there were some poorly handled invasions under his leadership.

Sundance Inactive Member09 Nov 2017 8:06 p.m. PST

Agreed. Nimitz.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2017 8:45 p.m. PST


Lee49409 Nov 2017 9:55 p.m. PST

Is there really any question here? The responses would seem to support my position. Let's Try This. How about Spruance vs Halsey?

langobard Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 2:48 a.m. PST

Nimitz for the original question.

Spruance for Lee's question.

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 3:33 a.m. PST


Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 6:49 a.m. PST


Legion 410 Nov 2017 6:57 a.m. PST

Also, MacArthur sort of started the island hopping idea with his ops on New Guinea and skipping strong positions.
Mac Arthur fan but his New Guinea campaign and later in the Philippines were masterful.
If for no other reasons than those … Mac gets my vote … But again … I was not there … so …

Lucius10 Nov 2017 7:02 a.m. PST

Nimitz. MacArthur should have been relieved of command on Dec. 9, 1941, for allowing Clark Field to be surprised NINE HOURS after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Halsey could win battles. Spruance won a war.

paulgenna10 Nov 2017 10:58 a.m. PST

Nimitz and agree with Lucius, MacArthur should have been relieved of command.

Raynman Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member10 Nov 2017 3:24 p.m. PST

Agree with paulgenna. Nimitz and MacArthur relieved of command.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 4:24 p.m. PST

Nimitz profited from having excellent subordinates
who could act with initiative, decisiveness and
bold leadership. The USN generally had an officer
corps (pre-war) which prized those attributes and
attempted to mold the huge mass of reserve officers
in those traits. The Navy was not known for its
political leanings among its professionals.

The Army, OTOH, was pretty hide-bound as a political
organization in and of itself. Certainly there were
professional officers who shared sterling qualities
with their Navy comrades, but fewer, as a percentage
of the total.

MacArthur had to keep an eye out for the political
aspects of command (Marshall and he were NOT friends,
or even on good terms) and Roosevelt's concern over
MacArthur's political aspirations (non-existant, for
the most part) and the National Guard attitude versus
the Professional soldier attitude which followed him
to Korea in the person of Harry Truman (one of my
favorites, BTW).

As far as Clark Field goes, yes, it happened on
MacArthur's watch – and the USS Indianapolis tragedy
on Nimitz' watch. How many men did we lose blasting
our way across the Central Pacific (Nimitz' strategy)
rather than adopting a different approach.

MacArthur agreed with Nimitz on the Solomons Campaign,
absolutely. He had originally advocated an attack on
Rabaul, but agreed with the decision to isolate and
allow its garrison to starve. He supported the Solomons
Campaign in a number of ways, using the long-range air
assets which Nimitz didn't have save for the PBY/PBM
fleet, hardly offensive weapons.

It might be illuminating, as well as opinion changing,
to compare the assaults launched by MacArthur on
Japanese held territory with those launched by Nimitz
(their subordinates, of course). There were many more
amphibious assaults by MacArthur's forces than by
Nimitz's, with (as a percentage of forces engaged)
fewer casualties.

In my view, which doesn't mean a heck of a lot at this
remoteness, we needed EACH of them to prevail, because
we fought TWO DIFFERENT WARS in the Pacific.

Lion in the Stars10 Nov 2017 6:18 p.m. PST

A gentleman I knew had a very short sentence to say about MacArthur: That sumbitch who left us to die!

Old Jess was on Bataan. Didn't hate the Japanese for the Death March. Hated MacArthur for abandoning all the troops and taking all the equipment.

Probably pissed on MacArthur's grave, too, on general principles.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP10 Nov 2017 6:38 p.m. PST

I'am always amazed how the FDR Administration was able to pass blame off on area commanders. When they Screwed up. It was FDR Who turned the Tiger Convoy from heading to the Philippines to Australia. It was General Spaatz who pulled all the remaining b-17 out.

It was the Air force commander who failed at Clark Field and not Mac Arthur. It was Eisenhower's plan that had the Army defend the Whole islands instead of the earlier plan to hold up in Bataan. But he was a Marshal man, So he got a Pass.

Mac Arthur was ordered out and would have stayed as a Private. This was never revealed to the men left behind.
FDR was a ETO 1st from the get go, So the Philippines were always going to lay down a bunt.

dragon610 Nov 2017 9:56 p.m. PST

Ask the Australians about MacArthur's "masterful" New Guinea campaign

panzerCDR11 Nov 2017 6:36 p.m. PST

Both Nimitz and MacArthur had their strengths and weaknesses; neither was perfect. If I had to pick one to be the overall theater commander in the Pacific I would have picked Nimitz, though I realize that was probably not possible in 1942 when they set up the boundaries in the theater. The problems in the Central Pacific were a lot different than the Southwest Pacific areas, and MacArthur was an economy of force effort in an economy of force theater. He did pretty well with the bare minimum he received. And he wasn't shy about telling you either.

As for fleet commanders, Spruance over Halsey, though Halsey's aggressiveness and willingness to fight at Guadalcanal in October/November 1942 despite losing a lot of ships is very commendable.

Legion 412 Nov 2017 7:55 a.m. PST

Some good points Wackmole and panzerCDR. Mac may of had a tougher time than the USN Cdrs. But the fact that he generally avoided bloody assault landing like other US Cdrs let me give him the nod over all the others.

IIRC, he lost less assets, i.e. troops, etc., than the other Cdrs in the PTO.

He was ordered to leave the PI, by the POTUS. You can't really disobey an order from that office, AFAIK.

Could the PI campaign have been handled better? Yes, absolutely, but so could have many other Cdrs' ops in the PTO. E.g. the US Gov't wouldn't show the film footage of Tarawa for a year or so later. From what I can tell … Much too often assets in the PTO like troops, etc., were thrown at islands/objectives e.g. like in a meatgrinder. Ala WWI …

IMO, there were a lot of unneeded loses. By attacking the enemy where they were strongest and dug in, etc. As apposed to by passing, out flanking, etc. Now I get that sometimes options like that were not always possible. For a variety of reasons. But again bottom line … I was not there … so I could be wrong …

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Nov 2017 8:59 a.m. PST

Nimitz gets my vote. And Wackmole9, I have to disagree with you. The US Army Historical Series ("The Green Books") volume on the Fall of the Philippines shows in detail what MacArthur did and failed to do and despite being written while MacArthur was still around, shows that the blame for the disaster falls squarely on MacArthur's shoulders.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2017 1:18 p.m. PST

Nimitz all the way!

BW195921 Nov 2017 4:23 p.m. PST

Nimitz and Spruance

Mac got the nickname "Dugout Doug" from his failure to visit Bataan just stayed at Corregidor.

Never a Halsey fan, my dad lost his cousin in WW2 when his destroyer sank in a hurricane. Add Samar and task force 34
and yeah not a Halsey fan.

Lee49421 Nov 2017 4:33 p.m. PST

Ok. Let's be real here. Mac totally bungled the defense of the Phillipines in 1942 and persuaded FDR to stage a completely unnecessary invasion to retake them in 1944. You could gave removed Mac and all of his campaigns from the entire Pacific War without any impact. Shows you what PR will do!

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2017 9:07 p.m. PST

Halsey should have been court-martialed. A board of inquiry recommended it. But that same month Halsey was on the cover of Time Magazine. So Nimitz intervened on his behalf. He ignored his weather officers and put his fleet through not one but two typhoons wrecking his fleet and causing huge casualties.

Then the idiot fell for the Japanese fake and nearly lost the invasion fleet. You would have thought he would have left at least one Battleship and an Essex Carrier but no. What a fool. The world wonders.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2017 9:12 p.m. PST

Mac bungled the defense of the PI big time, even with plenty of warning. It was more than Clark Field. He bungled the land campaign. Didn't even follow his own defense plan. He panicked and lost his nerve. So many mistakes were made.

Instead of being cashiered he got the Medal of Honor! He never trusted his G2. Thought he knew better than anyone else. He was on the verge of bungling the invasion of Japan. Thank goodness for the Manhattan Project.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2017 9:25 p.m. PST

When people are asked what Generals served under Eisenhower even the casually informed person could come with, Patton, Montgomery, Bradley and Clark,

But asked what Generals served under MacArthur, you hear crickets. Thanks to MacArthur's "PR Department" one would think he won the war all by himself.

But he had a cadre of brilliant officers in Walter Krueger, Robert Eichenberger and George Kenney to name just a few. Had they served in the ETO their names would be as familiar as Patton's and Bradley's.

Nimitz preferred working in the background allowing Fletcher, Spruance and Halsey take the most credit.

William Ulsterman26 Nov 2017 9:20 p.m. PST

Jeez, stop giving Dugout such a hard time…

He actually did advance farther and kill more Japs for less casualties, than anyone else – certainly in Operation Cartwheel. That's something. As someone else noted, Brereton's orders had a lot to do with the Air Force being taken by surprise. Although if you think that 90 P-40's and 30 B-17s could have saved the Philippines in 1941-42, I think you are wildly optimistic.

MacArthur made the only feasible decision in December 1941 and so was able to stand in Bataan and give the Japanese one hell of a scrap, including a definite bloody nose when he threw back a Corps level Japanese attack – the first time the Japanese suffered a land defeat at the hands of a western force in the War. Compared to how the Poms and the Dutch went against the Japanese in the early stages of the Pacific war, you'd have to say he did a heck of a lot better.

But – Nimitz had the bigger and more important job and he had to manage the fighting of two carrier battles whilst outnumbered in terms of numbers of ships and planes and against higher quality Japanese carrier aircraft of most types. MacArthur could have nothing without the victories won under the leadership of Nimitz and he would have ended up stuck in Australia, much to the chagrin of the locals, I am sure.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Nov 2017 5:21 a.m. PST

Again referring to the official US Army history of the Fall of the Philippines, MacArthur bungled the defense horribly. By ignoring the War Plan Orange plans, he failed to fortify the Bataan peninsula nor to stock it with supplies (there was a warehouse near Manila with half a million bushels of rice stored in it; if that had been moved to Bataan it could have fed the garrison for a year.)

Then, after correctly predicting that the main Japanese invasion would be at Lingayan Gulf and massing his forces to oppose it--he freezes. He has more than enough force to wipe out the Japanese landing and he does nothing. His field commanders sit there waiting for orders to attack which never come. Then, once the Japanese are ashore and secure he frantically signals: "War Plan Orange is now in effect." In other words, now that's I've screwed things up beyond fixing, run for Bataan as quick as you can! The retreat itself was masterful, but too little too late.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2017 12:50 p.m. PST

ScottWashburn +1

Although if you think that 90 P-40's and 30 B-17s could have saved the Philippines in 1941-42, I think you are wildly optimistic.

That's roughly 82 more aircraft than got off the ground at Pearl Harbor. I think if the defenders had a choice they would have wanted those aircraft. It was a significant factor in the campaign.

I would take a P-40 with a good experience pilot against any Japanese fighter. Just ask the AVG "Flying Tigers". Those B-17s escorted by the P-40s could have raised hell on the landing beaches. Especially coupled with a ground attack which never came.

Legion 427 Nov 2017 3:24 p.m. PST

He actually did advance farther and kill more Japs for less casualties, than anyone else
That is the way I believed it happened, based on my research, etc., as well. So if for no other reason I "vote" for Mac.

When I look at some of the Forced Entry/Amph landings in the PTO, e.g. – meat grinders like Tarawa, Iwo, etc. I just have to wonder how that became the accepted way to fight the IJFs ? Glad we don't do ops like that anymore …

William Ulsterman27 Nov 2017 6:39 p.m. PST

Well Scott and others, the official history also records that Plan Orange was replaced in October 1941 by Rainbow 5 – which wasn't just MacArthur, it was also Marshall and the Combined Chiefs et al.

Secondly, supplies were moved to Bataan and to Corregidor – which was provided with 6 months of rations in a single day, so hardly an example of a commander who was incompetent. Not enough reached Bataan, but this was also due to the Japanese who were attacking the coastal shipping bringing the supplies from Manila. Page 255 of the official history:"Some ordnance materials had been stored at Forts Stotsenburg and McKinley, but two thirds of the ammunition reserves, about 15,000 tons, as well as six carloads of replacement parts for the tanks, were already in Bataan on 8 December. During the last week of the year another 15,000 tons of ammunition and ordnance supplies were shipped to Bataan. An inventory of 5 January revealed that the supply of ammunition was satisfactory and that the shortages anticipated would not develop." The US and Philippine forces had enough bullets, but food was a problem.

Thirdly, there was no massing of force against the Lingayen Gulf landings. MacArthur had about a single Philippine division, his tank group, a regiment of US Cavalry and a Philippine Scout regiment – none of it on the beaches. That lot couldn't have stopped Homma's troops.

Fourthly, the US Far Eastern Air Force, had no experience – they certainly couldn't have provided air support with any precision to the ground. Not that the Japanese seemed to notice being bombed – look at what had just happened at Khotu Bharu, where extensive RAAF and RAF bombing hadn't stopped a Japanese frontal assault across a heavily defended beach in Malaya.

The record of the P-40 against the Japanese was average at best – certainly in the first year of the war. And the ability of the B-17 actually hitting a target smaller than a city was completely dismal, throughout the war.

Lastly, you are not really addressing the central argument – on Bataan MacArthur defeats a corps level attack by Homma in January 1942 – so much so that the Japanese withdraw to their defensive position across the neck of the peninsula. No where else do the Japanese cop a bloody nose on this scale – in Malaya, Burma and the Dutch East Indies, British, Australian, Indian and Dutch troops are completely throwing in the towel without landing a punch. Not until Guadalcanal do the Japanese get such a beating – and that takes the USMC and supporting army and navy about six months to achieve.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2017 8:51 p.m. PST

The P-40 could take a lot of damage and still fly. Japanese planes lite up like roman candles, all through the war. Didn't take long to lose their best pilots. No self sealing fuel tanks and no armor protection. That's why PTO fighter pilots racked up such large numbers of kills when compared to the ETO.

B-17s were ineffective at bombing warships then and later at Midway. But you don't need to drop a pickle in a barrel to bomb a mass ground target.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2017 9:18 p.m. PST

The failure of the air defense and bumbling of the logistics and the campaign itself. In the end, it is the commanding Generals responsibility.

The is article by Robert Daniel describes Macs mistakes and failure to defend the Philippines adequately.


ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Nov 2017 5:34 a.m. PST

War Plan Orange was replaced by Rainbow 5 in response to the changing conditions in the world situation. One of those changes was MacArthur's refusal to abide by War Plan Orange :) But when everything fell apart, that's what MacArthur went back to, declaring the 'War plan Orange is now in effect'.

6 Months supplies were sent to Corregidor, but not to Bataan. By the time of the final assault in April, the defenders were starving to death and didn't have the physical strength to resist anymore. Granted, the garrison was much larger than planned, so the food stored there was inadequate, but who's fault is that?

MacArthur did mass his forces near Lingayen Gulf in anticipation of the landing there. And yet only a single company of troops were actually defending the beaches. That one company inflicted several hundred casualties on the Japanese. If MacArthur had committed his entire force the Japanese would have been destroyed. His tank force alone (two battalions, around 100, M-3 Stuart tanks) would have slaughtered the Japanese who had no anti-tank weapons and no means to land their own tanks on an open beach. For all the fearsome reputation the Japanese created during the first months of the war, they had no experience in amphibious attacks against a defended beach. When they tried it at Wake Island, their first attempt was annihilated. Their second landing would have met the same fate except a breakdown in communications led the American commander to believe he was beaten and he surrendered. A spirited defense of Lingayen Gulf could have dealt a crushing defeat to the Japanese. But MacArthur froze.

The Americans and Filipino forces DO defeat the first Japanese attack on Bataan and it was a great feat. It is particularly interesting that the Japanese attempt two 'end runs' with battalion-sized forces making landing further down the peninsula behind the American defense line and they are wiped out by scratch forces of sailors and rear echelon troops. The men fight brilliantly, but MacArthur had little to do with directing operations.

The official history was, as I noted, written while MacArthur was still around and the author had to tread carefully. He doesn't put much blame on MacArthur, but what is very revealing is that after MacArthur gives the War Plan Orange order he basically disappears from the narrative. It's a history of the campaign, but the American commander is missing in action. He's scarcely mentioned in the book at all again until he's ordered to leave and go to Australia. I think that silence speaks volumes. Even William Manchester's "American Caesar", which is mostly very complimentary of MacArthur, indicates that he was almost completely inert while he was on Corregidor, issuing few orders and deliberately going out into the open during Japanese air raids as if he was trying to get himself killed.

MacArthur did well later in the war, but his performance in the Philippines was dismal.

Private Matter28 Nov 2017 5:55 a.m. PST

I vote for Nimitz with out any hesitation.

I did have to laugh however when I read the comment someone made on this thread inferring that MacArthur didn't lead from behind. That was funny.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Nov 2017 6:24 a.m. PST

Well, there is no question of MacArthur's physical courage. During WWI, he led many attacks from the front not wearing a helmet or gas mask and carrying no weapon but a riding crop. During WWII he terrified his front-line commanders by often walking right up to the fighting in plain sight. During air raids on Corregidor he would leave the bunkers and go up and watch the Japanese planes dropping bombs very close to where he was standing.

Legion 428 Nov 2017 6:37 a.m. PST

Yes, like Patton in WWI both demonstrated the US ARMY Infantry School motto, "Follow Me"[even though Patton was Cav/Armor !] … Sometimes IMO to the point of being "fool hardy". As Scott pointed out. Regardless in both cases, they were generally successful in both wars. But no leader can make all the correct decisions all the time.

It's a statistical improbability. Just like in sports, few teams win all their games.

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