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"MacArthur, FDR, and the Politics of Leyte Gulf" Topic

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian19 Oct 2021 5:55 p.m. PST

The seeds of the greatest naval battle of the Pacific war were not planted by U.S. Navy strategists, but rather by a larger-than-life Army general and the President of the United States.

Naval History Magazine: link

John the OFM19 Oct 2021 6:00 p.m. PST

He should have been left on Corregidor.

Legionarius19 Oct 2021 6:18 p.m. PST

+1 OFM

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP19 Oct 2021 8:04 p.m. PST

He wanted to stay but was ordered out by the President.

Do you know who came up with the outstanding plan to hold the Japanese at the beach on Luzon? Dwight Eisenhower. Did you know the B-17s were already planning on pulling out to Mindanao, but were delayed for a B-day party for General Breaton.

FDR wanted a war with Japan and the Forces in the Philippines island were the bait. After Pearl Harbor they declared it a lost causes and ask all the men at Bataan to lay down a bunt.
We owned it to the Philippines to liberate the Islands. All the ships & Men lost in the fareast in the first 6 months of the war were FDR/King/Marshall's fault and no one else.

I think MacArthur's campaign in New Guinea was a outstanding strategic victory.

Dan Cyr19 Oct 2021 8:47 p.m. PST

Odd, Wackmole9,

I thought it was MacArthur that had been in charge of the Philippines 1936 until Dec. 7, 1941. For that he was paid as a field marshal AND his major general's pay. Not a bad gig if one could get it. Note that Ike turned down a gold plated offer to leave the army in the Philippines to to become the chief of police of a new capital there. We'll not discuss the bribe (even if legal) Mac and his staff took when he escaped the Philippines, while serving as an officer in the US Army. Ike refused the offer when it was made to him.

Of course he was ordered to flee the Philippines, why would anyone want the senior US general commanding and a Field Marshal of the Philippine Commonwealth to be captured and used as a propaganda tool? If not, look up Friedrich Paulus and how he was used after Stalingrad.

Eisenhower was there from 1935-38. Are saying that MacArthur was a prisoner of Ike's plans from years earlier? Perhaps you can explain MacArthur's orders for all US and Philippine troops to leave their supplies and equipment 2 days after the Japanese invasion and retreat to Bataan (which was the pre July 1941 plan)? Or the fact that Ike was critical of MacArthur's views on the quality of the Philippine army and they parted ways on Ike's opinion of how US Army officers should act and behave in the Philippines? One could also mention that it was MacArthur's responsibility that had the US aircraft destroyed at Clark 9 hours after he'd been informed about Pearl Harbor, despite repeated requests for action from the air commander on the spot?

Your statement about FDR wanting a war in the Pacific and giving up the Philippines after Pearl Harbor fly in the face of reality. Verifiable facts please for that opinion.

MacArthur did a great job in the New Guinea area, however it was an operational victory, not a strategic one, directed from Washington and greatly assisted by Australian forces and the US Navy.

He was no saint and Korea finally proved that he was a very highly inconsistent military leader.

Legionarius19 Oct 2021 8:47 p.m. PST

Few of Mac's officers and even fewer of his soldiers respected him as a man. MacArthur was all about MacArthur. At Buna he never visited the front and sent out Eichelberger (a much better man) with the cheery words: "Bob, take Buna or don't come back alive." If it were not for the legend and political pull he created he would have been relieved ASAP. The Philippines campaign was an unnecessary and expensive ego trip to fulfill the "I shall return!" vow. He had half the press in thrall with exaggerated and bombastic commuinques that were always about what MacArthur did or was doing. He had many good officers working for him and seldom, if ever, shared the credit e.g. Admiral Barbey, LTG Eichelberger, MG Kenney and many others. The grunt saw through the BS and dubbed him "Dugout "Doug." As an Army man myself, I recognize that the Pacific was essentially a naval theater and Mac's antics resulted in enormous waste of effort taken from Nimitz's central Pacific thrust. The US industrial machine was up to the task but MAC's ego trip was not in the best interest of the nation. In his mind what was good for MacArthur is good for the US. Not the best example of selfless service out there.

troopwo Supporting Member of TMP20 Oct 2021 8:41 a.m. PST

Kenney, Kruger and Eichelberger are overlooked both for their abilities, accomplishments and for having putting up with him. Excuse me for forgetting his naval commander.

Inconsistant is the best description.

The brilliance of the island hopping strategy was in relity an obvious consequence of both shortages of resources, particuliarly naval in the from 1942-43. It was also a consequence of the incredible infighting and competition for resources between him and Nimitz as well as a placating FDR who couldn't decide on one specific strategy. Surprisingly, spreading out the war to south and central campaigns worked against the Japanese in spreading out their resources even more.

Later on Inchon, brilliant gamble but followed up by ignoring the evidence on the ground of Chinese entry into the ar.

I used to feel like a voice in the wilderness in pointing out the flaws of Macarthur. I see I am no longer alone.

Dan Cyr20 Oct 2021 9:52 a.m. PST

American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964 by William Manchester

Warts and all, this book does a good job of laying out his occasional strokes of brilliance, as well as his failures, both professionally and as a human being.

John the OFM20 Oct 2021 10:47 a.m. PST

I love Lord Olivier's reply to someone asking him how he could possibly bring himself to play such a character in such a movie.
"For the money, Dear Boy. For the money."

John the OFM20 Oct 2021 12:07 p.m. PST

MacArthur's career can be summed up by saying he was caught with his pants down, because he only saw what he wanted to see.
1. Philippines 1941. There was a decent plan in place. He ditched it immediately because it didn't conform to what he wanted to believe.
2. Japan and Korea, 1950. He was too busy being Proconsul of Japan to see that the training of the American occupation force was … adequate. It was not. So the North Koreans invaded, totally surprising him, because it didn't fit what he wanted to believe.
3. Korea 1951. He didn't want to believe that the Chinese would intervene.

Those are the major ones.

Legionarius20 Oct 2021 3:52 p.m. PST

+1OFM. When a man spends his time looking at himself in the mirror and surrounded by sycophants he cannot see very far.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2021 9:17 p.m. PST

MacA's main failing was trusting his subordinate staff,
especially his intel chief. I've read a great deal about
the man and in truth he probably should not have been
retained in command after 1939. He was a leader in the
old school (read of his WWI service) and perhaps
not as flexible or resiliant as the 1940's required.

For some of you, I'd recommend reading more than Manchester
or the history of the Koream fiasco.

The occupation forces in Japan were indeed very ill-
prepared, ill-equipped and ill-trained.

Go luck at the defense budgets in the second Truman
administration for many clues as to why the 'ill-'

Could MacA have done more ? Yup, he should have
resigned and retired, then spoken his piece to the
press as to the miserable state of the occupation

Forrestal left as SecDef in March '49 and was succeeded
by Louis Johnson, who swore to trim the 'bloated'
defense budget 'to the bone.' He got a lot of muscle, too
and did a lot of damage in his 18 month tenure.

If you want to really understand 1948-1954, go do some
research on the budget issues and the politics around

BTW, always remember that MacA and Ike were not friends,
nor was Marshall a friend of MacA's.

Blutarski28 Oct 2021 6:16 a.m. PST

Hi Ed,
Forrestal did indeed leave his position as the nation's first Secretary of Defense in 1949 ….. by way of a 16th story window of the Bethesda Naval Hospital. There is considerable dispute as to whether his departure from office was voluntary. The USN's investigatory report concluded that the fall was the cause of death, but AIUI declined to classify his death as a suicide.

Wheels within wheels.


Dan Cyr29 Oct 2021 12:07 p.m. PST

It was not just Johnson who cut back on the military budget. There was a lot of infighting between the navy and new air force as to who was most important now that the bomb was available and supposedly had changed the face of warfare, their was a continuing push by the public to reduce the military size to more reflect pre-WWII levels, lots of pressure by Congress to trim the budget to pre-WWII levels, a tendentious amount of WWII production still around in the shape of tanks, planes, ships, ammo (I got K-rations in 1973 at Fort Knox that were stamped 1944 on them), etc., that were thought to be of use, so why fund more. In addition, the US military was focused on Europe where the equipped and manned divisions were in place facing the Soviets. No one had a clue that North Korean forces were going to cross the border when they did.

Nine pound round29 Oct 2021 5:43 p.m. PST

MacArthur had no shortage of detractors at the time (Roosevelt and Marshall included), or since. His theatrics are not to everyone's taste. But the SWAPO campaign was far from useless. It eliminated the threat to Australia, and once Guadalcanal was secured, it kept the pressure on Japan at a point when almost no carriers were available, using individual islands as airbases to cover the next advance. And it did not require enormous troop commitments or casualties- both of which were important in a resource-constrained theater. It wore away at Japanese air power in particular. Had it not been for the SWAPO advance, there would not have been much pressure on the Japanese in the Central Pacific from the time Guadalcanal was secured until the Central Pacific effort started with the seizure of Tarawa in 1943. That's a lot of time to recover, retrain, and reinforce, and it was important to keep the inititiative. Give MacArthur some credit for figuring out how to do that in a primarily naval theater where the navy was facing serious short-term resource constraints.

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