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General Douglas MacArthur
When General Douglas MacArthur led Allied troops into the jungles of New Guinea in World War II, he placed his armies in a position to fulfill his personal promise to liberate the Philippines.
"I shall return"

A seminal book about a WWII campaign that achieved nothing of strategic significance except to boost Gen. MacArthur’s personal standing as well as diverting US military forces from a direct thrust at Japan.   Oddly enough, only military operations from after Operation Cartwheel, which included the bloody Buna campaign, is covered.    Interested readers on the related Australian operations including the Kokoda trail, as well as follow-on operations in the Philippines will have to look elsewhere.    A clear prerequisite for reading and enjoying this book is to have read “American Caesar” by William Manchester which gives the background to the complex relationships between all the personalities involved.   The almost deadly duel between MacArthur and Admiral King over overall strategy and logistics is highlighted, with Admiral Nimitz being pushed into the background.   The race between MacArthur’s and Nimitz’s rival thrusts towards the Japanese Empire being one of the main themes here.   The book constantly harps on MacArthur’s obsession with getting back to the Philippines.   Thus, in his race to beat the US Navy to the China-Luzon-Formosa area, MacArthur is criticised for moving too fast up the northern coast of PNG before securing his bases for staging the next amphibious landings.   He doesn’t appear to have endeared himself to the men doing the fighting but achieved his objectives in record time and with remarkably low casualty rates for the whole campaign.   As MacArthur did not know about the Manhattan Project, he cannot be faulted for his strategic planning based largely on the then known technology as well as current US military capability.   As it was, the atomic bombs were the strategic weapons that decisively ended the Pacific War.   This remarkable book goes somewhere towards setting the record straight and giving due credit to the many forgotten servicemen who performed gallantly or gave their lives in this little-known campaign.   The maps are clear, concise and relate well to the text.

MacArthur's New Guinea Campaign;
March-August 1944

by Nathan Prefer
Hardcover  (1995)

Nathan Prefer's book on General Douglas MacArthur's "hopping" campaigns in Western New Guinea in 1944 is a well-crafted and detailed account of the twin difficulties encountered by U.S. Army combat units in carrying out MacArthur's strategic directives: The appalling New Guinea jungle terrain and the highly audacious tactics and tenacity of the Imperial Japanese Army.   I found Prefer's portraits of MacArthur and one of his subordinates, Lieutenant General Robert Eichelberger, very revealing.   Prefer details MacArthur's penchant for regularly issuing communiques announcing the successful completion of battles while they were still being hotly contested.   MacArthur is also portrayed as being largely indifferent to the physical hardships endured by U.S. Army infantrymen in New Guinea (MacArthur never visited the front lines in order to gain a feel for the combat conditions and only visited secured battlefields and islands once the fighting was "officially" over).   MacArthur's subordinate, Eichelberger, is portrayed by Prefer as the consummate general - a tough, no-nonsense officer who regularly visited the front lines and also kept his soldiers' ("my lads," as Eichelberger called them) best interests at heart.   Nathan Prefer also reveals that MacArthur's treatment of the Australian Army soldiers under his command was no better, despite the fact that at the outset of the New Guinea campaign in 1942 it was Australian Army militia and regular Australian Army soldiers who fought the Imperial Japanese Army on New Guinea's Kokoda Trail and eventually pushed them back over the Owen Stanley mountain range, thereby saving New Guinea and allowing MacArthur to begin his "hopping" campaigns in Western New Guinea.   MacArthur's New Guinea campaign was as bloody as any campaign in the Pacific - despite MacArthur's claim that he was economical with his soldiers' lives.    Prefer's excellent work pays a long-overdue tribute to the valor, courage and tenacity of the U.S. Army officers and men under MacArthur's command who fought in, and won, the New Guinea campaign.

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