Truman and MacArthur

Truman and MacArthur

Policy, Politics, and the Hunger for Honor and Renown
Michael D. Pearlman
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/12/2008
Format: Hardback 14 b&w photos, 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-35066-4
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Gold medal winner in the History category, Independent Book Publishers Awards

Truman and MacArthur offers an objective and comprehensive account of the very public confrontation between a sitting president and a well-known general over the military's role in the conduct of foreign policy. In November 1950, with the army of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea mostly destroyed, Chinese military forces crossed the Yalu River. They routed the combined United Nations forces and pushed them on a long retreat down the Korean peninsula. Hoping to strike a decisive blow that would collapse the Chinese communist regime in Beijing, General Douglas MacArthur, the commander of the Far East Theater, pressed the administration of President Harry S. Truman for authorization to launch an invasion of China across the Taiwan straits. Truman refused; MacArthur began to argue his case in the press, a challenge to the tradition of civilian control of the military. He moved his protest into the partisan political arena by supporting the Republican opposition to Truman in Congress. This violated the President's fundamental tenet that war and warriors should be kept separate from politicians and electioneering. On April 11, 1951 he finally removed MacArthur from command.

Viewing these events through the eyes of the participants, this book explores partisan politics in Washington and addresses the issues of the political power of military officers in an administration too weak to carry national policy on its own accord. It also discusses America's relations with European allies and its position toward Formosa (Taiwan), the long-standing root of the dispute between Truman and MacArthur.

Author Bio

Michael D. Pearlman retired in 2006 as a professor of history at the United States Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth. He is author of Warmaking and American Democracy: The Struggle over Military Strategy, 1700 to the Present and To Make Democracy Safe for America: Patricians and Preparedness in the Progressive Era. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.


“A comprehensive account of the very public confrontation between President Harry S. Truman and his Far East theater commander, General Douglas MacArthur, over the military's role in the conduct of foreign policy.”

“Pearlman understands far better than most the underlying and widespread consequences of the clash between two highly motivated and somewhat egotistical giants. He rightly places the debate between MacArthur and Truman into the larger context . . . of the questions of civilian and constitutional authority, much like those being raised now about the war in Iraq.”
 — Paul Edwards, Director, Center for the Study of the Korean War

“Drawing on a lifetime of study and research, Michael Pearlman expertly analyzes the relationship between President Harry S. Truman and General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, demonstrating how policies, politics, and personalities entwined to shape their confrontation. He deftly places that confrontation within the context of grand strategy, military operations, history, culture, and domestic politics, portraying with verve and color the panorama of conflict in East Asia during a critical period of American history.”
 — Colonel (Retired)Donald W. Boose, Jr., author of U.S. Army Forces in the Korean War.

“Pearlman's thoughtful, comprehensive survey of the intertwined relationship of "policy, politics, and personality" offers fresh insights into US military strategy, Truman's controversial Far Eastern policy, the politics of McCarthyism, and the internal and public debate over Truman's Korean War policy. Based on extensive research into accessible primary sources and the relevant secondary literature, this skillful . . . monograph is a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on Truman's presidency and, as importantly, on the bitter political debate over Truman's limited war strategy in the conduct of the Korean War. . . . Recommended.March 2009”
 — Choice

“Michael Pearlman's timely study of the Truman-MacArthur controversy is a carefully researched and original work of scholarship that expertly illuminates the treacherous terrain of civil-military relations in the United States.Fall 2009”
 — Pacific Affairs

“. . . a well-researched, familiar story which provides historians with a comprehensive look into the swirl of controversy surrounding Truman's decision to remove MacArthur from command in Korea.October 2008”
 — Thomas W. Zeiler, Journal of Military History

“. . . represents a useful addition to the literature on the Korean War.”
 — Journal of American History

“. . . this book is something of a rarity among academic publications these days: great man history, history from above. Truman and MacArthur is a reminder of just how compelling such history can be—especially in the hands of someone who knows what he is about. Michael Pearlman certainly fits the description. Summer 2009”
 — PARAMETERS : US Army Senior Prof Jrnl

“Michael Pearlman's timely study of the Truman-MacArthur controversy is a carefully researched and original work of scholarship that expertly illuminates the treacherous terrain of civil-military relations in the United States. Fall 2009”
 — Pacific Affairs

“[T]he book is among the best civil military histories to come out in the last 10 years . . . . It deserves a wide, adult readership and has my highest recommendation for military and cilvilian professionals of all stripes. September-October 2009”
 — Military Review

“. . . a first-rate research effort by a distinguished historian, writing in a lively style . . . of considerable value and interest to students of the period.August 2008”
 — Naval War College Review

“. . . the author has researched his subject extensively, frequently displays a fine sense of irony, and has produced probably the best study of this subject to date. February 23, 2009”
 — The Weekly Standard

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

1. Truman and MacArthur, before Korea
2. Defense Policy on the Eve of the Korean War
3. The War against North Korea: From Commitment to the Pusan Perimeter
4. The War against North Korea: From Inchon to the Yalu River
5. The War against China: Winter 1950 to Spring 1951
6. Truman Fires MacArthur
7. Public Verdict and Consequences: Military and Political, Home and Abroad
8. Ending the War without Truman or MacArthur
9. Truman and MacArthur: Summary, Conclusion, and Postscript

Selected Bibliography