American Caesar

Douglas MacArthur 1880 - 1964


By William Manchester

Formats and Prices




$16.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 12, 2008. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The bestselling classic that indelibly captures the life and times of one of the most brilliant and controversial military figures of the twentieth century.

“Electric…Tense with the feeling that this is the authentic MacArthur…Splendid reading.” — New York Times

Inspiring, outrageous… A thundering paradox of a man. Douglas MacArthur, one of only five men in history to have achieved the rank of General of the United States Army. He served in World Wars I, II, and the Korean War, and is famous for stating that “in war, there is no substitute for victory.”

American Caesar examines the exemplary army career, the stunning successes (and lapses) on the battlefield, and the turbulent private life of the soldier-hero whose mystery and appeal created a uniquely American legend.


Begin Reading

Table of Contents


Copyright Page

In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author's intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at Thank you for your support of the author's rights.

Author's Note

Officers' ranks change during their military careers, and attempts to keep track of their promotions merely confuse the reader. In this work, therefore, ranks are omitted unless essential to an understanding of a passage. In the absence of designations to the contrary, "the General," when thus capitalized, always refers to Douglas MacArthur. George C. Marshall's Christian name is used to distinguish him from Richard J. Marshall, MacArthur's World War II deputy chief of staff.

Tenses present a similar problem of clarity. To avoid tortuous excursions into the miasmas of the pluperfect, the text occasionally reads, "he recalls" and "he remembers" when a specific recollection may in fact have occurred years earlier, often in published memoirs. The present tense enhances lucidity and heightens the sense of immediacy. Citations in the chapter notes, of course, pinpoint the date of each reference.


Eight pages of maps appear between here and here.

Two maps of the Philippines appear on pages here and here.

Sarah Barney Belcher

Arthur MacArthur, Sr.

Colonel Arthur MacArthur, Jr.

Pinky MacArthur

Arthur Jr., Pinky, and their children

Major Arthur MacArthur, Jr., and other officers, 1894

Major General Arthur MacArthur, Jr., in the Philippines, 1899

Major General Arthur MacArthur, Jr., 1905

Douglas MacArthur as a baby

MacArthur and Arthur III, 1884

MacArthur as a small child

MacArthur as a boy

MacArthur at West Texas Military Academy

Arthur III as a naval officer

MacArthur as a young man with his family

MacArthur as a West Point plebe, 1899, with his mother

MacArthur with other members of the West Point baseball team

MacArthur as manager of the West Point football team

MacArthur as a West Point second classman, 1902

MacArthur in a dramatic West Point cadet pose

MacArthur as a second lieutenant

First Lieutenant MacArthur in 1906

First Lieutenant MacArthur and fellow officers in full dress, 1909

Captain MacArthur at the time of Vera Cruz, 1914

Major MacArthur as a War Department public-relations man, 1916

Colonel MacArthur with Major General Charles T. Menoher

Colonel MacArthur with General Georges de Bazelaire

General John J. Pershing decorating Colonel MacArthur with the Distinguished Service Cross in France

Colonel MacArthur watching maneuvers

MacArthur as a brigadier general

Brigadier General MacArthur in his smashed-down cap

Brigadier General MacArthur and his 84th Brigade staff

Brigadier General MacArthur just before the Armistice

Brigadier General MacArthur near the end of World War I

General Pershing decorating Brigadier General MacArthur with the Distinguished Service Medal

MacArthur in raccoon coat on his way home, 1919

West Point Superintendent MacArthur

Superintendent MacArthur at West Point with the Prince of Wales, 1919

Superintendent MacArthur and Mayor Hylan of New York, 1920

MacArthur's first wife, Louise Cromwell Brooks

MacArthur and Louise, March 1925

Pinky MacArthur with photo of her son Douglas, c. 1925

Major General MacArthur, 1926

Major General MacArthur at CMTC camp in Maryland

MacArthur in mufti at the time of his appointment as Chief of Staff

MacArthur with General Pershing

MacArthur as leader of U.S. Olympic team, 1928

MacArthur wearing his decorations, December 1930

MacArthur watching French maneuvers, 1931

MacArthur watching Austrian maneuvers, 1932

MacArthur supervising eviction of the bonus marchers, 1932

MacArthur and Major Dwight D. Eisenhower confer during the bonus marchers' eviction

MacArthur during a pause in the bonus marchers' eviction

MacArthur, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Secretary of War George Dern

MacArthur and Eisenhower arrive in the Philippines to take up new duties, 1935

Jean Faircloth

MacArthur and his second wife, Jean Faircloth

Jean Faircloth MacArthur shortly before Pearl Harbor

Arthur MacArthur IV with a stuffed toy

Arthur IV at an early age

MacArthur and Jonathan M. Wainwright, December 1941

Arthur IV outside the Corregidor tunnel

MacArthur arriving in Melbourne, Australia, March 1942

Jean and Arthur IV in Melbourne

MacArthur attends the Australian Parliament, May 1942

MacArthur and his chief of staff, Richard K. Sutherland, in Brisbane, July 1942

MacArthur with Australian troops in New Guinea

MacArthur smiling down at his wife and son

Jean and Arthur IV

Arthur IV gets a haircut in Australia

MacArthur supervising paratroop drop, September 1943

MacArthur in the Admiralty Islands, February 1944

MacArthur viewing a dead Japanese soldier at Los Negros, February 1944

MacArthur at Hollandia, April 1944

MacArthur's controversial house in Hollandia

MacArthur and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, March 1944

MacArthur, President Roosevelt, and Admiral Nimitz in Hawaii, July 1944

Roosevelt, MacArthur, and Nimitz in Hawaii motorcade

MacArthur wades ashore at Leyte, October 1944

Jean and Arthur IV in Brisbane

Jean and Arthur IV in Brisbane, Christmas, 1944

MacArthur views the reconquered Philippines

MacArthur at the time of the Philippine reconquest

MacArthur lands in Japan, August 30, 1945

MacArthur embraces the freed Jonathan M. Wainwright

MacArthur signs the instrument of surrender in Tokyo Bay

Japanese support MacArthur's presidential aspirations, 1948

Another such Japanese sign

MacArthur and Eisenhower in Japan, May 1946

MacArthur greets President Harry S. Truman on Wake, October 1950

Truman and MacArthur chat on Wake

Truman decorating MacArthur with another Distinguished Service Medal on Wake

Truman and MacArthur in car on Wake

MacArthur gazing down at the Yalu River from his plane, the SCAP, November 1950

MacArthur on air inspection of the Yalu

MacArthur and Matthew B. Ridgway touring the Korean front, January 1951

MacArthur visiting the Korean front, February 1951

MacArthur in Seoul, March 1951

MacArthur strides toward his plane in Tokyo after President Truman has relieved him

MacArthur addresses joint session of Congress, April 1951

MacArthur, Arthur IV, and Jean after the speech to Congress

New York's ticker-tape parade for the MacArthurs

Three views of MacArthur during Senate hearings on his recall

MacArthur delivers keynote address at 1952 GOP convention

MacArthur at West Point in 1957 beneath the lines he composed

MacArthur at the Manila Hotel, July 1961

MacArthur at the White House with President John F. Kennedy, 1961

MacArthur with Cadet Colin P. Kelly II, January 1963

President Lyndon B. Johnson visits MacArthur at Walter Reed Hospital

New York funeral procession for MacArthur, April 1964


1825Arthur MacArthur, Sr., arrives in United States from Scotland.
1845Arthur MacArthur, Jr., born.
1862Arthur Jr. commissioned as first lieutenant in Union army.
1863Arthur Jr. wins Congressional Medal of Honor.
1864Aged nineteen, Arthur Jr. becomes a full colonel.
1866Arthur Jr. begins Indian fighting on frontier.
1870President Grant appoints Arthur Sr. a federal judge.
1875Arthur Jr. marries Pinky Hardy.
1880Douglas MacArthur (herein-after MacArthur) born January 26 on army post; his frontier childhood begins.
1893MacArthur a cadet at West Texas Military Academy.
1896Judge Arthur MacArthur dies.
1898General Arthur MacArthur, Jr., fights in Spanish-American War.
1900Arthur Jr. named military governor of the Philippines.
1901MacArthur testifies before congressional committee while still a West Point cadet.
Arthur Jr. relieved for insubordination to William Howard Taft.
1903MacArthur graduates from West Point; first captain, first in class.
As a second lieutenant, he comes under fire in the Philippines.
1904Promoted to first lieutenant.
1905Tours Far East with his parents.
1906Appointed aide to President Theodore Roosevelt.
1908Reprimanded twice for insubordination.
1911Promoted to captain.
1912Arthur MacArthur, Jr., dies.
1913MacArthur appointed to general staff.
1914His daring April Vera Cruz raid; recommended for Congressional Medal of Honor.
1915Promoted to major.
1917As a colonel, assigned to Rainbow Division as chief of staff.
1918Fighting in France, is decorated nine times for heroism.
Pinky demands that he be promoted.
Aged thirty-eight, MacArthur becomes a general, commands Rainbow Division.
1919Becomes superintendent of West Point.
1922Marries Louise Brooks.
1925MacArthur serves on Billy Mitchell court-martial.
1929Louise divorces him.
1930He takes a Eurasian mistress.
He becomes army Chief of Staff.
1932Bonus army incident.
1934$15,000 buys off his mistress.
1935 Pinky dies in Manila.
1936MacArthur becomes Philippine Field Marshal.
1937He marries Jean Marie Faircloth.
1938Arthur MacArthur IV born in Manila.
1941 FDR recalls MacArthur to active duty as U.S. Far East commander.
Japanese attack; MacArthur's air force is destroyed on the ground.
He withdraws to Bataan and Corregidor.
1942The MacArthurs escape to Australia. MacArthur awarded Congressional Medal of Honor.
He defends Australia in New Guinea.
1943MacArthur bypasses Rabaul.
1944Hollandia: a MacArthur masterpiece.
FDR-MacArthur meeting in Honolulu.
MacArthur becomes a five-star general.
1945Manila, Bataan, and Corregidor recaptured.
MacArthur defies the Joint Chiefs, retakes central and southern Philippines.
He flies into Yokohama—unarmed.
Japanese surrender to him on battleship Missouri.
As SCAP, he becomes ruler of 83 million Japanese.
1946Execution of Homma and Yamashita, both innocent.
MacArthur constitution becomes law of the land in Japan.
He introduces Nipponese to women's right, labor unions, land reform, and civil liberties.
1950North Korea invades South Korea.
MacArthur becomes first United Nations commander.
He visits Formosa.
1950MacArthur's letter to VFW; Truman orders it withdrawn.
Inchon, MacArthur's greatest victory; Seoul recaptured.
UN General Assembly votes, 47 to 5, to order him to conquer North Korea; he therefore crosses the 38th Parallel.
MacArthur-Truman conference on Wake.
Chinese enter the Korean War.
MacArthur forbidden to attack Chinese bases in Manchuria.
White House rejects MacArthur's four-point plan to widen the war.
1951MacArthur torpedoes Truman's truce appeal.
His letter to Joe Martin.
Truman strips him of all commands.
Nationwide acclaim for MacArthur.
Senate hearings on his dismissal.
Acheson bars MacArthur from U.S.-Japanese peace treaty conference.
1952MacArthur delivers keynote address at GOP national convention.
He tries to deprive Eisenhower of presidential nomination.
1955He proposes that war be outlawed.
1961The MacArthurs' sentimental journey to the Philippines.
1962MacArthur's farewell to West Point.
1964He begs President Johnson to stay out of Vietnam, then dies at Walter Reed Hospital.
Entombment of MacArthur in Norfolk, Virginia.



He was a great thundering paradox of a man, noble and ignoble, inspiring and outrageous, arrogant and shy, the best of men and the worst of men, the most protean, most ridiculous, and most sublime. No more baffling, exasperating soldier ever wore a uniform. Flam-boyant, imperious, and apocalyptic, he carried the plumage of a flamingo, could not acknowledge errors, and tried to cover up his mistakes with sly, childish tricks. Yet he was also endowed with great personal charm, a will of iron, and a soaring intellect. Unquestionably he was the most gifted man-at-arms this nation has produced. He was also extraordinarily brave. His twenty-two medals—thirteen of them for heroism—probably exceeded those of any other figure in American history. He seemed to seek death on battlefields. Repeatedly he deliberately exposed himself to enemy snipers, first as a lieutenant in the Philippines shortly after the turn of the century, then as a captain in Mexico, and finally as a general in three great wars. At the age of seventy he ordered his pilot to fly him in an unarmed plane through Chinese flak over the length of the bleak Yalu. Nevertheless, his troops scorned him as "Dugout Doug."1

His belief in an Episcopal, merciful God was genuine, yet he seemed to worship only at the altar of himself. He never went to church, but he read the Bible every day and regarded himself as one of the world's two great defenders of Christendom. (The other was the pope.) For every MacArthur strength there was a corresponding MacArthur weakness. Behind his bravura and his stern Roman front he was restive and high-strung, an embodiment of machismo who frequently wept. He yearned for public adulation. His treatment of the press guaranteed that he wouldn't get it. After World War II he was generous toward vanquished Dai Nippon—and executed two Nipponese generals whose only offense was that they had fought against him. He emerged from the 1940s as a national hero in Canberra, Manila, and Tokyo—but not in Washington, D.C. He loathed injustice—and freed Filipino patricians who had collaborated with the enemy. He refused to send an expedition against the Hukbalahap insurgents on the ground that if he were a Philippine peasant, he would be a Huk himself. Continuing his sidestepping to the left, during his years as American viceroy in Japan he introduced the Japanese to civil liberties, labor unions, equal rights for women, and land reforms which were more thorough, in the opinion of Edwin O. Reischauer, than Mao Tse-tung's. Meanwhile, he became a cat's-paw for reactionaries at home. The army was his whole life, yet at the end of it he said, "I am a one hundred percent disbeliever in war." In his campaigns he was remarkably economical of human life—his total casualties from Australia to V-J Day were fewer than those in the Battle of the Bulge—but his GIs, unimpressed, continued to mock him cruelly.2

His paranoia was almost certifiable. He hated an entire continent: Europe. Europeans could not understand why. They knew he was immensely proud of his Scots lineage. He had made his name as a fighting general in France in 1918. His statecraft was Bismarckian; his style in battle, closer to Sandhurst's and Saint-Cyr-I'École's than to West Point's. Charles de Gaulle understood him as no American could, and the British were dazzled by him. To Churchill he was "the glorious commander," to Montgomery the United States' "best soldier" of World War II, to Lord Alanbrooke "the greatest general and the best strategist that the war produced." Nevertheless, obsessed with emerging Asia (which he regarded as his) he was almost insanely jealous of Washington's partiality toward the Continent. Given his suspicious nature, this led to the conviction that Europeans in general, and the English in particular, were conspiring against him. He believed that the Pentagon was party to their intrigues. George Marshall—who disliked him personally but called him "our most brilliant general"—seemed to be the prime suspect, though with MacArthur you could never be sure. One moment he would be malicious, and in the next, tolerant. He was, among other things, extremely devious.3

He appeared to need enemies the way other men need friends, and his conduct assured that he would always have plenty of them. But his craving for love was immense, too. In his youth he idolized his father, a general like him, and, like him, a winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor. His relationship with his autocratic Southern mother was more complex. Like Franklin Roosevelt and Adlai Stevenson, he was a wellborn victim of Überängstlichkeit, a mama's boy who reached his fullest dimensions in following maternal orders to be mercilessly ambitious. Pinky MacArthur moved to the U.S. Military Academy when he enrolled there—from Craney's Hotel she could see the lamp in her son's room and tell whether or not he was studying—and later she mortified him by writing ludicrous letters to his superiors, demanding that he be promoted.

His one open flicker of revolt against her was his first marriage, to a sexy divorcée. Pinky refused to attend the wedding, and the union ended, predictably, in divorce. Between marriages he kept an exquisitely beautiful Eurasian mistress, first in the Philippines and then in a hotel apartment on Washington's Sixteenth Street. He showered her with presents and bought her many lacy tea gowns, but no raincoat. She didn't need one, he told her; her duty lay in bed. Finally she mutinied. Terrified that his mother would find out about her—he was fifty-four years old and a four-star general at the time—he sent another officer to buy the girl off with a sheaf of hundred-dollar bills, in the mezzanine of the Willard Hotel on Christmas Eve, 1934. Then, after these two shattering romantic defeats (and immediately after his mother's death) he waged a brilliant campaign for the hand of his second wife, a poem of womanhood. She and their only child became the sources of his greatest happiness. MacArthur, being MacArthur, became the total father, but, being MacArthur, he couldn't let go. In the end his suffocating adoration enshrouded his son's soul.4

"Very few people," said George C. Kenney, "really know Douglas MacArthur. Those who do, or think they do, either admire him or dislike him. They are never neutral on the subject." Certainly no other American commander, and possibly no other American, has been more controversial. MacArthur first testified before a congressional committee while still a cadet at West Point. He was an insubordinate junior officer; thrice in those early years he flirted with courts-martial. Dis aliter visum. At Leavenworth they gave him troops, and that made all the difference. Tall, lean, athletic, gentlemanly but firm, calm in crises, with tremendous reserves of physical and nervous energy, he became the apotheosis of leadership. Thereafter most of those closest to him would venerate him, some of them comparing him to Alexander the Great—with Alexander a poor second—or saying, as George E. Stratemeyer did, that he was "the greatest leader, the greatest commander, the greatest hero in American history." Perhaps the most striking evidence of his charismatic appeal was provided by Jonathan M. Wainwright, whom he left behind in the Philippines and who therefore spent four harrowing years in POW camps. Freed, Wainwright said of MacArthur: "I'd follow that man—anywhere—blindfolded." Then he devoted his remaining years to supporting MacArthur for President.5

There were exceptions. To some he appeared to be too remote, so far above his subordinates that he was unapproachable. Daniel E. Barbey, the admiral who served as his amphibious commander in World War II, wrote: "MacArthur was never able to develop a feeling of warmth and comradeship with those about him. He had their respect but not their sympathetic understanding or their affection.… He was too aloof and too correct in manner, speech, and dress." Steve M. Mellnik, a coast artillery officer on Corregidor, resented the fact that the General "wrapped himself in a cloak of dignified aloofness" and "never tried to be 'one of the boys.' " (Philip LaFollette thought he knew why—he said that MacArthur's mind, "a beautiful piece of almost perfect machinery," had to be "stimulated almost exclusively by reading," because he never had "the benefit of daily rubbing elbows with his intellectual equals—let alone his superiors.") To such men he was inhuman. Robert L. Eichelberger sardonically wrote his wife from the front: "We have difficulty in following the satellites of MacArthur, for like those of Jupiter, we cannot see the moons on account of the brilliance of the planet.… Even the gods were alleged to have their weaknesses."6

Such feelings were rare, and in fact Eichelberger, highly ambivalent toward his chief, was constantly torn between disillusion and encomiums to him, but it is remarkable that anyone capable of criticism remained in this Jupiter's presence. Once he put up general's stars—he was still only in his thirties—almost all of those who were permitted to stay with him were blindly subservient, even obsequious. "None of MacArthur's men," one of the few of whom this was untrue told a writer, "can risk being first-rate." They catered to his peacockery, genuflected to his viceregal whims, and shared his conviction that plotters were bent upon stabbing him in the back. Some of the sycophants were weird. His World War II chief of staff thought America should be ruled by a right-wing dictatorship. His intelligence officer admired Franco extravagantly. A third member of his staff spied on the others like an inquisitor, searching for signs of heresy. Clare Boothe Luce recalls: "MacArthur's temperament was flawed by an egotism that demanded obedience not only to his orders, but to his ideas and his person as well. He plainly relished idolatry."7

On the other side were those, far from his headquarters, who disparaged everything about him: his religion, his rhetoric, even his cap. They doubted his sincerity, his motives, his courage. Nothing detrimental to him was too absurd to be believed by them. One could fill a volume with MacArthur apocrypha. He used rouge, they said; he dyed his hair; he wore corsets and a wig. It was rumored that he had drowned his first wife's lover in a Philippine swimming pool, and reported that in escaping from flaming, weeping Corregidor in 1942, he had brought with him his furniture, a refrigerator, and a mattress stuffed with gold coins. Because he owned the Manila Hotel, it was said, artillerymen (fliers) had been forbidden to shell (bomb) it. Gossip had it that pictures of him wading ashore at Leyte were faked. In New Guinea, it was bruited about, he kept a private cow while GIs went without milk, and built a million-dollar mansion at Hollandia. The catalogue of myths about him is endless. Men who fought in the Pacific and are skeptical on every other topic will swear that some or all of these stories are true, though research exposes every one of them as a lie.


On Sale
May 12, 2008
Page Count
816 pages
Back Bay Books

William Manchester

About the Author

William Manchester was a hugely successful popular historian and biographer whose books include The Last Lion, Volumes 1 and 2, Goodbye Darkness, A World Lit Only by Fire, The Glory and the Dream, The Arms of Krupp, American Caesar, The Death of the President, and assorted works of journalism.

Learn more about this author