Eisenhower and MacArthur-The Command Team That Never Was

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Two of the five men who have held the rank of General of the Army, Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, could be quite acerbic in their assessments of each other.  MacArthur in 1947 referred to Eisenhower as the best clerk he ever had, and Eisenhower was fond of saying that he studied dramatics under MacArthur.  Both assessments had a fair amount of truth.  Eisenhower was the consummate military manager, but he lacked almost all skill as a commander of forces in combat.  His one taste of such command, in North Africa, produced distinctly lackluster results.  As for MacArthur he was overly dramatic, a penchant that played well in the Victorian world in which he was born, but often seemed ludicrous by World War II.

It is intriguing to speculate about what sort of command team they would have made if they had served together in World War II.  As Chief of Staff for MacArthur, Eisenhower would have been indispensable in making the most of the resources that MacArthur got at the tail end of a very long supply chain.  His skill at diplomacy would have smoothed the ruffled feathers of Presidents, as well as the often stormy relations that MacArthur had with the Navy and the Australians.  MacArthur would have contributed the streak of strategic and operational brilliance that Eisenhower sorely lacked.

Eisenhower remained in the Philippines with MacArthur until 1939.  Two more years of service there, or an earlier attack by the Japanese, and speculations as to a MacArthur and Eisenhower military partnership would not now be relegated to the realm of alternate history.

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3 Comments

  1. for the sake of history
    Washington – was general of the army[ies] and Commander in chief- highest rank ever

    MacArthur [ there were 2 attempts to give him a 6th star – studying the man, I think a lot of the criticims of him was jealousy – he was an extremely intelligent warrior who cared mostly about his mens lives
    Bradley
    Arnold
    Marshall
    Eisenhower
    Pershing[ declined to wear the 5th star[ gen’ of the arm[ies]

  2. “Eisenhower was the consummate military manager, but he lacked almost all skill as a commander of forces in combat. His one taste of such command, in North Africa, produced distinctly lackluster results.”

    That may go a bit far, but it is also true that Eisenhower was too busy setting up his HQ in Paris to give much notice to the intelligence reports that hinted at the German buildup leading to the Battle of the Bulge.

    Still, Eisenhower made a far better President than MacArthur would have.

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