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At the height of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman committed a gaffe that sent shock waves around the world. When asked by a reporter about the possible use of atomic weapons in response to China's entry into the war, Truman replied testily, "The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of the weapons, as he always has." This suggested that General Douglas MacArthur, the willful, fearless, and highly decorated commander of the American and UN forces, had his finger on the nuclear trigger. A correction quickly followed, but the damage was done; two visions for America's path forward were clearly in opposition, and one man would have to make way.
Truman was one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. Heir to a struggling economy, a ruined Europe, and increasing tension with the Soviet Union, on no issue was the path ahead clear and easy. General MacArthur, by contrast, was incredibly popular, as untouchable as any officer has ever been in America. The lessons he drew from World War II were absolute: appeasement leads to disaster, and a showdown with the Communists was inevitable - the sooner the better. In the nuclear era, when the Soviets, too, had the bomb, the specter of a catastrophic third world war lurked menacingly close on the horizon.
The contest of wills between these two titanic characters unfolds against the turbulent backdrop of a faraway war and terrors conjured at home by Joseph McCarthy. From the drama of Stalin's blockade of West Berlin to the daring landing of MacArthur's forces at Inchon to the shocking entrance of China into the war, The General vs. the President vividly evokes the making of a new American era.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Jean on 11-11-16
A Vivid Dramatic Accounting
This is a great comparison study. Professor Brands is a master storyteller. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
After World War II MacArthur was extremely popular. The lessons he learned from WWII were absolute: appeasement leads to disaster, and a showdown with the communists was inevitable and as far as Douglas MacArthur was concerned the sooner the better. At the time, Truman was an unpopular president. Truman faced a struggling economy, a ruined Europe and increasing hostilities with the Soviet Union. Senator Joseph McCarthy was in full swing and he had a hostile divided Congress. Also, Truman had to deal with Stalin’s blockade of West Berlin with the airlift of food. Then the Korean War began.
Brands reveals the contest of wills between these two strong characters against the backdrop of the Korean peacekeeping action, the drama with Stalin and the entrance of China into the Korean conflict triggered by MacArthur. The critical conflict between the two was the civilian rule over the military, which MacArthur defied.
This is a well written and meticulously researched comparison study of two of American leaders during the Korean War. Truman thought MacArthur was egotistical, reckless, lacked foresight and was willing to use nuclear weapons. MacArthur thought Truman was like all politicians, spineless, afraid and corrupt. Brands reveals both the strong and weak points of each man. MacArthur did wonders in Japan, but was extremely naïve about global geopolitics; and Truman did wonders in Europe, but was in over his head and made some mistakes. The book has some flaws. I noted some inaccurate statements; for example, Brands states that Truman and Treasury Secretary John Snyder, whom he consulted on MacArthur’s firing, “had served together in WWI”. They actually met at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1928. I enjoyed the Senate hearings of the Army particularly that of General Marshall. The book reads like a novel, is easy to read but has lots of critical detail.
Scott Brick does an excellent job narrating the book. Brick is an actor, writer and award winning audiobook narrator.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By St Comgall on 07-05-17
I enjoyed this from the moment I began listening to the preface. Anyone with interest in 20th century history will enjoy hearing about the relationship between Truman and MacArthur. Many will know something of Truman but MacArthur was a surprise. What a character. Overall a great book!
By Boobie on 04-26-17
Excellent - Had Me Hooked In Five Minutes
Would you listen to The General vs. the President again? Why?
This is an excellent combination of factual history and the more personal, subjective outlooks of the two protagonists.
What was one of the most memorable moments of The General vs. the President?
The chapter covering Truman's 1948 election win was very well done.
What does Scott Brick bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
Scott Brick is always reliable and gets the nuances of a text just right. I wish more narrators were as good.
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
No, just maintained my interest very well and made me regret when it ended.
Any additional comments?
I shall sample Mr. Brands' other work on this basis.