Fortunately, most poor tacticians and/or battlefield leaders seldom acquire the rank of admiral or general in the U.S. military system. Nonetheless, in our brief history, we have had our share of idiots or poor military leaders on the battlefield. As for Grant, IrishWizard you will get no bashing from me because I agree. However, when it came to massive ego, pompous behavior, and being accredited with the single greatest military defeat in U.S. history, complete with exhortations to duty, punctuated by exaggerated narcissistic personality disorder, General Douglas MacArthur had no equal.
His pompous behavior was best illustrated by his assault on the American veterans of World War I. The Great Depression's worst year about 25,000 World War I veterans, many of whom were decorated American combat heroes – walked, hitch-hiked or rode the rails to Washington, D.C. Organizing themselves into a vagrant army of sorts, they squatted with their families in along Pennsylvania Avenue and pitched an encampment of crude self-made shacks and tents on the banks of the Anacostia River in an effort to obtain their promised war bonus pensions. In June 1932, President Hoover ordered MacArthur to peacefully route the crowds. MacArthur used tanks, four troops of cavalry with drawn sabers, and infantry with fixed bayonets to meet the ragged bunch of men, women, and children with tear-gas. Following the cavalry charge, came the tear-gas attack, routing the Bonus Army from Pennsylvania Avenue and across the Eleventh Street Bridge. Disregarding orders – a common theme throughout his career – MacArthur decided to finish the job by destroying the “Bonus Army” entirely. After nightfall, the tanks and cavalry leveled the jumbled camp of tents and packing-crate shacks. It was all put to the torch. There were more than one hundred casualties in the aftermath of the battle, including two babies, suffocated by the gas attack and most of the peoples lost all their personal possessions.
Okay he had no respect for American wartime veterans, but what about his tactical skills as a military leader? In one word, terrible! How could anyone consider General Douglas MacArthur to be a brilliant tactician when he is known for leading the single greatest military defeat in U.S. history, the loss of the Philippines. It is remarkable how MacArthur escaped any reprimand, kept his command and got his fourth star on December 17th and a Congressional Medal of Honor for "gallantry and intrepidity" at Bataan where he spent part of only one day for an inspection. He was awarded the medal after he had already fled and deserted his troops. His ultimate reward was orders to leave the Philippines with his family while his soldiers were subjected to the deadly brutality of the Bataan Death March. The losses were horrific with over 31,000 Americans 80,000 Filipino troops, and 26,000 refugees on Bataan. And let’s not forget about the battle “retaking of the Philippines” in which 600,000 civilians were killed.
The Imperial forces destroyed half his air force in one assault and within weeks invaded Luzon. Forced to abandon his Corregidor headquarters in 1942, he escaped to Australia, where he made the memorable pledge that became the Allied motto in the Pacific: “I came through, and I shall return.” MacArthur had been soundly defeated, yet I am amazed how he became an instant national hero and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. In addition and perhaps not coincidentally, MacArthur was given $500,000 and his staff $100,000 upon leaving the Philippines. In today's money, $500,000 is equivalent to about $5 million. The $35,000 given to him to cover expenses was invested in the stock market and made him a millionaire by war's end.
Furthermore and despite MacArthur's boasting about always bypassing enemy strongholds, he planned to invade New Britain and capture the heavily defended base at Rabaul. Only orders from the Joint Chiefs of Staff prevented this potential bloodbath. Undoubtedly many other islands would have been better off bypassed. Nonetheless, some consider the war in Korea have also been a costly one. Total U.S. casualties during the war numbered approximately 136,000 killed, missing in action, and wounded. But that is just the tip of the iceberg when one considers that General Douglas Macarthur’s conduct during the initial phase of the Korean War. Many historians suggest that Macarthur’s ‘agenda’ brought USA and USSR extremely close to the brink of World War 3.
So who were the real tacticians and strategists behind winning the war in the Pacific Theater? The brilliant minds of naval leaders like Admirals William F. Halsey, Chester W. Nimitz, and Raymond A. Spruance were the real tacticians and heroes behind MacArthur’s claims to success in the Pacific Theater.