One thing that I learned from this book is that the Allied war effort in the Pacific Theater was not one thrust but two: one push by MacArthur from Australia, to New Guinea, Indonesia, and the Phillipines; and the other, led by Admiral Nimitz, beginning in Midway and taking a more northerly route toward Japan. It was Nimitz, not MacArthur, who used a strategy of “island-hopping.”
MacArthur decries the strategy of island-hopping in favor of his own “new strategy of war” in his Reminiscences, quoted at length on p. 336:
I inteded to envelop them, incapacitate them, apply the “hit ‘em where they ain’t — let ‘em die on the vine” philosophy. I explained that this was the very opposite of what was termed “island-hopping,” which is the gradual pushing back of the enemy by direct frontal pressure, with the consequent heavy casualties which would certainly be involved…. “Island-hopping,” I said, “with extravagant losses and slow progress, is not my idea of how to end the war as soon and as cheaply as possible. New conditions and new weapons require new and imaginative methods for solution and application. Wars are never won in the past.”
Although he describes it as a novel strategy, MacArthur’s idea of “leap frogging” was actually a classic application of military technique.
His note of concern about the expenditure of human life is a theme throughout the book, and MacArthur was remarkably successful in this regard. Throughout the entire campaign in the Southwest Pacific, from Australia to Tokyo, he lost only 90,437 troops under his command. By contrast in the European Theater, 106,502 American lives were lost in the Battle of the Bulge and 29,000 on D-Day alone.
Another theme of the book is MacArthur’s talent for self-promotion. He diligently maintained his image, including in the famous photo of him wading ashore at Leyte, accompanied by the line “I have returned.” Overall, this biography of a larger-than-life figure is one to remember.