Thursday, December 25, 2014

Gen. Douglas MacArthur: An Appetite for Danger

MacArthur wades ashore at Leyte

During World War II, Gen. Douglas MacArthur regularly exposed himself to sniper fire, machine gun attacks and enemy bombs, scorning bomb shelters and offering a distinctive target.
That calm bravado — no doubt related to his vanity and heightened sense of drama— prompted at least one psychiatrist to render a snap diagnosis of “suicidal.”
At Brunei Bay in the Philippines, MacArthur was leading his nervous officers along a beach road battlefield when they came across the freshly slain bodies of two Japanese soldiers.
“An Army photographer appeared, hoping to take a picture of the General and the bodies,” wrote biographer William Manchester. “MacArthur refused, and the cameraman squared away to snap the two corpses. Just at the bulb flashed, the photographer fell with a sniper’s bullet in his shoulder.
“Sir Leslie Morhead, the corps commander, hurried up and said they had reached the front line. MacArthur protested: ‘But I see some Australian soldiers fully a hundred yards ahead.’ Sir Leslie said: ‘General, that is only a forward patrol, and even now it is under heavy fire. You cannot go beyond this point without extreme hazard. The enemy is right in front of it.’ MacArthur said, ‘Let’s go forward.’ Sir Leslie stepped aside and told one of the American aides, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever heard of a commander-in-chief acting as the point.’
“The General started to pace toward the Japanese, but (Gen. George C.) Kenney decided to intervene. They had found the enemy’s outpost position, he told MacArthur, and ‘if he wanted my vote, it was for allowing the infantry to do the job they came ashore for.’ Besides, he continued, the captain of the Boise had invited them to dinner, and it would be ‘extremely discourteous to keep dinner waiting when, after all, we were just guests.’ Capping his argument, he reminded the General that the cruiser’s skipper had promised them chocolate ice cream that evening.
“’All right, George,’ MacArthur said, smiling and turning back toward the ship. ‘I wouldn’t have you miss that ice cream for anything.’
“His craving for danger was unappeased, however; the next day they landed on the other side of Brunei Bay. Hearing gunfire coming from the direction of a nearby airfield, they ‘headed,’ in Kenney’s words, ‘for more trouble.’
“Reaching the edge of the landing strip, the General said, ‘Let’s go on,’ but then an Australian colonel stepped out of the bush and barred the way, brusquely telling the commander in chief that he and his entourage were an unwelcome distraction.
“Kenney writes: ‘He was not a bit awed at MacArthur’s five stars and, much to my gratification, refused to let us go forward another inch.”

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