MacArthur's Korean War Generals
Stephen R. Taaffe
Captain Richard Lukaszewicz Memorial Book Award
Wedged chronologically between World War II and Vietnam, the Korean War—which began with North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in June of 1950—possessed neither the virtuous triumphalism of the former nor the tragic pathos of the latter. Most Americans supported defending South Korea, but there was considerable controversy during the war as to the best means to do so—and the question was at least as exasperating for American army officers as it was for the general public. A longtime historian of American military leadership in the crucible of war, Stephen R. Taaffe takes a close critical look at how the highest ranking field commanders of the Eighth Army acquitted themselves in the first, decisive year in Korea. Because an army is no better than its leadership, his analysis opens a new perspective on the army's performance in Korea, and on the conduct of the war itself.
“Taaffe writes with smoothness, clarity, and verve. . . Personal profiles extend beyond background and training to personality traits and idiosyncrasies, including thoughtful and balanced assessments of individual strengths and weaknesses.”
“Taaffe has done a service for students of the Korean War of of US Army Institutional history. His generally direct, clearly written evaluations of the performance of men like MacArthur, Ridgway, and the troublesome X Corps commander Ned Almond are judicious and carefully reasoned.”
—Michigan War Studies ReviewSee all reviews...
“Those interested in the Korean War are sure to want MacArthur’s Korean War Generals on their bookshelf. Taaffe’s insights will cause readers to reevaluate their understanding of the war as well as their assessment of the army’s senior leadership at the time.”
“An outstanding study, adding considerably to one’s understanding of Korean War military leadership and operations.”
—Korean Journal of Military History
“Offers important insights into and background on the army generals who led U.S. forces during the first thirteen months of the Korean War.”
—Journal of Military History
“Anybody who wants to understand how the US Army fought in the Korean War needs to read this book. Taaffe is especially interesting on the personal relationships between senior officers.”
—Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today
“Taaffe is a master storyteller, analyst, and researcher who provides commendable balance to a subject that has often produced polemics. His extensive use of oral history and background on World War II military leadership enable him to provide insights that will inform specialists, buffs, and general readers alike.”
—William Stueck, author of Rethinking the Korean War: A New Diplomatic and Strategic History
“A terrific study of America’s military leadership during the Korean War. Taaffe is remarkably even-handed, providing praise where it is appropriate and criticism where it is deserved. The book offers insights into topics ranging from the critical tactical and strategic decisions of the war to the impact of more petty politics and personal relationships. Beautifully-written and thoroughly-researched, MacArthur’s Korean War Generals offers lessons that still resonate today for the Korean Peninsula and beyond.”
—Mitchell Lerner, Director of Korean Studies, The Ohio State University
“One of the best US Army history studies on the Korean War. Taaffe successfully explains that, although the US Eighth Army was unprepared for the war, its field commanders made the difference in the success of the UNF operations because of their leadership style, combat experience, and command skills. There were divergent views on how to fight the war at MacArthur’s HQs. Taaffe assesses the dissimilar war-fighting strategies through the lens of the differing military careers and political considerations of the generals, who had abled to make good use of their experiences from WWII that made the Eighth Army a competent fighting force in Korea. They consolidated the UNF defense line, pushed for offensive campaigns into North Korea, built the confidence in fighting back the Communist invasions, and transformed the US Army from a WWII “liberation force” to a Cold War “containment force”. A milestone in US military leadership research of the Korean War. It is highly recommended. ”
—Xiaobing Li, co-editor and translator of Mao’s Generals Remember KoreaSee fewer reviews...
In that first year, the Eighth Army’s leadership ran the gamut from impressive to lackluster—a surprising unevenness since so many of the high-ranking officers had been battle-tested in World War II. Taaffe attributes these leadership difficulties to the army’s woefully unprepared state at the war’s start, army personnel policies, and General Douglas MacArthur’s corrosive habit of manipulating his subordinates and pitting them against each other. He explores the personalities at play, their pre-war experiences, the manner of their selection, their accomplishments and failures, and, of course, their individual relationships with each other and MacArthur. By explaining who these field, corps, and division commanders were, Taaffe exposes the army’s institutional and organizational problems that contributed to its up-and-down fortunes in Korea in 1950–1951. Providing a better understanding of MacArthur’s controversial generalship, Taaffe’s book offers new and invaluable insight into the army’s life-and-death struggle in America’s least understood conflict.