The General vs. the President by H.W. Brands
MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War

76%

10 Critic Reviews

An exciting, well-written comparison study of two American leaders at loggerheads during the Korean War crisis.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

From master storyteller and historian H. W. Brands comes the riveting story of how President Harry Truman and General Douglas MacArthur squared off to decide America's future in the aftermath of World War II.

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 U.N. 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 and the President vividly evokes the making of a new American era.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About H.W. Brands

See more books from this Author
H. W. BRANDS is the Dickson Allen Anderson Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. A New York Times bestselling author, he was the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography for The First American and again for Traitor to His Class. His website is www.hwbrands.com.



















Author Residence: Austin, TX
 
Published October 11, 2016 by Doubleday. 466 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, War, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Oct 30 2016
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The General vs. the President
All: 10 | Positive: 8 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Excellent
on Jul 04 2016

An exciting, well-written comparison study of two American leaders at loggerheads during the Korean War crisis.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Nov 21 2016

His MacArthur, a military genius with an inflated ego, follows a timeworn tradition. Readers may weary of long quotations from correspondence and committee hearings, but they will encounter the definitive history of a half-forgotten yet bitter controversy.

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NY Journal of Books

Above average
Reviewed by Francis P. Sempa on Oct 10 2016

Brands takes the conventional view that Truman and the Joint Chiefs were right and MacArthur was wrong. He assigns political motives to MacArthur (who indeed had presidential aspirations), but overlooks Truman’s and his administration’s political motives.

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Bob Drogin on Oct 14 2016

Brands is a skilled historian and he mines letters, memoirs and transcripts to give gripping blow-by-blow accounts of internal debates. But it’s difficult to discern much new here and he neglects to explain just why Korea was divided at the 38th parallel after World War II

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Dallas News

Good
Reviewed by CARL P. LEUBSDORF on Oct 07 2016

In the meticulously researched The General vs. The President, historian H.W. Brands provides the rest with a vivid accounting of an event that was, on the surface, a personality conflict between two strong-minded figures and, at the bottom, a courageous act that solidified civilian authority over the military in wartime.

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Oregon Live

Good
Reviewed by Richard W. Etulain on Dec 25 2016

Here is history as polished literary art. This attractive volume illustrates H.W. Brands' first-rank storytelling, appealing to all readers.

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Tampa Bay Times

Above average
Reviewed by Chris Patsilelis on Dec 01 2016

Brands introduces us to Marguerite Higgins, intrepid reporter for the New York Herald Tribune...Brands' book is a detailed, dramatic study of two towering historical figures.

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Philly.com

Good
Reviewed by Bob Drogin on Dec 30 2016

History has been kinder to Truman than to MacArthur. Their epic collision of wills, egos, and policies helped set America's course in the Cold War, as well the backdrop for current tensions in northeast Asia. Brands' engaging book helps explain why.

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Willamette Week

Above average
Reviewed by Matt Buckingham on Oct 18 2016

As caricatured as MacArthur would become, Brands reminds us what an iconic figure the general was at the time.

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https://www.bostonglobe.com

Above average
Reviewed by Matthew Price on Oct 27 2016

Though his account is thin on context, it is fast-paced, dramatic, and amply illustrates why Truman’s stock has been on the rise in recent decades.

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Reader Rating for The General vs. the President
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