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I began MacArthur: Defiant Soldier by Mitchell Yockelson hoping that it would continue in the excellence of other biographies in the Generals series (namely, Lee and Washington, both of which I enjoyed very much). Unfortunately, this dismal book did everything but. I would love to recommend it, simply because of the series it is in, but I must advise you not to waste your time with this book.

First off, the Generals series promises to show in these men how their faith was important to them, and lived out on the battlefield and in their jobs. Unfortunately, Yockelson felt it sufficient to mention a few times that MacArthur prayed, or that MacArthur read his Bible. The end result left me convinced that MacArthur really wasn’t such a great Christian, but because he was such a famous general the publishers wanted him in a Generals series. I would have liked to see more evidence of MacArthur’s faith in the book, basically.

Next, the book seems to have an identity crisis about one third of the way through. For the first third of the book, we follow Arthur MacArthur I and II; mainly Arthur II, or Douglas’ father (Arthur III was Douglas’ brother, and Arthur IV Douglas’ son). So not only are we not sure who the biography is about, we’re not even sure which is which. Personally, I found it disorienting to be whisked through the Civil War back up to Douglas’ life. I can see why the information was included: the author wanted to emphasize Douglas’ family’s military tradition and his close relationship with his grandfather. Still, the effect could have been achieved with much less confusion for the reader. When I open a biography, I want it to be about the person in question, and not his father or grandfather.

As to MacArthur’s life itself, it was certainly interesting. Personally, I felt that much of MacArthur’s actions do not endear him to me, and his actions only became truly great during World War II and the Korean War. Personally, I found little to make MacArthur even vaguely likable to me. I can definitely respect his brave actions, but in describing his trouble with Eisenhower, his subordinate for many years, the author only succeeded in making me wish that I were reading a biography of Eisenhower, and causing me to be annoyed at MacArthur. Still, his military feats cannot be defied, and this book does appear to tell them accurately.

Overall, I wouldn’t waste my time with this book again. While I purchased the other Generals books in hardcover, I’m more than content to leave this as an eBook on my nook. The issues with the book make me wonder if perhaps my problem is with the author of this biography, and not with the persona itself. Still, this book has left me with not very much desire to learn more about MacArthur in other books.

– Andrew J.


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Published on 13 August, 2011. Last updated on

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