Old Soldiers Never Die

Douglas MacArthur aroused violent emotions whilst he was alive and the discussion did not abate one wit following his death. The son of the holder of a Civil War Medal of Honor, Douglas MacArthur was part of what bid fair to become an American military dynasty. His father, Arthur MacArthur, Jr., retired as a lieutenant general in 1909, older brother Arthur was a distinguished graduate of the United States Naval Academy, and Douglas graduated at the head of his class from the United States Military Academy. Yet Arthur MacArthur III died in 1923 before his evident promise was fulfilled and his brother’s son, Arthur MacArthur IV, lives a life as obscure as his father’s was visible.

Much is expected of those who graduate at the top of any class. This is particularly true when the individual in question is the son of a high ranking officer on active duty. Yet, Douglas MacArthur did not need his father’s assistance to climb the promotion ladder. Even those most inclined to criticize his actions were compelled to admit that the younger MacArthur at least had his father’s luck if not his abundant talent. Therein hangs the tale, for the crux of most disputes regarding Douglas MacArthur is the degree to which he succeeded through circumstance or ability.

OLD SOLDIERS NEVER DIE is, in most respects, a sympathetic biography. Those interested in MacArthur-bashing will find many of their favorite anecdotes refuted or plausible alternative explanations provided. Perret did not produce a scholarly biography—he leaves that to D. Clayton James—but he did create a popular account that leaves the reader richer for the experience.