by Peter J. Dean
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2018. Pp. xii, 486.
Illus., maps, diagr., tables, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0700626042
A Fresh Look at MacArthur’s Campaigns
In this new account of Allied command and operations in the Southwest Pacific, Prof. Dean (University of Western Australia) offers far more coverage of the Australian side of things than is commonly found in American treatments.
Dean makes a good case that MacArthur’s ego, his meddlesome command style, and his disdain for Australian troops and officers, attitudes largely shared by most of the general’s Americans-only staff, often hampered Allied operations, leading to failures and unnecessary casualties. Nor is Dean unaware of negative attitudes and shortcomings on the Australian side, and he also reminds us that no one – American, Australian, or British – anticipated the need for multinational commands before the war. While Allied forces in Europe were able to develop effective combined staffing and planning processes, things didn’t work out that well in the Southwest Pacific, largely due to personality issues, and so many errors were made, and not all corrected.
Each of the Allied armies over-estimated the capabilities of their own troops, while greatly under-estimating the capabilities of their ally, and even more so those of the Japanese, who provided quite a shock in the early months of the war. In fact, in the early months of the war most American and Australian troops were often ill-trained and poorly equipped; even Australian veterans of the desert war had much to learn.
Although he covers the entire war in the theatre, Dean concentrates on the desperate struggle to secure Northeast New Guinea and Papua during the 18 months from mid-1942 through the end of 1943. He fits this campaign within overall Allied strategy in the Pacific, and notably its ties to operations to secure Guadalcanal and the Solomons.
A volume in the Kansas series “Modern War Studies”, MacArthur’s Coalition is an excellent read for anyone interested in the Pacific War or in command problems in coalition warfare.
Note: MacArthur’s Coalition is also available in several e-editions