[August 25, 2020] A regular theme found in my leadership website is the value of reading, especially the reading of history. Reading is vital for the development of the mind and helping leaders improve their performance. However, what is not generally recognized is that readers must also evaluate each reading as to the validity of the research and the author’s knowledge and biases.
I’ll begin with two examples. There are many histories of the events in the Pacific during WWII in which Gen. Douglas MacArthur played a significant role. One is American Caesar by William Manchester. Another is Eagle Against the Sun by Ronald H. Spector. The need for the evaluation of opinions, as distinguished from historical fact, here are two illustrative extracts:
“Yet he was also endowed with great personal charm, a will of iron, and a soaring intellect. Unquestionably he was the most gifted man-at-arms this nation has produced.” – from American Caesar, book jacket
“My own view of MacArthur is that despite his undoubted qualities of leadership, he was unsuited by temperament, character, and judgment for the positions of high command which he occupied throughout the war.” – from Eagle Against the Sun, book’s introduction
Both these books are based on an established history of WWII in the Pacific, involve comprehensive research, and cover the same ground. They include one of the most dominant and dynamic military commanders in this or any war, Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Maj. Gen. Aubrey “Red” Newman does this in his book and evaluates each of the author’s background and research.1 He notes that both Manchester and Spector were in the U.S. Marines in a combat area. Both are established writers. Both have done incredible research on the war in the Pacific and have produced numerous books and articles on the subject.
We are fortunate that Maj. Gen. Newman has his own personal observations of Gen. MacArthur (which none of these two authors had). Newman served with MacArthur over 24 years and with MacArthur during WWII from 1943-45 from Australia into New Guinea. He agrees with Manchester’s assessment of MacArthur. Spector’s ideas were simply wrong.
Some comments. The aim of any leader should be to evaluate whatever is read. First, an accurate grasp and understanding of historical individuals, operations, and activities can be obtained only after multiple readings on the subject. And second, time blurs what occurred the further back in time we go.
- What are Generals Made Of? By Maj. Gen. Aubrey “Red” Newman, USA (Ret)