Macarthur’s War: A Novel of the Invasion of Japan
Imagine the U.S. has lost the Battle of Midway. Also imagine the U.S. hasn’t harnessed nuclear power and is forced to invade Japan to bring about an end to World War II. These imaginings are the basis for MacArthur’s War, which opens with MacArthur at Pearl Harbor in June 1942 and follows him through to Washington, DC, in 1948. Readers are drawn into the lives of American POWs captured in the Philippines, Japanese civilians, and soldiers on both sides fighting to save those they love. We also see how MacArthur’s decisions hold sway over them all as he strives to become the hero he believes himself to be and the hero he believes America believes him to be.
Oddly enough, the success at weaving together the stories of people is more apparent and riveting when MacArthur isn’t actually on the page. The character of MacArthur, pompous and arrogant, is a good representation of the MacArthur most are familiar with; at the same time, the character is so frustrating (constantly speaking of himself in the first person, as in “MacArthur thinks…”) that readers might be forgiven for skimming his contributions to the story.
Portraying the sacrifices encountered in being forced to invade Japan is where this book shines. The horrors of war, no matter the rightness or wrongness of the decisions made, help make this story a well-written one. I understand why the book is called MacArthur’s War, but I’d have been happier if we hadn’t met MacArthur.