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Letters From Readers - December 2007 - World War II

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: November 05, 2007 
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Defending MacArthur

I take exception to Richard Frank's "The MacArthur No One Knew" (September 2007), complaining of MacArthur's "deft cribbing of the ideas of others." It is the duty of a commander to get ideas from his staff and to pick what he considers the best. The results are what count, and this marks the great commanders. It is not the duty of the commander to reveal the source of the ideas either to the press or to the enemy.

Right or wrong, MacArthur was a national hero at a time when we were desperately in need of one. I think that this attack, sixty years after the event, was a cheap shot.

John K. Skelton
Wolfeboro, N.H.

MacArthur could use some real criticism for his real faults, but he was hardly the only general officer of his age who used self-aggrandizement in promoting his career and theater of war. Here is a partial list of others who did the same thing: Montgomery, de Gaulle, Clark, Patton, Sims, Auckenlick, Alexander, Halsey, Harris, and Tedder.

William H. Bacharach
Pequea, Pa.

I came ashore on Leyte in early March 1945 (almost missed the war). Driving down the beach road to the 96th Infantry Headquarters I spotted a strange pyramid made of concrete and stone that obviously used to have a plaque on it. A local GI told me it was a monument to where MacArthur had come ashore in October 1944. I asked what had become of the plaque. "Oh, the GIs tore it off and threw it in the ocean," he replied. Apparently "I shall return" didn't sit too well with the Battle of Leyte GIs.

Lloyd M. Pierson
Moab, Utah

Richard B. Frank replies:

I couldn't agree more with Mr. Bacharach that MacArthur was not the only uniformed leader in World War II who engaged in self-aggrandizement—nor were the civilians innocent of such practices. MacArthur surpassed others by degree, not kind. He conducted a singularly relentless campaign to link his name with the concept and execution of every facet of his campaigns and he only grudgingly allowed the slightest public recognition of the contributions of others. I have no knowledge of the story of the alleged vandalizing of a monument to MacArthur on Leyte, but even MacArthur's admirers noted the distaste many GIs expressed for MacArthur due to his self-promotion.

I also agree emphatically with Mr. Skelton that other leaders have achieved acclaim by following plans conceived by subordinate staff officers or commanders without acknowledgment. What I tried to emphasize was that the actual pattern undergirding a majority of MacArthur's greatest achievements of adaptation rather than innovation was the reverse of his carefully cultivated public image. The great irony of this is that I believe the pattern of adaptation forms a more useable and enduring template for achieving military success than the false image of singular military "genius." Mr. Skelton will also find my work expresses distaste for MacArthur's shameless self-promotion in his communiqués in the first Philippine campaign, but it also rebuts efforts to debunk the substantive basis for MacArthur's rise to the status of national hero in 1942.

Don't Pass Kinkaid By

Richard Frank correctly points out that MacArthur adopted his bypassing tactic in New Guinea in 1944 only after Admiral Halsey had introduced that practice in the Solomons in August 1943. Actually, bypassing had been introduced even earlier, in May 1943, when forces under Adm. Thomas Kinkaid invaded Attu in the Aleutians, purposely bypassing the heavily defended island of Kiska. And even before that, in the spring of 1942, the Japanese had bypassed besieged Bataan and Corregidor by leaving only a weak containing force there and shifting their main units further south to speed their invasion of the Netherlands Indies. Bypassing, as MacArthur himself later wrote, was "as old as warfare itself."

Stanley L. Falk
Alexandria, Va.

Memories of Stalag Luft III

The caption under the picture of "1 Rm, 12 Beds, No Vu" ("Portfolio," October 2007) states that Stalag Luft III housed only officers. Stalag Luft III was designated an officer's camp but also housed some NCOs (I was a staff sergeant) who were sent there to be orderlies for the officers. The only orderly duty required of us was to distribute the food supplies from the central distribution center to the barracks; this the German commander insisted on. Our officers asked no other duties of us. The NCOs' room in Barrack 130 had one window, so we did have a view.

Charles E. Harbaugh
Upper Sandusky, Ohio

My uncle, Maj. Lawrence E. Anderson, was a prisoner at Stalag Luft III. He was a B-24 pilot, called in at the last minute to fill in for another crew's sick copilot. The mission was a twelve-hour flight to Berlin and back, and they were shot down as they returned to England. My uncle and four others were the only ones able to bail out before the badly damaged plane spun into the ground. My uncle asked his captor whether they were in Belgium, and the German replied, "Nein, das es Deutschland and for you, da var es over." The man then asked my uncle, "How's da beer in St. Louis these days?" It seemed the man and his wife had lived there for about nine years until they came into property in Germany, returning just before the war broke out.

My uncle was held for a few days in the local jail in a town about sixty miles southeast of Bremen, then shipped by rail with other prisoners on a five-day journey to Sagan and Stalag Luft III. He arrived on May 5, 1944, the day his son was born, and about six weeks after the "Great Escape" incident. Uncle Andy survived the January 1945 march from Sagan to near Spremberg, and went on to Stalag Luft VII-A. The conditions there were terrible, but he survived until the camp was liberated on April 29, 1945.

My uncle returned safely to the United States, gave my aunt three more children, and continued to serve in the air force until his retirement. He and my aunt Avery Carlton Anderson live in Washington state, but his heart is never far removed from those prison experiences. Thank you for the "portfolio" of artifacts from those days.

Lane Carlton Zatopek
Boerne, Tex.

A Long Campaign on the Eastern Front

Your July/August 2007 edition really hit home with the cover line "The Deadliest Victory," and could not have been more true. My family and I grew up during World War II in northeastern Italy near Udine, and our young men were recruited into the Alpine division of the Italian army. They still wear green felt hats with feathers and edelweiss. Unfortunately, my brother Angelo and my cousin were part of that recruitment, both at only twenty years of age. They did not believe in the war as Italy was aligned with Germany, but refusal to serve would have meant execution on the spot in Italy at the time.

As the cruel Russian winter set in, I would receive letters from Angelo explaining the true despair that the cold had brought. Their feet were freezing and they were constantly building refuge from the cold, snow, and wind. My cousin's feet developed hypothermia, and he fortunately was returned to Italy permanently due to his medical condition.

When he returned, he told us the horrific news that my dear brother had been killed and had been buried in a massive grave, along with many others, somewhere in Russia. Poor Angelo had gone outside to gather some wood to build a fire and was shot by a Russian sniper. My other brother and I, already orphaned at a young age, were devastated by the senseless death of such a wonderful, sensitive young brother.

About ten years ago, a group of people from my hometown, including veteran Alpini, visited the area where my brother and cousin were sent to fight in Russia. There is a marker there explaining what happened. My brother died on January 19, 1943, in Nowo Postojalowka, Russia, at only twenty-one years of age. It has already been a long time since that long campaign, but having grown up during that time I think about it often.

Iolanda Tramontin Mazziol
via e-mail

World War II's New Format

I am a long-time subscriber to your magazine, also a veteran of World War II. Your new format for your magazine is great. The stories and features are a big improvement. I have enjoyed your magazine in the past but this is much better.

Albert L. Gill
Knoxville, Tenn.

I must tell you that the last several magazines I received in the new format have been boring to me. I really enjoyed the true World War II magazine of old and would read these twice or more cover-to-cover, but I can't get myself to finish reading some of these kinds of stories.

Gene Fredericks
Winslow, Ariz.

I am thirty-six and have been an avid reader of World War II magazine for the past fifteen years. I could not wait to get ahold of the new publication, but could not stand having to wait two months.

I loved that it began coming more frequently: the ten per year was a great change. You have once again gone above and beyond my expectations. The layout of the publication is pleasing and the photos are great. Thank you for making such a great publication.

Mike Tyler
Torrington, Conn.

Send letters to World War II, 741 Miller Drive, SE, D-2, Leesburg, VA 20175, or worldwar2@weiderhistorygroup.com. Please include your name, address, and daytime telephone number.



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