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The General vs. the President Audiobook

The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War

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Publisher's Summary

From master storyteller and historian H. W. Brands, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, comes the riveting story of how President Harry Truman and General Douglas MacArthur squared off to decide America's future in the aftermath of World War II.

At the height of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman committed a gaffe that sent shock waves around the world. When asked by a reporter about the possible use of atomic weapons in response to China's entry into the war, Truman replied testily, "The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of the weapons, as he always has." This suggested that General Douglas MacArthur, the willful, fearless, and highly decorated commander of the American and UN forces, had his finger on the nuclear trigger. A correction quickly followed, but the damage was done; two visions for America's path forward were clearly in opposition, and one man would have to make way.

Truman was one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. Heir to a struggling economy, a ruined Europe, and increasing tension with the Soviet Union, on no issue was the path ahead clear and easy. General MacArthur, by contrast, was incredibly popular, as untouchable as any officer has ever been in America. The lessons he drew from World War II were absolute: appeasement leads to disaster, and a showdown with the Communists was inevitable - the sooner the better. In the nuclear era, when the Soviets, too, had the bomb, the specter of a catastrophic third world war lurked menacingly close on the horizon.

The contest of wills between these two titanic characters unfolds against the turbulent backdrop of a faraway war and terrors conjured at home by Joseph McCarthy. From the drama of Stalin's blockade of West Berlin to the daring landing of MacArthur's forces at Inchon to the shocking entrance of China into the war, The General vs. the President vividly evokes the making of a new American era.

©2016 H. W. Brands (P)2016 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"Scott Brick's narration shines as he delivers Brands's detailed account of the ultimate battle for military control between a struggling President Truman and a rogue General MacArthur.... Thanks to the talents of narrator and author, a broad audience will find this a riveting listen that goes beyond the simple historical facts to reveal the real men who, for a brief time, controlled the fate of the world." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

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  • Jean
    Santa Cruz, CA, United States
    11/11/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Vivid Dramatic Accounting"

    This is a great comparison study. Professor Brands is a master storyteller. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

    After World War II MacArthur was extremely popular. The lessons he learned from WWII were absolute: appeasement leads to disaster, and a showdown with the communists was inevitable and as far as Douglas MacArthur was concerned the sooner the better. At the time, Truman was an unpopular president. Truman faced a struggling economy, a ruined Europe and increasing hostilities with the Soviet Union. Senator Joseph McCarthy was in full swing and he had a hostile divided Congress. Also, Truman had to deal with Stalin’s blockade of West Berlin with the airlift of food. Then the Korean War began.

    Brands reveals the contest of wills between these two strong characters against the backdrop of the Korean peacekeeping action, the drama with Stalin and the entrance of China into the Korean conflict triggered by MacArthur. The critical conflict between the two was the civilian rule over the military, which MacArthur defied.

    This is a well written and meticulously researched comparison study of two of American leaders during the Korean War. Truman thought MacArthur was egotistical, reckless, lacked foresight and was willing to use nuclear weapons. MacArthur thought Truman was like all politicians, spineless, afraid and corrupt. Brands reveals both the strong and weak points of each man. MacArthur did wonders in Japan, but was extremely naïve about global geopolitics; and Truman did wonders in Europe, but was in over his head and made some mistakes. The book has some flaws. I noted some inaccurate statements; for example, Brands states that Truman and Treasury Secretary John Snyder, whom he consulted on MacArthur’s firing, “had served together in WWI”. They actually met at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1928. I enjoyed the Senate hearings of the Army particularly that of General Marshall. The book reads like a novel, is easy to read but has lots of critical detail.

    Scott Brick does an excellent job narrating the book. Brick is an actor, writer and award winning audiobook narrator.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Rosemary
    Greenwich, CT, United States
    22/10/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Superb history, well read"

    This book is a winner. A visit to a forgotten time whose lessons we should heed now. So well organized, edited and spoken!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • robert
    04/11/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Well written and balanced"

    One not only learns about the 2 protagonists but also the military and
    Political environment in which they operated



    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Leonard Goldman
    Philadelphia, PA
    25/01/17
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    Performance
    Story
    "a must read for all Americans"

    everyone knows that Truman fired McArthur but this gives the background and details many do not know. brilliantly written and narrated.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ruth B. Goldston
    Princeton, NJ USA
    20/01/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A great story well told"

    The story, in effect, of how containment became the US strategy towards Communism. It also addresses how civilians maintained control over nuclear weapons. Important stuff well explained & narrated.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • John Reed
    16/01/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "History and validation"

    First, I have to say the Scott Brick could narrate paint drying and make in sound fabulous. That said, this book delves into the world events post World War Two, primarily in the Pacific theater. It is interesting, informative and, at least for me, fun to listen to what was important at the time when I was born. Well written, well laid out and well narrated. A worthwhile investment of your time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Joseph Stevens
    Los Angeles
    19/12/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "solid history"

    a great deal of drama from 1949 21952 is overlooked. it was more than the Clash of two strong men, and the author does a nice balancing job

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • L. Rubenstein
    Annandale, VA
    17/12/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Living History Of a Crucial Time In US History"

    Brands pulls together all the relevant facts on the Truman-MacArthur relationship like no one ever had.
    Truman the accidental President turns out to be a hero for the 20th century. Its a great listen and Scott Brick is an excellent narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sarah Lofgren
    Durham, NC United States
    29/11/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Good but long"

    Interesting tale of 2 legends but long. I think I'd like the abridged version. But narrated well and excellent history drama.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Spectre
    22/11/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "One of the best biography pieces out there"

    This is a fantastic portrait history that I knew very little about, until now. We learn a few highlights of these things in school, but this puts specifics, both good and bad on the table for the reader to judge. To me, this middle ground, non-biased approach is what makes a great historical piece. This real history keeps the reader spellbound in a way that most dry documentaries do not.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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