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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
  • John
    29/03/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very Fine Book but Ill-Suited Narration"
    What did you love best about The General vs. the President?

    The book makes good use of original source materials like letters, orders, speeches, etc. It thus lets the characters tell their own stories to a very great extent. The pacing is also very good. Coverage of events is comprehensive, but moves along at a good clip. I learned a lot about the Korean War and this period.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The General vs. the President?

    Truman's firing of MacArthur is, of course, the most memorable moment, but other, less well known events are also key, e.g., the Wake Island conference & Ridgway's revitalization of the Eighth Army.


    How could the performance have been better?

    I must dissent from the widespread praise other reviewers have heaped on the reader. His slow, breathy style seemed ill-suited to the narrative. His tendency to drop his voice, sometimes almost to a whisper, at the end of sentences was particularly annoying. The style would be a better match for a novel, perhaps even a romance. This story needed a crisper, more businesslike and forceful telling better suited to its protagonists.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Clash of American Titans Over Cold War, Korea & Constitutional Power


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • KTP
    Buffalo Gap, TX United States
    22/03/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Worth the Time"

    Learned quite a few things of this period after WWII. The narrator did a good job and the story was well done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Raymond Chase
    20/03/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Terrific!"

    This book had me captivated throughout the entirety of duration. This was an excellent expose on General Douglas MacArthur and President Harry. Truman. I strongly recommend this book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Texas
    13/03/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wow!"

    Wow! Just, "Wow!"

    This book and its narration are among the very best of the very best.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    02/03/17
    Overall
    "Dynamite."

    Perhaps a bit long, but truly awesome information about a time in history I haven't spent a lot of time in. And Scott Brick is my favorite narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mani2
    28/02/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brings to Life the 'Forgotten War'"

    I was born in December, 1951, and after listening to this book, I am positive that my father, who fought on the island of Luzon in the Philippines during WWII and served under MacArthur, named me for the great general. Not that he really liked him, noting that he waded ashore on Luzon only after the beach had been secured and reporters were present. But he must have admired him. Brands' book brings to life the forgotten war in Korea which is so often given short shrift in American history books. Our tenant in the upstairs apartment in our first house was a Korean War vet who suffered a horrible head wound only minutes after getting into combat. He lost an eye and had a metal plate on his skull. Yet he and others like him were little recognized for their service. This book helped me understand the importance of the war in Korea in stopping the spread of communism as well as the wisdom of Harry Truman in keeping us out of another world war that would have devastated our planet.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Leonard Goldman
    Philadelphia, PA
    25/01/17
    Overall
    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

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