Reflections On War And Men

 Now What Will We Do With Them?

         Today, we have no designated ‘foe’, yet we’re at war, and I don’t even know what General is planning the strategy. It wasn’t always so.

         In WW2, we knew our enemy and who our Generals were. We had MacArthur who achieved absolute surrender from the Japanese; Patton, who won The Battle of the Bulge, shortening the war by years; and Eisenhower of the European Theatre who later became our President.

         They were different, because their tasks were different. West Point develops more than one kind of military leadership, for in some battles one General is strong, while in other circumstances that same man would be weak.

         In WW2 there were two Generals that their Bosses, FDR and General Omar Bradley, did not know where and how to best use. Extremely talented, and perfect for their type of ‘fight’. but entirely wrong in others. Privately, they labeled them as “Loose Cannon”.

         One was Douglas MacArthur. who brilliantly won the fight in the Pacific. Outstanding even from his years at West Point, but his fellow cadets and co-workers either detested or loved him. Japan ended up loving him for he (along with Thomas Jefferson) gave them a Constitution they still live by, and equality for women.

         But he was a know-it-all tyrant and when the Korean troubles began he wanted to invade China and disobeyed by moving troops in that direction, forcing his  bosses, President Truman, and General Omar Bradley, to immediately Fire him.

         Another where-can-we-use-him was George Patton, Jr.

         He, a believer in reincarnation, said he had been Alexander the Great, and he just might have been, for at one time. in Tunisia, and his Advisors strongly suggesting he take a certain route. Patton said “No, I happen to know it’s that direction,” pointing the other way. “You see, I’ve been here before.  I fought right here, with the Carthaginians against the Romans  in 246 B.C.”   He was the boss, so they went his way and got to their destination quickly, and were able to surprise the Germans and win a battle. 

         He was far seeing, bold, and often acted independently. He knew his own talents and suffered because he was kept in obscure, small positions.

         But when Germany had the Allies ambushed in the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge), Patton was immediately assigned to the task and he was in his element. He moved swiftly, pulling in troops from left and right, was always out front, not hidden in any 0ffice. He was bold, and in spite of everything against him, he pushed back the Germans and won the long battle.

         More lives were lost there than in any other battle, but it was a crucial one, that a less bold leader could not have handled, and the European War would have been extended for years.

         But with both Generals, the problem was what to do with them when their particular kind of crisis was over? ? ?

         Patton died within a year from a car accident and it was termed a blessing for he did not know how to be a peaceful civilian. MacArthur, fired, made a sad bid for the Presidency, and spent his days giving stirring speeches at universities around the world.

         FDR said of them; “Sadly, they are the kind of men we need in the Army, but are disasters when the fight is over”. General Omar Bradley, boss of both men, was quoted as saying, “WW2 would have lasted far longer without the two of them, but now the battle’s over, what can we do with them?”

         Eisenhower, their contemporary, was a different kind of General. He was a human being, let it show, and everyone liked Ike. He became president of a University, and later our President and responsible for the Nation’s wonderful Freeway system. He was a terrific General, but Eisenhower also knew how to be a civilian.

         People worshipped or hated both Patton and MacArthur. They viewed their troops of men as mere puppets for their personal use, and it showed. In war such men are needed, but pray God we never again let ourselves get in such a place where we need that kind of leadership.

         And . . .  it is interesting but sad to know that upon MacArthur’s death, his only son legally changed his name and disappeared into New York City’s World of Music. Yeah, for good or bad, war’s a different thing today.


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