In my last column (History Friday — MacArthur: A General Made for Another Convenient Lie) I opened with the following point about General Douglas MacArthur —
“One of the important things to know about General Douglas MacArthur was that almost nothing said or written about him can be trusted without extensive research to validate its truthfulness. …”
…and explained how MacArthur’s very personally poisonous relations with Australian Military Forces commander General Blamey polluted the historical record of the events around the Sandukan Death March.
This week is a MacArthur story from 180 degree opposite direction than the Blamey one, via General George L. Kenney’s book “The MacArthur I Know”. Kenney was General Douglas MacArthur’s 3rd and final air commander for WW2 and, while not part of the “Bataan Gang,” he became a fierce partisan for MacArthur. This is story is from the book’s Chapter III. I Join MacArthur’s Command at page 56 —
At every opportunity I talked MacArthur to the kids. I told them that he appreciated the place of air power and that his backing of me was responsible for the improvement in food and living conditions during the past few weeks. We had started flying fresh meat to New Guinea and screening all mess halls and kitchens. The dysentery and malaria rates had dropped amazingly. Men were even beginning to get back some of the weight they had lost. MacArthur had approved my action, in spite of the expressed disapproval of many of his staff and Service of Supply people.
It turns out that this pro-MacArthur story Kenney told was not the whole truth…it was over a longer period and -A LOT- more complicated.
In validating this story, one of the more important things to know about the 1940s military and shipping culture involved with MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) theater was the way that “grand theft sea lift” was a cultural norm. Organized crime and longshoreman’s unions have been hand in glove for as long as both existed, and the American and Australian rear echelons took their cue from that behavior and skimmed the best food from the front line troops before it was delivered from Australia. I found a 2010 USAF master’s thesis on Kenney’s SWPA logistics which made that clear.
One of the stories in the thesis was the same story as Kenney told, but with further detail, as the author Major Borchers (USAF) had the original SWPA message traffic and his thesis notes did not include “The MacArthur I Know”. Like Kenney’s version, Major Borchers’s thesis started with Kenney trying to find out why the food was so bad at the front in 1942-43, considering the quality of the food supplies requisitioned from beef and mutton exporting Australia. Kenney found out that the supply clerks in Army Service Forces and the freighter crews were skimming the best fresh food and meat, leaving canned Australian bully beef and and US Army C-rations.
Gen. Kenney then took the requisitions, detailed aircraft, and airlifted the best food direct from Australian warehouses to forward bases, skipping the entire supply chain of food parasites.
At this point Major Borchers thesis departs from the “The MacArthur I Know” Kenney story in that the parasites patron’s in Allied high command started screaming bloody murder. Gen. Kenney tried to make a deal to placate the “Service of Supply” brass and keep it below MacArthur’s level.
There is nothing like frustrated franchise to make bureaucratic thieves stupid, so the parasites took the matter to MacArthur.
MacArthur’s reaction, and indicative of his “holding court” command style wasn’t to tell Kenney to stop. Instead he told Kenney to start sharing the “Service of Supply cut” Kenney tried to negotiate with parasites patron’s to General Krueger’s forward deployed ground troops instead of the parasites…which Kenney did.
So here is another example of why you cannot believe a single story about MacArthur from either his friends or enemies without validating the truth of them.
Note and Sources:
The MacArthur I Know by GENERAL GEORGE C. KENNEY, DUELL, SLOAN AND PEARCE., New York, @ 1951, by George C. Kenney, Library of Congress Catalog Card No. Jl-10404
United States Army Air Forces Logistics in the Southwest Pacific During World War II by Brent W. Borchers, Air University (U.S.). School of Advanced Air and Space Studies @ 2010