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American Experience - MacArthur
American Experience - MacArthur
Actors: Stephen Ambrose, Leon Beck, Herbert Bix, Faubion Bowers, Omar Bradley
Directors: Austin Hoyt, Sarah Holt
Genres: Educational, Documentary, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
NR     2004     4hr 0min

Admired and reviled. Vain, pompous, and paranoid. A soldier in modern history who was both hero and villain in the annals of history. Douglas MacArthur. Examine the portrait of an American general who is fascinating, compl...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Stephen Ambrose, Leon Beck, Herbert Bix, Faubion Bowers, Omar Bradley
Directors: Austin Hoyt, Sarah Holt
Creators: Austin Hoyt, Bob M. McCausland, Chas Norton, David Condon, Frank Capria
Genres: Educational, Documentary, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Educational, Biography, Military & War, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
Studio: PBS Home Video
Format: DVD
DVD Release Date: 02/10/2004
Original Release Date: 05/17/1999
Theatrical Release Date: 05/17/1999
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 4hr 0min
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

A Great Biography
Gregory Miller | USA | 05/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is one of the best biography's I ever viewed on video. Not only did it hold my interest from beginning to end, it was very educational and revealing. This work was well researched and well written. It presents an in-depth look at a man who had a significant influence on our nation's history. But it does not stop there. It also gives an in-depth look at ourselves, and our own history as a people. It helps us to reflect upon our moods and attitudes during World War II an the Korean war. It puts in perspective the history of America's relationships with The Philipines, Japan and China. Most revealing are the power struggles that take place behind the scenes at the highest levels of government. It puts a human face on superstardom. If you want to learn how Japan got to where it is today after loosing World War II, why we dropped the atom bomb, and why our relationship with China is what it is today, this video will help. General Douglas McArthur not only had a major influence on the history of his time, but because of his policies and actions, he is still a major influence on our history today, and will be for a very long time."
The Greatest Military mind this country has ever produced
Barron Laycock | 05/30/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Far from being sick, General MacArthur was a stable personality. He did have an immense ego, name me a general who didn't. The fact is that no other military mind can come close to him. His personal bravery in WW I led to six silver stars, in WW II he lost less men in the southwest Pacific in four years than General Eisenhower lost in the Battle of the Bulge alone, and the invasion at Inchon was the height of daring and risk but he and the US forces pulled it off. This PBS set is an excellent addition to any video collection."
Terrific Exploration Of A Complex & Extraordinary American
Barron Laycock | Temple, New Hampshire United States | 10/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"No one in modern American history stirs as much controversy and disagreement as does General Douglas MacArthur. In this terrific documentary which PBS originally presented as part of the "American Experience" series, narrated by noted historian and author David McCollough ("Truman") in an exhaustive four hour excursion into the remarkable, incredibly flamboyant and star-crossed life of Douglas MacArthur, a endlessly complex, brilliant, but vainglorious general so many Americans learned to either love or hate. It is all here, from his ignominious (although officially ordered) personal withdrawal from the Philippines by PT boat, leaving his entrapped garrison behind to the rebuilding of American presence in the south pacific, and the first tentative efforts to stem the tide of Japanese aggression in New Guinea. MacArthur was a virtual dynamo, and was instrumental in slowly but methodically turning the tide against the Japanese, first by leap-frogging his way slowly up the coast of New Guinea, and then by island hopping his way closer to a return to the Philippines. By late 1944 he was ready to invade the Philippines, and did so boldly and with a smashing success first in Leyte, and then eventually retook all of the islands. Finally, he oversaw the signing of the instruments of surrender in Tokyo Bay, and the terrific footage of the actual signing of the peace accords is by itself worth the price of the video. The documentary is full of informative details concerning MacArthur's life, from his obsession with equaling or surpassing his Medal Of Honor winning father's career as a late 19th century Army general to his fear and difficult relationship with his adoring but domineering mother, who actually cohabited with him as late as when he was Commandant of West Point in his mid-forties after World War One. We learn a great deal about the career thrust of "Dugout Doug" in this fascinating personal portrait of him which depicts him as vain, a publicity hound, and a wry but sometimes naïve politician and darling of the Republican right wing, who protected him from suffering the court martial and disgrace of the commanding general and admiral at Pearl Harbor. The historic and constitutionally charged clashes between President Harry Truman and MacArthur over the strategy in Korea are carefully examined, leaving this viewer both admiring MacArthur's position based on his knowledge of the combat situation as well as his resolve not to appease the Chinese, but yet also understanding that too much was at stake politically and strategically to be as aggressive and as provocative as MacArthur tended to be. This documentary provides the viewer with four hours of edifying detail concerning one of history's most instrumental and successful military leaders during his times at destiny's door. I really enjoyed this video, and suspect you will, too."
Required viewing to understand MacArthur
Charles Ashbacher | Marion, Iowa United States( | 12/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"After viewing this tape, it is clear that the only thing that kept Douglas MacArthur from being one of the greatest Americans of all time was his belief that he was one of the greatest Americans of all time. His inability to even consider his own infallibility was very close to a fatal flaw. He was the commander of two of the greatest military defeats in the history of U. S. armed forces, the surrender of Bataan and Corregidor in the Philippines and the rout of U. N. forces by the Chinese in the Korean war.
This film captures all of that, including his at times absurd pomposity. There is one scene where he is inspecting a military installation and he places his hands on his hips, arches his back and raises a leg. A decidedly non-military pose done solely for the camera. He looks ridiculous. In so many other scenes, it is clear that he is preening for the newsreel cameras, in fact, I cannot recall a single scene of MacArthur that appeared to be spontaneous. The best line about this aspect of MacArthur is from President Dwight Eisenhower, who said, "I studied dramatics for seven years under MacArthur."
His greatest mistake, which also proved to be his downfall, was his belief that the Chinese would not dare to intervene in the Korean War. Despite unambiguous signals from Mao that the Chinese would enter the war if U. N. forces moved north, MacArthur dismissed them as bluffs. He also failed to appreciate that the Chinese troops were combat veterans, having been at constant war for over a decade. There was really no excuse for such a blunder. However, he compounded that by clumsily trying to blame everyone else for the problem and trying to widen the war. His attempt to include the forces of the Chinese on Taiwan in the Korean War would have risked World War III and was one of the worst ideas of all time. There is also the classic scene where MacArthur met Truman and he failed to salute Truman. This was no accident and could have been nothing other than a deliberate snub on the part of MacArthur. There are two conflicting reports of the conversation between MacArthur and Truman in the car after that. One witness reported that the conversation was amiable and another who said Truman chewed MacArthur out, emphatically reminding him that Truman was the commander-in-chief. As a student of Truman, it is my firm belief that Truman would not have hesitated to yell at MacArthur.
It is a tribute to the innate sense of the American electorate that even though MacArthur was given a tremendous hero's welcome when he returned after being fired, it faded quickly. He had no political future and it was clear to the American electorate that a fundamental constitutional principle was at stake. The military is subservient to the elected civilian leadership and MacArthur was a direct threat to that principle. It is a tragedy that he failed to understand that. His inability to understand the broader political risks in Korea led to the Chinese intervention and a far more lengthy and costlier war.
However, no comment on MacArthur is complete without mentioning his personal bravery, although it was sometimes foolhardy. After watching this tape, I agree with the assessment that in terms of his surviving World War I, "He was the luckiest SOB in the whole U. S. army." He led a patrol where he was the only one that wasn't killed and he personally led charges armed only with a riding crop. These were attacks where approximately one fourth of the attackers were killed.
This is a powerful bit of film; I was particularly impressed with the detailed analysis of how well MacArthur handled Japan during the surrender and subsequent occupation. I would have liked to see more analysis of his command of the defense of the Philippines and the battles to retake them. The emphasis in the tape is on his political battles for resources and not on whether his campaign was really a military necessity. It is still a point of argument whether a concentrated northern island-hopping push through the northern areas of the Pacific was the best way to defeat Japan. I also would have liked to see more analysis of the consequences of his actions in Korea. After a point, the scenes of MacArthur acting for the cameras just grew repetitive.
The best description of MacArthur is a quote at the end of the tape. One of his military colleagues is quoted as saying that his greatest flaw was that he truly thought that his own ambitions were fundamental principles and should be national policy. I consider this tape mandatory viewing for anyone who wants to understand MacArthur, the pacific theatre of World War II, postwar Japan or the war in Korea.