Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964” as Want to Read:
American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  13,037 ratings  ·  310 reviews
MacArthur, the public figure, the private man, the soldier-hero whose mystery and appeal created a uniquely American legend, portrayed in a biography that will challenge the cherished myths of admirers and critics alike.

Preamble: Reveille
First Call
Ruffles & Flourishes (1880-1917)
Charge (1917-1918)
Call to Quarters (1919-1935)
To the Colors (1935-1941)
Retreat (
Hardcover, 811 pages
Published September 30th 1978 by Little, Brown & Company (Boston/Toronto)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about American Caesar, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about American Caesar

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,037 ratings  ·  310 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964
Jeffrey Keeten
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

 photo Douglas20MacArthur20West20Point_zpsczuluj8y.jpg
Douglas MacArthur at West Point. Following in his father’s footsteps.

The blare of trumpets, the clash of arms, the screams of the wounded, the bullets whizzing through the air, and the acrid smell of cannon smoke were all part of the life of Douglas MacArthur since the day he was born. His father’s exploits hung on him like a second skin. At the Battle of Mission
Jan 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Upon the death of General Douglas MacArthur - 5-star general, Medal of Honor Winner, Field Marshall of the Philippines, proconsul of Japan, Republican presidential hopeful, and creepy mommy's boy - an obituary observed that MacArthur's "[m:]emory will never know peace."

So true. Even today, almost 50 years after his death, people are arguing about his legacy. Well, at least I am. With anyone who will listen.

By any measure, MacArthur had an extraordinary career, filled with incredible ups and do
Jill Hutchinson
I can't possibly add to any of the previous reviews on this thread......suffice it to say, this may be one of the best biographies I have ever read (and I've read a lot). MacArthur was a complex man and Manchester captures his personality and career masterfully. This is a must read!!! ...more
Laura Noggle
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Not quite as good as Chernow's Grant but still completely epic.

What a time to be alive.

“I will not take by sacrifice what I can achieve by strategy.”

"A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent."
Jan 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
My, oh my, what a book, what a man!

Most fascinating is perhaps his years as proconsul in Japan, and how he was able to be the gentle, wise ruler of which Lao Tse and Plato spoke (Republic), and in fact he was an avid reader of Plato's Republic. His magnanimity and wisdom in that role were a historical achievement for which there are few if any precedents.

The infamous flap in Korea which eventually led to his unceremonious dismissal is in and of itself a multi-faceted situation, which will not ea
Apr 14, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was long and drawn out and at times tedious. Chapters were over 100 pages long. Parts of this book were riveting. I enjoyed the escape from Corregidor and the recapture of the Philippines. I also enjoyed reading about MacArthur’s brilliant Governorship of the Japan.

I’m a fan of Manchester. The Last Lion – Manchester’s trilogy on Churchill - was the best biography I’ve ever read. This one I didn’t enjoy as much. However, if you want to learn more about MacArthur, this is very comprehen
Sep 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This may well be the best biography ever written. Douglas MacArthur, the famous general of the Pacific in WWII, The man who lost the American air fleet to Japanese bombs, and lost thousands of men in the Phillipines, who returned victorious, and became the ruler of an area larger than that controlled by the Romans at the height of the empire is a complex, tragic, and frustrating subject. Sometimes he is a military genius, sometimes he is lucky, and sometimes he is a pompus ass in the extreme. He ...more
Feb 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Military History, WWII, U.S. History
This book has been sitting on my shelf for years waiting to be re-read; its pages discolored, its cover cracked but its story as fresh in 2009 as it was in 1984.

Undoubtedly, the greatest military mind in the history of the United States, Douglas MacArthur can only be understood by the standards of the late 19th Century. He was a chivalric warrior who could not begin to comprehend the war on terror and the other limited wars of today. In his mind, you fought a war to conquer the enemy, completely
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I had the honor in 1962 of being in the audience when General MacArthur gave his "Farewell to the Corps" speech at West Point. I was there because I had followed his spirit and banner from the time I was a boy, having already read two of his biographies and having seen him land at Houston's Hobby Airport when he returned from Korea and ride through throngs of cheering Texans. He was my living military hero. So, after he had given his historic speech at the Academy, I waited for him to appear alo ...more
Chris D.
Nov 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Douglas MacArthur was certainly a fascinating personality and someone who had a prominent role in the American military for the first 50 years of the twentieth century. In this biography William Manchester explores the life of MacArthur as a polarizing figure in the United States, his triumphs during World War II and postwar Japan and his failures in the Philippines and as a politician.

I have also enjoyed Manchester as a writer, strongly recommend his multi volume biography of Winston Churchill
Aug 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii, history
Excellent writing and a rich subject. Gives so much understanding to American and Asian history. His contributions to the fortunes of Japan, Australia, Philippines, and Korea continue to be felt today.

The section on Korea corrected a lot of false impressions I had about that war (I did not fully appreciate the lack of leadership coming from Washington and I never really understood how problematic MacArthur was being towards the end). It also set off a lot of what-if daydreaming on my part. What
R.M.F Brown
Oct 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Caesar was and is not loveable."

With that, William Manchester launches into a rip-roaring biography of America's greatest and most complex soldier. A warrior who hated war, a man of great charisma and generous spirit, who could be equally as vain and petty.

MacArthur was an enigma. Fearless, always willing to led from the front, and yet, fearful of his mother's wrath. Genius needs no explanation, genius has always been flawed, from Achilles to Newton, great men have always followed their own co
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book by one of the best authors I have read
Sep 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the paperback edition of "American Caesar" that I read, one of the blurbs that's quoted falls back on the old cliche that this biography reads like a novel.
It's a tempting description for such a gripping book, but William Manchester's biography in reality is nothing like a novel. For one thing, no novelist would dare invent such an enigmatic character as Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
At one point, Manchester describes MacArthur walking onto a Pacific island during World War II, just behind the firs
Mary JL
Nov 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Any fan of a good biography or one interested in history
This is of course a biography of General Douglas MacArthur. It contains a lot of information and I really like the fact that it is well balanced. Manchester clearly outlines MacArthur's strengths and weaknesses.

One really good point he made is when he describes MacArthur's role in Occupied Japan. MacArthur was an incredibly good choice to be in charge of the occupation. He was somewhat aloof and not the usual type of handshaking, smiling politician. That worked especially well with Japanese of t
Lauren Hiebner
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, donated
This classic work by William Manchester presents a balanced biography of Douglas MacArthur. It covers both his private/family life and his vast military career spanning two world wars and the Korean conflict. Many biographers come under the spell of their subject but not Manchester. He gives us both the positive and negative characteristics of MacArthur. MacArthur certainly was a prima donna, egoist, rude, blunt, insensitive but he also was a military genius, a leader both on the battlefield and ...more
David Hill
Nov 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
This book sat on my bookshelf for years before I was willing to make the investment necessary. This is 800 pages of small print (including the index, notes, and bibliography). There are a number of photographs scattered throughout the book and a few maps in the middle. If the battles had been covered in more detail I'd have wanted more maps than are provided, but as this book is about the man rather than the battles they are sufficient.

Reading this book I realized that, although I've read quite
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Manchester's bio reveals something very unsettling about people. I won't go so far as to say it's unsettling about the American character, but it's close. Despite the relative loss in stature MacArthur has undergone in the decades since his death, the near-deification of him during the heights of his popularity is unseemly.

While I wish it was reflective of a different time in American history, the tendency among segments of Americans (left and right) to cast their ENTIRE lot in with a semi-char
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
I did it! Longest book I have read since I joined Goodreads. Very fascinating biography of one of the most interesting characters in American military history. Though somewhat dated (written in 1978), it benefitted from the author being able to interview many people that knew MacArthur. The book portrays MacArthur honestly, flaws and all. He had his moments where he shined, such as the Southwest Pacific campaigns and Inchon, but times where he failed miserably, such as right after Pearl Harbor a ...more
American Caesar is a comprehensive, but often plodding, biography. The author covers all aspects of MacArthur's life in considerable detail. However, the narrative is far too often interrupted by needless comparisons to ancient generals, brief forays into philosophy, etc. ...more
Bryan--Pumpkin Connoisseur
At the time I was old enough to get a sense of who Douglas MacArthur was (which was about the same time this biography came out), the general was still part of the cultural landscape. Even as a kid, were I to find some occasion where it seemed apropos, I could have quoted MacArthur's famous line, 'I shall return', and many, if not most, would have known not only who said it but when and why. I can't believe that's true anymore. If I were to take a poll, I think I'd find that MacArthur has truly ...more
Matthew Gagnon
I picked this book up after reading a biography on Ted Williams, and in it there were dozens of stories about how MacArthur was one of Williams' heroes. I myself know of MacArthur (of course) and he has always been a fascinating figure to me, so I figured why not give it a go.

Let's start here: this was an excellent biography of him. There's a reason that it is pretty much the standard on MacArthur, even to this day. Well researched, well written, and I thought very fair to the man, it neither ca
John Findlay
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book; I am not so sure about Douglas MacArthur! He comes across as one of the most complex men who ever existed, and also as a man who accomplished more in his lifetime than most men could dream about. Just a few highlights would include graduating first in his class from West Point, the Vera Cruz raid into Mexico, commanding the Rainbow Division as a General in WWI, being Superintendent of West Point, serving as Army Chief of Staff, being named Field Marshall of the Philippi ...more
Rukmankan Sivaloganathan
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book knowing a few things about the subject: that he was the the Supreme Commander in the Pacific during WW2, that he didn't get along with Eisenhower, that he 'ran' Japan, and that he provoked the Chinese into entering the Korean War by crossing the Yalu. This book sheds light on all of those but also tells you that he was so much more. I wonder how things would have turned out for Japan (and for the rest of the world) if someone other than he was appointed to rule over i ...more
Wesley Kavanagh
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
After listening to the audio version of Manchester's three volume biography of Winston Churchill (The Last Lion), and being a fan of history, I decided to purchase the audio version of this book. If this book was half as good as his treatment of Churchill, I thought, it would be worth it. Manchester does not disappoint. His style is once again very engaging, and he is able to take detailed and sometimes tedious material and weave it into a compelling narrative that kept me engaged. I was captiva ...more
Fr. Peter Mottola
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: overdrive
I now have a much better understanding of the Pacific theater of World War II than I did before. MacArthur was a towering figure, a fascinating intellect, a master of strategy, and a fearless soldier. His incredible strengths were matched by glaring flaws in his character. Knowing the value of his insights, it is almost painful to read about MacArthur's inability to work with others in a political context.
William Manchester's prose is always well-crafted. I do wonder whether this book could have
Michael Bennett
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
A forceful and exhaustive account of the great general. Opinionated yet balanced in presentation—praise for his tactical success, criticism for his megalomania. I especially enjoyed the description of his time in Japan. The account of the famous standoff with Truman is perhaps a bit too overwrought, but aimed to present as many facts as possible. MacArthur was a unique figure in an era of patriots
Martyn Evans
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the running for the best biography ever written IMO. Manchester details the incredible complexity of Macarthur with masterful prose.

I intend to add to this review in the future.
Tom Carpenter
Great bio, but may give him more credit
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“To know MacArthur is to love him or to hate him—you can’t just like him.” - a fellow cadet at West Point

Heraclitus, who understood this, said that “a man’s character is his fate.” MacArthur’s fate was extraordinary because his character was extraordinary. The difficulty lies in defining its nature.

***I listened to the audio book***

I recently (2018) visited the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, VA. During the tour, one of the docents mentioned that this biography provides a great, comprehensive loo
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   

Readers also enjoyed

  • Truman
  • The Passage of Power
  • America's Daughter (Dancing Soul Trilogy, #2)
  • Patton: A Genius for War
  • The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (World War II Liberation Trilogy, #2)
  • Africa's Child (Dancing Soul Trilogy, #1)
  • Colonel Roosevelt
  • The Making of the President 1960
  • Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom
  • Eisenhower: Soldier and President
  • The Generals: Patton, MacArthur, Marshall, and the Winning of World War II
  • A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam
  • Grant
  • More Than Love, A Husband's Tale
  • Master of the Senate
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain
  • Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child
  • Means of Ascent
See similar books…
William Raymond Manchester was an American author and biographer, notable as the bestselling author of 18 books that have been translated into 20 languages.He was awarded the National Humanities Medal and the Abraham Lincoln Literary Award.

News & Interviews

  Die-hard mystery fans are always on the hunt for their next supremely satisfying whodunit. To help you stock that Want to Read shelf, we asked...
50 likes · 22 comments
“I will not take by sacrifice what I can achieve by strategy.” 6 likes
“John Kennedy once remarked that “victory has a thousand fathers and defeat is an orphan.” 3 likes
More quotes…