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Posted on Feb 17, 2005 in Books and Movies

MacArthur's Victory: The War in New Guinea, 1943-1944 – Book Review

By Steven McWilliams

MacArthur’s Victory: The War in New Guinea, 1943-1944
Harry A. Gailey
Presidio Press, 2004

Shedding Light on a much-neglected theater of the Pacific War, Mr. Gailey blends a wealth of operational and organizational information with compelling narratives of the rigors and hazards of jungle warfare fought amongst the ravines and mountain ridges of New Guinea and its smaller neighboring islands. Though the writing is uneven in spots, the finished product is at once compelling and harrowing. For the Allies (Americans and Australians) malaria, dengue fever and other tropical diseases were greater adversaries than the Japanese, while irregular supplies also tried the endurance of the soldiers, Marines and Seabees. For the Japanese, hunger and disease were merciless adversaries, probably killing more than Allied bullets, bombs and artillery. A seeming indifferent strategy, uncoordinated operations, and pointless frontal assaults also took their toll on once mighty army and air units. Pursuing Allied units often spoke of finding hundreds of Japanese corpses along the narrow trails, apparently lying where they fell from hunger, disease, and Allied action. Less frequent, but always present, were suicide victims – often Japanese officers, but occasionally entire companies or batallions.


Also ever-present was the figure of General Douglas MacArthur. Frequently, the general bemoaned the inadequacy of men and equipment, believing that Admiral Nimitz was deliberately depriving him of the means necessary to pursue victory in New Guinea. Such sentiments aside, his subordinate commanders found ways to prevail, doing more with less.

Mr. Gailey has presented us with a detailed accounting of the savage combat that rolled across the rugged and unforgiving terrain of New Guinea during the two unrelenting years of 1943 and 1944. It is a work well worth the reading.