On the Nightstand

Truman & MacArthur: Adversaries for a Common CausePeople who write have good book lists….

My friend and fellow author Donald Farinacci wrote a fine non-fiction book, ‘Truman and MacArthur: Adversaries for a Common Cause,’ published this year by Merriam Press.   Today, September 10, is the eve of the worst day in modern memory.  We also are on the eve of the most important battle Americans have forgotten, Inchon, fought on September 15.  Don and I visited about his book and writing and I think you’ll enjoy getting to know him.  In any event, you should steal his best books list.

Jack:      Truman and MacArthur is an elegant book about inelegant topics – the war in Korea and the destructive disagreement between the most beloved active general in the United States military and his commander in chief, President Truman.   How did you become interested in this?

Don: In 1951 I went to a Saturday matinee at the Mineola movie house a week or so after Truman fired MacArthur and we school-age kids reacted to the Movietone news screen-sized President Harry S. Truman with a chorus of boos.  The lights went on, the projector stopped and the theater manager walked up onto the stage and told us “You will not boo the president of the United States.  Your behavior is very disrespectful and the show will not go back on until I can hear a pin drop.”  After the show, I went home thinking the president must be a bad man. As I grew to adulthood, I learned that Truman was not a bad man but rather was a great president.

Jack: Tell some stories about yourself.

Don: I’m a sixty- something attorney,  a Vietnam-era veteran  of the U.S. Army  For the past forty years, I have made my home on the north shore of Long Island  with  my wife, Noreen.

Jack: Why did you write this book?

Don: The dramatic story of the early Korean War. First, you had an invasion that almost pushed the U.N. forces into the Sea of Japan, then one of the most brilliant amphibious landings in the history of modern warfare–at Inchon, followed by one of the most disastrous military blunders of all time in the Chinese intervention, but then mostly rectified by an incredible counter-offensive led by General Matthew Ridgway, who is perhaps the real hero of the Korean War.  If that weren’t enough, you had rank insubordination by a legendary commander directed at his commander-in-chief, a public and bitter firing and unprecedented excoriation of a United States president, victimized by the excesses of the McCarthy era.  As the cliché goes, you can’t make this stuff up.

Jack: What are your best non-fiction books on American history, military history, political history?  Give us your take-it-to-the-island-when- the- ship- goes- down list.

Don: Some of the great non-fiction books I would take with me to the island are ‘1776’by William McCullough; ‘All the President’s Men,’ by Woodward and Bernstein, and  ‘A Team of Rivals’ by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Jack: And your best fiction books?   Hot day, no signs of rescue, you wish you could write just one sentence like that – – what’s on this list?

Don: My favorite fiction books in my highly subjective rating system are ‘Atonement, ‘ by Ian McEwan; ‘The Naked and the Dead,’ by Norman Mailer; ‘Mr. Sammler’s Planet, by Saul Bellow; ‘The Heart of the Matter,’ by Graham Greene, and; ‘The Thin Red Line,’ by James Jones.

Jack: Using the retrospecto-scope of history and your specialized knowledge, what is your assessment of the Korean Conflict?

Don: It was an important watershed in the Cold War. America showed the Soviet Union and Communist China that the U.S. policy of “containment” and the “Truman Doctrine” were not just dry policy statements or empty slogans. We demonstrated to the Communist powers and their surrogates that they would pay a heavy price for aggression, which might even mean nuclear war. Succeeding presidents were thus armed with a strong precedent.

Jack: Why do we not know as much about Inchon and the Chosin Reservoir as we do about D-Day in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium?

Don: The great battles of the Korean War took place within the context of a national psychological state of denial, which in turn spawned neglect.   Americans were tired of trouble and hardship. The 50s were America’s golden age, epitomized by its worldwide economic power. Most Americans were more concerned about getting theirs than they were about some far away war on a frozen peninsula. To  many, if not most, it was an unwanted distraction.

Jack: What else are you working on?

Don: I’m writing a novel of the Cold War which will be  entitled “The Allemagne Deception” and hope to finish it by early Spring, 2011.

See you in Pittsburgh at MWSA


_____________________________________________________________________________________Jack Jack Woodville London is the author of French Letters:  Virginia’s War (2009), a finalist for Best Novel of the South and Best Historical Fiction of the Year.  Publication release date of the sequel, French Letters:  Engaged in War, is September 2010.

Comments and opinions expressed in Jack London Reviews do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the author or publisher of any work reviewed.   Jack Woodville London may be contacted at jack@jackwlondon.com.  Follow his commentary about historical literature, World War II, and related subjects at www.jwlbooks.com

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