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Douglas MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur
Personal Life
Date & Place of Birth January 26, 1880
Fort Dodge, Arkansas
Parents Arthur MacArthur
Mary Pinkney Hardy
Religion Christian, non-denominational
Spouse Louise Cromwell Brooks (divorced, 1928)
Jean Marie Faircloth
Children Arthur MacArthur IV
Date & Place of Death April 5, 1964
Walter Reed Army Hospital, Washington, D.C.
Place of Burial MacArthur Memorial
Norfolk, Virginia
Military Career
Education United States Military Academy
West Point, New York
Branch of Service United States Army
Years of Service 1903–1951
Highest rank attained General of the Army
Commands held United Nations Command (Korean War)
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers
Southwest Pacific Area
U.S. Army Forces Far East
Philippine Department
Chief of Staff, U.S. Army
Philippine Division
Superintendent, West Point
42nd Division
84th Infantry Brigade
Battles participated in Mexican Revolution
World War I
World War II
Korean War
Post-military service Remington Rand Corporation
Chairman of the Board

General Douglas MacArthur was one of the great military strategists in World War II, and responsible for governing and rebuilding Japan during the Allied occupation. A career military officer, he spent his entire adult life in the military.

The son of the senior U.S. Army general, MacArthur graduated first in his class at West Point in 1903. After earning a chestful of medals for bravery in Mexico and the Western Front in World War I, his meteoric career included a stint as superintendent at West Point in the 1920s, where he promoted athletics and modernized the curriculum. He served two terms as the Army's chief-of-staff under Presidents Herbert Hoover (a pacifist) and Franklin Roosevelt (a Navy man). in the 1930s. He retired in 1937, then set out to create a new army for the Philippines, which was in transition to independence. He was recalled to active duty in mid-1941 as war with Japan loomed. Driven out of the Philippines in 1942, he assumed command in Australia of the Southwest Pacific Theater. He battled the Japanese through New Guinea and the Philippines, and was in charge of the invasion of Japan scheduled for late 1945. Instead, he received Japan's surrender in a dramatic ceremony aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. As supreme commander of the forces occupying Japan, he democratized and reformed Japan, rebuilding the nation and creating a lasting friendship between the former enemies. Unexpectedly given command of United Nations forces at the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, he landed troops at Inchon in a daring amphibious assault that led to a routing of the invading enemy. Ordered to unify Korea, his advance was halted by Communist China in warfare that saw the Americans and their allies retreat. In the wake of bitter disagreements with President Harry Truman about American strategy, he was recalled, his celebrated career abruptly ended. He is considered a hero by conservatives, and a dangerous enemy by liberals.

Early life

Douglas MacArthur was the third son of Arthur MacArthur, a senior officer in the U.S. Army and winner of the Medal of Honor for actions at Missionary Ridge during the American Civil War. His oldest brother, Arthur III (1876-1923), had a distinguished career in the U.S. Navy, seeing action in the Spanish-American War of 1898, the Boxer Rebellion, and the First World War. Second son Malcolm was born in 1878, and died at the age of five, which left a mark that Douglas could never forget. "His premature death left a gap in my life which has never been filled," he would write some forty years later. [1]

Douglas was born into the Army at Fort Dodge, Arkansas on January 26, 1880, in a section of the base armory that had been converted to a hospital. His mother, Mary Pinkney Hardy MacArthur, who was affectionately called "Pinky", was a proper Southern lady who was not used to hot and dusty western outposts as a place to raise a family; nevertheless she did, and seeing places like New Mexico's Fort Selden made a great impression on young Douglas. "My first memory was the sound of bugles," Douglas wrote in his Reminiscences. "It was here I learned to ride and shoot even before I could read or write - indeed, almost before I could walk or talk."

The Army had given Arthur MacArthur many orders over the years, and when Douglas turned six the next set of orders took the family to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, where life in civilization could be re-introduced. Three years after that, they were ordered to Washington, where his father was assigned to the War Department, and Douglas got to know his grandfather, Judge Arthur MacArthur. These early years were important in young Douglas' life, for from his grandfather he learned a MacArthur was a gentleman and a scholar, and from his parents he learned a MacArthur was in command. [2]

The Army

Douglas was an average student, but his own intellect was revealed when the family moved to San Antonio, Texas in 1893. The West Texas Military Academy was his school, and he thrived on the combination of academics, religion, military discipline and social graces that were purely Victorian. His excellent record there, the top scores on the qualifying exam, and his family's political connections allowed Douglas in 1898 to receive an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Four years later General Arthur MacArthur returned from the Philippines where he was involved with the Spanish defeat and service as military governor, and looked on proudly as his son - with one of the highest and finest records in Academy history - graduated first of his class of 1903. MacArthur would be one of the few theater commanders in World War 2 who was primarily educated in the nineteenth century.[1]

His first assignment was to the Philippines, which soon developed into a love for that country. Soon after, he would accompany his father and mother on an extended tour of the Asia rim, visiting eleven countries, and treated like royalty in each. He had developed a theory by then, in fact he was convinced, that America's future lay with Asia.

His next assignments included service to Theodore Roosevelt as an aide, and engineering assignment in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then transfer to the War Department where he worked for Chief of Staff General Leonard Wood, who was himself once a protégé to his father. The working relationship was good, and Douglas was promoted to major in 1915. He became the Army's first public relations officer the following year, being credited with selling the Selective Service Act of 1917 to the American people, just as the country moved closer to involvement in the war in Europe. Hugh L. Scott, the Army's Chief of Staff at the time, would note MacArthur's zeal at doing his job. "Major MacArthur is a...high-minded, conscientious and unusually efficient officer, well fitted for positions requiring diplomacy and high-grade intelligence" (Manchester, pg. 89).

It was the First World War which gave Douglas MacArthur a taste of fame that he could add to his already excellent record. Promoted to colonel, he took individual National Guard units and created the Rainbow Division out of them, taking it through France and into the thickest of fighting, and combining a romantic flamboyance with bravery. But when it was threatened that his division would be split up and spread out to augment other divisions, MacArthur cabled members of Congress to prevent it, unfortunately creating resentment within General John J. Pershing's staff at circumventing the chain of command. Nevertheless, MacArthur became the most decorated American soldier of the war, receiving the Distinguished Service Medal by Pershing, who remarked that he didn't like MacArthur's attitude regarding the chain of command while pinning the medal on his chest (Manchester, pp. 97–105).

MacArthur was next assigned to the post of Superintendent of West Point, where he dragged the moribund Academy into the 20th century; he had just come out of a very savage, yet very modern war, and he wanted West Point to produce officers capable of leading men into such a war. And he also got married, to Louise Cromwell Brooks, a flapper and heiress. But his West Point job was ended soon after, when Chief of Staff Pershing - who, during the war had an affair with Louise - ordered MacArthur to the Philippines. Although disappointed at the orders, yet glad to be back in his beloved islands, Louise was not happy, as she was used to the glamour and sophistication of the big American and European cities; the end result was the marriage began to go sour, which got worse after their return to the States in 1925. Louise would file for divorce in 1928, and Douglas would return again to the Philippines.

His stay in the Philippines this time would last two years, but he had renewed a friendship with Manuel Quezon, whom he had known since 1903, and was then country's leading political figure. Together they had worked on a bid to make MacArthur governor of the Philippines, but that attempt failed. However, in 1930, President Hoover offered MacArthur the Army's top command: Chief of Staff, and he headed back to Washington. The country was by then deep in the Great Depression, and MacArthur's warnings of a weak defense in the face of spreading fascism went unheeded among Americans whose only thought was getting a job. Although ably leading the Army during this period, troop strength fell to an all-time low, and his reputation was severely damaged when, in 1932, he visibly led a unit of the Army against thousands of impoverished former soldiers (the Bonus March) who had camped out in the capitol demanding Congress distribute millions of dollars in bonuses that were promised to them for enlisting during the First World War.

World War II

In 1935 Manuel Quezon was president of the newly created Philippine Commonwealth, and invited MacArthur to return to Manila as head of the American military mission charged with preparing the islands for full independence by 1946. On the way to Manila, he had a stop in Tennessee and met Jean Marie Faircloth of Murfreesboro, falling in love almost immediately, and getting married soon after that; Jean would be instrumental in filling the void when his mother passed away soon after their arrival in the Philippines. And at age 58, Arthur IV was born, making MacArthur an attentive and doting father. These years in the Philippines would prove the happiest of his life, even as they were slowly overshadowed by an expanding, and aggressive, Japan. Money, troops and material from the States would not come in time when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941; when the Japanese made a simultaneous strike on the Philippines, MacArthur's air force was knocked out, and his army left to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula in tatters. He would sit at his command post on the nearby island of Corregidor, nearly helpless as everything around him crumbled.

MacArthur at Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945.

He had intended to fight alongside his men, but President Franklin Roosevelt wouldn't allow it. A direct order from him had MacArthur and his family placed on board a small PT boat, where he met up with a larger transport to Australia, and from there he began the plans to retake the Pacific from the Japanese, vowing "I shall return" to the Filipino people, a remark which became synonymous with the war effort. MacArthur's war was then a two-front war, as he fought the Japanese forces on one side, and the United States Navy on the other. But his plan, which called for "island hopping" - bypassing Japanese-held islands in favor of those strategically placed for use by American forces - prevailed, as well as his intent to liberate the Philippines as part of it. By October, 1944 America's most famous general made his dramatic landing at Leyte; the remainder of the islands were fully liberated within months. On September 2, 1945, onboard USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, he presided over the Japanese surrender, ending World War II. His last remarks on ending the war were simple. "Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are closed".[2]

In part of a radio address after the ceremony, MacArthur stated to a world audience,

Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won....

As I look back upon the long, tortuous trail from those grim days of Bataan and Corregidor, when an entire world lived in fear, when democracy was on the defensive everywhere, when modern civilization trembled in the balance, I thank a merciful God that he has given us the faith, the courage and the power from which to mold victory. We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war...

Men since the beginning of time have sought peace...Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural development of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.[3]

Governing Japan

MacArthur, by then one of the leading figures in military history, determined to rebuild Japan as an example of democracy, and in so doing made his greatest contribution. During the next several years he initiated polices for occupation (he stipulated that revengeful soldiers would get five years in prison if they so much as slapped a Japanese citizen), wrote and implemented a constitution, and charted a course for Japan which led it to become an economic and industrial colossus by the 1970s. His rule of Japan is considered fair and progressive, and MacArthur claimed, a greater source of satisfaction to him than his military successes.


A 1973 portrait of MacArthur

The Korean War broke out in June 1950, when the communist North invaded South Korea. Placed in command of United Nations forces, MacArthur executed a brilliant maneuver by invading the port of Inchon behind North Korean lines, and driving the communists back north. Soon after this triumph, bickering would come between himself and President Harry Truman over how the war was to be fought, and engaging China, as MacArthur believed should happen, or in keeping it a limited war and China out of it, as Truman dictated. The bickering came to a head on April 11, 1951, when Truman, citing his role as Commander in Chief, relieved MacArthur of command, resulting in a firestorm of controversy. He was given a hero's welcome on his return, and the issue over his firing died away quickly after an address to a joint session of Congress, in which he announced his retirement with grace, stating "old soldiers never die, they just fade away," and like the old soldier in that refrain, MacArthur promised to fade away.

Last years

MacArthur lived quietly in New York, coming out into the spotlight on various occasions, such as attending graduations at West Point; once he was placed on the Republican ticket for president in 1952 (his former aide, General Dwight D. Eisenhower would get the job). He passed away on April 5, 1964, at Walter Reed Army Hospital near Washington, having lived his entire life, from cradle to grave, in the United States Army. He was buried in the rotunda of the former city hall of Norfolk, Virginia, which had earlier become the MacArthur Memorial. His wife Jean passed away January 22, 2000, and is buried with him.

I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all of my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that "old soldiers never die; they just fade away." And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Good bye. From his Farewell to Congress, April 19, 1951.


Gen. MacArthur statue in Jayu Park, Incheon, South Korea.

MacArthur was unusually literate and eloquent, and his faith, character, experience and wisdom helped to make his speeches among the most stirring of the twentieth century. MacArthur was also uncommonly (for a general) interested and vocal about domestic policies, as seen in his speeches, which were mostly all were written by him. It was said that few knew history as he did-that he could discuss the lives of famous men as if he personally knew them.[4]

Quotes attributed[5][6][7] to MacArthur include:

  • Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
  • Never give an order that can't be obeyed.
  • It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.
  • ...once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.[8]
  • In no other profession are the penalties for employing untrained personnel so appalling or so irrevocable as in the military.
  • The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It's the age-old struggle: the roar of the crowd on the one side, and the voice of your conscience on the other.
  • In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.[9]
  • It was close; but that's the way it is in war. You win or lose, live or die — and the difference is just an eyelash.[10]
  • ...the enduring fortitude, the patriotic selfabnegation, and the unsurpassed military genius of the American soldier of the World War will stand forth in undimmed luster; in his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man; he has written his own history, and written it in red on his enemy's breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory I am filled with an emotion I cannot express.[11]
  • No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.[12]
  • In war there is no substitute for victory. There are some who for varying reasons would appease Red China. They are blind to history's clear lesson, for history teaches with unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but begets new and bloodier wars.
  • There is not one incident in the history of humanity in which defeatism led to peace which was anything other than a complete fraud.
  • Whether in chains or in laurels, liberty knows nothing but victories.
  • Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.
  • We are not retreating - we are advancing in another direction.
  • The United States is a pre-eminently Christian and conservative nation. It is far less militaristic than most nations. It is not especially open to the charge of imperialism. Yet one would fancy that Americans were the most brutally blood-thirsty people in the world to judge by the frantic efforts that are being made to disarm them both physically and morally...The effect of all this unabashed and unsound propaganda is not so much to convert America to a holy horror of war as it is to confuse the public mind and lead to muddled thinking in international affairs.[13]
  • In the last 3,400 years only 268—less than 1 in 13—have been free from wars.
  • I have known war as few men now living know it. Its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes.
  • 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.
  • Could I have but a line a century hence crediting a contribution to the advance of peace, I would yield every honor which has been accorded by war.[14]
  • A better world shall emerge based on faith and understanding.
  • Talk of imminent threat to our national security through the application of external force is pure nonsense. Our threat is from the insidious forces working from within which have already so drastically altered the character of our free institutions — those institutions we proudly called the American way of life.[15]
  • It [socialism] discourages development of moral forces which would preserve inviolate our representative form of government, answerable to the will of the electorate.[16]
  • Are we going to squander our limited resources to the point of our own inevitable exhaustion, or adopt commonsense policies of frugality which will insure financial stability in our time and a worthwhile heritage in that of our progeny?
  • Are we going to continue to permit the pressure of alien doctrines to strongly influence the orientation of foreign and domestic policy, or regain trust in our own traditions, experience and free institutions, and the wisdom of our own people?
  • In short, is American life of the future to be characterized by freedom or by servitude, strength or weakness? The answer must be clear and unequivocal if we are to avoid the pitfalls toward which we are heading with such certainly. In many respects it is not to be found in any dogma of political philosophy, but in those immutable precepts which underlie the Ten Commandments.
  • These pressures have already caused us to depart sharply from the course so long held toward national strength and moral greatness. Our economic statute built under the incentive of free enterprise is imperiled by our drift through the back door of confiscatory taxation toward socialism.
  • It is a singular habit in this country to raise high the military when war threatens, but to ignore security needs in the pleasanter times of peace.[17][18]
  • Are we going to preserve the religious base to our origin, our growth and our progress, or yield to the devious assaults of atheistic or other anti-religious forces?[19][20]
  • The people have it in their hands to restore morality, wisdom and direction to of our foreign and domestic affairs, and regain the religious base which in times past assured general integrity in public and private life.[21][22]
  • ...The spiritual impulse is strong in many American hearts and constitutes a rugged bulwark in the defense of religious morality against the advance of any atheistic immorality.[23][24]
  • Our great strength rests in those high-minded Americans whose faith in God and love of country transcends all selfishness and self-serving instincts.[25]
  • There are those who seek to convert us to a form of socialistic endeavor leading directly to the path of Communist slavery.[26]
  • There can be no compromise with atheistic Communism - no half-way in the preservation of freedom and religion.[27][28]
  • We all dream of the day when human conduct will be governed by the Decalogue and the Sermon and the Mount.[29][30]
  • History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed in to political and economic decline.[31]
  • I promise to keep on living as though I expected to live forever. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul.
  • I am concerned for the security of our great Nation; not so much because of any threat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within.[32]

General Douglas Mac Arthur's Radio Address Upon Returning to the Philippines

Further reading


  • Buhite, Russell D. Douglas MacArthur: Statecraft and Stagecraft in America's East Asian Policy (Biographies in American Foreign Policy) (2008), 188pp; by leading diplomatic historian
  • Frank, Richard B. MacArthur (2009), short summary by leading military historian
  • James, D. Clayton. The Years of MacArthur, The Years of MacArthur Volume I, 1880–1941 (1970); the standard scholarly biography
    • James, D. Clayton. The Years of MacArthur, 1941-1945: Vol 2. (1975). 939 pp.
    • James, D. Clayton. The Years of MacArthur. Vol. 3: Triumph and Disaster, 1945-1964 (1985). 848 pp.
  • Leary, William M., ed. MacArthur and the American Century: A Reader. (2001). 522 pp.; articles by scholars
  • MacArthur, Douglas. Reminisceses (1964), good autobiography; primnary source excerpt and text search
  • Manchester, William. American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964 (1978). 793 pp. lively popular biography that like the general himself is noble and ignoble, inspiring and outrageous, arrogant and flamboyant, imperious, and apocalyptic
  • Perret, Geoffrey. Old Soldiers Never Die: The Life of Douglas MacArthur. (1996). 663 pp. good popular biography; shows the gerneral's extraordinary self-discipline and implacable, inexhaustible willpower
  • Petillo, Carol Morris. Douglas MacArthur: The Philippine Years. (1981). 301 pp.
  • Schaller, Michael. Douglas MacArthur: The Far Eastern General (1989). 320 pp. attack from New Left

MacArthur's people and campaigns

  • Chwialkowski, Paul. In Caesar's Shadow: The Life of General Robert Eichelberger (1993). 227 pp.
  • Leary, William M., ed. We Shall Return! MacArthur's Commanders and the Defeat of Japan (1988). 305 pp.
  • Rogers, Paul P. The Good Years: MacArthur and Sutherland. Vol. 1 (1990). 380 pp.; The Bitter Years: MacArthur and Sutherland Vol. 2. (1990). 348 pp. the gernal's powerful chief of staff
  • Taaffe, Stephen R. MacArthur's Jungle War: The 1944 New Guinea Campaign (1998). 312 pp.

Postwar Japan

  • Cohen, Theodore. Remaking Japan: The American Occupation as New Deal. (1987). 533 pp.
  • Finn, Richard B. Winners in Peace: MacArthur, Yoshida, and Postwar Japan. (1992). 413 pp.
  • Harvey, Robert. American Shogun: General MacArthur, Emperor Hirohito and the Drama of Modern Japan (2007)


  1. William M. Leary, MacArthur and the American Century: A Reader, p. 471
  3. Memorable Speeches of Gen. Douglas MacArthur
  7. Douglas MacArthur, General MacArthur: wisdom and visions, complied by Colonel Edward T. Imparato (USAF Ret.)
  8. Address to Congress, Apr. 19, 1951
  9. Sylvanus Thayer Award acceptance speech, 09-12-1952
  10. After flying over Japanese held territory to reach Australia, 1942-03-17
  11. Address to the annual reunion of MacArthur's Rainbow Division in Washington on July 14, 1935
  13. Address to the annual reunion of MacArthur's Rainbow Division in Washington on July 14, 1935
  14. William M Leary, Macarthur and the American Century: A Reader (2001)
  15. Speech in Lansing, Michigan, May 15, 1951
  16. Opening Centennial celebration, Seattle Wash, 11-13-1951
  17. Cleveland OH, 09-06-1951
  18. Douglas MacArthur, Edward T. Imparato (USAF Ret.), General MacArthur: wisdom and visions, pp. 43-45
  19. Cleveland OH, 09-06-1951
  20. ibid. p. 125
  21. Opening, Centennial celebration, Seattle Wash, 11-13-1951
  22. ibid p. 125
  23. Salvation army, Waldorf-Astora hotel, New york, NY, 12-12-1951
  24. ibid p. 127
  25. ibid p. 127
  26. ibid p. 130
  27. Massachusetts legislature, Boston, 7-25-1951
  28. ibid p. 128
  29. Veterans of the Rainbow (42nd) Infantry Div. WW1, Wash. DC. 7-14-1935
  30. ibid p. 128
  31. America's God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations
  32. General MacArthur Speeches and Reports 1908-1964‎ - Page 175, Edward T. Imparato

External links