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General Douglas MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur was born on January 26, 1880, son of a Civil War military hero, Arthur MacArthur. Although born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Douglas MacArthur spent most of his youth in New Mexico. In 1898, with the help of political connections and top scores, MacArthur was invited to attend West Point Military Academy, and graduated in 1903 with top honors. In the following years MacArthur took jobs with the corps of engineers, the War Department and public relations departments. However, it was in World War I that MacArthur, now a major, truly began to make a name for himself. Because of his courage and leadership in France within the “Rainbow Division,” a small troop of National Guardsmen, MacArthur became one of America’s most decorated soldiers of the war. Shortly afterward, he accepted the prestigious position of Superintendent of West Point. As he once said, “Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.” MacArthur was firmly rooted in these beliefs and felt that others should also show the same respect and appreciation. Perhaps this is why he drove tanks through Washington D.C. to break up the “Bonus Army” petitioning Congress for an early payment of their service bonuses. MacArthur felt that these veterans could be the beginnings of a “communist revolution,” thus he quickly dispersed the “Army.”

In 1930, at the age of 50, MacArthur was promoted to a full ranking general. In the coming years of his life, MacArthur would venture to and from the Philippines several times in attempt to prepare them for their impending independence. By 1937 MacArthur had retired from the army and had simultaneously begun building up and training the Philippine military. However, even with this training, the Philippine peoples would be no match for the tactics of guerrilla warfare employed upon them by the Japanese during the years of World War II. But allied forces eventually trumped the Japanese, and on September 2, 1945, MacArthur was on board for the “U.S.S. Missouri” for the Japanese surrender, bringing an end to World War II. It was after WWII, when MacArthur became the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, that he accomplished some of his greatest feats, though they did not require aggressive military force. MacArthur helped to rebuild the Japanese economy and effectively implemented democratic policies that led to the successful military occupation that set Japan off on the path towards democracy.

Then, in June of 1950, the Korean War began and MacArthur entered as the commander of the UN forces. With only a limited number of poorly trained soldiers stationed in Japan with him, MacArthur conducted an amphibious landing at Inch’on which successfully pushed back North Korean fighters until a perimeter was established. Later MacArthur urged the US to launch an aggressive attack against communist China, ensuring the protection of American interests and success in North Korea. He advocated the bombing of several North Korean bases, a blockade of China’s coast and introducing Nationalist Chinese into the war. But these ideas clashed with the more peaceful, “containment” Truman policies of the war, and in 1951 MacArthur was removed from the military for insubordination. After 15 years away from the US, MacArthur returned to America a hero. In 1952, he attempted to run for the presidency, but did not go far. But his influence played a role in that election against the Democratic Party and Truman and helped to put Eisenhower into office. In the beginning Eisenhower looked to MacArthur for military advice, but after finding that he still sought the bombing and destruction of China and North Korea, he played no further role in the new Republican administration. He died on April 5, 1964.

Research by: Rachel Disselkamp
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School


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Donaldson, Gary. “Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964).” United States of America Korean War Commemoration. 8 May 2008 .

“Douglas MacArthur,” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2007 © 1997-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

“General Douglas MacArthur.” 2008. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). 8 May 2008 .

Simkin, John. “Douglas MacArthur.” April 15, 2008. Spartacus Educational. 8 May 2008 .

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