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Douglas MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur was born at the Little Rock Barracks in Arkansas, where he began his life of discipline with the United States Army. His parents were Civil War hero Lt. General Arthur MacArthur and Mary Pinkney Hardy MacArthur. Douglas would grow up to be a highly intelligent, heroic, egotistical and controversial five-star general.

Early years

As a child, Douglas traveled to remote sections of New Mexico with his parents and his elder brother, Arthur, as they were posted to various dusty military outposts. The environs of Fort Selden, New Mexico, provided for Douglas a life that included learning to ride and shoot before even learning to read and write.

In 1883, when Douglas was three years old, his other brother, Malcolm, died. Douglas` older brother, Arthur, would later attend the U.S. Naval Academy. A naval captain, he was eventually killed in 1923.

Young Douglas soon learned that a MacArthur must first become a scholar and gentleman. At the age of six, Douglas transferred with his family to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, then three years later to Washington, D.C., where Captain MacArthur took a post in the War Department. During those early years in Washington, Douglas became close to his grandfather, Judge Arthur MacArthur, from whom he learned valuable life skills.

MacArthur`s education

MacArthur began his education at the West Texas Military Academy in 1893, and gained many valuable intellectual skills. He received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1898. After four years, Douglas finished at West Point first in his 93-person class.

First assignment

In 1904, MacArthur was promoted to first lieutenant for excellence achieved while working in the Philippines with the Army Corps of Engineers. Because of his service there, he soon found himself touring Asia with his father.

MacArthur in the Philippines Directly following his assignment in Asia, he was assigned to the War Department during the Theodore Roosevelt years, becoming an official observer with the Vera Cruz Expedition.

His next assignment, at the staff college at Leavenworth, became a troubling time for MacArthur when his father died in 1912. He was transferred to the War Department in Washington. While there, Chief of Staff Leonard Wood (a friend of his father) comforted MacArthur and gave him some much-needed motivation, providing his military career a fresh start.

In 1915, MacArthur was promoted to major, and the following year he became the Army`s first public relations officer, promoting the Selective Service Act of 1917 to the American people.

World War I

MacArthur commanded the 42nd "Rainbow" Division on the Western Front of France. He put together the 42nd Division by accumulating National Guard Units before the war. He and his men fought with determined loyalty and courage, gaining a sense of superior fighting prowess.

MacArthur became the most decorated American soldier of the war. His mission successfully completed, and after sustaining two combat wounds, MacArthur earned 13 decorations and was cited seven additional times for bravery. In August 1918, upon his promotion to brigadier general (the youngest ever in the army) MacArthur became the commander of the 84th Infantry Brigade. Three months later, at the age of 38, he became the youngest divisional commander in France.

Following the war, MacArthur returned to West Point, becoming appointed the youngest superintendent in the institution`s 117 years of existence. Over the next three years, MacArthur doubled West Point`s size and modernized the academy`s curriculum.

Promotion to chief of staff

MacArthur returned to the Philippines and took charge of the Army`s Philippine Department. While in command, he renewed a friendship with the island`s top politician, Manuel Quezon, whom he had known for more than 30 years. While MacArthur and Quezon failed in their attempt to get the former named governor of the Philippines, President Herbert Hoover settled differences by promoting MacArthur to four-star general and Army Chief of Staff, in 1930. However, because of The Great Depression, his new job was difficult. Americans ignored MacArthur`s warnings about the gaining momentum of world fascism.

A persistent decline in the Army`s strength, as well as damage done to his reputation from the Bonus March of 1932, when he led army troops in routing impoverished World War I vets from the capital, forced MacArthur to look for new ideas and other opportunities.

MacArthur retired from the Army in 1937, one year after the President of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon, appointed him Field Marshal of the Philippine Army. Although MacArthur was still a commander, it was not the same. In 1941, MacArthur was recalled to active duty as the U.S. prepared to enter World War II.


Following the divorce of his first marriage with Louise Cromwell Brooks in 1928, MacArthur found another, lifelong companion, Jean Marie Faircloth. Shortly after the couple arrived in Manila, his mother, "Pinky," passed away. His soon-to-be wife, 37-year-old Jean, comforted MacArthur through the loss of his mother. The 58--year-old general became a father with the birth of his son, Arthur MacArthur IV. However, their delightful life in Manila slowly became engulfed by an ever-expanding Japanese empire.

World War II

President Franklin D. Roosevelt named MacArthur commander of all U.S. Army forces in the Far East in July 1941. While preparing the U.S. military for the Philippine islands` full independence (scheduled for 1946), MacArthur would soon find out just how cunning and powerful the Japanese could be in the Pacific.

Despite General Dwight D. Eisenhower`s direct assistance from Washington, MacArthur did not have the resources to build a force capable of holding off the Japanese. The attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, was the crushing point of MacArthur`s army in the Philippines. His army and air force were quickly pulverized, and by January, the remainder of his men were forced onto the Bataan Peninsula. While his forces struggled to survive, MacArthur could only watch from his command on the island of Corregidor at the mouth of Manila Bay.

In March 1942, President Roosevelt made MacArthur commander of the Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific and ordered him to go to Australia. Under cover of night, a U.S. Navy torpedo boat spirited MacArthur and his family from Corregidor to the southern Philippines. They flew to Australia from there. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on April 1, 1942. It was in Australia that he uttered his famous promise, "I shall return." For the next three years, Douglas MacArthur would fight for his promise.

Regaining momentum in the Pacific

MacArthur spent much of 1942 accumulating men and matériel. Late that year, he commenced his mighty offensive against the Japanese. By early 1944, his soldiers were victorious in most of New Guinea, New Britain, the Solomons, and the Admiralty Islands. On October 20, 1944, his forces invaded Leyte Island in the Philippines. He trudged ashore with his men at Leyte. By doing so, MacArthur fulfilled his promise to return. Six months later, all of the Philippines were liberated from the Japanese.

MacArthur with press in Japan MacArthur was promoted to five-star general of the army in December 1944. In April 1945, he took command of all American army forces in the Pacific. On August 14 of that year, President Harry S. Truman announced the Japanese assent to the Allied surrender terms, and made MacArthur supreme commander of the Allied Powers. It became MacArthur`s job to receive the surrender — and to rule Japan. The Japanese surrender took place aboard the battleship Missouri on September 2, 1945.

MacArthur established his headquarters in Tokyo and became the sole administrator of the military government in Japan. He gained the respect of the Japanese, who feared a harsh rule, because MacArthur`s firm, but fair methods proved otherwise. MacArthur introduced reforms designed to convert Japan into a democratic country.

The Korean War and the general`s finale

The Korean War began in 1950. After North Korean Communists invaded South Korea in 1950, MacArthur was appointed the Supreme United Nations commander. After the Chinese Communists entered the war on the side of the North Koreans, MacArthur wanted to attack the Chinese mainland. His enthusiasm for pushing on and attacking areas of China was not shared by President Truman.

On April 11, 1951, MacArthur was relieved of his command by the president. MacArthur, always straightforward with his opinions, had publicly disagreed with Washington`s campaign stategies, which in the American system of government, military leaders are not permitted to do. General Matthew B. Ridgway replaced MacArthur and stabilized the military situation near the 38th parallel.

Coming home

MacArthur came home to a hero`s welcome and defended his policies in an address before a joint session of Congress, which ended:

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.

After nursing thoughts of a run at the White House, MacArthur finally gave up on the idea in 1952. New York was home for MacArthur`s remaining 12 years of life, where he analyzed and wrote on many public issues. He passed away at Walter Reed Army Hospital on April 14, 1964, at the age of 84.