Biography for Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur was one of the most controversial soldiers in American military history. A decorated combat veteran, he also proved himself an able West Point superintendent and an energetic army chief of staff at a time when fiscal retrenchment was rampant. As a leader, MacArthur possessed a brilliant grasp of strategy and enjoyed greater success at coordinating massive land, sea, and air forces than any of his contemporaries. His World War II conquests were numerous, impressive, and achieved at relatively little cost. However, as a man, MacArthur was saddled with a towering ego and an arrogant, egotistical disposition that allowed little room for circumspection. Belief in his own invincibility cost him heavily in the Philippines and Korea, but it was his challenge to the cherished American principle of civilian control over the military that finally brought him down. MacArthur was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on January 26, 1880, the son of Gen. Arthur MacArthur. As a child, MacArthur spent most of his time living at various army camps, and in 1899, he entered his father's profession by attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. A brilliant student, MacArthur graduated first in the class of 1903, and he was appointed a second lieutenant in the engineers. For the next three years, he conducted routine duties in the Philippines, where he developed deep emotional bonds with the islands and their people. Returning home in 1906, MacArthur became a special aide to President Theodore Roosevelt. Starting in 1908, he assumed teaching positions in a number of army institutions. In 1913 and again in 1916, he served with the War Department general staff in Washington, D.C., rising to the rank of major. Between the two assignments, MacArthur participated in the landings at Vera Cruz, Mexico in 1914 and won the Congressional Medal of Honor for a daring intelligence mission. Prior to American entry into World War I, MacArthur helped organize and staff the 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division, consisting of National Guard units from various states. He then convinced the War Department to allow the 42nd Division to fight alongside regular army formations in the event of hostilities in Europe. After war was declared against Germany in 1917, MacArthur accompanied the 42nd Division to France and served as chief of staff to Gen. Charles T. Menoher with a rank of temporary colonel. Rising again to temporary brigadier general, MacArthur next commanded the 84th Infantry Brigade during intense fighting at St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne. Brilliant and unorthodox, at one point, he went over the top with his men dressed in his West Point letter sweater, wearing his polished cavalry boots, and armed only with a riding crop. That November, he assumed control of the 42nd Division, becoming the youngest divisional commander in the army. By war's end, MacArthur had been wounded twice and awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses and seven Silver Stars for heroism. Following a brief stint of occupation duty in Germany, he returned home in April 1919. Thus far, MacArthur had accrued a reputation as an excellent officer and one of the rising stars of the army. This status was confirmed in July 1919 when he gained appointment as the youngest superintendent of West Point. During his three-year tenure, he upgraded the curricula, placed greater emphasis on physical training, and instituted a strict moral code of behavior. Promoted to brigadier general in January 1920, MacArthur then completed another tour of duty in the Philippines during 1922-1925, at the conclusion of which he rose to major general. In the final months of 1925, he also sat in on the court-martial of lifelong friend Gen. Billy Mitchell, who subsequently resigned his commission. MacArthur reported to Asia a third time to command the Department of the Philippines in 1928, and following his return home in November 1930, he became the youngest chief of staff of the army with the rank of general. He held this post until October 1935, longer than any previous appointee. MacArthur's tenure, which coincided with the Great Depression, was an unhappy time for both himself and the U.S. Army. Faced with deep budget cuts, he watched as his force dwindled to only 135,000 men, slightly smaller than Portugal's. In the summer of 1932, he was also called on to disperse the Bonus Army, an assembly of 25,000 unemployed veterans who had gathered in Washington, D.C. to exchange their insurance policies for cash. MacArthur used troops to disperse them, but then exceeded orders from President Herbert Hoover by attacking and burning the marchers' camp in the so-called Battle of Anacostia Flats. Though criticized for brutality, MacArthur remained in office and went on to institute military reforms that merged the old corps system into four field armies, each with distinct responsibilities. When his appointment ended in 1935, MacArthur reverted back to his permanent grade of major general and revisited the Philippines a fourth time to organize their national defenses. As an indication of their trust, the Philippine government appointed him field marshal of the army in August 1936. MacArthur's deep attachment to the islands became manifest in 1937, when he resigned from the army rather than leave before the task was finished. He remained in the Philippines until July 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt, concerned over mounting prospects of war with Japan, recalled him as a temporary lieutenant general. MacArthur was functioning as commander of United States Armed Forces in the Far East when Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. He was informed of the attack several hours later and increased his air patrols but scoffed at the notion of being attacked in force before April. Suddenly, on December 8, Japanese aircraft raided Clark and Iba airfields in the Philippines with devastating results, effectively eliminating American air power. On December 10, Gen. Masaharu Homma followed up the blow by landing 50,000 veteran troops on the northern island of Luzon. MacArthur rashly chose to meet the invaders on the beaches with 10,000 American soldiers, 11,000 elite Philippine scouts, and 100,000 poorly trained Filipino army regulars. The Japanese, enjoying a decided qualitative advantage on the ground, plus control of the land and sea, forced MacArthur to declare Manila an open city and withdraw to the semi-fortified Bataan peninsula. The Americans conducted a valiant stand, but supply shortages and lack of reinforcements foretold their defeat. The Roosevelt administration realized this as early as February 1942, when it directed MacArthur and his staff to leave the Philippines for Australia. Regretfully, he complied and entrusted command of the doomed garrison to his friend Gen. Jonathan Wainwright. The defenders held out until May 1942, upsetting the Japanese timetable for conquest by five months. On March 11, 1942, MacArthur undertook a perilous 35-hour evacuation through enemy-controlled waters on a torpedo boat, and later by B-17, to Adelaide, Australia and safety. After arriving, he received his second Congressional Medal of Honor for defending the Philippines but publicly vowed, "I came through and I will return." To millions of Filipinos, this became the most significant rallying cry of World War II. In August 1942, MacArthur directed U.S. and Australian land forces in the defense of Port Moresby, New Guinea. A Japanese thrust over the Owen Stanley Mountains was stopped, and Allied forces began an immediate counteroffensive. MacArthur's strategic brilliance became apparent when he adopted a policy of "island hopping," that is, bypassing enemy strong points in favor of weaker targets and then isolating them with air and sea power. In this manner, large Japanese formations, such as the 18th Army, were cut off and left to starve on New Guinea for the rest of the war. Assisted by such able subordinates as Robert L. Eichelberger and George C. Kenney, MacArthur's forces wound themselves toward the Philippines at relatively little cost to themselves, while at the same time inflicting heavy casualties on the Japanese. In October 1944, MacArthur found himself cooperating with Adm. Chester Nimitz during the reduction of the Philippines. Possession of these islands was not considered essential to the war effort, but MacArthur viewed their liberation as a moral imperative, given his prior association and the cruelty of Japanese occupation. Later that month, he successfully stormed ashore at Leyte and Mindoro, captured the islands, and won a promotion to general of the army. The following January, MacArthur adroitly employed air power, sea power, paratroops, amphibious landings, and guerrillas in a successful invasion of Luzon, where the main Japanese army of 23 divisions was garrisoned. After a hard fight lasting several months, this force was defeated by 17 adroitly deployed American divisions. MacArthur fulfilled his promise; he had returned and in April 1945, was named commander of all army forces in the Pacific. On September 2, 1945, MacArthur was functioning as supreme commander of the Allied Powers and sailed into Tokyo Bay on the battleship Missouri to accept the Japanese surrender. At his side throughout these proceedings was Wainwright, who had surrendered Corregidor in May 1942. The two men embraced and wept at their first encounter since Wainwright's 1942 capture by the Japanese. MacArthur next gained appointment as commander of Allied occupation forces in Japan, a post he held for the next six years. It was in this capacity that he made his greatest contribution to future world stability by transforming that country into a Western-style democracy. Enjoying near-dictatorial powers, he abolished militarism and ultranationalism, granted basic human rights such as freedom of speech and a free press, and allowed women to vote. The economy was also overhauled and a liberal constitution set in place. Curiously, MacArthur's autocratic turn of mind, which so infuriated superiors and subordinates alike, uniquely appealed to the Japanese mentality. His reforms were widely embraced and acclaimed, although he was careful to cultivate a respectful relationship with Emperor Hirohito. In time, this matured into genuine friendship. The American occupation proved so benign and successful that Japan was quickly back into the community of nations. Its success is stark testimony to MacArthur's understanding of Asian psychology and culture. The two nations, formerly bitter enemies, have enjoyed peaceful and prosperous relations to this day. In January 1947, MacArthur also accepted responsibility as commander of the army's Far East Command. Tranquility was shattered in June 1950 when Communist forces under Kim Il Sung of North Korea invaded South Korea, precipitating the first armed engagement of the cold war. On July 8, MacArthur was made supreme commander of United Nations (UN) forces and ordered into action. However, his Eighth Army, softened by years of occupation duty, was initially unable to slow the North Korean advance, and Gen. William F. Dean was captured. At length, UN forces under Gen. Walton Walker managed to consolidate a perimeter around the port of Pusan and stood their ground. MacArthur used the time they bought to mount a surprise amphibious strike at Inchon, well to the rear of Communist lines, in September 1950. It was a dangerous ploy as the harbor was poorly developed and subject to drastic tide variations. However, the operation succeeded brilliantly and became the crowning achievement of MacArthur's career. MacArthur forced the Communists to abandon Pusan, and they streamed north in disarray with Walker in hot pursuit. Seoul, the South Korean capital, was liberated a few days later, and in October, MacArthur received permission to pursue the fleeing enemy north of the 38th parallel into North Korea. Even to the most impartial observer, complete victory seemed close at hand. As UN forces approached the Yalu River, the boundary between Korea and China, the Chinese Communist government of Mao Zedong threatened to intervene and began secretly infiltrating troops. MacArthur, unfortunately, discounted intelligence of a Chinese buildup and kept his two forces, the Eighth Army and the 10th Corps, separated by a mountain range. On November 25, 1950, 300,000 Chinese struck the unsuspecting Americans, who were poorly deployed to defend themselves. The ensuing retreat was a near debacle and the worst defeat ever suffered by American forces. Although MacArthur eventually stabilized the situation, his armies fell back below the 38th parallel, and Seoul was recaptured by the Communists. MacArthur then angrily demanded that the war be carried to China by bombing bases in Manchuria. President Harry Truman's policy, however, was to prevent conflict from spreading beyond the peninsula, and he strongly stated this during a meeting with the general at Wake Island in December 1950. Nonetheless, MacArthur would not curtail his criticism. When he began going over the head of the commander in chief by appealing directly to the public, Truman summarily relieved him of his command on April 11, 1951 with the concurrence of Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Omar Bradley and Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall. The Korean command reverted to Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway. MacArthur returned home to a hero's welcome and received a huge tickertape parade in New York City. Shortly after, he gave a stirring address to a joint session of Congress in which he lambasted Truman's Asia policy and also announced his retirement. "Old soldiers never die," he observed, "they just fade away." MacArthur then lived a life of seclusion, becoming in 1959 the army's senior officer. Shortly after the appearance of his memoirs, he died in Washington, D.C. on April 5, 1964. MacArthur received a state funeral with honors befitting one of the greatest military minds in history.