General Douglas A. MacArthur: Soldier
MacArthur was born on Jan.26, 1880, in Little Rock, Arkansas. His father, General Arthur MacArthur, served with distinction in the American Civil and Spanish-American wars and was military governor of the Philippines under President William McKinley. They are the only father and son to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Douglas MacArthur graduated from the United States military Academy at West Point, NY, in 1903 with the highest scholastic record achieved by any cadet in 25 years. He rose steadily in the army and demonstrated his bravado on a secret mission to Mexico in 1914. In WWI he commanded a brigade in combat in France (1918), where he earned a reputation for bravery (wounded three times) as well as foppery—he carried a muffler and a riding prop into the line, but not a helmet or a gas mask. After the war he was appointed superintendent of West Point. Only 39 years old, he was the youngest superintendent in the history of the academy. In 1930, he was made chief of staff of the army by President Hoover. He becomes the youngest full general in American History.
From 1935–41 he served as the military adviser to the Philippine government. In July 1941, he was named commander of the US forces in the Far East. That December the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. They launched another attack on the Philippines, but MacArthur stood firm. Under his command 12,000 American and 35,000 Filipino troops put up fierce resistance. Besieged on the Bataan peninsula, they delayed the Japanese “timetable of conquest” and gave the United States time to assess the situation.
On Feb. 22, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a secret message to MacArthur commanding him to break through the Japanese lines and go to Australia. There he was to take command of the allied forces in the South Pacific. MacArthur’s promise to the Filipinos “I shall return,” game them the courage through more than three years on Japanese occupation.
From 1942 to 1945, MacArthur organized an island-hopping offensive that resulted in his forces landing on Leyte, one of the Philippine islands on Oct. 20, 1944. Less than a year later, on Sept. 2, 1945, MacArthur, as commander-in-chief of the Pacific, accepted Japan’s surrender.
At the outbreak of hostilities in Korea in 1950, he became commander of the United Nation forces. He directed the Inchon offensive that forced the invading North Koreans to surrender most of their gains. When the Chinese began fighting alongside the North Koreans in November 1950, he forcefully advocated an extension of the war into China. This led to conflict with President Truman, who relieved MacArthur from command on April 11, 1951. This caused great controversy. MacArthur and his family returned to the United States and received a hero’s welcome he had not yet enjoyed.
In a speech before Congress, he announced his retirement from active military service with the now famous line from an old military ballad, “Old soldiers never die—they just fade away.” He lived out his final years as a much-honored hero. MacArthur died in Washington, DC on April 5, 1964. He was buried in the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, VA.
A symbol of American determination and fighting ability, General Douglas A. MacArthur ranks as an imaginative, sometime brilliant military commander. His defense of the Philippines in WWII proved crucial to the war effort, and as commander-in-chief in the Pacific, accepted Japan’s surrender. He garnered the respect of his troops and the admiration of the nation. He retired from the army a 5 star general and hero.
Find out more about this great man by listening to two of his greatest speeches:
1. “DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY” (33 minutes)
West Point, May 12, 1962
Address to the cadets at West Point Military Academy
2. ADDRESS TO CONGRESS (36 minutes 34 seconds)
Washington, D.C., April 19, 1951
Address to Congress with the citation of the old military song, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”
Run time a total of 69 minutes 34 seconds:
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