General of all U.S. Army forces in the Pacific
Theater of World War II
Douglas MacArthur was born in
Little Rock, Arkansas, on January 26, 1880. He
grew up in a military household, being the son of
General Arthur MacArthur, who served in both the Civil
War and Spanish-American War with distinction. After achieving his
own credentials at the West Texas Military
Academy, in San Antonio, Douglas received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, from which he graduated first in his
class in 1903.
From West Point, MacArthur was
sent to the Philippines,
where he was assigned to the Corps of Engineers.
Promoted to First Lieutenant in 1904, he spent
the next several years in various engineering and
staff posts, including a stint as aide-de-camp to
Theodore Roosevelt and
as a member of President Woodrow Wilson's general staff.
In 1914, acting under orders
from the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army,
MacArthur was sent into Mexico to find locomotives that could
potentially be used by U.S. troops should the
United States have to go to war with that
country. MacArthur was promoted to Major in 1915.
In 1916 he became the Army's first public
relations officer, in which capacity he is
credited with selling the American public on the
Selective Service Act of 1917.
World War I
MacArthur was a full Colonel
when the United States entered the First World War
in 1917. He became Chief of Staff of the 42nd
(Rainbow) Division (which he had organized from a
variety of National Guard units), and, in 1918,
was promoted to Brigadier General. As a
front-line general during the war in France, he
personally led troops at the battles of the
Meuse-Argonne and Saint Mihiel. During the course
of the war he was wounded 3 times, decorated 13
times, and cited for bravery in action 7 times.
Unlike most of his fellow
officers, MacArthur kept his General's commission
after the war. In 1919 he was made Superintendent
of West Point, the youngest man ever to hold that
position. He is credited with making major
improvements to the institution, including a
broadening of the curriculum and a dramatic
increase in its academic standards.
In 1922, MacArthur left his
West Point position for a command in the Philippines.
He returned briefly to the United States in 1925,
was promoted to Major General, and then returned
to the Philippines as Commander of the 3rd Corps.
In 1930, MacArthur became the
youngest 4-Star General in U.S. Army history, as
well as the youngest Chief of Staff of the U.S.
Army. In 1932, acting on orders from President
Herbert Hoover, he
broke up the Bonus Army demonstration in
Washington with a show of force that included
tanks, four troops of cavalry with drawn sabers,
and infantry with fixed bayonets.
In 1935, MacArthur again
returned to the Philippines, this time as a
military adviser to the Philippine government; it
was his job to prepare the islands for
independence. He retired from the Army in 1937,
but stayed in the Philippines as Grand Field
Marshal of the Philippines, in which position he
helped train the Philippine Army for an expected
World War II
By the summer of 1941 Japanese
aggression in the Pacific directly threatened the
Philippines. MacArthur was recalled into active
duty, the entire Philippine Army was inducted
into the Army of the United States, and MacArthur
was named Commander of all U.S. Army forces in
the Far East. The Japanese launched their attack
on the Philippines on December 8, just hours
after their attack on Pearl Harbor. Despite
MacArthur's leadership, the combined
U.S.-Philippine Army was unable to fend off the
Japanese and was forced to withdraw to the Bataan
Peninsula, where it fought valiantly for four
months. Fearing for the safety of his most valued
Pacific commander, President
eventually ordered MacArthur to evacuate the
Philippines. Although the leader in him did not
want to leave his men behind, the soldier in him
would not allow him to disobey direct orders from
the President, so in March 1942 he, his wife, and
his son were taken by a Navy torpedo boat to
Australia, where he became Commander of Allied
Forces in the Southwest Pacific. As he left the
Philippines he made his now-famous declaration:
"I shall return." For his actions in
defending the islands he was awarded the
Congressional Medal of Honor that same year.
Once in Australia, MacArthur
set about planning his strategy for wresting the
Japanese from their Pacific island
"nests." The three-year offensive began
in late 1942. By early 1944 the Allies had freed
most of New Guinea,
New Britain, the Solomons, and the Admiralty
Islands, and were poised to retake the
The retaking of the Philippines
began with a naval bombardment of Leyte Island on
October 20, 1944. The 6th Army, with MacArthur at
its head, landed on Leyte on October 22. Within
six months, most of the Philippines were free.
MacArthur was promoted to
5-Star General in December 1944, and took command
of all American Army forces in the Pacific in
April 1945. In this position he was to be in
charge of the expected Allied invasion of Japan.
That invasion never took place, however, since
Japan finally agreed to surrender following the
bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. MacArthur was
then named Supreme Commander for the Allied
Powers in Japan, in which capacity he accepted
the formal surrender of Japan aboard the
battleship Missouri on September 2 (September 1 in the
United States), 1945.
As the sole administrator of
the occupation government in Japan, MacArthur
earned a reputation for being firm but fair.
Under his direction Japan made a successful
transition from military-led government to
democracy, and subsequently became one of the
world's leading economic powers.
On June 25, 1950, North Korea
invaded South Korea, in violation of an agreement
brokered by the newly-formed United Nations. On
July 14, MacArthur was named Commander of UN
troops in Korea, and soon after launched an
offensive aimed at driving North Korea back to
the 38th Parallel, the UN-negotiated border
between North and South Korea. Unfortunately
MacArthur had little more than a small army of
poorly trained South Korean troops and
"leftover" American troops previously
stationed in Japan with which to fight, and his
forces were pushed all the way down the Korean
Peninsula to the port city of Pusan, which was
defended fiercely for the next three months.
On September 15, having
obtained the troops he needed, MacArthur launched
a daring attack on Inchon, which lay many miles
behind enemy lines. The counter-offensive worked,
and by October 24 UN forces had reached the Yalu
River, the border between Korea and China.
MacArthur hoped to carry the offensive on into
China in order to prevent Chinese Communists from
joining the fight, but was rebuffed by both the
United Nations and President
Chinese Communists did indeed
join the fight, and, on November 24, launched
their own assault. By the end of the year the UN
forces had been pushed back below the 38th
Still prevented from taking the
war into China, MacArthur began publicly
criticizing United Nations and United States
policies in Korea. When he refused to tone down
his criticism, President Harry Truman relieved
him of command, on April 11, 1951.
MacArthur returned to the
United States to a hero's welcome. On April 19,
he addressed a joint session of Congress and
defended his plans for taking the war into China.
It was during this address that he gave the
famous line: "Old soldiers never die; they
just fade away." Settling into a quiet
private life, MacArthur became board chairman of
Remington Rand, Inc. His only venture back into
public life came in 1963, when, at the request of
President John F. Kennedy, he helped settle a dispute between the
National Collegiate Athletic Association and the
Amateur Athletic Association that could have
severely hampered the United States Olympic Team.
General Douglas MacArthur died
at Walter Reed Hospital on April 5, 1964. He was
buried in the crypt of MacArthur Memorial in
World Book Encyclopedia.
Chicago: World Book-Childcraft International,
American Experience: MacArthur
U.S. Military Academy at West Point
First World War
World War II
President John F. Kennedy
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