General Douglas MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur, West  Point, 1903

Douglas MacArthur, West Point, 1903

Acheson warned Truman of the home front unrest that might result from MacArthur’s dismissal and General Marshall felt the general should be brought home for “consultation,” but after pressure, he withdrew his suggestion.

In reply to the rumors of his dismissal, MacArthur sent a defiant letter to Gen. Bradley. Representative Martin read this letter on the floor of the House. Truman, fearing the political upheaval of firing MacArthur, stated he would leave the decision up to the military.

Manila, 1945

Manila, 1945

When Truman was told that if the general ever got wind of his definite dismissal, he might resign. The president became furious, “The son of a bitch isn’t going to resign on me. I want him fired!” To precede any actions of MacArthur, Truman then made an official statement – a broadcast on the radio, 10 April 1951 at 1:00 am.

11 & 13 April, while the newspapers were preoccupied with stories on MacArthur, the Joint Chiefs of Staff secretly approved the general’s plan to “send a message” to Beijing. The operation, off the coast of China, in the Taiwan Strait, was to show force and obtain photographs; 20 warships and 140 planes would participate.

MacArthur's desk - as he left it.

MacArthur’s desk – as he left it.

Secretary of the Army, Pace, received a call at the Command Post of the 5th RCT/24th Division, “You will advise General Matthew Ridgeway that he is now the supreme commander of the Pacific… You will proceed to Tokyo where you will assist Gen. Ridgeway… in assuming his command.” Pace had the messenger repeat his orders a second time due to their importance.

MacArthur kept a stiff upper lip and said upon receiving the news to Ambassador William Sibald, “Publicly humiliated after 52 years of service in the Army.” When Ridgeway arrived in Tokyo on 12 April, MacArthur said, “If it had been up to me to pick my successor, I would have chosen you.”

MacArthur addressing 50,000 at Soldier's Field, Chicago, April 1951

MacArthur addressing 50,000 at Soldier’s Field, Chicago, April 1951

The home front Gallup Poll had MacArthur’s popularity at 69% in sympathy with the general. Truman, upon arriving at the Washington Senator’s baseball game was booed. In Ponca City, OK, a dummy of the president was burned in effigy. PFC William Hayward related that despite the shortages they had in the 674th Tactical Control Squadron, none of their liabilities were due to MacArthur. He said from commanding officers on down, the air crews were irate about his being sacked. In other units, the troops merely shrugged; the change in the higher command did nothing to alter their situations.

While most major newspapers supported Truman, the “Chicago Tribune” suggested that the president could be impeached for ordering troop to the Korean front without a declaration of war. The famous Walter Winchell called the dismissal the “greatest scandal in American history.” Equally famous, author James Mitchner, was on the critical side with his views.

Japanese school children were given a holiday and throngs of genuinely sorrowful Japanese gathered along the route from the American embassy to the airport on 16 April as MacArthur went to board the “Bataan.” Over a loud-speaker, in Japanese for those unable to see the procession, sounded, “Good-bye, General MacArthur.” Banners were hung that read, Sayonara, we Love You, We Are Grateful to the General and With Sincere Regret. As the MacArthur party went up the plan’s ramp, the Army band played, “Auld Lang Syne.”

MacArthur's parade, NYC 20 April 1951

MacArthur’s parade, NYC 20 April 1951

MacArthur returned to the United States to a hero’s welcome that included a ticker tape parade in Manhattan, attracting 7 million spectators. But, the talk of running the general as a Republican presidential candidate faded away.

MacArthur's farewell speech to Congress

MacArthur’s farewell speech to Congress

19 April 1951, Gen. Douglas MacArthur addressed a joint meeting of Congress where he repeated his statement, “In war, there can be no substitute for victory.” And in conclusion: “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. Goodbye.”

*********** General Douglas MacArthur (26 January 1880 – 5 April 1964)***********

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Farewell Salutes –

Hugh Harvey – Childs, MD; US Coast Guard, WWII

James Bloom – NY & W. Palm Bch., FL; US Army, WWII

Gilbert Butts – W.Palm Bch., FL; US Army (Ret.) Sgt.

Gerald Smith – Dallas, TX; US Navy, Captain (Ret.) Korea

Harold Hayward – White Plains, NY; 761st Tank Battalion, WWII

Albert Dubuc – Springfield, MA & Lake Worth, FL; US Air Force, MSgt, PTO

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Click images to enlarge.

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Personal note – Please relay all correspondence thru the blogs. Anything sent to my personal e-mail goes directly to spam and is discarded. I value all of you and want to hear what you have to say, so please add it here. (If you wish, I will delete the message after it is read.) Thank you for your cooperation.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on October 4, 2013, in Korean War and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 83 Comments.

  1. I have read McArthur’s biography twice. He was quite a man and that’s putting it mildly. Perhaps the last Commander that knew how to win a war. For which he paid a heavy price. Not likely to see his match again.

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  2. I like the details that you add that hardly anyone else has written about; like the playing of Auld Lang Syne. That’s something I never knew before, and it gives nuance to the event.

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  3. I visited his tomb and memorial in Norfolk, Virginia earlier this year. A fitting tribute to the man

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  4. I’ve always wondered what would the outcome have been if Truman had let him have his way in Korea.

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  5. I live in Chicopee, Massachusetts, the birthplace of General Douglas McArthur’s father, Lieutenant General Arthur McArthur. He is memorialized in the center of Chicopee Falls with a large marble “globe” which is well known in the area as “McArthur’s Ball”. It is positioned at one of the busiest intersections in Chicopee which, sadly, means that many people drive by but may not pay any attention to it while dodging traffic! I’ll try to get a good photo of it in the next few days is the sun comes out again!!

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  6. In this sentence before Congress, he told everyone listening precisely why he was fired. Because Truman didn’t share in this belief. “In war, there can be no substitute for victory.”

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  7. I went to work in Oakland in 1962 and drove down MacArthur Blvd every day. The street was named after Arthur MacArthur, hero of the Spanish-American War. Then they built I-580 and the part that runs through Oakland roughly paralleling MacArthur Blvd was called the MacArthur Freeway, named after Arthur’s son Douglas. And the junction of three freeways (including the MacArthur) at the east end of the Bay Bridge is called the MacArthur Maze. Isn’t it fitting that one of the most complex freeway interchanges in the country (and perhaps the world) is named after this complex person?

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  8. I remember when my science teacher in junior high school began to cry a bit – she just got a sheet of paper announcing the passing of MacArthur. Indeed, he was loved by many so soon after an ugly war.

    It is odd my (mom’s side of the) family never talked about MacArthur. Perhaps it was because just behind the Dai-Ichi Sei Mei Building in which MacArthur had his HQ was Shimbashi/Ginza. My mom’s home was there in Shimbashi 5-chome but nothing remained. I do believe without MacArthur’s astuteness, the Occupation would not have been the success it was.

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  9. I have my students read the AMVETS response to Truman….supporting his decision. It speaks volumes.

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  10. I am embarrassed to admit that I never realized or learned the finer details about MacArthur’s ouster. The whole thing had to have truly left him broken inside.
    One of the comments here talked of the President’s reliance upon his top military leaders to make his decisions…and I cannot help but think about the current POTUS…who seems not so much as to rely, but to me, to DEFY, the expertise and wisdom of those who are entrusted as advisors…times have certainly changed the way things are done.

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  11. gp,

    MacArthur is a fascinating and, of course, controversial figure in American military annals.

    I reported as a West Point plebe a year after he gave his final speech to the Corps of Cadets, a transcript of which is available here:

    http://www.nationalcenter.org/MacArthurFarewell.html

    Although I missed the presentation of this speech, when MacArthur died in April of 1964 a recording of it was played for the Corps. Whatever else might be said about the man, he exhibited a life-long dedication to West Point which was extraordinary and his farewell to the Corps was quite moving.

    Referring to the Academy’s motto, “Duty, Honor, Country”, the general remarked, somewhat diffidently, “… I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.”

    And then proceeded to demonstrate the very eloquence, imagination and brilliance that he disclaimed, concluding:

    “In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country. Today marks my final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps. I bid you farewell.”

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    • James, I can not thank you enough for that story and link. It gave me chills and I hope it does the same for my readers here. I thank you for your service as well! (In you opinion as a reporter – How am I doing?)

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  12. I love reading your blog. It’s amazing — history you never really hear. I’ve definitely got some catching up to do! 🙂

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  13. Love the West Point photo. It’s a sad story in lots of ways. Puts me in mind of a recent item in the news http://tribune.com.pk/story/612237/war-in-afghanistan-two-us-generals-sacked-over-security-lapse/ It is not in the same league, I suppose, but imagine if the same high standards were applied to politicians 😉

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  14. Mac Arthur is a fascinating character . I forget how many years he had never set foot in America until he was fired and returned . It would be good to survey the military view of the man and his operations . His myth lives on at any rate .

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    • It was 14 years, I know you’re thinking longer, but he had been back for meetings. Yes, Dan, he was quite the flamboyant character (I wonder how he would have gotten along with Monty?)

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  15. Thanks so much for the back story to the quote we’ve all heard about fading away. It also clears up a lot for me about why there were such mixed feelings about MacArthur in my home as I was growing up. Dad was a WWII veteran who had served under MacArthur in the Philippines and Okinawa, but supported Roosevelt and Truman and voted Democrat. Mom’s family were Republicans.

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    • Wow, you DID grow up with mixed feelings in the house. My father, Smitty fought under him, he could see his faults (like his big ego), but appreciated and respected his military intelligence. Thanks for the comment, Susan.

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  16. gpcox – When I recorded the memories of my father and my uncles, Dave, the youngest, who was in Okinawa and Manilla, told me this story.

    “I had a friend who had a friend who was MacArthur’s driver, chauffeur, and this guy said that whenever MacArthur went in some place, he’d always get one of those oriental houses where there was a porch all the way around the building. He’d have his staff come up and sit in chairs around the building. He’d go up to the first one and say, “Give me your report.” It might be a question, it might be a problem, or it might just be a report. Then he’d go around the whole building, see the whole staff, all giving him these questions. Then he’d get in his car and tell my friend’s friend, “Drive me.” They’d drive around and pretty soon MacArthur would say, “OK, let’s go back.” Then he’d say… “You, … blah, blah, blah. You… blah, blah, blah. He went all around telling each one of his staff members what to do about his problem. What a brain. There shouldn’t be enough room in there for an ego, but there was.”

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  17. Fantastic! And Fascinating!

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  18. Some many stories and so little remembered. Thank god for your attempt at keeping the past alive. We lost a cousin, 92 who was in the war. My father-in-law. tried to work for the OSS in South America where a lot intrigue went on with German infiltration. After the war Argentina became a haven for many Nazi’s. The Boys of Brazil was fiction but the premise of Germans in Argentina and the South American was very real.

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    • So I understand. So. Amer. is rarely mentioned in WWII stories, but they were sneaky and worked under wraps. Judy, at Greatest Generation Lessons, had an uncle who was there during WWII, he is mentioned in my guest post about the Technical and Ground Forces.

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  19. Thanks… this is indeed a fascinating post and I’m always surprised, even after all these years, to read how the reports/ recollections from the USofA of Mc Arthur’s time here, downunder differs so much from reports here in Australia, of Mc Arthur’s decisionmaking when we had the Japanese tramping down through New Guinea and right on OUR doorstep!
    Guess none of us can please everyone, eh? 😆

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    • That’s for sure. I went into the newspaper archive for Australia in the beginning posts on WWII and will probably be back into them when I return to WWII; it does seem Australia appreciated our general better than Americans did. Thanks for dropping in.

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  20. There were a lot of reasons, some unknown to me, but the Chicago Trib HATED Truman. Maybe it was the great Chicago/St. Louis rivalry? 😉
    Nicely done. I’m glad for history’s sake Mac never ran for president. “Plays well with others” was never really high on his CV. 😀

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    • I don’t think President would have been a good spot for Mac either, but at his age, after 52 years in the service, you’d think they could find a better way to get him to retire.

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  21. Thanks so much for your very sweet message on my blog. It is nice to be missed. I have had long term health troubles that I had hoped would improve after getting a diagnosis 2 years ago. Unfortunately the diagnosis turned out to be incorrect, so I kept getting worse and worse (bad advice and incorrect medication didn’t help).

    I have now got hope that I have a definitive answer to my woes (hopefully to be confirmed by a genetic test, once I have saved up for it to be done) so hope to be able to at least get a blog post per week done one day. Unfortunately the illness is not curable and so far the new therapy isn’t helping but I am told I need to be patient, which is hard as I have been unable to work for 3 years now.

    I used to do most of my blogging lying down, but cannot manage even that at the moment. I occasionally get the energy to read a blog post or two but nowhere near as often as I’d like to.

    Hope that is not too much information. I apologise for not addressing you by name. My memory is shot to pieces.

    Best wishes

    (Delete after reading please)

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    • So sorry to hear about your condition; I hope the new test helps. I hate to hear of anyone in pain. Perhaps a friend can read to you, doesn’t have to be my blog – I’m thinking more on the line of humor web sites; at least to keep your spirits up. You’ve gone a long time with the wrong diagnosis, it’s time to get better. All my best – and don’t push yourself.

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  22. You don’t get to the top without qualities like drive and ambition.
    You don’t hold your post without the qualities that got you there.
    When there’s only one ‘top dog’ post defined and No 2 Dog wants (at least) parity with No 1 Dog (or freedom from him) fur gets ruffled. In the course of ruffling each other’s fur—they lose track of what it’s all about in the first place.
    So while presidents and generals are calling each other names and in effect sabotaging each other in the pursuit of ego, thousands of miles away grunts freezing in foxholes are getting needlessly stiffed … okay, I think I get it …

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  23. Fascinating person and post!

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  24. Now you caught me unawares…The Marshall Plan is something that I don’t know much about but your comment on it has got me interested in finding out more. I am glad that MacArthur got his due recognition in the end.

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  25. Always enjoy how you tell both sides of the story.

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    • That’s my dad, Smitty coming out in me — there’s always more than one side to ANY story — he said that constantly. Told Mustang Koji, I can’t wait to get into a book I recently acquired written by a Japanese author about the Pacific War. You know very well he be quoted a lot when I get back to WWII.

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  26. Great recounting of a signature moment in American political/military relations! Good job, my friend.

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  27. Great post about an interesting, complex man who deserves to be remembered and not just fade away.

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  28. Finally caught up. Phew !

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  29. I know you focus on the Korean War, but as an Historical Fiction diva, I enjoy grabbing little nuggets out of ral history to make my fiction real.

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  30. I also had a great respect for his persona and his soldiering. Brilliant at West Point he as a general didn’t have that ‘X’ that separates him from George Marshall, his class mate at West Point. MacArthur was first in his class. Marshall made up for it in his correct handling with his Commander in Chief,-the President. Marshall Plan which bears name came in appreciation of the merits of the man.
    There was an incident in one of the Pacific Is. where Truman came to palaver with MacArthur. Whereas MacArthur played a Prima Donna.The subordinate General seemed to jockey for showing off by arriving late with his trademark sunglasses on. Besides his shirt buttons were off. Typical of Truman he ticked him off and the General took it all red in the face and silently. That lack of ‘X’ which is personal and in the manner one connects with those below and above cost him a bid for Presidency that went to Ike another of his classmate far below in school..

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    • There was a definite clash of egos between the two. But, the Marshall Plan, still in effect today is the reason we continue to pay out Foreign aid to every country we find.

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  31. A very nice concise history, fascinating thank you.

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  32. When I taught advanced placement American history I always had the students write a compare/contrast essay MacArthur/Truman – McClellan/Lincoln.

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    • And what were their conclusions on MacArthur/Truman?

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      • The answer I looked for was the conclusion that the president is the commander in chief and evasive conduct represents insubordination. But he also represents civilian control over military. It is the job of our generals to design the most qualified way to accomplish military objectives which is what Mac did. But the president makes his decisions based on military considerations as well and moral, political and economic and international impact considerations too.

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  33. Pierre Lagacé

    Old soldiers never die…

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  34. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    … loving the history lessons!!!

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  1. Pingback: MacArthur (The Rebel General) (1977) | timneath

  2. Pingback: Old Soldiers Never Die, They Just Fade Away… | my30uplife

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