Douglas MacArthur

MacArthur landing at Leyte Beach in 1944.
MacArthur landing at Leyte Beach in 1944.

Douglas MacArthur (January 26, 1880April 5, 1964) was an American military leader. He is the most decorated soldier in the history of the United States military. He served in the U.S. Army most of his life, taking part in three major wars (World War I, World War II, Korean War) and rising to the rank of General of the Army, one of only nine people to hold that rank in U.S. history. President Manuel L. Quezon of the Philippines also made him a Field Marshal in 1937, the only American to ever hold such a rank, which he held until his death.

During World War II, MacArthur became famous for both losing and retaking the Philippines. He was appointed Supreme Allied Commander in the South West Pacific Area and led a series of military victories by Allied forces in the theatre. After Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945, MacArthur became the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, rebuilding Japan during the Allied occupation. During the Korean War, MacArthur was removed from command for insubordination to U.S. President Harry S. Truman, causing a national controversy.

MacArthur remains one of the most controversial figures in American history. While greatly admired by many for his strategic and tactical brilliance, MacArthur is also criticized by many for his actions in command, such as his role in putting down the Bonus Army, his command in the Philippines and New Guinea, and his challenge to Truman during the Cold War. MacArthur was also criticized for his egotistical attitude.


Early life and education

MacArthur was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. His parents were Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur, a recipient of the Medal of Honor during the American Civil War, and Mary Pinkney Hardy MacArthur of Norfolk, Virginia. In 1883, when he was three years old, his other brother, Malcolm, died (his older brother Arthur would later attend the U.S. Naval Academy and die in 1923 as a Captain.) MacArthur spent much of his childhood in remote parts of New Mexico such as Fort Selden, where his father commanded an infantry company. In his memoir Reminiscences, MacArthur wrote that his first memory was the sound of a bugle.

When MacArthur was six years old, his father was reassigned to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Three years later, the MacArthur family moved to Washington, D.C. when Douglas's father took a post at the War Department. There he spent time with his paternal grandfather, Judge Arthur MacArthur, a member of the high-profile Washington political culture that had enormous influence on Douglas.

MacArthur's dad was posted to San Antonio, Texas in 1893. There, Douglas attended the West Texas Military Academy, where he became an excellent student. MacArthur entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1898. An outstanding cadet, he graduated as valedictorian of his 93-man class in 1903, with only two other students in the history of West Point surpassing his achievements. MacArthur became a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where he was a leader in combat engineering.

World War I

During World War I MacArthur served in France, with the 42nd Division. Upon his promotion to Brigadier General (the youngest ever in the Army) he became the commander of the 84th Infantry Brigade.

MacArthur's Mistress

In 1929 MacArthur met Isabel Rosario Cooper, a sixteen-year old Filipina Actress, whom he later took with him to Washington.

The Bonus Army

He spent most of the inter-war period on different assignments in the Philippines. In 1932, while in Washington, D.C. he commanded the troops used to disperse the Bonus Army of First World War veterans who were in the capital protesting against the government's failure to give them benefits. He was accused of using excessive force against a peaceful protest.

Military Advisor to the Philippines

Prior to the inauguration of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, the man widely expected to become the first popularly-elected President of the Philippines was Manuel L. Quezon. He asked MacArthur to supervise the creation of a Philippine Army preparatory to independence. MacArthur accepted and was present at the inauguration of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. Legislation approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt permitted active duty American officers to serve as military advisors overseas, and MacArthur took up residence in the Manila Hotel. Among MacArthur's assistants as Military Advisor to the Commonwealth of the Philippines was Dwight D. Eisenhower. When MacArthur retired from the U.S. Army in 1937, he was made a Field Marshal of the Philippine Army, by President Quezon but returned in July 1941 as commander of United States Army Forces Far East (USAFFE), based in Manila.

World War II

After the United States entered World War II, MacArthur became Allied commander in the Philippines. He courted controversy on several occasions, especially when he overruled his air commander, General Lewis H. Brereton, who had requested permission to launch air attacks against Japanese bases on nearby Formosa. Consequently much of the US Far East Air Force was destroyed on the ground in the Philippines, the prelude to a Japanese invasion. His headquarters during the period of defeat in the Philippines was in the island fortress of Corregidor, while his making only one trip to the front lines in Bataan led to the disparaging moniker and ditty, "Dugout Doug." In March 1942, as Japanese forces tightened their grip on the Philippines, MacArthur was ordered by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt to relocate to Melbourne, Australia. MacArthur's famous speech, in which he said "I came out of Bataan and I shall return", was made at Terowie, South Australia on March 20. During this period President Manuel L. Quezon decorated him with the Philippine Distinguished Conduct Star.

MacArthur became Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) and took command of Australian, US, Dutch and other Allied forces defending Australia, fighting mainly in and around New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies. He later moved SWPA headquarters to Brisbane, Australia. MacArthur's forces eventually achieved success, overrunning Japanese resistance in 1943 and 1944.

MacArthur's handling of the Australian forces under his command during this time has been the subject of much criticism, both by his contemporaries and subsequent historians. During 1942, MacArthur controlled more Australian than US forces. However, it has been claimed that he decreed that all Australian victories would be reported as "Allied victories", while American victories would be reported as American. It is also a widely-held view that, from mid-1943 onwards, MacArthur confined the Australian Army divisions under his command to tough and largely irrelevant actions, while reserving the more prestigious actions for his own nation's troops. As a result, there is an enduring antipathy towards MacArthur in Australia.

American forces under MacArthur's command took back the Philippines in October 1944, fulfilling MacArthur's vow to return to the Philippines and consolidating their hold on the archipelago after heavy fighting. In September 1945 MacArthur received the formal Japanese surrender which ended World War II. He was awarded and received the Medal of Honor for his leadership in the Southwest Pacific Theater. Philippine President Sergio Osmeña also decorated him with the Philippines' highest military award, the Medal of Valor.

Post-World War II

After World War II, MacArthur served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP). His first responsibility was overseeing the reconstruction in Japan. Though it was officially an effort of the Allies, the US was firmly in control, and MacArthur was effectively the dictator of Japan during this period. In 1946, MacArthur's staff created the constitution that is in use in Japan to this day. MacArthur handed over power to the newly-formed Japanese government in 1949, and remained in Japan until relieved by President Truman on April 11, 1951. Truman replaced SCAP leader MacArthur with General Ridgway of the Armed Forces.

Missing image
General MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito.

After the surprise attack of the North Korean army in June 1950 started the Korean War, the United Nations General Assembly authorized a United Nations (UN) force to help South Korea. MacArthur led the UN coalition counter-offensive, noted for an amphibious landing behind North Korean lines in the Battle of Inchon. As his forces approached the Korea-China border, the Chinese warned they would become involved. During his trip to Wake Island to meet with President Truman, MacArthur was specifically asked by President Truman about Chinese involvement in the war. MacArthur was dismissive.

On October 25, 1950, the People's Liberation Army attacked across the Yalu River, forcing the U.N forces to embark on a lengthy retreat. MacArthur sought an extension of the conflict into China, but President Truman refused his request. Later declassified documents indicate that MacArthur wanted to use nuclear weapons on Chinese territory, some sources suggesting as many as 50. A nuclear strike may have drawn the Soviet Union into the war and perhaps launched a Third World War. Truman feared a nuclear exchange and needless Chinese deaths. After heated arguments between the two men, Truman relieved MacArthur of his duty on April 11, 1951. General Matthew B. Ridgway replaced MacArthur and stabilized the situation near the 38th parallel.

Missing image


MacArthur returned to Washington (his first time in the continental US in 11 years), where he made his last public appearance in a farewell address to the U.S. Congress, interrupted by thirty ovations. In his closing speech, he mused: "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away."

On his return from Korea, after his relief by Truman, MacArthur encountered massive public adulation, which aroused expectations that he would run for the US presidency as a Republican in 1952. However, a Senate Committee investigation of his removal, chaired by Richard Russell, contributed to a marked cooling of the public mood and, once his presidential hopes had died away, MacArthur spent the remainder of his life quietly in New York, except for a spectacular "sentimental journey" to the Philippines in 1961, when he was decorated by President Carlos P. Garcia with the Philippine Legion of Honor, rank of Chief Commander.

MacArthur and his second wife, Jean Faircloth, are buried together in downtown Norfolk, Virginia; their burial site is in a small museum dedicated to his memory, and there is a major shopping mall named for him across the street from the burial site. The couple's son changed his surname and now lives anonymously as a saxophonist in the New York area.

MacArthur's nephew, Douglas MacArthur II, served as a diplomat for several years.

Military career

Dates of rank

  • Second Lieutenant, United States Army: June 11, 1903
  • First Lieutenant, United States Army: April 23, 1904
  • Captain, United States Army: February 27, 1911
  • Major, United States Army: December 11, 1915
  • Colonel, National Army: August 5, 1917
  • Brigadier General, National Army: June 26, 1918
  • Brigadier General rank made permanent in the Regular Army: January 20, 1920
  • Major General, Regular Army: January 17, 1925
  • General for temporary service as Army Chief of Staff: November 21, 1930
  • Major General rank listed on Regular Army retired rolls: October 1, 1935
  • Lieutenant General for temporary service in the Army of the United States: July 27, 1941
  • General, Army of the United States: December 18, 1941
  • General of the Army, Army of the United States: December 18, 1944
  • General of the Army rank made permanent in the Regular Army: March 23, 1946

Notes about components:

  • United States Army: Regular U.S. Armed Forces prior to World War I
  • National Army: Combined conscript and regular United States forces during World War I
  • Regular Army: Regular volunteer forces after 1930. Considered "career" professionals
  • Army of the United States: Combined draft and regular forces of World War II.

Awards and decorations

During his military career, General MacArthur was awarded the following decorations from both the United States and other allied nations. The awards listed below are those which would have been worn on a military uniform and do not include commemorative medals, unofficial decorations, and non-portable awards.

United States

Foreign awards


  • MacArthur had no middle name, though some internet sources variously ascribe him a middle initial of "A", "B", "C", "D", "M", or "S". An archivist at the MacArthur Memorial asserts that MacArthur did wear a monogrammed handkerchief with a middle initial of "A", possibly chosen to indicate his father, but the general had no official middle name.
  • Arthur and Douglas MacArthur were the first father and son to each be awarded a Medal of Honor. They remained the only pair until 2001 when Theodore Roosevelt was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for his service during the Spanish American War. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. had won one for his service during World War II.
  • While MacArthur was famous for smoking a corn cob pipe, in private he actually preferred cigars.
  • MacArthur was considered a very good bridge player, and played often during his years in Australia.

Sources and further reading

  • Breuer, William B. MacArthur's Undercover War: Spies, Saboteurs, Guerrillas, and Secret Missions. Wiley: 1995. ISBN 0471114588.
  • Connaughton, Richard. MacArthur and Defeat in the Philippines. Overlook Press: 2001. ISBN 1585671185.
  • Dower, Jown W., et al. Dear General MacArthur: Letters from the Japanese During the American Occupation. Rowman & Littlefield: 2001. ISBN 0742511154.
  • Green, Michael. Macarthur in the Pacific: From the Philippines to the Fall of Japan. Motorbooks International: 1996. ISBN 0760302022.
  • Gunther, John. The Riddle of MacArthur. Greenwood Press: 1975. ISBN 0837177014.
  • Leary, William M. MacArthur and the American Century: A Reader. University of Nebraska Press: 2001. ISBN 0803229305.
  • MacArthur, Douglas. Reminiscences. United States Naval Institute: 2001. ISBN 1557504830.
  • Manchester, William. American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880–1964. Laurel: 1983. ISBN 0440304245.
  • Perret, Geoffrey. Old Soldiers Never Die: The Life and Legend of Douglas MacArthur. Random House: 1996. ISBN 0679428828.
  • Rovere, Richard H., and Arthur Schlesinger. General MacArthur and President Truman: The Struggle for Control of American Foreign Policy. Transaction Publishers: 1992. ISBN 1560006099.
  • Schaller, Michael. Douglas MacArthur: The Far Eastern General. Replica Books: 2001. ISBN 0735103542.
  • Stephenson, Neal. Cryptonomicon. A novel in which MacArthur appears as a prominent character.
  • Taaffe, Stephen. Macarthur's Jungle War: The 1944 New Guinea Campaign. University Press of Kansas: 1998. ISBN 0700608702.
  • Valley, David J. Gaijin Shogun: General Douglas MacArthur, Stepfather of Postwar Japan. Sektor Company: 2000. ISBN 0967817528.
  • Weintraub, Stanley. MacArthur's War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero. Free Press: 2000. ISBN 0684834197.

Template:Wikiquote Template:Commons

Preceded by:
Charles P. Summerall
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by:
Malin Craig
Preceded by:
Military Governor of Japan
Succeeded by:
Matthew B. Ridgway

Template:End boxbg:Дъглас Макартър de:Douglas MacArthur es:Douglas MacArthur fr:Douglas MacArthur he:דאגלס מקארתור ja:ダグラス・マッカーサー nl:Douglas MacArthur no:Douglas MacArthur pl:Douglas MacArthur pt:Douglas MacArthur sv:Douglas MacArthur zh:道格拉斯·麦克阿瑟


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