General Douglas MacArthur (United States, 1880-1964)

Figure 1.--Here we see Douglas with his older brother Arthur II about 1884. Doughlas has long hair anmd wears a kilt suit.

Douglas MacArthur was one of Americ's important five-star military commanders in World War II. He had destunuished himself as a courageous divisionjal commander in World War I. He was a modernizing force after the War, serving as commandant of West Point and Chief of Staff of the Army. His right-wing outlook caused him to brutally supress the Bonus Marchers which along with personal scandal tarnished his military career. With rising Japanese military threats, President Roosevelt sent him to the Philippines to organize the Commonwealth's defense. He did some good work, but performned poorly when the Japanese attacked. President Roosevelt ordered him to Australia to organize an Allied counter offensive. Here he performed much more effectively. Ironically, despite his miltary achirvements perhaps his greatest achievement was overseeing the occupation of Japan and helping to create a modern democratic society. MacArthur also comanded United Nations forces in Korea. He engineered the brilliant Inchon landings which broke the back of the North Korean invasion of South Korea. Ignoring warnings of Chinese interbention, he drove north leading to the tragedy of the Chosun Reservoir and the near collapse of the United Nations position. President Truman finally fired him for insubordination.


Douglas' grandfather Arthur MacArthur emigrated from Scotland as a boy. He became a respdected jurist in washingtoin, D.C. Douglas' father was Arthur MacArthur II a Civil War hero and high-ranking army officer. He was a teenage llieutenant who quickly was given command of a regiment. He was awarded the Congressioinal Medal of Honor during the fifgting on Missioary Ridge. Douglas's mother was Mary Pinkney Hardy of a destinguished Virginia family. Four brothers fought for the Confederacy. Two were killed and the two who survived refused tonattend her wedding because she married a yankee. She proved to be a doting mother, perhaps losing one of her sons was a factor here.


Douglas was born in Little Rock, Arkansas (1880). He was brought up on military posts and was to say that thecearliest sounds he recalled as a boy were buggel calls. He grew up with his brother Athur III. The middle brother Malcomb died when all three boys contracted measles. Douglas was very young (1883). Arthur and Douglas were very close. Arthur persued a naval career, but died atr avery early age.


Dougls was not a notable scholar as a boy. He managed, however, to graduate first in his 93-man class, at U.S. Military Academy at West Point (1903).

Early Military Career

Upon gradyating from West Point, MacArthur was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Corps of the Engineers. The Army sent him to the Philippines where a guerilla war had developed after the United States seized the Islands in the Spanish American War (1898-99). MacArthur was involved in fire fights with Fhulipino rebels, desplaying great courage. While in the Philippines, MacArthur was promoted to first lieutenant. He joined his father who was serving in Far East. He became aide-de-camp to President Theodore Roosevelt (1906). MacArthur carried out general staff duty at the War Department. He was an official observer during the Vera Cruz Expedition when the U.S. Navy seized the Mexican port. General Leonard Wood recommended MacArthur's promotion to major.

World War I

America after Germany reinstituted unconditional submarine warfare entered World War I (April 1917). The U.S. Army at the time was minisule and went through an enormous expansion. Junior officers like MacArthur were rapidly promoted. He commanded the 42nd Division or Rainbow Division on the Western Front in France. MacArthur was decorated 13 times and cited additional times for personal bravery. He was Promoted to brigadier (August 1918). He became the youngest American divisional commander (November 1918). He also acquired a reputation for histronics.

Inter-War Era

MacArthur became a brigadier general in the much reduced post-War Army. He served as superintendent of West Point, the youngest man ever to do so (1919). He oversaw major changes at West Point, increasing its size and and modernized the curriculum. The Arrmy sent MacArthur BACK To the Philippines to command the Military District of Manila. MacArthur was appointed the Army's youngest full general (1928). He was appointed president of the American Olympic Committee. MacArthur was appointed chief of staff of the US Army (1930). He was active in this post and worked to modernize the Army. At the tome it was a small force of only 135,000 men. It is at this time that Mac Arthur begins to make public statements exhibiting a strident right-wing outlook. The groth of left-wing thought as a result of the Depression caused him great concern. This outlook undoubtedly affected his approach to the Bonus Marchers. MacArthur oversaw the use of tanks, cavalry, and infantry with fixed bayonets to desperse the veterans encampment in Washington, D.C. MacArthur claimed that the Bonus Army was leading a communist revolution, a perposterous claim. Both Dwight D. Eisenhower and George Patton were involved in the operation. MacArthur was critized in the press and was also plagued by personal scandal.

The Philippines

A glance at the map of the Pacific makes it clear that if Japan was to have an empire in Southeast Asia, it also needed the Philippines which sat astride the sea routes, The rise of the militarists in Japan and there increasing beligerence posed a threat to American interests in the Pacific, especially the Philippines's. President Roosevelt sent MacArthur to the Philippines to organize the defence of the Islands. MacArthur retired in 1937 but stayed on the at the request of the Commonwealth Giovernment to become the country's military adviser. The Japanese joined the Axis and their actions in Indo-China and the American resonse caused a steady spiral in relations. American-Japanese negotiations broke down (June 1941). President Roosevelt recalled MacArthur to active duty as a major general. Congress approved $10 million to mobilize the Philippine Army. The Army sent 100 B-17 Flying Fortress to bolster Philipino defenses. Japan only a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor attacked the American forces in the Philippines. Bombers from Formosa (Taiwan) destroying most of the Air Corps planes on the ground at Clark Field, the center of American air power on the Philippines. Even though MacArthur had reports of the attack on Pearl Harbor several hours before the Japanese struck, no measure were taken to prepare for the Japanese attack. The Philippines was considered to be beyond the range of Japanese land-based air craft. As a result, the American and Philipino forces were able to offer little resistance to the Japanese invasion ar Lingayen Gulf to the north of Manila. MacArthur decided to base the defense of the Philippines on Bataan. He declared Manila and open city and concentrated his forces there. Tragically there was no time to transfer the needed supplies for his forces. The American and Philippino forces in Batan put up a valliant defense, but ran out of food and amunition. The devestated Pacific Fleet was unable to resupply them. President Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to Australia before General Wainright was forced to surrender. America soon learned of Japanese attrocities during the Bataan Death, further fueling American hatred of the Japanese.

Reader Comment

An HBC contributor commented that General Douglas MacArthur was raised as a girl. HBC stresses that it is a misnomber to say that MacArthur and other children born in the 19th Century were raised as girls. It is true that he wore dresses as a little boy. But this was the case for most boys, especially boys from families of comfortable circumstance. This does not mean they were raised as girls. McArthur grew up on western miltary posts and had quite a vigorous boyhhood. It is true, however, that his mother looked after him even as an older boy, even taking an apartment at West Point.


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Created: 5:22 AM 10/14/2005
Last updated: 5:23 AM 10/14/2005