The General Douglas MacArthur was and still remains to be a controversial figure. Some praise him for his many achievements and see his career as illustrious; others have criticized his tactics and see him as having been overzealous and egotistical. Aside from public opinion it is hard to argue against the facts, General MacArthur served a long career as a commander for the United States military and earned many awards for heroic acts.
On January 26th, 1880 at the Arsenal Barracks in Little Rock, Arkansas Douglas MacArthur was born to Arthur Jr. and Pinky MacArthur. His father was a United States Army Captain who had served for the Union during the Civil War. Douglas was born with big shoes to fill, as his father had earned the Congressional Medal of Honor during his time served in the Civil War. The family lived a the transient life of a military family. Douglas grew up hopping from army post to army post across the American Western Frontier. In 1889 his family settled for four years in Washington, DC and than moved to San Antonio, Texas in 1893.
While in Texas, MacArthur grew to the age were he could enroll in a military academy. He attended the West Texas Military Academy where he excelled academically and was active in many extracurricular activities such as tennis, football and baseball. He graduated as the valedictorian. West Point became the next goal in his educational career. Both his grandfather, a federal judge and his father, an army general, petitioned for his admission into the prestigious school. In 1899 he was finally admitted into West Point. Life was not always easy there for him. His mother moved into a building directly across from his dorm so she could keep a close watch on him. Due to his mother's protective presence and because of having a famous military father he was the target of hazing. In spite of the hardships with some of his peers he graduated top of his class in 1903.
Upon graduating from West Point he joined the 3rd Engineer Battalion. In October 1903 he was sent to the Philippines. Shortly after arriving he was ambushed by two Filipino guerrillas while on duty. For proving to be an apt soldier, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in April 1904. Unfortunately in October later that year he contracted malaria among other illnesses and had to return to the United States. San Francisco was the new destination, where he was appointed to the California Debris Commission, which was project that sought to alleviate environmental issues caused by the gold mining industry. In 1905 he became Chief Engineer of the Military Division of the Pacific. He was called to Tokyo to aid his father. In Japan they inspected military bases together. The job led them across further across Asia, throughout India and China.
Called back to America in September of 1906 he was assigned to the 2nd Engineer Battalion at the Washington Barracks and joined the engineer school. Douglas' first command was assigned in April of 1918. It was the Company K, 3rd Engineer Battalion/Fort Leavenworth. In 1909 he was promoted to the Battalion Adjutant and in 1910 was bumped up further to Engineer Officer and finally in 1911 he was appointed to the rank of Captain. He was made head of the Military Engineering Department and the Field Engineering School. Unfortunately, in 1912 MacArthur's father died suddenly and so he traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to comfort and care for his ailing mother. He requested a transfer to Washington, DC where he could keep his mother near the renowned John's Hopkins Hospital.
In 1914 he experienced his first direct involvement with warfare. He was ordered to participate in the Occupation of Vera Cruz during the Mexican Revolution. He directed a reconnaissance mission that sought to locate locomotives to transport important supplies and people along the Vera Cruz railway. He was ambushed on the mission but made it out alive and had located three working trains. For his valiant efforts he was nominated for the Medal of Honor but did not receive it for this instance.
Several years later, the United States entered WWI and declared war on Germany. In 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson called the National Guard into service, MacArthur suggested that units would be pulled from several different states so as to not appear biased toward one state. His advice was heeded and the 42nd (Rainbow) Division was created. He was promoted to the rank of colonel and was made chief of staff of the 42nd (Rainbow) Division. The division left for France on October 18th, 1917. In February 1918 The division entered the front lines in the Luneville sector. On the 26th of February he participated in a French trench raid, for which he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. He was also nominated for the Silver Star retroactively and received the medal on August 8th, 1932. His division operated three of their own raids for which he would earn the Distinguished Service Cross. In June 1918 he was promoted to Brigadier General and he and his 42nd Division moved on to Chalons-en-Champagne to oppose the German's Champagne-Marne Offensive. He would receive both his second, third, and fourth Silver Stars for his efforts in Chalons-en-Champagne. The 42nd Division trekked on to the Battle of Saint-Mihiel in September 1918. After participating in operations and raids there he earned his fifth and sixth Silver Star Medals. He participated in the strike on the Meuse-Argonne Offensive where he was wounded while finding a gap in the barbed wire. He was again nominated for the Medal of Honor but was awarded his second Distinguished Service Cross. His last engagement in WWI occurred in November 1918. During the scuffle allied units were confused and MacArthur was taken captive under the false assumption that he was a German General. He earned his seventh Silver Star for this.
in 1919 he returned to the United States and was appointed as the superintendent of West Point. He strove to elevate the education provided there and sought to modernize the curriculum in order to improve the quality of officers that would graduate from the program. He left the job in 1922. Also in that year he married his first wife Louise Cromwell Brooks. In October 1922 he took his wife and her children and moved them to the Philippines where he took command of the military district of Manila. In 1924 he helped put down a mutiny of disgruntled Philippine military members and also listened to the grievances of these people and tried his best to solve the problems.
In 1925 he returned to the United States and on January 17th he was promoted to the rank of Major General. He initially was given a command position at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Georgia. Unfortunately the wounds from the Civil War were still fresh and he was resented for his Union allied father. He was transferred to a fort in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1927 he divorced his wife and in 1928 he was appointed to the position of president of the American Olympic Committee. Always striving to further the strong American image he saw the competitors as representatives of the United States and encouraged them to win as much as possible.
The United States Army called him back and he became Chief of Staff in 1930. In 1932 his friend Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected as president. He helped create the Civilian Conservation Corps, a part of the new deal program which in part sought to create jobs during the depression. In 1935 the Philippines was granted some autonomy and became it's own commonwealth. The Philippine president requested he return to oversee the development of the Philippine Army. He was appointed Field Marshall of the Philippine Army in 1936. He modeled the training after what he learned at West Point. In 1937 he retired from the army and he married his second wife Jean Faircloth in August of the same year.
Four years later, in 1941, he was called out of retirement by FDR to serve in WWII. He was initially assigned the position of commander of the United States Army Forces but was promoted to lieutenant general the very next day. He was stationed in familiar territory, the Philippines. On December 8th, 1941, disaster struck and Japanese surprise attacked the Far East Air Forces and destroyed them. Next the Japanese invaded the Philippines. MacArthur tried his best to fight them off but his forces were greatly outnumbers and he was forced to retreat to a small peninsula on the Island which held until May 1942. However, MacArthur was not there to see it fall; in March 1942, FDR commanded him and his family to escape to Australia. He received the Medal of Honor for his efforts to defend the Philippines and also as a message to the Japanese. In April 1942 he became the Supreme Commander of the allied military forces in the Southwest Pacific area. He primarily operated out of Australia but battled across various South Pacific Islands, defending them from the Japanese military. He was awarded the Bronze Star during this time period.
In Hawaii in July of 1944 he met with FDR and other officials in order to discuss a game plan for Japan. MacArthur, cognizant of the promise he made to return, stressed the importance of liberating the Philippines from the Japanese. He was charged with leading the mission to reclaim the Philippines in October of 1944. On December 16th, 1944 he was promoted to Five Star rank General of the Army. He is one of only five men to do so. In February of 1945 he battled for three weeks in order to recapture Manila. For this he received his third Distinguished Service Cross. He worked tirelessly to liberate the remainder of the Philippines and for that he would receive his fourth Distinguished Service Cross in July of 1945.
On September 2nd, 1945 General Douglas MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender. He was tasked with overseeing the occupation of Japan. A position he held from 1945 until 1951. He served as the interim leader of the Japanese nation from 1945 until 1948. MacArthur's influence on Japan was incredibly influential. Through focusing on economical, political, and social changes, he helped to shape the country into the industrious powerhouse that it is today.
The Korean War was in a sense, the undoing of General Douglas MacArthur's war career. In June of 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea and the United Nations took charge of the altercation. MacArthur was requested to command all the troops defending South Korea. In spite of his determined efforts the eventual involvement of the Chinese military fighting for the North Korean army would prove to be overwhelming. The General wanted to pursue the engagement with the Chinese army by utilizing a nuclear attack. Many did not see this as a wise plan. Criticism began to circulate about his command and he openly aired his grievances about President Truman. It was decided to remove him from his post and return him to the United States.
Although he was brought home to resign his position, he was welcomed back with great warmth from the American people. The majority of the United States citizens saw him as a hero at the time and many did not agree with his removal. On April 11th, 1951 his position was stripped away from him by President Harry S. Truman. At his resignation speech he was famous for saying, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away."
The remainder of his life was spent living in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City with his wife Jean. In 1960 at the age of 80 he had a medical episode that made him realize he probably did not have much time left here on earth. He began to close the chapters of his life. In 1961 he returned to the Philippines where he was awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor. The rights to his memoirs were sold and later published under the title Reminiscences. During the Bay of Pigs Invasion, President John F. Kennedy sought his counsel. JFK also asked for his advice in 1963 to solve a conflict with several American athletic associations, as the conflict was preventing the United States involvement in the 1964 Summer Olympics.
On April 5th, 1964 General Douglas MacArthur passed away from liver complications. President Kennedy honored him with a grand funeral. Many would say that MacArthur's ambitions sometimes got the best of him, however, his legacy can not be easily forgotten. In spite of frequently being outnumbered in battles he always fought his hardest. He helped shape two Asian nations into what they are today. Japan might not have been the commercial success it is today with out his guidance and the Philippines might not have maintained their independence. His namesake has been used for many public works and streets. There is even an annual award named after him that acknowledges the exceptional performance of company grade officers and junior warrant officers. Whatever ones opinion is of General MacArthur, it cannot be denied that he accomplished a great deal in his life time and made his mark on the world.
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