General Douglas MacArthur, United States Army General, Military Governor of Japan, Supreme Commander United Nations Forces, Korea. Pipe Smoker. b. 1880 d. 1964.
MacArthur was born the son of an American Civil War hero, Arthur MacArthur, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor and commanded American troops in the Philipines during the Philipine Insurrection. Perhaps due to his upbringing as the offspring of a heroic military figure, Douglas MacArthur developed a flamboyant and theatrical personality.
During World War II, MacArthur was given command of the U.S. Army in the Pacific. He developed and executed an island hopping combat strategy against Japan with great success, which gave him the spotlight of war hero fame. Fittingly, MacArthur was aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay to receive the official capitulation of the Japanese government on September 2, 1945. After World War II, he was appointed military governor of Japan. In this newly found political position, his ego grew as a result of success in remodeling the Japanese political landscape and playing a key role in its reconstruction.
Korea would prove to be the theatre for which MacArthur would be best remembered. The political hangover of World War II resulted in a number of issues including the status of Korea. Split into two occupational zones as a result of General Order #1, MacArthur promised the people of Korea that they would be given national independence after the surrender of the Japanese.
The events that followed resulted in the formation of the Republic of Korea, which comprised the southern half of the split country. At the time of Liberation Day, on which South Korea was created, MacArthur delivered a speech promising to defend Korea from communist invasion if such an invasion ever became a threat.
"I shall defend it as I would California." -- Douglas MacArthur, 1945.
Contradicting that statement several years later, MacArthur took a new position more in line with the thinking of Washington. The White House was stating that Korea was outside of the U.S. Defense Perimeter and was not an area of national interest.
"Anyone who commits the American Army in the Asian mainland should have his head examined." -- Douglas MacArthur, 1949.
Just over five months later, war would break out in Korea and Douglas MacArthur would arrive with American troops to mount a defense of the Pusan Perimeter. North Korean aggression towards South Korea would become an issue and bring the United Nations into the conflict. MacArthur was appointed "Supreme Commander" of the United Nations forces with a mandate to drive the North Koreans north of the 38th parallel.
MacArthur's first big move was to land United Nations troops at Inchon Harbor, effectively putting them at the North Korean rear. The resulting victory would force the North Koreans to retreat. Feeling he had the enemy on the run and an opportunity to unify Korea under the United Nations flag, and with authorization from the United Nations General Assembly, MacArthur rushed northward, jumping well over the original objective of the 38th parallel.
The Chinese weren't especially happy about MacArthur's troop movements. They issued a number of warnings, mentioning the possibility of intervention in the war if MacArthur continued northward. President Harry S. Truman was nervous, and at first his fears of war with China were settled by MacArthur's assurances that China was bluffing. MacArthur, too bloated with ego and confidence in his vision, would see no view except for his own. On October 25, 1950, the People's Liberation Army of China attacked the U.N. forces and drove them into retreat.
MacArthur proposed to Truman that they take the war to China. He had no doubt that he himself could handle whatever China might throw at him. Truman rejected the proposal, resulting in MacArthur's open disagreement with his president. MacArthur also openly suggested his solutions were the better solutions in the conflict and that military subordination to a civilian government was chaining him and keeping him from success in the "new war."
In March of 1951, Harry S. Truman relieved General Douglas MacArthur from his command. It is said that he only waited as long as he did because of MacArthur's popularity with the American people and the fear that dismissing him could hurt Truman's political future.