A symbol of American determination and fighting
ability, General Douglas MacArthur, by his defense of the Philippines,
slowed the advance of the Japanese long enough to give the
United States a few crucial weeks to prepare for war. On Dec.
7, 1941, the Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii
without warning. Japan's trained troops then swept down through
East Asia and the Pacific with frightening swiftness. The time
gained through MacArthur's dogged defense of the Philippines
proved crucial to the war effort.
MacArthur was born on Jan. 26, 1880, on an Army reservation in Little Rock, Arkansas.
His father, General Arthur MacArthur, served with distinction in the American
Civil and Spanish-American wars and was military governor of the Philippines
under President William McKinley.
Young MacArthur graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point,
N.Y., in 1903, with the highest scholastic record achieved by any cadet in 25
years. When the United States entered World War I, he helped organize the Rainbow
Division and served with distinction. After the war he was appointed superintendent
of West Point. Only 39 years old, he was the youngest superintendent in the history
of the Academy. When he was 50, he was made chief of staff of the Army by President
Herbert Hoover; he became the youngest full general in American history.
For the next five years he tried, with little success, to get the Army mechanized.
He was then assigned to organize the defense of the Philippines. In 1937 he retired
from the service but continued his work in the Philippines. President Manuel
Quezon gave him the rank of Field Marshal.
In July, 1941, MacArthur was recalled to active service as commander of the United
States forces in the Far East. That December the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor
and launched another attack on the Philippines, but MacArthur stood firm. Under
his command 12,000 American and 35,000 Filipino troops put up fierce resistance.
Besieged on the Bataan Peninsula, they beat back a vastly superior Japanese invasion
force. The stand made by MacArthur's men delayed the Japanese "timetable
of conquest" and gave the United States time to assess the situation.
On Feb. 22, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a secret message to MacArthur
commanding him to break through the Japanese lines and go to Australia. There
he was to take command of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific.
his Philippine command to General Jonathan M. Wainwright. On the night of March
11, MacArthur, his wife and son, and members of his staff, ran the Japanese blockade
in four torpedo boats. The Philippines fell to Japan a few months later, but
MacArthur's promise to the Filipinos, "I shall return," gave them courage
through more than three years of Japanese occupation.
MacArthur was to keep that promise. On Oct. 20, 1944, he landed with his forces
on Leyte, one of the Philippine Islands. Less than a year later, on Sept. 2,
1945, MacArthur, as Commander in Chief in the Pacific, accepted Japan 's surrender.
He then directed the occupation of Japan.
At the outbreak of hostilities in Korea in 1950, MacArthur became commander of
the United Nations forces. In 1951, he urged the opening of a "second front" in
China. President Harry S. Truman called him "out of sympathy" with
United States policy and relieved him of all commands on April 11.
MacArthur and his family returned to the United States in 1951. In a speech before
Congress he announced his retirement from active military service with the now
famous line from an old ballad, "Old soldiers never die — they just
fade away." In 1952, he became Chairman of the Board of a large corporation
and was the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention.
In December, 1944, he was made a five-star General of the Army. MacArthur died
in Washington, D.C., on April 5, 1964. He was buried in the MacArthur Memorial
in Norfolk, Virginia.