The American Military History: Douglas Macarthur

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The United States military has seen numerous Generals and Commanders come and go. Notwithstanding their contributions in the military and the overall American foreign policy, some of these top leaders have been fired while some of them retired at the expiry of their terms of service. Nonetheless, these people form an integral part of the American military history and American heritage. General Douglas MacArthur is one such figure. A field marshal and five-star general, MacArthur reigned between the year 1880 and 1964. During this time, innumerable accolades describe the Arkansas born United States’ Chief of Army staff in the 1930 who also played a pivotal role in the Second World War’s Pacific theater. It has always been argued that Douglas MacArthur was the last among the prominent American icons to receive unreserved worship as a national hero. In fact, he broke the record earlier set by Robert E. Lee and George Armstrong for national admiration.[1] However, behind the largely positive image hid a long list of controversies. The achievements and awards masked MacArthur’s career in deep contention. For example, it is hard to tell whether Douglas MacArthur was an anachronism or an avatar, or who he was between a vainglorious mountebank and a smart strategist who judiciously calculated every single step he took.

Douglas MacArthur and his existence covers the mushrooming and inception of the American Army as a globally acknowledged fighting force. The history of the United States’ Army is, for the major part, MacArthur’s story.[2] Born to an American Civil War hero father, Douglas MacArthur steered the American Army and sat at the center of the events that characterized three monumental wars in the country’s history- World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Douglas MacArthur died right before the deployment of the American forces in Vietnam which marked the beginning of the Vietnam War. However, even after his demise, researchers and experts still reminiscently examine MacArthur’s strategic vision that greatly influenced the America’s foreign policy over the years. Briefly, he was the only one, among his peers, to foresee the America’s foreign policy’s focus drift away from Europe. For that, MacArthur is considered the American prophet with regards to the country’s destiny in the Pacific Rim.[3] Despite being an avid strategic planner, the grandiose vision of own prosperity and destiny drew an almost equal number of enemies and acolytes to MacArthur’s shed. Repeatedly spared from death in the battlefield, MacArthur’s soldiers codenamed him ‘Bullet Proof’ given his strong sense of mission and vision. He rarely failed.[4] However, when he finally failed, it happened in epic proportions. He willingly defied both civilian and military authorities in line with his personal principles and inborn trait of defiance. The trait later became one of his prime undoing and the eraser of his lifelong achievements in and out of the military. In some cases, it is challenging to compose a research on Douglas MacArthur with certainty and absoluteness given the near equal proportions of stain and accolades that characterizes his reign in the American military history throughout the decades. To this end, it is undoubtable that Douglas MacArthur was a great man, an avid commander who founded each of his missions on his forecasted stardom, yet the America was entirely lucky to survive through his epoch in the military.  While he largely built the military, he destroyed it through some of his extreme strategies and proposals.

Education and Biography

An informed and profound critical research analysis of General Douglas MacArthur depends on a subsuming and requisite comprehension of the background of his roles in the American military and his biography. Reiteratively, Douglas MacArthur, a military brat, was born to Mary Pinkney and Arthur MacArthur at Little Rocks Barracks, Arkansas in the year 1880.[5] The latter was a heroic U.S army Captain. Arthur MacArthur was accorded a Medal of Honor for his participation and contributions during the America Civil War, specifically, the Battle of Missionary Ridge. These accolades landed Douglas’ father at the top rank of lieutenant general. Douglass was the youngest of the three in the family alongside two other male siblings. MacArthur recounts that his strong military background enabled him ‘to ride and shoot even before he could read or write-indeed, almost before he could walk and talk’.[6] The era came to an end after the family relocated to Washington D.C in the year 1889 where Douglas began his education journey at the Force Public School.

Approximately four years later, Arthur was transferred to San Antonio, Texas where Douglas would attend West Texas Military Academy. While there, he received a gold medal for scholarship and deportment. Aside from the main curriculum, Douglas participated in such extracurricular activities as tennis and baseball, both in which he was part of the school team. In spite of his academic and extracurricular activities impressive performances, his father’s attempts to secure him a presidential appointment to the U.S military Academy, West Point division, bore no fruits.  Both Presidents William McKinley and Grover Cleveland rejected the requests. The rejections gave his father the option of putting him under a private tutor, Gertrude Hull of the Milwaukee high school. Subsequently, he passed the test and won an appointment from Theobald Otjen, a Congressman. He then joined the West Point Military Academy in the year 1898. At the end of four years, he emerged top of his class of 93 people.[7] His graduation landed him a military assignment and marked the beginning of his junior military years. In particular, MacArthur’s commissioning as a junior officer saw him working as an Army Corps of Engineering where he spent years accomplishing a wide range of tasks. Notably, his hard work led to various promotions, for instance, Mexico, Philippines, France, and Japan, during this stage at the military.

MacArthur’s military history and Achievements

Aside from his academic prowess, nothing accentuates MacArthur’s success and supports his heroism in the American military history more than his years in the battlefield. It is noteworthy that successes and failures in these wars are what makes the American military a global force of reckon.  In the emergence of the First World War, Douglas MacArthur got a promotion to major and took charge of administrative and intelligence units. He assembled and commanded the 42nd Rainbow Division in France as a colonel following a declaration of war on Germany by the United States.[8] In the year 1918 MacArthur wholesomely took part in the Sedan and Meuse-Argonne battles, and demonstrated his determination and capability as a leader of the military unit. He topped the ranks of the most decorated soldiers of the First World War in America. MacArthur successfully accomplished his mission, escaping with merely two combat wounds.[9] Subsequently, he became the youngest brigadier general in the American history, just before he took up command of the 84th Infantry Brigade. His success previous success in the World War I followed him back from Europe when he became the West Point’s superintendent. It is during this time that he married Louise Brooks, his first wife. One year after his 1929 divorce, Douglas MacArthur received yet another promotion to become a general and chief of staff of the American Army. As such, he spent the following years leading and shaping and army that was writhing from the blow of Great Depression. Five years later, President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Douglas MacArthur as his military adviser to the Philippines.[10] Consequently, he was sent to Philippines to formulate a plan for defensive military force.

On the verge of the Second World War, MacArthur resumed active duty as a U.S forces commander in the Pacific region. The Japanese, however, invaded Philippines and drove MacArthur and his forces away, but he regained control following a series of successful offensive attacks in the region.  It is at this stage that MacArthur began his criticisms targeting the decisions of his superiors especially with respect to their focus of resources on the battle in Europe rather than the Pacific. To this end, Douglas McCarthy was entirely justified in his various standpoints on two grounds. On one hand, he was the head of the military, thus, was responsible for informing the government appropriately. On the other hand, he was a senior American citizen who is both autonomous, and had the freedom of speech. Seemingly, the government viewed him as such. In the year 1945, as the war came to an end, President Harry Truman chose Douglas MacArthur as supreme Allied Commander, and bestowed on him a responsibility of the formal Tokyo surrender.[11] As such, he spent the next years in Japan overseeing rebuilding of the nation.  Even so, the Korean War broke following an invasion of South Korea by North Korea. MacArthur became the commander of the United Nations forces and quelled the situation, thwarting the attack. However, his success was short-lived when the Chinese forces forced his forces to retreat in a subsequent attack. As a result of the defeat, MacArthur formulated a strategy that would include China in the Korean War. Despite President Truman’s warnings, MacArthur vehemently articulated his perspectives and stepped up his campaign.[12] This led to his relief from duty in April 1951 by President Truman.

MacArthur’s other side

In as much as most professionals and studies consider MacArthur the benchmark and face of American military success, he was not entirely immaculate. In fact, his figurative military cloak was just as stained by the controversy as it was dazzled by MacArthur’s success. As a brigadier general at West Point academy, he embarked on reforms meant to better the situation at the academy, but alienated his colleagues in the process.[13] A critical examination of the situation reveals that this was an early sign that Douglas MacArthur was incapable of taking constructive criticism from his colleagues and subordinates. He wanted to be worshipped.[14] However, this other side of MacArthur is particularly articulated by his mission in the Philippines. His political dealings and friendship network in the Philippines resulted in him accepting huge payments which precedes his decision to businessmen and politicians who sided with Japan.[15] Similarly, MacArthur had won the Korean War, until China quickly whisked away the success and cut the celebrations short. While no one predicted China’s invasion, MacArthur was not a ‘no one.’ His previous aura of military behavior replete with publicity managers and press agents involvement miserably failed this time due to MacArthur’s ego. He was engrossed in criticizing the American foreign policy to an extent of failing to concentrate on his mission. Perhaps he had ulterior motives- he had earlier received illegal payments in Philippines and his campaigns for America to reorient its focus from Europe to the Pacific was questionable. He may have been serving some ghost masters behind the scene.

Suddenly, in the course of the Korean War in 1951, President Harry Truman fired Douglas MacArthur. The decision that shocked both the Americans and the world in near equal proportions was deeply-seated in MacArthur’s behavior and condescending attitude towards the American government and its foreign policy framework. In the lead up to the dismissal, MacArthur had grown more vocal and public in his criticisms towards the President and his administration. According to MacArthur, by refusing to bomb China, President Truman was not only endangering the freedom of the Americans but also sacrificing their lives.[16] The President endured the damaging accusations over time before giving in to the pressure and excusing MacArthur from his military duties. To some extent, President Truman was justified in his action. MacArthur had grown and made a name for himself, and seemingly, the success had gone to his head. While it was possible bomb China, MacArthur’s unyielding and commanding nature had obscured his view from the gist of his propositions. Suppose America bombed China, the war in Asia was undoubtedly going to widen. Subsequently, America would be fighting two major wars both in Europe and Asia. Unlike in MacArthur’s terms, the situation could have resulted in the real sacrifice of the lives of the Americans given the high likelihood of retaliatory attacks from the enemies in Asia. President Truman was trying to prevent the situation from escalating this far, by paying no heed to Douglas MacArthur’s relentless campaigns and pestering to bomb China.[17] In any case, the Cold War would be won in Europe and not Asia, which further explains President Truman administration’s focus on Europe rather than Asia. MacArthur, given his vast experience in war supported by his success stories, was in a better position to understand such a point of view. Therefore, his incessant attacks on the government on this front spelt ulterior motivates, raised questions, and dented his reputation and credibility.


Conclusively, the sources contend that Douglas MacArthur was decisive, forceful and talented as a commander in the American military. Most of the incidents portrays him as a hero and an embodiment of the American military history. However, his failures obscure this success. While MacArthur succeeded in time that the country need him, he was a weirdly-opinionated, vainglorious, and politically disastrous individual. For this reason, America may celebrate the timely dismissal of Douglass MacArthur. The sources in this research extensively and openly analyze the subject in a manner that is both critical and befitting. They rightly recognize his achievements, and criticize his failures unequivocally. However, they slightly discuss the subject’s disrespect of the American Presidency which ultimately led to his dismissal. Nonetheless, their strength outweighs their weaknesses, which makes them a valid collection of research references.

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