General Douglas MacArthur
More than a half century after his death General Douglas MacArthur continues to fascinate, as Francis P. Sempa demonstrates in a post at Real Clear Defense:
In 2015, the prolific and popular military historian Winston Groom (better known as the author of Forrest Gump) lauded MacArthur (along with Marshall and Patton) in The Generals as an exceptionally good soldier and great captain, who was as brave as a lion, bold as a bull, and audacious and inventive in “marshaling huge victorious armies.” MacArthur, Groom writes, served his country with distinction, and his memory “enriche[s] the national trust.”
James Duffy’s War at the End of the World, which appeared earlier this year, provides a detailed history of MacArthur’s New Guinea campaign, which has long been unfairly overshadowed by the Navy-Marine island battles in the Central Pacific.
Walter Borneman’s MacArthur at War: World War II in the Pacific has just been published. Borneman, like other MacArthur biographers, notes the general’s character flaws, but emphasizes MacArthur’s sense of mission, strategic brilliance, and “guiding principles of duty, honor, and country.”
Most anticipated, however, is Arthur Herman’s new biography, just released this month, entitled Douglas MacArthur: American Warrior. At 960 pages, it rivals the most comprehensive one-volume treatments of MacArthur to date: William Manchester’s American Caesar and Geoffrey Perret’s Old Soldier’s Never Die.
Later this fall, H.W. Brands’ The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War is scheduled to be released and, hopefully, will provide a fairer treatment of the Truman-MacArthur controversy than the conventional history that treats Truman as saint and MacArthur as sinner. The truth, as usual, is more complex. Continue reading
1946 began with a bang in Japan with the release of an Imperial Rescript by Hirohito in which he stated that he was not a god:
In greeting the New Year, We recall to mind that Emperor Meiji proclaims as the basis of our national policy, the Five Clauses of the Charter-Oath at the beginning of the Meiji Era. The Charter-Oath signified:
- Deliberative assemblies shall be established and all measures of government decided in accordance with public opinion.
- All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the affairs of State.
- All common people, no less than the civil and military officials, shall be allowed to fulfill their just desires so that there may not be any discontent among them.
- All the absurd usages of old shall be broken through, and equality and justice to be found in the workings of nature shall serve as the basis of action.
- Wisdom and knowledge shall be sought throughout the world for the purpose of promoting the welfare of the Empire.
The proclamation is evident in significance and high in its ideals. We wish to make this oath anew and restore the country to stand on its own feet again.
We have to reaffirm the principles embodied in the Charter, and proceed unflinchingly towards elimination of misguided practices of the past, and keeping in close touch with the desires of the people, we will construct a new Japan through thoroughly being pacific, the officials and the people alike, attaining rich culture, and advancing the standard of living of the people.
The devastation of war inflicted upon our cities, the miseries of the destitute, the stagnation of trade, shortage of food, and great and growing number of the unemployed are indeed heart-rending.
But if the nation is firmly united in its resolve to face the present ordeal and to seek civilization consistently in peace, a bright future will undoubtedly be ours, not only for our country, but for the whole humanity.
Love of the family and love of the country are especially strong in this country. With more of this devotion should we now work towards love of mankind.
We feel deeply concerned to note that consequent upon the protracted war ending in our defeat, our people are liable to grow restless and to fall into the Slough of Despond.
Radical tendencies in excess are gradually spreading and the sense of morality tends to lose its hold on the people, with the result that there are signs of confusion of thoughts.
We stand by the people and We wish always to share with them in their moments of joys and sorrows.
The ties between Us and Our people have always stood mutual trust and affection. They do not depend upon mere legends and myths.
They are not predicated on the false conception that the Emperor is divine, and that the Japanese people are superior to other races and fated to rule the world.
Our Government should make every effort to alleviate their trials and tribulations.
At the same time, We trust that the people will rise to the occasion, and will strive courageously for the solution of their outstanding difficulties, and for the development of industry and culture.
Acting upon a consciousness of solidarity and of mutual aid and broad tolerance in their civic life, they will prove themselves worthy of their best tradition.
By their supreme endeavours in that direction, they will be able to render their substantial contribution to the welfare and advancement of mankind.
The resolution for the year should be made at the beginning of the year. We expect Our people to join Us in all exertions looking to accomplishment of this great undertaking with an indomitable spirit. Continue reading
As I said in the Manila Supreme Court that I have done with my all capacity, so I don’t ashame in front of the gods for what I have done when I have died. But if you say to me ‘you do not have any ability to command the Japanese Army’ I should say nothing for it, because it is my own nature. Now, our war criminal trial going under your kindness and right. I know that all your American and American military affairs always has tolerant and rightful judgment. When I have been investigated in Manila court I have had a good treatment, kindful attitude from your good natured officers who protected me all the time. I never forget for what they have done for me even if I had died. I don’t blame my executioner. I’ll pray the gods bless them. Please send my thankful word to Col. Clarke and Lt. Col. Feldhaus, Lt. Col. Hendrix, Maj. Guy, Capt. Sandburg, Capt. Reel, at Manila court, and Col. Arnard. I thank you.
Yamashita’ s last statement, through a translator, on the gallows. February 23, 1946
General Tomoyuki Yamashita won early fame in World War II by leading the conquest of Malaya. With inferior forces he decisively defeated the British and earned the popular title of Tiger of Malaya. Troops under his command did engage in massacres and looting, but Yamashita, unlike most Japanese commanders, severely punished the troops involved, up to and including execution of the guilty. His humane attitude towards prisoners placed him at odds with the Japanese government, and he spent much of the war in virtual exile in Manchukuo commanding the First Area Army. Worsening Japanese military fortunes caused him to be placed in command of the Philippines, ten days before MacArthur and his army returned. Yamashita conducted a skillful defense of the Philippines, marred by massive atrocities against civilians in Manila. It must be noted that Rear Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi commanded the forces defending in Manila. Yamashita had ordered the evacuation of Manila which Iwabuchi disobeyed, just as his men disobeyed Yamashita’s standing orders against ill treatment of civilians.
Yamashita was put on trial for war crimes in Manila from October 29, 1945-December 7, 1945 by an American military tribunal. The principal accusation was that he had failed to keep his troops in the Philippines under control and that as a result he was responsible for their crimes. This was a novel theory of criminal responsibility either under American military or civilian jurisprudence as his military defense counsel pointed out time and again. Yamashita was impressed by the dedication and zeal of his defense counsel and stated several times that his respect for the United States had been reaffirmed by their efforts.
Behind the scenes MacArthur expressed impatience at the length of the trial, clearly wanting a quick guilty verdict. When Yamashita was found guilty and sentenced to death, he swiftly affirmed the verdict and sentence when it was appealed to him. Yamashita’s defense team then appealed to the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, In re Yamashita, 327 US 1, rejected the petitions for habeas corpus and writ of prohibition ruling:
It thus appears that the order convening the commission was a lawful order, that the commission was lawfully constituted, that petitioner was charged with violation of the law of war, and that the commission had authority to proceed with the trial, and, in doing so, did not violate any military, statutory, or constitutional command. We have considered, but find it unnecessary to discuss, other contentions which we find to be without merit. We therefore conclude that the detention of petitioner for trial and his detention upon his conviction, subject to the prescribed review by the military authorities, were lawful, and that the petition for certiorari, and leave to file in this Court petitions for writs of habeas corpus and prohibition should be, and they are
Justices Murphy and Rutledge wrote memorable dissents: Continue reading
The most pressing problem facing General Douglas MacArthur as the post war ruler of a devastated Japan was the prospect of famine. MacArthur immediately set up feeding stations throughout Japan in order to feed the tens of millions of Japanese who had been left completely indigent as a result of the War. News of this filtered back to the states and was ill received in an America still angry from a War begun by a sneak attack and in the throes of mourning 400,000 war dead. The Joint Chiefs of Staff warned MacArthur against the gratuitous use of US supplies to relieve Japan. Continue reading
General MacArthur wasted no time in letting the Japanese government know precisely the direction that the new Japan would take. By his directive of October 4, 1945, (SCAPIN-93) he ordered the Japanese government to remove restrictions on the civil, political and religious rights of Japanese citizens.
Five days after the directive, the Japanese prime minister resigned, unwilling to carry out this sweeping change. His successor released all political prisoners, repealed or abrogated fifteen laws restricting the rights of the Japanese people and began a far sweeping purge of government officials wedded to the old regime. Continue reading
While he was Supreme Commander Allied Powers in Japan, General MacArthur had a framed quote on his wall. The quote is from the Roman conqueror of Macedonia Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus, or at least the words that Livy put into the mouth of Paullus:
Do you give full credit to whatever I shall write to you, or to the senate; but do not by your credulity encourage mere rumours, of which no man shall appear as the responsible author. For, no man is so entirely regardless of reputation, as that his spirits cannot be damped; which I have observed has commonly occurred, especially in this war. In every circle, and, truly, at every table, there are people who lead armies into Macedonia; who know where the camp ought to be placed; what posts ought to be occupied by troops; when and through what pass Macedonia should be entered; where magazines should be formed; how provisions should be conveyed by land and sea; and when it is proper to engage the enemy, when to lie quiet. And they not only determine what is best to be done, but if any thing is done in any other manner than what they have pointed out, they arraign the consul, as if he were on his trial. These are great impediments to those who have the management of affairs; for every one cannot encounter injurious reports with the same constancy and firmness of mind as Fabius did, who chose to let his own authority be diminished through the folly of the people, rather than to mismanage the public business with a high reputation. I am not one of those who think that commanders ought never to receive advice; on the contrary, I should deem that man more proud than wise, who did every thing of his own single judgment. What then is my opinion? That commanders should be counselled, chiefly, by persons of known talent; by those, especially, who are skilled in the art of war, and who have been taught by experience; and next, by those who are present at the scene of action, who see the country, who see the enemy; who see the advantages that occasions offer, and who, embarked, as it were, in the same ship, are sharers of the danger. If, therefore, any one thinks himself qualified to give advice respecting the war which I am to conduct, which may prove advantageous to the public, let him not refuse his assistance to the state, but let him come with me into Macedonia. He shall be furnished by me with a ship, a horse, a tent; and even with his travelling charges. But if he thinks this too much trouble, and prefers the repose of a city life to the toils of war, let him not, on land, assume the office of a pilot.
When MacArthur took up his command as Supreme Commander Allied Powers it was suggested by aides that he summon Hirohito to appear before him. MacArthur rejected that suggestion, stating that it was important that Hirohito come to him voluntarily. That he did on September 27, 1945, the first of eight meetings between the Emperor and the American Shogun. The meeting lasted only a few minutes with Hirohito taking complete responsibility for the War and requesting that any punishment for the War fall on him. MacArthur said that the War was over and that he wished to work with the Emperor for the betterment of Japan. Continue reading
One of the more decisive decisions of the Occupation of Japan, that Japan would remain one state, was made early in the process by General MacArthur. The Soviets planned to occupy the northern island of Hokkaido and establish a puppet Soviet regime, identical to what was occurring in East Germany. If this had succeeded, Japan could have been divided into a Communist North Japan and a Democratic South Japan for the length of the Cold War. Appeasement of the Soviets was still very much in favor at the State Department, and it is possible that if the Soviets had simply begun landing in Hokkaido, that Washington may have capitulated on that point. After all, the Soviets were full members, with Great Britain, in the Allied commission to supervise and monitor the Supreme Commander in Tokyo. The Soviets also insisted upon a tri-partite division of Tokyo, similar to what was being done in Berlin. MacArthur would have none of it. Continue reading
Two of the five men who have held the rank of General of the Army, Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, could be quite acerbic in their assessments of each other. MacArthur in 1947 referred to Eisenhower as the best clerk he ever had, and Eisenhower was fond of saying that he studied dramatics under MacArthur. Both assessments had a fair amount of truth. Eisenhower was the consummate military manager, but he lacked almost all skill as a commander of forces in combat. His one taste of such command, in North Africa, produced distinctly lackluster results. As for MacArthur he was overly dramatic, a penchant that played well in the Victorian world in which he was born, but often seemed ludicrous by World War II.
It is intriguing to speculate about what sort of command team they would have made if they had served together in World War II. As Chief of Staff for MacArthur, Eisenhower would have been indispensable in making the most of the resources that MacArthur got at the tail end of a very long supply chain. His skill at diplomacy would have smoothed the ruffled feathers of Presidents, as well as the often stormy relations that MacArthur had with the Navy and the Australians. MacArthur would have contributed the streak of strategic and operational brilliance that Eisenhower sorely lacked. Continue reading
The task confronting MacArthur seventy years ago in Japan was absolutely staggering. As Supreme Commander Allied Powers, he found himself in charge of a devastated Japan. Most of its major cities were collections of rubble. The Japanese rail system was in shambles from Allied bombing. Most of the Japanese merchant fleet was now sailing the bottom of the Pacific. An immense famine was manifestly waiting in the wings. The Japanese shattered medical system was unable to cope with rampant disease. Finally, the Japanese economy was at a virtual standstill, awaiting the repatriation of millions of Japanese troops stationed overseas to add to the ranks of the unemployed. To top this off, MacArthur also had to fend off loud demands from politicians and ordinary American citizens that Japan be punished, anger at the unprovoked war still being raw in the United States. MacArthur, ever sensitive to public opinion, on September 14, 1945 released a statement to give some inkling to his fellow countrymen of the situation in Japan:
STATEMENT BY GENERAL MACARTHUR ON THE OCCUPATION OF JAPAN
September 14, 1945
New York Times.
I have noticed some impatience in the press, based upon the assumption of a so-called soft policy in Japan. This can only arise from an erroneous concept of what is occurring.
The first phase of the occupation must of necessity be based on military considerations which involved the deployment forward of our troops and the disarming and demobilization of the enemy. This is coupled with the paramount consideration of withdrawing our former prisoners of war and war internees from internment camps and evacuating them to their homes.
Safety and security require that all of the steps shall proceed with precision and completeness, lest calamity may be precipitated.
The military phase is proceeding in an entirely satisfactory way.
Over half of the enemy’s force in Japan proper is now demobilized and the entire program will be practically complete by the middle of October. During this interval of time, safety and complete security must be assured.
When the first phase is completed, other phases as provided in the surrender terms will infallibly follow. No one need have any doubt about the prompt, complete, entire fulfillment of the terms of surrender. The process, however, takes time. It is well understandable that in the face of atrocities committed by the enemy there should be impatience. This natural impulse, however, should be tempered by the fact that security and military expediency still require an exercise of some restraint. The surrender terms aren’t soft and they won’t be applied in kid-glove fashion.
Economically and industrially as well as militarily, Japan is completely exhausted and depleted. She is in a condition of utter collapse. Her governmental structure is controlled completely by occupation forces and is operating only to the extent necessary to insure such an orderly and controlled procedure as will prevent social chaos, disease and starvation. Continue reading
The men of the 24th Wisconsin weren’t sure about this. They were coming under heavy fire and from the looks of things they were being asked to commit suicide. Charging uphill into Confederate entrenchments, how could they win? When their second standard bearer went down, they were convinced this attack was a very bad idea. Then an eighteen year old Lieutenant stepped forward and grabbed the flag. Turning to the men he yelled, “On Wisconsin!” and began clambering up Missionary Ridge. With a roar, the men followed, the Lieutenant eventually planting their standard on top of Missionary Ridge. That night of November 25, 1863 the corps commander of the 24th Wisconsin, hard bitten regular army, Major General Phil Sheridan, tearfully embraced the young Lieutenant, and told the men of the 24th to take care of him, because he had just won the Medal of Honor. He had too, although like many of the Civil War recipients, he would not receive the Medal until decades after the War.
In the battles and campaigns that followed the young Lieutenant, who had lied about his age to join the Union Army at 17, rose steadily in rank, eventually commanding the regiment and ending the war as a 19 year old brevet Colonel, the youngest colonel in the Union Army. In Wisconsin he would ever after be known as the “boy colonel”.
After the War, he briefly studied law, but in 1866 he re-enlisted in the Army as a Second Lieutenant, retiring in 1909 as a Lieutenant General. Continue reading
The election of 1856 was hotly contested throughout the North, with state after state switching from Democratic control to that of the new found Republican party. The Democrat incumbent Governor of Wisconsin, William A Barstow, was initially declared the winner of the contest by a mere 157 votes. The Republicans cried fraud. Democrats and Republicans formed rival militia units and began to converge on Madison, determined to fight if the “wrong” candidate were sworn in as governor. Both Barstow and his Republican rival, Coles Bashford, were sworn in as governor in dueling inauguration ceremonies on January 7, 1857. Civil War seemed all but certain.
The Wisconsin Attorney General now filed a writ of Quo Warranto seeking the removal of Barstow from office on the grounds that he was fraudulently elected. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on the matter, and, sure enough, evidence was produced that Barstow owed his margin of victory from “returns” from non-existent precincts in the sparsely settled northern part of the young state. Barstow, who had initially said that he would not give up the governorship alive, ultimately decided that public opinion was running against him and resigned on March 21, 1857. His Lieutenant Governor now was sworn in and stated that he would be the Governor come what may. On March 25, the Supreme Court ruled that Bashford had won the election with a vote total of 1009. The Lieutenant Governor/Governor decamped from Madison with his supporters and Bashford was recognized by the Wisconsin legislature as Governor. Continue reading
A fascinating newsreel of the surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Note that MacArthur hands pens after he signs to General Wainwright and General Percival. Both men had been prisoners of Japan for most of the War, and their gaunt skeletal presence at the surrender ceremony was a tribute to the Allied POWs who had been treated with a brutality scarcely believable. The Japanese representatives were impressed that they were not mocked but treated with courtesy, and they thought that perhaps this signaled that the occupation was not going to be as bad as they expected. MacArthur’s closing remarks deserve to be remembered: Continue reading
Dugout Doug MacArthur lies ashaking on the Rock
Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock
Dugout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan
And his troops go starving on.
Dugout Doug’s not timid, he’s just cautious, not afraid
He’s protecting carefully the stars that Franklin made
Four-star generals are rare as good food on Bataan
And his troops go starving on.
Dugout Doug is ready in his Kris Craft for the flee
Over bounding billows and the wildly raging sea
For the Japs are pounding on the gates of Old Bataan
And his troops go starving on…
Over the next few years we will be taking a look at General Douglas MacArthur, concentrating on his rule of Japan and his role in the Korean War. A larger than life figure even while he lived, MacArthur has always sparked strong hate and love. A number of myths have cropped up about Macarthur, and several posts will deal with dispelling these myths, so that we can look at him in the cold light of historical fact. The first myth up is that of Dugout Doug.
The myth of Dugout Doug contends that MacArthur was a coward, who refused to share the dangers of his troops on Bataan, and fled from them, leaving them to endure defeat and brutal captivity, often ending in their deaths.
It is probably accurate to say that MacArthur was not a brave man. In order to be brave, in a physical sense, one must know a fear of physical pain or death. Some men simply have no such fear. George Washington did not. Throughout the French and Indian War and the American Revolution he constantly exposed himself to enemy fire while he led from the front, to the terror of his aides, who were brave men. They marveled that Washington showed no sign of fear, and his only reaction to being fired upon was a look of minor annoyance. Continue reading
MacArthur who was going to be responsible for ruling post war Japan during the occupation, lost no time in telling the Japanese precisely what they must do as he entered Japan to stage manage the formal surrender and take up his role as, in effect, the Yankee Shogun:
August 23, 1945
New York Times.
(1) Weather permitting, air-borne forces accompanying the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers will land at Atsugi Airdrome, in the vicinity of Tokyo, and naval and marine forces will land in the vicinity of Yokosuka Naval Base on Aug. 28, 1945. The instrument of surrender will be signed in the Tokyo area on Aug. 31.
(2) Requirements of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers presented to Japanese representatives at Manila, Philippine Islands, Aug. 20, 1945:
Requirements for entry of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers and his accompanying forces.
(1) The Japanese Imperial Government and Japanese Imperial General Headquarters will require execution of the following requirements effective 1800 hours [6 P.M.] Aug. 24, 1945:
(a) Japanese armed forces and civilian aviation authorities will insure that all Japanese military, naval and civil aircraft in Japan remain on ground, on water or aboard ship until further notification of disposition to be made of them.
(b) Japanese or Japanese-controlled military, naval or merchant vessels of all types in Japanese waters will be maintained without damage and will undertake no movement beyond voyages in progress pending instructions of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. Vessels at sea will immediately render harmless and throw overboard explosives of all types. Vessels not at sea will immediately remove explosives of all types to safe storage ashore.
(c) Merchant vessels under 100 gross tons engaged in civilian supply activities in Japanese waters are excepted from foregoing instructions. Vessels in Tokyo Bay engaged in evacuation of personnel from Yokosuka Naval Base are also excepted. Continue reading
He was a thundering paradox of a man, noble and ignoble, inspiring and outrageous, arrogant and shy, the best of men and the worst of men, the most protean, most ridiculous, and most sublime. No more baffling, exasperating soldier ever wore a uniform. Flamboyant, imperious, and apocalyptic, he carried the plumage of a flamingo, could not acknowledge errors, and tried to cover up his mistakes with sly, childish tricks. Yet he was also endowed with great personal charm, a will of iron, and a soaring intellect. Unquestionably he was the most gifted man-at arms- this nation has produced.
William Manchester in a great one paragraph description of Douglas MacArthur, American Caesar
One sure way to get a fight started among American students of military history is to mention Douglas MacArthur. About 40% will regard him as a vastly overrated egotistical incompetent, and another 40% will regard him as perhaps America’s greatest general. Twenty percent will try to say that both sides have their points, just before a heated debate begins. My own perspective is that we are still too close to MacArthur’s stormy time to render a judicious verdict on his career. MacArthur is both the hero and villain of his biography and it will take generations to sort him out.
Mine eyes have seen MacArthur
With a Bible on his knee,
He is pounding out communiqués
For guys like you and me,
And while possibly a rumor now,
Someday ’twill be a fact,
That the Lord will hear a deep voice
Say, “Move over God, it’s Mac!”
Anonymous Marine on Corregidor (1942)
The most controversial of American commanders in World War II, MacArthur has always roused strong emotion. Reviled by some as a supreme egotist and an overrated general, and hailed by others as the greatest general in American history, MacArthur will be fought over in history books from now until Doomsday, a fate which I think would not have displeased him. However, I suspect critics and admirers alike can agree on one thing. Seventy years ago MacArthur had the supreme moment of his life:
TO THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES:
I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil — soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come, dedicated and committed, to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and of restoring, upon a foundation of indestructible, strength, the liberties of your people.
At my side is your President, Sergio Osmena, worthy successor of that great patriot, Manuel Quezon, with members of his cabinet. The seat of your government is now therefore firmly re- established on Philippine soil.
The hour of your redemption is here. Your patriots have demonstrated an unswerving and resolute devotion to the principles of freedom that challenges the best that is written on the pages of human history. I now call upon your supreme effort that the enemy may know from the temper of an aroused and outraged people within that he has a force there to contend with no less violent than is the force committed from without.
Rally to me. Let the indomitable spirit of Bataan and Corregidor lead on. As the lines of battle roll forward to bring you within the zone of operations, rise and strike. Strike at every favorable opportunity. For your homes and hearths, strike! For future generations of your sons and daughters, strike! In the name of your sacred dead, strike! Let no heart be faint. Let every arm be steeled. The guidance of divine God points the way. Follow in His Name to the Holy Grail of righteous victory!