GENERAL DOUGLAS MacARTHUR DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY: Against American Leaders and the Lies of Bataan
The greatest enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. --JFK, June 11, 1962
When retired General of the Army Douglas A. MacArthur made a farewell visit to his alma mater on May 12, 1962, it was to receive the Sylvanus Thayer Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Military Academy. It was also an occasion for him to share his thoughts on the meaning of the West Point motto.
“Duty, Honor, Country,” he solemnly intoned, invoking the three words that summed up the cadets’ calling. “Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.” It was perhaps the most eloquent downplaying of a speaker’s own rhetorical skills since Lincoln assured the gathering at Gettysburg, “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here.” MacArthur proceeded to move both young cadets and battle-tested officers to the brink of tears with his eloquence of diction, poetry of imagination, and brilliance of metaphor.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” said Bob Boehm, an airline pilot in New Hampshire who was a plebe at West Point at the time. “He was an amazing wordsmith and what an orator! He had an ability to say things so you could visualize exactly what he was talking about.” And hear it. And feel it. “When he talked about the sounds of the battlefield, you could almost feel the vibrations of the rounds going off, the explosions, even the smell of the battlefield,” Boehm recalls.
MacArthur was 82 when he made that final appearance at West Point, no longer as agile physically, perhaps, as he was when, as a spry 70-year-old, he ruled as viceroy in Japan, while simultaneously directing a war against communist forces in Korea. Yet his mind and his eloquent tongue roamed nimbly over his 50 years in the Army and more. His life covered an amazing span. “During his infancy,” wrote historian and biographer William Manchester, “Indians attacked his father’s troops with bows and arrows; in his later years — when he proposed that wars be outlawed — superpowers were brandishing nuclear weapons.” He grew up in an age when an automobile was still a rare luxury. He died in the age of astronauts, having lived long enough to hear a young President speak confidently about landing a man on the moon and bringing him safely back to Earth. Much had changed, he told the cadets that day; the creed of “Duty, Honor, Country” had not. Neither had the courage and devotion of “the American man at arms.”
His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me, or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy’s breast.... In twenty campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other, he has drained deep the chalice of courage.
Courage for MacArthur was no mere abstract or theoretical virtue. “Unquestionably, he was the most gifted man-at-arms this nation ever produced,” wrote Manchester in his biography of the general, American Caesar. “He was also extraordinarily brave. His twenty-two medals — thirteen of them for heroism — probably exceeded those of any other figure in American history. Repeatedly he exposed himself to enemy snipers, first as a lieutenant in the Philippines, shortly after the turn of the century, then as a captain in Mexico, and finally as a general in three great wars.” Yet his ability to inspire courage and confidence in others was perhaps his greatest gift. After the success of the famous Inchon landing in Korea, General Matthew Ridgway wrote that if MacArthur had suggested “that a battalion walk on water to reach the port, there might have been some ready to give it a try.”
He learned early in life of the soldier’s fierce pride in the honor of his calling. He was the son of General Arthur MacArthur, a Civil War hero who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor at age 18 and later commanded U.S. forces in the Philippines. Along with the sense of honor in military service, he received from his father a treasure of 4,000 books, which he explored in his youth with a keen intellect, devouring information and finding inspiration for that “poetry of imagination” he would often call upon in later years.
At West Point, he finished first in his class of 94 cadets, having earned more points than all but two graduates in the history of the academy, one of whom was Robert E. Lee. Yet when he graduated as a second lieutenant in 1903, wrote Manchester, he was, like the rest of the Army, “professionally unprepared for the twentieth century’s wars. He had never fired a machine gun. He knew nothing of barbwire, tanks, or amphibious warfare. All West Point had given him was a lodestar, the academy motto: ‘Duty, Honor, Country.’”
Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.... They give you a temperate will, a quality of imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.
He reached the rank of brigadier general during World War I and was decorated for courage shown in the fighting on the western front, receiving the Distinguished Service Cross twice and the Silver Star seven times. Through “memory’s eye,” he recalled for the cadets that day, the courage and the struggles of the men in his command.
As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory’s eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs on many a weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through the mire of shell-pocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.
I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they sought the way and the light and the truth.
Nov. 3, 1942: Pushing through New Guinea jungles in a jeep, General Douglas MacArthur inspects the positions and movements of Allied Forces, who would push the Japanese away from Port Moresby and back over the Owen Stanley Mountain range. (AP Photo) #
World War II
His detractors — and they were legion — would dwell on his considerable ego, noting his fondness for the first person singular pronoun. His most famous words are in the pledge he made from Australia after he had been ordered out of the Philippines, over his protests, before the fall of Corregidor and Bataan in the early months of World War II: “I shall return,” he vowed. When the War Department suggested he change it to “We shall return,” he refused. But MacArthur’s judgment may have been based less on narcissistic pride than on a shrewd understanding of the dramatic effect of his words on the people on the islands. After months of promises of supplies and reinforcements that never came, they had more confidence in the general than in his country.
“America has let us down and won’t be trusted,” said Carlos Romulo, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Filipino journalist who had joined MacArthur’s staff as press relations officer and would return as Foreign Secretary in the new Philippines Cabinet. “But the people still have confidence in MacArthur. If he says, he is coming back, he will be believed.”
It was two and a half years later when MacArthur did return, landing at Leyte with the Sixth Army in October 1944 to begin the months-long campaign to take back the islands from the Japanese. After wading ashore with Philippines President Sergio Osmena and members of his Cabinet, MacArthur strode to a mobile broadcast unit set up on the beachhead and delivered his message 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.... Rally to me. Let the indomitable spirit of Bataan and Corregidor lead on.... For your homes and hearth, 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.
By the end of the war, General MacArthur had received a fifth star, along with a Congressional Medal of Honor for actions taken in defense of the Philippines. As the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers, he received the formal surrender of Japan in a ceremony aboard the battleship USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. Norman Cousins, who interviewed him after the war, was surprised to learn from MacArthur that he had not been consulted about the decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan a month earlier.
“He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb,” Cousins wrote. “The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.” An article in the May-June 1997 issue of the Journal of Historical Review quotes MacArthur as saying, “My staff was unanimous in believing that Japan was on the point of collapse and surrender.”
Following the surrender, MacArthur spoke in a broadcast to the American people:
A new era is upon us. Even the lesson of victory itself brings with it profound concern, both for our future security and the survival of our civilization. The destructiveness of the war potential, through progressive advances in scientific discovery, has in fact now reached a point which revises the traditional concept of war.... Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations have failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war.... We have had our last chance. If we don’t now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem is basically theological.... It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.
But the uneasy peace that followed World War II was shattered at 4:00 a.m. on June 25, 1950 when 89,000 North Korean troops suddenly crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea. President Truman, without authorization from Congress, sent U.S. forces to fight on the peninsula under MacArthur’s command while insisting, “We are not at war.” Asked at a press conference if it would be correct “to call it a police action under the U.N.,” the President replied. “Yes, that’s exactly what it amounts to.”
North Korean forces quickly overran the South Korean capital of Seoul and had U.S. troops pinned down on the perimeter of Pusan in the southeast corner of the peninsula. That set the stage for MacArthur’s unveiling of a bold plan to land forces behind the enemy lines at Inchon and attack the North Koreans from both directions. Much has been made of the general’s flair for the dramatic. “Like King David, Alexander and Joan of Arc,” wrote Manchester, “like virtually all of history’s immortal commanders — he was always performing.” And it required one of his greatest performances to convince the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the landing at Inchon was feasible. At a conference in Tokyo, Admiral Forest Sherman, Chief of Naval Operations, summed up the Navy’s objections: “If every possible geographical and naval handicap were listed — Inchon has ’em all.” Listening to the arguments, MacArthur recalled something his father had told him long ago: “Doug, councils of war breed timidity and defeatism.” As he recounted the event in his memoir,Reminiscences, he responded with the following:
The very arguments you have made as to the impracticalities involved will tend to ensure for me the element of surprise. For the enemy commander will reason that no one would be so brash to make such an attempt.... Are you content to let our troops stay in that bloody perimeter like beef cattle in the slaughterhouse? Who will take the responsibility for such a tragedy? Certainly I will not.... Make the wrong decision here — the fatal decision of inertia — and we will be done. I can almost hear the ticking of the second hand of destiny. We must act now or we will die.
The room was hushed at the conclusion of his remarks. Finally Admiral Sherman, broke the silence. “Thank you. A great voice in a great cause.”
MacArthur got the go-ahead from the nervous chiefs. “I wish I had that man’s optimism,” Sherman said the next day. Admiral James Doyle, who would have to execute the landing, observed: “If MacArthur had gone on stage, we never would have heard of John Barrymore.”
Yet the landing was a success and North Korean forces were routed. MacArthur’s troops crossed the 38th parallel and pushed north up toward the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and Communist China. When Chinese units entered the war, driving back the UN forces, Mac-Arthur was frustrated by the restrictions put on military actions by an administration in Washington that was fearful of provoking a wider war with China and possibly bringing the Soviet Union into the conflict. Though Chinese troops had already entered the war by the hundreds of thousands, MacArthur was not allowed to bomb bases and supply depots in Manchuria or the bridges over the Yalu River. (Later he was told he could bomb “the South Korean end” of the bridges, a formidable task since some bridges across the winding river ran east and west, rather than north and south.)
When MacArthur’s chafing under the restrictions imposed on his military actions became an open secret and a politicial problem for Truman, the President relieved the legendary general of his command in April 1951. MacArthur, then 71, returned home to a hero’s welcome, with a tumultuous reception in San Francisco, followed by record-setting turnouts at parades in his honor in Washington, New York, and other American cities. His 30-minute address to a joint session of Congress — ending with the now-famous refrain from an old Army ballad, “old soldiers never die, they just fade away” — was interrupted with applause 34 times. The applause and the cheers followed him on a cross-country speaking tour, as he inveighed against Truman administration policies both foreign and domestic. It was, wrote Eric Goldman in The Crucial Decade, “the most substantial and noisiest fading away in history.”
The nation, meanwhile, shared Mac-Arthur’s frustration over a “no-win” war that would cost more than 54,000 American and more than a million Korean lives before the fighting ended in a stalemate after three years. George Kennan, the former State Department official who was credited with being the “architect” of the global policy of “containment” of communist aggression, described it as “the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers of Soviet policy.” MacArthur had a clearer message, one that resonated with the American people: “In war, there is no substitute for victory.”
Eventually, he did fade away, leading a life of relative calm and quiet in retirement. He cautioned President Kennedy against committing troops on the Asian mainland. Near the end of his days, he urged President Johnson not to send ground forces into Vietnam. Yet he remained confident, as he told the cadets on that farewell visit, that America’s army would prevail in future conflicts.
The long gray line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses, thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.
This does not mean that you are warmongers. On the contrary, the soldier above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
In less than two years, he would join the ranks of the dead. As he looked back that day on a lifetime of service to his country, remembering both victories and defeats, his peroration brought the cadets and others in the audience to their feet at its conclusion:
The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished — tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ear, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.
But in the evening of my memory always I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.
Today marks my final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.
I bid you farewell
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, center, is accompanied by his officers and Sergio Osmena, president of the Philippines in exile, extreme left, as he wades ashore during landing operations at Leyte, Philippines, on October 20, 1944, after U.S. forces recaptured the beach of the Japanese-occupied island. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)
September 2, 1945: Gen. Douglas MacArthur signs the Japanese surrender documents aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright, left foreground, who surrendered Bataan to the Japanese, and British Lt. Gen. A. E. Percival, next to Wainwright, who surrendered Singapore, observe the ceremony marking the end of World War II. (AP Photo)
What with all the hoopla over the North Koreans recent nuclear saber rattling one would think that some mention would be made of what got us here. We hear nothing about the Presidential decision that led to the permanent separation of Korea into two states. Fifty two years ago a confrontation between President Truman and General Douglas MacArthur, over far east policy leading to this decision, dominated the news. It resulted in the removal of MacArthur from his position as Commander of the U.N. armed forces then fighting the North Koreans.
To provide historical background: After World War II, the Korean peninsula was temporarily divided along the 38th parallel, with a pro-Communist government in the north and a pro-Western government in the south. Armies from North Korea crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea on June 24, 1950. President Truman's administration immediately committed troops to the United Nations in the effort to move the North Korean army back across the 38th parallel.
General Douglas MacArthur, command of the Allied occupation of Japan was extended to include the United Nations troops. The U.N. forces had been forced back to a small perimeter around the southern port city of Pusan. MacArthur succeeded in breaking out of this perimeter in conjunction with the an amphibious landing at Inchon. In a short time the U.N. army crossed the 38th paralled and moved north toward the Yalu River that marked the territorial boundary between China and North Korea.
There was an obvious difference of opinion between MacArthur and Truman over the what the point of this military action was. .MacArthur looked for victory as being the defeat of the North Korean army whereas Truman felt this action was one of containment and the aim was not for total victory. There is no doubt that MacArthur aggravated the situation by making public statements that should have first been cleared by superiors. He ignored the chain of command and wrote letters about what the aims of the U.S. should be in Korea even if it risked war with China. As Commander in Chief President Truman fired him. Truman may have acted correctly in that action but surely his actions in restraining the U.N. armed forces from defeating the North Koreans and unifying the country into one Korea should be questioned.
Soviet soldiers on the march in northern Korea in October of 1945. Japan had ruled the Korean peninsula for 35 years, until the end of World War II. At that time, Allied leaders decided to temporarily occupy the country until elections could be held and a government established. Soviet forces occupied the north, while U.S. forces occupied the south. The planned elections did not take place, as the Soviet Union established a communist state in North Korea, and the U.S. set up a pro-western state in South Korea - each state claiming to be sovereign over the entire peninsula. This standoff led to the Korean War in 1950, which ended in 1953 with the signing of an armistice -- but, to this day, the two countries are still technically at war with each other.
There should also be no doubt that Truman's decision was one that had an influence on the results of the Vietnam War - and - on other actions taken by our armed forces in other parts of the world. It was the first time the United States essentially lost a war and reflected a weakness in our country's moral fiber, as seen by our enemies, that appears to have done us more harm than good.
Looking back over the last fifty plus years, the U.S. has had to maintain a large military force in South Korea and the problem existing between the two Koreas has never been resolved. In fact, we all now know that there exists a much more serious situation involving the possible use of nuclear weapons. It would seem reasonable to view the action President Truman took in allowing the continuation of two Koreas as being wrong. History has demonstrated that appeasement has little success over the long term in the defeat of evil and tyranny.
MacArthur addresses an audience of 50,000 at Soldier Field, Chicago on 25 April 1951.
The news of MacArthur's relief was greeted with shock in Japan. The Diet of Japan passed a resolution of gratitude for MacArthur, and the Emperor Hirohito visited him at the embassy in person, the first time a Japanese Emperor had ever visited a foreigner with no standing.The Mainichi Shimbun said:
Newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times opined that MacArthur's "hasty and vindictive" relief was due to foreign pressure, particularly from the United Kingdom and the British socialists in Attlee's government.[The Republican Party whip, Senator Kenneth S. Wherry, charged that the relief was the result of pressure from "the Socialist Government of Great Britain."
MacArthur flew back to the United States, a country he had not seen in years. When he reached San Francisco he was greeted by the commander of the Sixth United States Army, Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer. MacArthur received a parade there that was attended by 500,000 people. He was greeted on arrival at Washington National Airport on April 19 by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and General Jonathan Wainwright. Truman sent Vaughan as his representative. which was seen as a slight, as Vaughan was despised by the public and professional soldiers alike as a corrupt crony. "It was a shameful thing to fire MacArthur, and even more shameful to send Vaughan," one member of the public wrote to Truman.
MacArthur addressed a joint session of Congress where he delivered his famous "Old Soldiers Never Die" speech, in which he declared:
In response, the Pentagon issued a press release noting that "the action taken by the President in relieving General MacArthur was based upon the unanimous recommendations of the President's principal civilian and military advisers including the Joint Chiefs of Staff." Afterwards, MacArthur flew to New York City where he received the largest ticker-tape parade in history up to that time. He also visited Chicago and Milwaukee, where he addressed large rallies.
In May and June 1951, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held "an inquiry into the military situation in the Far East and the facts surrounding the relief of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur." Because of the sensitive political and military topics being discussed, the inquiry was held in closed session, and only a heavily censored transcript was made public until 1973. The two committees were jointly chaired by Senator Richard Russell, Jr. Fourteen witnesses were called: MacArthur, Marshall, Bradley, Collins, Vandenberg, Sherman, Adrian S. Fisher, Acheson, Wedemeyer, Johnson, Oscar C. Badger II, Patrick J. Hurley, and David C. Barr and O'Donnell.
The testimony of Marshall and the Joint Chiefs rebutted many of MacArthur's arguments. Marshall emphatically declared that there had been no disagreement between himself, the President, and the Joint Chiefs. However, it also exposed their own timidity in dealing with MacArthur, and that they had not always kept him fully informed. Vandenberg questioned whether the air force could be effective against targets in Manchuria, while Bradley noted that the Communists were also waging limited war in Korea, having not attacked UN airbases or ports, or their own "privileged sanctuary" in Japan. Their judgement was that it was not worth it to expand the war, although they conceded that they were prepared to do so if the Communists escalated the conflict, or if no willingness to negotiate was forthcoming. They also disagreed with MacArthur's assessment of the effectiveness of the South Korean and Chinese Nationalist forces. Bradley said:
The committees concluded that "the removal of General MacArthur was within the constitutional powers of the President but the circumstances were a shock to national pride." They also found that "there was no serious disagreement between General MacArthur and the Joint Chiefs of Staff as to military strategy." They recommended that "the United States should never again become involved in war without the consent of the Congress."
Polls showed that the majority of the public still disapproved of Truman's decision to relieve MacArthur, and were more inclined to agree with MacArthur than with Bradley or Marshall.Truman's approval rating fell to 23 percent in mid-1951, which was lower than Richard Nixon's low of 25 per cent during the Watergate Scandal in 1974, and Lyndon Johnson's of 28 percent at the height of the Vietnam War in 1968. As of 2011, it remains the lowest Gallup Poll approval rating recorded by any serving president.
The increasingly unpopular war in Korea dragged on, and the Truman administration was beset with a series of corruption scandals. He eventually decided not to run for re-election. Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate in the 1952 presidential election, attempted to distance himself from the President as much as possible. The election was won by the Republican candidate, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose administration ramped up the pressure on the Chinese in Korea with conventional bombing and renewed threats of using nuclear weapons. Coupled with a more favorable international political climate in the wake of the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, this led the Chinese and North Koreans to agree to terms. The belief that the threat of nuclear weapons played an important part in the outcome would lead to their threatened use against China on a number of occasions during the 1950s.
As a result of their support of Truman, the Joint Chiefs became viewed as politically tainted. Senator Taft regarded Bradley in particular with suspicion, due to Bradley's focus on Europe at the expense of Asia. Taft urged Eisenhower to replace the chiefs as soon as possible. First to go was Vandenberg, who had terminal cancer and had already announced plans to retire. On 7 May 1953, Eisenhower announced that he would be replaced by General Nathan Twining. Soon after it was announced that Bradley would be replaced by Admiral Arthur W. Radford, the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Pacific Command, Collins would be succeeded by Ridgway, and Admiral William Fechteler, who had become CNO on the death of Sherman in July 1951, by AdmiralRobert B. Carney
The relief of MacArthur cast a long shadow over American civil-military relations. When Lyndon Johnson met with General William Westmoreland in Honolulu in 1966, he told him: "General, I have a lot riding on you. I hope you don't pull a MacArthur on me." or his part, Westmoreland and his senior colleagues were eager to avoid any hint of dissent or challenge to presidential authority. This came at a high price. In his 1998 book Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, then-Lieutenant Colonel (now Major General) H. R. McMaster argued that the Joint Chiefs failed in their duty to provide the President, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara or Congress with frank and fearless professional advice. This book was an influential one; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, General Hugh Shelton, gave copies to every four-star officer in the military. In February 2012, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel L. Davis published a report entitled "Dereliction of Duty II" in which he criticized senior military commanders for misleading Congress about the war in Afghanistan, especially General David Petraeus, whom he described as "a real war hero— maybe even on the same plane as Patton, MacArthur, and Eisenhower".
On the one hand, the relief of MacArthur established a precedent that generals and admirals could be fired for any public or private disagreement with government policy. In 1977, Major GeneralJohn K. Singlaub publicly criticized proposed cuts in the size of American forces in South Korea, and was summarily relieved by President Jimmy Carter for making statements "inconsistent with announced national security policy." During the Gulf War in 1990, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney relieved the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Michael Dugan, for showing "poor judgment at a very sensitive time" in making a series of statements to the media during a visit to Saudi Arabia. Three years later, Major General Harold N. Campbell was fined $7,000 and forced to retire after describing President Bill Clinton disrespectfully as a "dope smoking," "skirt chasing," "draft dodging" President. General Stanley A. McChrystal was sacked by PresidentBarack Obama in 2009 after McChrystal and his staff made disparaging remarks about senior civilian government officials in an article published in Rolling Stone magazine. This elicited comparisons with MacArthur, as the war in Afghanistan was not going well.
On the other hand, the relief "left a lasting current of popular sentiment that in matters of war and peace, the military really knows best," a philosophy which became known as "MacArthurism." During the 1992 presidential election, Bill Clinton used endorsements from the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William J. Crowe, and 21 other retired generals and flag officers to counter doubts about his ability to serve as Commander in Chief. This became a feature of later presidential election campaigns. During the 2004 presidential election, twelve retired generals and admirals endorsed Senator John Kerry, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William Crowe, and the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Merrill "Tony" McPeak, who also appeared in television advertisements defending Kerry against the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. During this election campaign, one retired four star General, Tommy Franks, spoke at the Republican National Convention while another, John Shalikashvili, addressed the Democratic National Convention.
In early 2006, in what was called the "Generals Revolt," six retired generals, Major General John Batiste, Major General Paul D. Eaton, Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, Major GeneralJohn M. Riggs, Major General Charles H. Swannack Jr. and General Anthony C. Zinni, called for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, accusing him of "abysmal" military planning and lack of strategic competence. The ethics of a system under which serving generals felt compelled to publicly support policies that they privately believed were potentially ruinous for the country, and cost the lives of military personnel, did not escape critical public comment, and was mocked by political satirist Stephen Colbert at a dinner attended by PresidentGeorge W. Bush and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace. Rumsfeld resigned in November 2006. By 2008, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, felt obliged to pen an open letter in which he reminded all servicemen that "The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times
President Truman pins the Distinguished Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters on the shirt of General Douglas MacArthur during a ceremony at the airstrip on Wake Island, in this Oct. 14, 1950, file photo. In the center is John J. Muccio, United States ambassador to Korea, who was decorated with a Medal of Merit. According to a letter sent by Muccio to the State Department, U.S. soldiers would fire on refugees if they approached U.S. lines. The letter referred to a policy set down on July 25, 1950, the night before members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry began killing South Korean refugees at the village of No Gun Ri. (AP Photo)
Four LST's unload men and equipment on beach in Inchon on Sept. 15, 1950. Three of LST's shown are right to left: LST-715, LST-845, and LST-611. (AP Photo)
This homeless brother and sister make a vain attempt to keep warm near a small fire in the Seoul Railroad Yards on Dec. 29, 1950. (AP Photo)
A US 25th Div. Inf. gets set to heave a grenade at enemy sniper hidden in a village 20 miles north Taegu on Naktong River front in Korea on August 29, 1950. (AP Photo)
Weighted down with sundry items ranging from guns and trench shovels to a radio set, Sgt. Derrick Deamer, left, and Pvt. Clem Williams wear full battle gear as they chat on British sector of Korea?s Naktong River front in South Korea on Sept. 14, 1950. Both are with British forces fighting with United Nations? troops against the Chinese Communist troops. (AP Photo/GH)
A bazooka team fires at enemy tanks near the front lines in the battle for South Korea on July 5, 1950. (AP Photo)
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander-in-chief of United Nations Forces, on the bridge of the USS McKinley on his arrival at Inchon Harbor in September, 1950. Standing left to right are: Vice Admiral Arthur D. Strubble, Commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet; Brig. Gen. E.K. Wright, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 Far East command and Major Gen. Edward M. Almond, Commanding General, 10th corps. (AP Photo)
I'm still wondering if anyone can tell me what threat Germany was to the U.S. in 1941-42? Why "Europe First"??? Could it have been to help out Stalin’s regime at the expense of American lives? I just don't see the need for Europe first being in the U.S. strategic intrest at that time. I'd be happy if someone could explain to me how it was strategically better FOR THE USA to be involved in a European war when we were first attacked in the Pacific.
A big coastal gun is fired from fortified American positions on Corregidor Island, at the entrance to Manila Bay on the Philippines, on May 6, 1942. (AP Photo) #
For the American people, the fall of the Philippines in 1942 evoked neither the shock of Pearl Harbor nor the defiance born of the Alamo's fight to the last man. Bataan and Corregidor, while not forgotten, were overtaken by
Japanese forces use flame-throwers while attacking a fortified emplacement on Corregidor Island, in the Philippines in May of 1942. (NARA)
However, the hopes of these brave Americans and Filipinos were misplaced. Even
Stimson's thoughts, recorded on the second day of America's entry into World War II, captured the attitude that would prevail in official Washington from the start of the war until the archipelago fell almost five months later. No one believed relief of the Philippines was possible but most felt there was a moral obligation to try. There were some, however, who felt attempts to relieve MacArthur
Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall felt, as Stimson, that despite limited resources, the men and women fighting in the Philippines could not be abandoned without some effort being undertaken to relieve them. Marshall appealed directly to President Franklin Roosevelt for support. The Commander-in-Chief responded by overruling the Joint Board's decision that would have stopped the relief convoy. Roosevelt also told Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal that the President was "bound to help the Philippines, and the Navy had to do its share in the relief effort.'" Two weeks later in a cheerful New Year's message, President Roosevelt exuded optimism regarding relief of the besieged garrison that many in the islands interpreted as a promise of immediate aid. General Marshall also sought to reassure MacArthur, sending the USAFFE commander encouraging cables detailing weapons and equipment waiting on docks or already en route to the Islands. However, on 3 January 1942, Marshall's War Plans Division issued a frank and pessimistic assessment of the relief situation. The staff officer who developed the report was
Billows of smoke from burning buildings pour over the wall which encloses Manila's Intramuros district, sometime in 1942. (AP Photo) #
American soldiers line up as they surrender their arms to the Japanese at the naval base of Mariveles on Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines in April of 1942. (AP Photo) #
Japanese soldiers stand guard over American war prisoners just before the start of the "Bataan Death March" in 1942. This photograph was stolen from the Japanese during Japan's three-year occupation. (AP Photo/U.S. Marine Corps) #
American and Filipino prisoners of war captured by the Japanese are shown at the start of the Death March after the surrender of Bataan on April 9, 1942, near Mariveles in the Philippines. Starting from Mariveles on April 10, some 75,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war were force-marched to Camp O'Donnell, a new prison camp 65 miles away. The prisoners, weakened after a three-month siege, were harassed by Japanese troops for days as they marched, the slow or sick killed with bayonets or swords. (AP Photo)
In his diary, Secretary Stimson noted receipt of the "very gloomy study" from the War Plans Division. In Stimson's words, the report encouraged the senior leadership to recognize that "it would be impossible for us to relieve MacArthur and we might as well make up our minds about it." However, either Stimson couldn't make up his mind or he was unwilling to confront MacArthur and others with the growing evidence that supported Eisenhower's conclusion. The Secretary went on to write, "It is a bad kind of paper to be lying around the War Department at this time. Everybody knows the chances are against our getting relief to him [MacArthur] but there is no use in saying so before hand'" (emphasis added). Reflecting Stimson's attitude, Marshall apparently never shared Eisenhower's report with MacArthur nor made its contents public. D. Clayton
There is ample evidence that soldiers placed great stock in MacArthur's renewed pledge from Australia. When "Skinny" Wainwright made the fateful decision to surrender the entire Philippine command in May 1942, hundreds of Americans refused to obey the order. One often-cited reason for this disobedience was the belief that General MacArthur would be back to disregarded surrender orders and took their chances in the jungles, waiting for MacArthur's supposed imminent return." Even Major General William F. Sharp, who refused to surrender his Visayan-Mindanao Force for a number of days after Wainwright's capitulation, appeared to believe MacArthur might return at any time. Sharp's staff chaplain wrote after the war that the general cabled MacArthur for guidance
As one former soldier wrote, "After fighting in the jungle for five months without any support whatsoever except lip service from our US government, I felt our government had deserted me.""
war planners in Washington and MacArthur in the Pacific may have viewed their deception to the troops as a "military necessity." Simply put, military necessity is action that is necessary in the attainment of the just and moral end for which war is fought. Even military necessity, however, does not excuse all steps taken in the name of a "just war." There must be some sense of proportion. Philosopher Michael Walzer of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies points out that we must weigh the damage or injury done to individuals and mankind against the contribution a particular action makes to the end of victory."
One can speculate endlessly on what might have happened had the soldiers been told from the outset that they would have to fight without expectation of relief. Perhaps little would have changed. Even before America
Public viewing of the body of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur in the Rotunda in Washington, D.C., on April 10, 1964. (AP Photo)
Conclusion: A Lost Opportunity
American prisoners of war carry their wounded and sick during the Bataan Death March in April of 1942. This photo was taken from the Japanese during their three year occupation of the Philippines. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)
The defense of the Philippines cannot be understood in terms of conventional military strategy. In those terms it was one incomprehensible blunder after another, done with due deliberation and afterward profusely rewarded. Just as Clauswitz said war is politics by other means, the sacrifice of the Philippines can only be understood in the larger political context. Analysis of local decisions by MacArthur, miss the point that FDR was actually calling the shots. His motivations, not MacArthur's are at issue. The sacrifice of the 31,095 Americans and 80 thousand Filipino troops with 26 thousand refugees on Bataan is a separate issue from the sacrifice of the Army Air Corps at Clark and Iba.
Solemnly promising the nation his utmost effort to keep the country neutral, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt is shown as he addressed the nation by radio from the White House in Washington, Sept. 3, 1939. In the years leading up to the war, the U.S. Congress passed several Neutrality Acts, pledging to stay (officially) out of the conflict. (AP Photo)
The bombers were sacrificed, not only to facilitate the loss of the Philippines, but more immediately to sucker Hitler into declaring war on the United States and events in the Philippines are analogous to Pearl Harbor which happened the same day. However, Hitler did declare war on December 11th and therefore obviously the sacrifice of Bataan proper springs from other motives. To understand Roosevelt's strategy we have to ask a very basic question: Cui bono? "Who benefits?" Who benefited from Japan's temporary ascendancy and the war dragging on? It was obvious that when the Japanese Empire collapsed that there would be a power vacuum in Asia. The ultimate question of the Pacific War was who would fill that vacuum. Who would take China? Roosevelt wanted Russia to fill the vacuum (cf. his actions at Yalta and How the Far East Was Lost, Dr. Anthony Kubek, 1963) and therefore had to prolong the war so the Soviet Union could pick up the pieces. Because the Soviet Union had its hands full fighting Germany and could not dominate Asia until the war in Europe was under control, delay in the defeat of Japan was necessary. Bataan was a pawn in a larger game. The Battling Bastards of Bataan never understood enough to ask the critical question - "who was their real enemy?" It was Franklin Roosevelt.
The orders to fight on all beaches and not supply Bataan were nothing less than the deliberate sacrifice of 31,095 Americans.
These prisoners were photographed along the Bataan Death March in April of 1942. They have their hands tied behind their backs. The estimates of the number of deaths that occurred along the march vary quite a bit, but some 5,000 to 10,000 Filipino and 600 to 650 American prisoners of war died before they could reach Camp O'Donnell. Thousands more would die in poor conditions at the camp in the following weeks. (NARA)