Douglas MacArthur was born in an army barracks in Little Rock, Arkansas. His father was a general, and MacArthur never consid¬ ered any career other than the military. He graduated first in his class at the U.S.
Military Academy at West Point in 1903 and entered the army corps of engineers. A major when World War I began, he led the famous 42nd “Rainbow” Division and was twice wounded. Promoted to brigadier general by the end of the war, he then served as the youngest superintend¬ ent ever of West Point (1919-1923).
MacArthur’s life and career were inextricably intertwined with the Philippine Islands, where his father had served before him.
MacArthur came to love the islands during a tour of duty there in the 1920s. He then served as chief of staff of the U.S. Army. He offi¬ cially retired from the army in 1937 and went to the Philippines as a military adviser.
The start of World War II saw MacArthur back on active duty on the islands. His air force was stricken by the Japanese only hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941). After a futile effort to defend the archipelago, he left, vowing “I shall return.”
MacArthur became supreme commander of the southwest Pacific ground forces in April 1942. After taking steps to protect Australia from invasion, he led U.S. troops in the “island hopping” campaigns that brought him back to the Philippines in 1944 as promised. Had the war continued after the use of the
atomic bomb, he would have led Operation Downfall, the projected invasion of the Japanese mainland. Lacking that, he had the satisfaction of accepting the Japanese surren¬ der aboard the USS Missouri (September 2, 1945).
As supreme commander of the Allied occu¬ pation of Japan from 1945 to 1951, MacArthur held vast power, which he used with judgment and skill. He established a lib¬ eral democracy, abol¬ ished the nobility, and revived Japanese indus¬ try, starting the recovery process that would make Japan into an economic superpower by the 1980s.
When the Korean War broke out, MacArthur was given command of the American and United Nations forces defend¬ ing South Korea. He planned and executed a brilliant and daring amphibious landing at Inchon behind the lines of the North Korean troops. His movement led to a wholesale rout. MacArthur vowed to chase the North Koreans into China itself.
His belief in final victory proved prema¬ ture. China intervened in the war and hurled the Americans back southward. MacArthur called on President Harry Truman to use nuclear weapons if necessary; Truman refused. After MacArthur proceeded to make his feel¬ ings about the war public, Truman removed him from command on April 11, 1951. MacArthur then returned to the United States, which he had not seen since the start of World War II.