After graduation from TMI
and West Point, Douglas MacArthur went to the violence-torn Philippines in the days after the conclusion of the Philippine Insurrection. Traveling the Far East, he became familiar with the Japanese military and culture. In 1914, he was recommended for the Medal of Honor for bravery
while performing reconnaissance behind Mexican lines during the United States’ expedition in Vera Cruz, Mexico. During World War I, MacArthur served with the 42nd Division and was credited with naming in the “Rainbow” Division because the division recruited its members nationwide. Serving as the division chief of staff and as a brigade commander, he led from the front
. He led initial patrols into German lines and went “over the top” as first man out of the trenches attacking into “no man’s land.” MacArthur was awarded numerous U.S. and foreign awards for valor
and was wounded twice.
After the war, MacArthur became the Superintendent of West Point and came to be known as the Father of Modern West Point. There he initiated summer training at military installations, modernized the curriculum, started intramural sports, and curtailed hazing. In 1928, he led the U.S. Olympic Team to Amsterdam. In 1930, President Herbert Hoover appointed MacArthur as the youngest Chief of Staff of the Army in history. It was under the Hoover Administration the General MacArthur started to become controversial. When thousands of veterans protested conditions during the Great Depression by camping in Washington, D.C., President Hoover ordered regular army troops to evict them. General MacArthur took personal responsibility for the mission. Afterwards, some credited MacArthur with saving the country from communist agitators among the protesters while others vilified him for exceeding his authority and for dealing harshly with needy veterans.
Although President Franklin D. Roosevelt kept MacArthur as the Chief of Staff of the Army, these two would also clash. The President intended to cut the military budget. MacArthur went to the White House threatening to resign and take his case to the people because he believed the cuts would result in a loss in the next war. FDR relented, and the military budget was not cut. FDR called MacArthur “the conscience of America” and America’s “best general and worst politician.” Upon retirement from the Army, MacArthur was named military adviser to the Philippines as the threat of Japanese militarism loomed ominously in Asia. The Philippine Commonwealth named him as Field Marshal.
Six months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR recalled MacArthur to active duty to command the Philippine and United States’ forces. Despite improvements in training and equipment, the Philippine Army and United States’ small force was no match for the Japanese. General MacArthur led a valiant but hopeless defense of the Philippines against Japanese forces. Falling back to Bataan Peninsula nd Corregidor Island, General MacArthur begged for reinforcements, but none were sent. As the Philippine and United States’ forces—short on ammunition and disease-ridden—came close to being overwhelmed, MacArthur was ordered to leave the Philippines and lead the Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific. Departing by a PT boat he proceeded to Australia (PT boat flag in TMI library).
From there, General MacArthur’s strategy centered on island hopping and bypassing Japanese strongholds en route back to liberation of the Philippines. His words, “I shall return,” became a battle cry of allied forces. General MacArthur’s strategy was in sharp contrast to that of the Central Pacific where frontal assaults against heavily defended strongholds cost heavy Marine Corps’ casualties. Many credit General MacArthur’s strategy with saving thousands of allied lives. In 1945, MacArthur returned to the Philippines and marched into Manila.
On September 2, 1945, General MacArthur assumed powers as Supreme Commander Allied Forces and accepted the Japanese surrender on the USS MISSOURI. He personally oversaw the rebuilding of Japan. A new constitution, land reforms, freedom of the press, trade unions, and women’s right to vote were radical introductions to the Japanese culture. His impact on peace in Asia, especially the refocusing of Japan from samurai to entrepreneur, is felt today and will be felt for the foreseeable future.
In 1950, with the invasion of South Korea by the communist North, General MacArthur again took command, this time of all United Nations forces. His landings at Inchon behind enemy lines are considered a brilliant military maneuver that saved an allied force on the brink of defeat in the defense of the Pusan Perimeter. Under his leadership, UN forces drove North Korean troops back to the Chinese border along the Yalu River. At that time, China entered the war by launching a massive counterattack caught the UN forces that catching UN forces by surprise.
General MacArthur wanted to blockade China, bomb enemy supply lines in China, and use Chinese nationalist troops in the war. Disagreements over strategy led to a sharp division between MacArthur and President Truman. Ultimately, President Truman relieved MacArthur of his command. Despite the setback, General MacArthur was given a hero’s welcome throughout the United States. In a farewell speech to Congress, MacArthur made the now famous observation that, “old soldiers never die—they just fade away.”
Earliest Years in Uniform
Before Douglas MacArthur attended West Point he was one of the original 49 cadets enrolled at West Texas Military Academy (WTMA)
during its first year, 1893-1894. WTMA has since become Texas Military Institute which still carries on its traditions in San Antonio, Texas. The schools first Headmaster, Rev. Allen Burleson, said MacArthur was the, "Brightest student he had ever known," not withstanding the thousands he had over his lifetime. Douglas was said to be a wizard at mathematics, knew history "up-side-down," and talked about famous men "As if they were his friends."
He was a sponge for knowledge with a photographic memory. His grade point average as a freshman was 96.3, as a sophomore 95.15, as a junior 96.3, and as a senior 97.33. In mathematics, his last two years, he earned a 97.65% and 99.07%. As a junior and senior he was awarded medals for both the highest scholarship and military achievement
. Years later, General MacArthur would write that TMI gave him "A desire to know, a seeking for reason why, a search for the truth." TMI prepared him well for the academic challenges of West Point. He achieved a record 93.33 % on the West Point exam (the next highest score 77.9%). At West Point, his grade point average was 98.14 and in several courses he was the only cadet ever to score a perfect 100%.
Douglas was not only a scholar, he was also selected as First Sergeant of A Company his senior year at TMI, a position of significant responsibility in the small cadet corps. His classmates credit TMI with his decision to become a soldier. Again, TMI prepared him well. According to a West Point classmate, "He entered West Point and instead of being a confused plebe, he was in many ways a veteran soldier." MacArthur went on to command the Corps at West Point. At TMI, he became a servant leader. He led by example and cared for those he led and his leaders. TMI's reputation for collegiate scholarship was started in part because of this concern for others. In the spring of 1896, Cadet MacArthur was taking exams seated behind Cadet Charles Quinn '96, the Battalion Adjutant. Quinn's exam results would determine if he would continue on to college. The questions toward the end of the exam became more difficult, Quinn became discouraged, placed his exam in the trash, and left. MacArthur, seeing this, pulled the test out and put it on the teacher's desk. Days later, results were announced and Quinn had passed. Cadet Quinn went on to Purdue, graduated with honors at the head of his class and became the first TMI alumnus to receive a college diploma.
Douglas MacArthur was also an athlete. He captained the tennis team and in baseball, played shortstop. On the football team he was the team captain and quarterback. TMI played one team with a particularly nasty reputation for dirty tricks on the field. Douglas asked the opposing team how they would like to play, by the rules as gentlemen, or otherwise TMI was ready to give as tough as they got. The opposing team played the cleanest game ever and lost. Douglas always showed a fighting spirit for everything, whether it was in the classroom, on the drill or athletic fields.
According to his classmates, Douglas was a "regular fellow" and was liked by every member of his class and teammates. He attended the school dances and girls counted him a "prize," but in other ways he was different. He knew how to be at ease when the rest of the students were self-conscious. Despite his military assignments, Douglas returned to TMI three times after graduation. He visited as a lieutenant in 1911, as the youngest Chief of Staff of the Army in 1939, and finally as retiring General of the Army in 1951. General Douglas MacArthur said upon his visit in 1951, "This is where I started, and I thank a merciful God that I am able to come back to the school again."
To date, TMI has produced since MacArthur’s graduation thirteen other general officers, two congressmen, two bishops, two university presidents as well as five Distinguished Serve Cross recipients. The general’s statue stands to the right side of the formation area of the Cadet Corps where he symbolically watches over the Corps. Cadet are required to salute the statue daily.