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Douglas MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur, the son of the high-ranking military figure, Arthur MacArthur, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, on 26th January, 1880. Although previously a poor scholar, in 1903 MacArthur graduated first in his 93-man class, at West Point Military Academy.

Commissioned in the Corps of the Engineers, MacArthur was sent by the United States Army to the Philippines and by 1904 had been promoted to the rank of first lieutenant. Later that year he joined his father who was serving in Far East before becoming aide-de-camp to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.

MacArthur was assigned to general staff duty with the War Department and was an official observer with the Vera Cruz Expedition. On the advice of General Leonard Wood, MacArthur was promoted to major.

In the First World War MacArthur commanded the 42nd Division on the Western Front and was decorated 13 times and cited seven additional times for bravery. Promoted the the rank of brigadier in August, 1918, three months later he became the youngest divisional commander in France.

After the war MacArthur returned to the United States where he became brigadier general and the youngest ever superintendent of West Point in its 117 year history. Over the next three years he doubled its size and modernized the curriculum.

In 1922 MacArthur was sent to the Philippines where he commanded the newly established Military District of Manila. At the age of forty-three MacArthur became the army's youngest general and in 1928 was appointed president of the American Olympic Committee.

MacArthur was appointed chief of staff of the US Army in 1930. Once again he was the youngest man to hold the office and over the next few years attempted to modernize America's army of 135,000 men. MacArthur developed right-wing political views and at one meeting argued that: "Pacifism and its bedfellow, Communism, are all about us. Day by day this cancer eats deeper into the body politic."

In June 1932, MacArthur, controversially used tanks, four troops of cavalry with drawn sabers, and infantry with fixed bayonets, on the Bonus Army in Washington. He justified his attack on former members of the United States Army by claiming that the country was on the verge of a communist revolution. Dwight D. Eisenhower and George Patton also took part in this operation.

In 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent MacArthur to organize the defence of the Philippines. He retired from the army in 1937 but stayed on the island where he became the country's military adviser.

When negotiations with the Japanese government broke down in June 1941, Roosevelt recalled MacArthur to active duty as a major general and was granted $10 million to mobilize the Philippine Army. It was also decided to send MacArthur 100 B-17 Flying Fortress to help defend the Philippines.

Most of MacArthur's troops were deployed to protect the two main islands of Luzon and Mindanao and by October 1941, MacArthur informed General George Marshall that he now had 135,000 troops, 227 assorted fighters, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft and this provided a "tremendously strong offensive and defensive force" and claimed that the Philippines was now the "key or base point of the US defence line."

The Japanese Air Force attacked the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on the 7th December 1941. The following day they carried out air strikes on the Philippines and destroyed half of MacArthur's air force. MacArthur was much criticized for this as he had been told to move his airforce after the raid on Hawaii the previous day.

The Japanese Army also invaded the Philippines and they soon held the three air bases in northern Luzon. On 22nd December the 14th Army landed at Lingayen Gulf and quickly gained control of Manila from the inexperienced Filipino troops. Although only 57,000 Japanese soldiers were landed on Luzon it had little difficulty capturing the island.

General Douglas MacArthur now ordered a general retreat to the Bataan peninsula. A series of Japanese assaults forced the US defensive lines back and on 22nd February, 1942, MacArthur was ordered to leave Bataan and go to Australia. General Jonathan Wainright remained behind with 11,000 soldiers and managed to hold out until the beginning of May.

The American forces were re-organized and MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander of the Southwest Pacific Area and Admiral Chester Nimitz became Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet. Along with Admiral Ernest King Commander-in-Chief of the US Navy, Macarthur and Nimitz, decided that their first objective should be to establish and protect a line of communications across the South Pacific to Australia. This resulted in the battles of Coral Sea and Midway, where the Japanese Navy lost all four of her carriers.

In the summer of 1942 fighting in the Pacific was concentrated around Rabaul, the key Japanese military and air base in the Soloman Islands. On 7th August there was an Allied landings at Guadalcanal. Over the next eight months there were ten major land battles and seven major naval engagements in this area.

MacArthur now developed what became known as his island hopping tactics. This strategy involved amphibious landings on vulnerable islands, therefore bypassing Japanese troop concentrations on fortified islands. This had the advantage of avoiding frontal assaults and thus reducing the number of American casualties.

By the spring of 1944, 100,000 Japanese soldiers were cut off at Rabaul and the Japanese 18th Army were surrounded in New Guinea. In September US troops took Morotai and all of New Guinea was now in Allied hands.

It was not until 1944 that MacArthur was given permission to begin the campaign to recapture the Philippines. The first objective was the capture of Leyte, an island situated between Luzon and Mindanao. After a two day naval bombardment General Walter Krueger and the 6th Army landed on 22nd October, 1944.

This was followed by Leyte Gulf, the largest naval engagement in history. It was a decisive victory for the Allies with the Japanese Navy lost four carriers, three battleships and ten cruisers. It was now clear that the US Navy now had control of the Pacific and that further Allied landings in the region were likely to be successful.

After bitter fighting the US forces captured the important port of Ormoc on 10th December. By the time Leyte was secured the US Army had lost 3,500 men. It is estimated that over 55,000 Japanese soldiers were killed during the campaign.

On 9th January 1945 Allied troops landed on Luzon, the largest of the islands in the Philippines. The Japanese Army, under General Tomoyuki Yamashita, fought a vigorous rearguard action but within a month MacArthur and his troops had crossed the Central Plain and were approaching Manila. Yamashita and his main army now withdrew to the mountains but left enough troops in Manila to make the capture of the city as difficult as possible. An estimated 16,000 Japanese soldiers were killed before it was taken on 4th March 1945.

General Robert Eichelberger and the US 8th Army landed on Mindanao on 10th March and began advancing through the southern Philippines. This included the capture of Panay, Cebu, Negros and Bohol.

MacArthur's last amphibious operation was at Okinawa. Lying just 563km (350 miles) from the Japanese mainland, it offered excellent harbour, airfield and troop-staging facilities. It was a perfect base from which to launch a major assault on Japan, consequently it was well-defended, with 120,000 troops under General Mitsuru Ushijima. The Japanese also committed some 10,000 aircraft to defending the island.

After a four day bombardment the 1,300 ship invasion forced moved into position off the west coast of Okinawa on 1st April 1945. The landing force, under the leadership of Lieutenant-General Simon Buckner, initially totalled 155,000. However, by the time the battle finished, more than 300,000 soldiers were involved in the fighting. This made it comparable to the Normandy landing in mainland Europe in June, 1944.

On the first day 60,000 troops were put ashore against little opposition at Haguushi. The following day two airfields were captured by the Americans. However when the soldiers reached Shuri they came under heavy fire and suffered heavy casualties.

Reinforced by the 3rd Amphibious Corps and the 6th Marine Division the Americans were able to repel a ferocious counter-attack by General Mitsuru Ushijima on 4th May. At sea off Okinawa a 700 plane kamikaze raid on 6th April sunk and damaged 13 US destroyers. The giant battleship, Yamato, lacking sufficient fuel for a return journey, was also sent out on a suicide mission and was sunk on 7th May.

On 11th May, Lieutenant-General Simon Buckner, ordered another offensive on the Shuri defences, and the Japanese were finally forced to withdraw. Buckner was killed on 18th June and three days later his replacement, General Roy Geiger, announced that the island had finally been taken. When it was clear that he had been defeated, Mitsuru Ushijima committed ritual suicide (hari-kiri).

The capture of Okinawa cost the Americans 49,000 in casualties of whom 12,520 died. More than 110,000 Japanese were killed on the island. While the island was being prepared for the invasion of Japan, a B-29 Superfortress bomber dropped an atom bomb on Hiroshima on 6th August 1945. Japan did not surrender immediately and a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. On 10th August the Japanese surrendered and the Second World War was over.

MacArthur was named Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) and he received the formal surrender and President Harry S. Truman appointed him as head of the Allied occupation of Japan. He was given responsibility of organizing the war crimes tribunal in Japan and was criticized for his treatment of Tomoyuki Yamashita, who was executed 23rd February, 1946. However he was praised for successfully encouraging the creation of democratic institutions, religious freedom, civil liberties, land reform, emancipation of women and the formation of trade unions.

On the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, MacArthur was appointed commander of the United Nations forces. The surprise character of the attack enabled the North Koreans to occupy all the South, except for the area around the port of Pusan. On 15th September, 1950, MacArthur landed American and South Korean marines at Inchon, 200 miles behind the North Korean lines. The following day he launched a counterattack on the North Koreans. When they retreated, MacArthur's forces carried the war northwards, reaching the Yalu River, the frontier between Korea and China on 24th October, 1950.

Harry S. Truman and Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State, told MacArthur to limit the war to Korea. MacArthur disagreed, favoring an attack on Chinese forces. Unwilling to accept the views of Truman and Acheson, MacArthur began to make inflammatory statements indicating his disagreements with the United States government.

MacArthur gained support from right-wing members of the Senate such as Joe McCarthy who led the attack on Truman's administration: "With half a million Communists in Korea killing American men, Acheson says, 'Now let's be calm, let's do nothing'. It is like advising a man whose family is being killed not to take hasty action for fear he might alienate the affection of the murders."

In April 1951, Harry S. Truman removed MacArthur from his command of the United Nations forces in Korea. McCarthy now called for Truman to be impeached and suggested that the president was drunk when he made the decision to fire MacArthur: "Truman is surrounded by the Jessups, the Achesons, the old Hiss crowd. Most of the tragic things are done at 1.30 and 2 o'clock in the morning when they've had time to get the President cheerful."

On his arrival back in the United States MacArthur led a campaign against Harry S. Truman and his Democratic Party administration. Soon after Dwight Eisenhower was elected president in 1952 he consulted with MacArthur about the Korean War. MacArthur's advice was the "atomic bombing of enemy military concentrations and installations in North Korea" and an attack on China. He rejected the advice and MacArthur played no role in Eisenhower's new Republican administration.

After leaving the United States Army, MacArthur accepted a job as chairman of the board of the Remington Rand Corporation. Douglas MacArthur died in the Water Reed Hospital, Washington, on 5th April, 1964.




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