In 1950, North Korea, backed by Russia, invaded
South Korea. General Douglas MacArthur was appointed Commander of the United Nations forces sent to protect South Korea. MacArthur believed that a strongly aggressive strategy was needed, including bombardment of Chinese bases in Manchuria. When he communicated these beliefs he was charged with insubordination and relieved of command by President Truman, who feared his strategy would lead to war with China and the Soviet Union.
MacArthur immediately flew back to the United States and took up invitations to speak before both Houses of Congress, an unprecedented event in American history. In a dramatic address he repeated his demands for action against the Chinese to combat the Communist threat.
Douglas MacArthur was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1880. After graduating first in his class at West Point Military Academy in 1903, Douglas became a second lieutenant and was stationed in the Philippines and Japan. During World War I, he earned many combat decorations, while serving as Chief of Staff of the famous Rainbow Division and later as Commander of the 84th Infantry Brigade.
In 1919, MacArthur was appointed Superintendent of West Point where he broadened the curriculum and raised standards. Between 1922 and 1925 he was Commander in the Philippines and in 1930 was appointed Chief of Staff by President Hoover. In 1935, MacArthur returned to the Philippines to prepare the islands against possible Japanese aggression and in 1936 was appointed Field Marshall of the Philippine Army. He retired from the US army in December 1937.
In 1941 MacArthur was recalled to service when President Roosevelt gave him command of all the US army forces in the Far East, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. When Japan finally surrendered in 1945, MacArthur oversaw the signing of surrender documents on board the battleship Missouri.
After his service in South Korea and return to the US, MacArthur spent the last 12 years of his life in New York. He made periodic public speeches and was consulted by every US President. Although arrogant, aloof and egotistical, MacArthur was also warm-hearted, courageous, self-sacrificing and capable of inspiring loyalty. He had a brilliant mind but was convinced that America was menaced by a conspiracy of liberals and Communists.
I address you with neither rancour nor bitterness in the fading twilight of life, with but one purpose in mind: to serve my country .
… While I was not consulted prior to the President’s decision to intervene in support of the Republic of Korea, that decision from a military standpoint, proved a sound one, as we hurled back the invader and decimated his forces.
Our victory was complete, and our objectives within reach, when Red China intervened with numerically superior ground forces.
This created a new war and an entirely new situation, a situation not contemplated when our forces were committed against the North Korean invaders, a situation which called for new decisions in the diplomatic sphere to permit the realistic adjustment of military strategy.
Such decisions have not been forthcoming.
While no man in his right mind would advocate sending our ground forces into continental China, and such was never given a thought, the new situation did urgently demand a drastic revision of strategic planning if our political aim was to defeat this new enemy as we had defeated the old.
‘I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting.’
Apart from the military need, as I saw it, to neutralize the sanctuary protection given the enemy north of the Yalu, I felt that military necessity in the conduct of the war made necessary: first, the intensification of our economic blockade against China, two, the imposition of a naval blockade against the China coast, three, removal of restrictions on air reconnaissance of China’s coastal areas and of Manchuria, four, removal of restrictions on the forces of the Republic of China on Formosa, with logistical support to contribute to their effective operations against the common enemy.
For entertaining these views, all professionally designed to support our forces committed to Korea and bring hostilities to an end with the least possible delay and at a saving of countless American and allied lives, I have been severely criticized in lay circles, principally abroad, despite my understanding that from a military standpoint the above views have been fully shared in the past by practically every military leader concerned with the Korean campaign, including our own Joint Chiefs of Staff.
‘Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.’
I called for reinforcements but was informed that reinforcements were not available. I made clear that if not permitted to destroy the enemy built-up bases north of the Yalu, if not permitted to utilize the friendly Chinese Force of some 600,000 men on Formosa, if not permitted to blockade the China coast to prevent the Chinese Reds from getting succour from without, and if there were to be no hope of major reinforcements, the position of the command from the military standpoint forbade victory .
… Efforts have been made to distort my position. It has been said, in effect, that I was a warmonger. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes.
There are some who, for varying reasons, would appease Red China. They are blind to history’s clear lesson, for history teaches with unmistakeable emphasis that appeasement but begets new and bloodier war ….
I have just left your fighting sons in Korea. They have met all tests there, and I can report to you without reservation that they are splendid in every way .
… I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfilment of all of my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that, ‘old soldiers never die, they just fade away’.
And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty .
In 1950, North Korea, backed by Russia, invaded