Douglas MacArthur served in the United States Army his whole life, from birth to death. His father, Arthur MacArthur Jr., led an infantry company tasked with defending settlers and railroad workers from the Indian “menace” in remote parts of New Mexico, where he grew up. Arthur had distinguished himself as a teen in the Union Army, receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor for leading a valiant attack up Missionary Ridge in Tennessee. However, he quickly realized that life in the post-Civil War United States Army lacked the glamour he had seen during the war. Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur
These were particularly trying years for Douglas’ mother, Mary Pinkney Hardy MacArthur, whose childhood as a proper Southern lady had left her unprepared for raising a family in dusty western outposts. But, from the perspective of a young child, life at Ft. Selden, New Mexico, was fascinating. “The sound of bugles was my first recollection,” Douglas MacArthur wrote in his “Reminiscences.” “Even before I could read or write — yes, almost before I could walk or speak — it was here that I learned to ride and shoot.” Perhaps more importantly, he discovered that a MacArthur is always in control by watching his father and listening to his mother.
Captain MacArthur was assigned to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas when Douglas was six years old, so his mother, “Pinky,” could eventually introduce him and his older brother Arthur to life in “civilization.” The family took another step in that direction three years later when they relocated to Washington, D.C., where Arthur took a job with the War Department. Douglas had the opportunity to spend time with his grandfather, Judge Arthur MacArthur, a man of great achievement and beauty, during these formative years. Douglas learned another important lesson from his grandfather as he entertained Washington’s elite: a MacArthur is a scholar and gentlemen. Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur
When his father was posted to San Antonio, Texas, in 1893, Douglas, who had previously been an unremarkable student, began to reveal his own intellectual gifts. He thrived in an environment that fused academics, faith, military discipline, and Victorian social graces at the West Texas Military Academy. Douglas was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1898 due to his outstanding performance, his family’s political ties, and top scores on the qualifying test.
He would have one of the best records in Academy history for the next four years. General Arthur MacArthur, who had just returned from the Philippines, where he had assisted in the Spanish defeat and served as military governor, happily watched his son receive first place in the class of 1903.
Douglas’ first assignment out of West Point was to work with a corps of engineers in the Philippines, and it was there that he formed a lasting bond with the nation. He remembered being “waylaid on a narrow jungle trail by two desperados, one on either side” while on a surveying mission there. Without hesitation, MacArthur replied. “I was an expert with a pistol, as were all frontiersmen. I stopped them both dead in their tracks, but not before one of them fired a rifle at me.” Soon after this first brush with physical risk, MacArthur was assigned to accompany his father on an extended tour of Asia, where the General would study the armed forces of eleven countries. The MacArthurs, like Pinky, were treated like royalty, and Douglas returned home persuaded that Asia was America’s — and his — future. Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur
One of Douglas’s next jobs was as an aide in President Theodore Roosevelt’s White House. However, when he was assigned to a boring engineering project in Milwaukee in 1907, his output suffered, and he earned a low grade. To add to his confusion, he had fallen in love with Fanniebelle, a New York debutante, and his promising career prospects seemed to be fading. Douglas made amends in his next assignment at Leavenworth Staff College, and after his father died in 1912, he was moved to the War Department in Washington to care for his mother. While he was there, he was brought under the wing of Chief of Staff Leonard Wood, a father protege, and his career was once again on track. MacArthur was promoted to major in 1915 and became the Army’s first public relations officer the next year, doing so well that he is credited with convincing the American people to support the Selective Service Act of 1917 as the nation moves closer to entering the war in Europe.
Despite his stellar record up to that point, Douglas MacArthur’s first real taste of fame came during the First World War. He was quickly promoted to brigadier general and assisted in leading the Rainbow Division through the thick of the fighting in France, which he had helped form out of National Guard units before the war. MacArthur became the most decorated American soldier of the war, with a flamboyant, romantic style balanced only by actual acts of bravery on the battlefield. Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur
Although his peers were demoted to their pre-war ranks, MacArthur was promoted to Superintendent of West Point, a lucrative new assignment. Despite enraging many of the old guards, MacArthur followed through on his promise to bring the dormant Academy into the twenty-first century, allowing it to produce officers capable of leading the nation in the form of modern war he had just witnessed firsthand. He also married Louise Cromwell Brooks, a vibrant flapper, and heiress who was nothing like her spit-and-polish second husband. When Chief of Staff John J. Pershing, with whom Louise had an affair during the war, shipped MacArthur from West Point to a makeshift assignment in the Philippines, a minor controversy erupted. MacArthur was relieved to be back in his beloved islands, despite his disappointment; Louise used to the glamorous society of cities such as New York and Paris, was not pleased. The marriage deteriorated even after they returned to the United States in 1925. In 1928, Louise filed for divorce. MacArthur sought solace in the Philippines, where he took command of the Army’s Philippine Department and rekindled his relationship with Manuel Quezon, the island’s most powerful politician, whom he had known since 1903.
Although he and Quezon were unsuccessful in their attempt to get MacArthur appointed governor of the Philippines, President Hoover helped soften the blow by appointing MacArthur to the Army’s highest position, Chief of Staff, in 1930. But it was a difficult time to be Chief in the early 1930s when the Great Depression left Americans deaf to MacArthur’s warnings about the rise of world fascism. Despite his capable leadership, the Army’s morale plummeted to new depths throughout his tenure. This, combined with the harm to his reputation caused by the Bonus March of 1932, led army troops in routing impoverished World War I veterans from the capital, left MacArthur open to other opportunities. He was attracted to the Philippines once more. His old friend Quezon, President of the newly formed Philippine Commonwealth, welcomed him back to Manila in 1935 as the commander of a US military mission tasked with preparing the islands for full independence in 1946. Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur
The years that followed were among MacArthur’s happiest. He met and fell in love with Jean Marie Faircloth, 37, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on his way to Manila. Jean helped fill the hole left by Pinky’s death shortly after they arrived in Manila, and her loyalty would be a source of strength for the rest of his life. The 58-year-old general proved to be a loving father after the birth of their son, Arthur MacArthur IV. However, the increasing threat faced by an expansionist Japan gradually overshadowed their happy life in Manila. Despite the help of top aide Dwight Eisenhower, MacArthur would not have enough time or resources to create a force capable of fighting the Japanese. When war broke out on December 7, 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Philippines were doomed: MacArthur’s air force was soon defeated, his army shredded, and by January, his troops had withdrawn to the Bataan peninsula, where they fought for survival. MacArthur watched his world fall apart from his command post on the island of Corregidor at the mouth of Manila Bay.
Despite MacArthur’s poor performance in the Philippines, Roosevelt realized he couldn’t let America’s most successful general fall to the enemy, so he ordered him to return to Australia. Even though it went against his idea of a soldier’s obligation, MacArthur abandoned his men to certain death, comforted only by the hope that he would lead an army back to save them. The world watched as his personal quest — “I shall return” — became almost synonymous with the Pacific War over the next three years. Although MacArthur’s route through the thick jungles of New Guinea was not originally planned, his unwavering determination and resourcefulness made it one of the two prongs in the Allied drive to push the Japanese back. MacArthur gradually gained traction when fighting a two-front battle, one with the Japanese and the other with the US Navy, which saw the Pacific as theirs. The world watched in awe as he waded ashore at Leyte in October 1944 and liberated the rest of the Philippines in the months that followed. He presided over the Japanese surrender on board the “USS Missouri” on September 2, 1945, putting World War II to a close. Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur
With his position as a leading figure of the twentieth century assured, MacArthur’s next five and a half years as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan may have seen him make his greatest contribution to history. Although initiating some policies and simply introducing others, MacArthur’s name became synonymous with the highly successful profession due to his charisma. His GHQ workers assisted a ravaged Japan in rebuilding, establishing a democratic government, and charting a path that has led to it becoming one of the world’s leading manufacturing forces. However, by the late 1940s, MacArthur was gradually overlooked by Washington, and it seemed that his illustrious career was coming to an end.
The sudden outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, dubbed “Mars’ last gift to an old warrior,” thrust MacArthur back into the spotlight. In charge of an American-led coalition of UN forces, MacArthur turned around the war’s desperate military situation with a genius amphibious attack behind North Korean lines at the Port of Inchon in the early months of the conflict. However, just a few weeks after this great victory, he and Washington made a critical error. MacArthur’s approach to the Chinese border prompted Mao’s Communist Chinese to join, and as 1951 dawned, they faced “an entirely new battle,” as he put it. Although the military situation near the prewar border at the 38th parallel was stabilized under the capable leadership of General Matthew B. Ridgway, MacArthur’s months of public and private bickering with the Truman administration soon came to a head. On April 11, 1951, President Truman relieved General Douglas MacArthur, igniting a firestorm of criticism of our policy in Korea and the Cold War. MacArthur was greeted as a hero when he returned home as the last great general of World War II. Despite MacArthur’s dramatic televised speech to a joint session of Congress, the topic died soon, as did any hopes MacArthur had of becoming President in 1952. Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur
True to his word, the elderly soldier “faded away” from public view, retiring to New York and living peacefully until he died in 1964. Although it’s debatable if Douglas MacArthur’s illustrious life ever gave him full happiness, one thing was certain: he had more than met his self-imposed goal of being one of history’s great men.
The Passport Field Marshal Douglas MacArthur
His passport from 1961 showing the five-star general in uniform was a random detection during research. The original document is at the MacArthur Memorial Archives, Norfolk, VA, USA. I contacted the museum, asking for a scan of his passport, and my wish was granted. In return, I sent the museum my book, LET PASS OR DIE—a win-win situation for both parties.
Another fantastic document is this SPECIAL PASSPORT from a Navy Commander who once fought in Pearl Harbor and Midway.