Thinking Citizen Blog — Douglas MacArthur (Part I) — Liberator of the Philippines, de facto Emperor of Japan, Inchon
Thinking Citizen Blog — Monday is Foreign Policy Day
Today’s Topic: Douglas MacArthur (Part I) — Liberator of the Philippines (1944), de facto Emperor of Japan (1945–51), Inchon (1950)
In 1937, General MacArthur retired from the US Army at age 57, a legend in his own time. The most decorated US soldier of the First World War, he became the youngest Superintendent of West Point and was later appointed Chief of Staff of the US Army by President Franklin Roosevelt. In 1937, little did the retired General know what lay ahead. This is the first in a series on one of the most important figures in the history of four countries — the United States, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines. Was MacArthur an empty blowhard or the greatest US general ever? Neither? Both? Was he a great tactician but a lousy strategist? Was he much more than either? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
I SHALL RETURN (1941), I HAVE RETURNED (1944)
1. The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded the Philippines. “Japan’s conquest of the Philippines is often considered the worst military defeat in US history. About 23,000 American military personnel, and about 100,000 Filipino soldiers were killed or captured.” (wikipedia)
2. In February, 1942, while leading a valiant but doomed defense of the Bataan Peninsula, MacArthur was ordered by President Roosevelt to relocate to Australia. MacArthur promised “I Shall Return.”
3. In 1944, he did.
NB: And the Philippine people remember. Should he have said “We shall return” as Washington instructed him? Does it matter?
DE FACTO EMPEROR OF JAPAN (1945–1951) — exporting a “New Deal”
1. As Supreme Allied Commander, MacArthur ruled Japan, through Emperor Hirohito, whom he stripped of all real power.
2. MacArthur’s staff drafted a new constitution for Japan which became the foundation of democracy there — banning war as an instrument of policy, enfranchising women, forbidding racial discrimination.
3. Economic reform was also instituted with 38% of cultivated land redistributed and trade unionization promoted. By 1947, “48% of the non-agricultural work force was unionized…By 1950, 89% of agricultural land was owner-occupied.”
NB: The above photograph was forbidden by the Japanese government but MacArthur overrode their decision. He wanted to make clear who was in charge.
THE BATTLE OF INCHON (September 1950) — would there be a South Korea today without this amphibious landing? who cares? who should? who does?
1. On June 25, 1950, the North Korean Army invaded South Korea. By September, the invaders had control of all but a tiny portion of the the peninsula. (See map above with timeline.)
2. The turning point was MacArthur’s daring amphibious landing at Inchon, midway up the peninsula on the eastern side.
3. By November, the United Nations forces had forced the North Korean forces back to the Chinese border. But the Chinese intervened.
NB: An armistice was signed on July 27, 1953.
FOOTNOTES — In his own words
1. “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”
2. “Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul. You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope as old as your despair. In the central place of every heart there is a recording chamber. So long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, and courage, so long are you young. When your heart is covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then, and then onoy, are you grown old. And then indeed as the ballad says, you just fade away.”
3. “The enemy is in front of us, the enemy is behind us, the enemy is to the right and to the left. They can’t get away this time!” (Did he really say this? Or is it just another great misattribution?)
NB: “Could I have but a line a century hence crediting a contribution to the advance of peace, I would gladly yield every honor which has been accorded me in war.”
Here is a link to the last three years of posts organized by theme:
Please share the coolest or most important thing you learned in the last week, month, or year related to foreign policy. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in our life related to foreign policy.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is the key to depth of thought. The prospect of imminent publication, like hanging and final exams, concentrates the mind. A useful life long habit.