Douglas MacArthur is one of the commanding figures of twentieth-century American history. Having served in the Philippines at the start of the century, and distinguished himself in the trenches of World War I, MacArthur rose to great prominence in the army. He commanded the troops that attached the “Bonus Army” of veterans in Washington, D.C., in 1932, and led the American forces in the Pacific during World War II. His “island hopping” strategy to retake the Pacific Islands in the march to Japan saved thousands of American lives and his imperious, yet magnanimous style as commander of Allied forces in postwar Japan helped ease that country’s transition from bitter enemy to trusted ally.
When the Korean conflict started, MacArthur defied military convention with his amphibious assault on Inchon, dramatically reversing North Korea’s military advantage into a rout. But as MacArthur moved his forces into North Korea and toward China, he endangered American policy. Despite repeated orders from Truman to refrain from threatening China both with troops and in rhetoric. MacArthur persisted, finally prompted Truman to sack the immensely popular general.
MacArthur was treated as a conquering hero on his return to the United States, culminating in his April 19, 1951, address to Congress. Although the speech is best remembered fro its “old soldiers never die” passage, most of the address is devoted to analyzing the dangers and opportunities of post-World War II Asia. In retrospect, his analysis provides an intriguing perspective not only on the Korean War, but also on Vietnam.
Click on link to download full text of General Douglas’s Farewell Address to Congress.