LIFE (December 8, 1941)
MacArthur of the Far East
If war should come, he leads the Army that will fight Japan
By Clare Boothe
Today, when the thunderclouds of war are so low and thick over the Pacific that visiting Mr. Kurusu hardly dares sneeze for fear of precipitating the cloudburst, it is difficult to remember that in 1935, a Japanese-American conflict was no more than a gray little puff over Manchukuo. Men who saw it there and predicted its prodigious growth were accused of being alarmists. In that year in Washington, handsome Gen. Douglas MacArthur retired as a top soldier of Uncle Sam’s Army and, according to TIME, “packed his elegant duffel” and sailed for the Philippines. Nobody much cared why.
In 1935, the barometer of U.S. isolationism was rising rapidly toward its all-time 1939 peak. Public opinion on the Philippines – when there was any – was for “pulling out.” The Filipinos were to have “complete independence” in 1946. It was to protect this glorious independence that President Quezon, with the approval of Franklin Roosevelt, borrowed Douglas MacArthur, who thought he knew a way to do it. Advertising the newly-arrived general as “America’s best professional talent,” Quezon promptly dubbed MacArthur “Field Marshal of the Philippines” and assigned to him the task of making those defenseless islands impregnable to attack – by 1946.
Appointed Field Marshal of the Philippine Army in 1936, his job was to revamp, modernize and enlarge the native army. Here he reviews some Filipino troops in ceremony at Manila.
Some people were quick to suggest that either MacArthur was being sold a bill of goods by a busted government, or that MacArthur would bust Quezon selling him a bill of goods, since, they claimed, not even the U.S. Army and Navy units there, together with the Philippine Army, could hope to defend the Philippines. Left-wingers squawked that MacArthur intended to help his old pal Quezon:
…establish a dictatorship in the Philippines under the protection of American-sponsored soldiers…
Washington society, after its first snickers over MacArthur’s wonderfully high-sounding title of “Field Marshal,” settled comfortably back to forgetting again about the Philippines – and MacArthur. And even when Americans began to think about the Philippines again this year, they didn’t think of MacArthur. For after all he was only in charge of some half-trained Filipinos, and other U.S. generals and admirals were out there commanding U.S. troops.
And then suddenly one day – the day was July 26, 1941 – the President of the United States dropped a bombshell in the Pacific by appointing Douglas MacArthur to be Commanding General of all the U.S. Armed Forces in the Far East, called USAFFE. MacArthur quit being a Field Marshal and took rank as Lieutenant General USA – next in rank only to Chief of Staff George Marshall in Washington. At the same time, President Roosevelt (1) summoned the Army of the Philippine Commonwealth to the U.S. colors and (2) rushed out to MacArthur one of the biggest forces of bombers and super-bombers the U.S. has so far been able to assemble anywhere outside the hemisphere.
With his new staff, MacArthur (seated) posed for this picture after President Roosevelt made him Far East commander last July. He felt like “an old dog in a new uniform.” At left of MacArthur is Gen. R. K. Sutherland, his able chief of staff.
When President Roosevelt chose Douglas MacArthur to be head fighting man in the Far East, he wrote a new chapter head in the history of World War II. Reading the news in the Netherlands Indies, Dutch Chief of Staff Hein ter Poorten must have sighed in sudden relief. In Singapore, weary old Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, Air Marshal and Military Commander of Great Britain’s Far Eastern Forces, no doubt snored peacefully for the first night in a long year. In Chungking, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek may have murmured, after four long years of war:
America wakes at last!
For the Allied powers sensed that in Tokyo this chapter head would cause many a fan-tooth naval jaw to drop and many a military bandy leg to buckle. The warlords of Tokyo knew that MacArthur was not only one of America’s ablest World War I field soldiers, he was also a man who, both before and since 1918, had thoroughly understood the vital importance of the Philippines to Asia and America.
In MacArthur’s luxurious penthouse on top of the Manila Hotel, in the early summer of 1939, an officer then in the U.S. Philippine Department and the Field Marshal were having a long and painful heart-to-heart talk. As author of the ambitious Ten-Year Military Plan, as perhaps the only American military proponent of the theory that the Philippines could hold their own in any immediate scramble for them, MacArthur sensed that in the telescopic eyes of history, he was already “on the spot.” Pacing in his accustomed leonine style among the tropical potted palms that line like sentinels the penthouse parapets, he faced the unhappy facts: The original brave impetus of the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth that had first inspired President Quezon in 1935 to arm his borning nation was rapidly being lost. The $8,000,000-a-year military budget promised him for the building of an army had been steadily whittled. There was political sniping at him from socialistic groups within the country. There was overt pressure to liquidate him by pork-barrel Filipino politicos who wanted more and more money for “public works.” There was pressure from Tokyo to dismiss him. Tokyo constantly reassured the Quezon administration of “friendly intentions,” which were in jeopardy only because of “that leading Japanophobe,” Field Marshal MacArthur. Above all, there was the apathy of Washington and the American public. All these were conspiring to sabotage Gen. MacArthur’s plans.
According to the Philippine Department officer’s report, Field Marshal MacArthur burst into language as colorful as the sunset over Mariveles Mountain. He damned military myopia at home and abroad, and flatly predicted that, if it were not remedied, the Philippines must drop like an overripe plum into the Japanese basket.
The officer asked the Field Marshal:
Well, what do you care?
…thinking, perhaps with a touch of envy, that this 59-year-old retired general had already enjoyed all the honors and excitements that can ever come a soldier’s way:
Personally, you’ve done the best you could.
MacArthur, with a wife and characteristically dramatic sweep of the arm that embraced not only Manila Bay and its Gibraltar, fortified Corregidor, but the wide China Sea and the entire Malay Archipelago beyond, is supposed to have replied:
Personally – I must not fail! Too much of the world’s future depends upon success here. These islands may not be the door to the control of the Pacific, they may not be even the lock to the door. But they are surely the key to the lock that opens the door – for America. I dare not allow that key to be lost!
MacArthur’s language is sometimes rhetorical but his behavior is usually realistic. From the day he landed in the islands to organize their defense, he had in fact proceeded as though he had seen in a crystal ball the Japanese landing at Hainan. The problem that faced him was technically complex: it was to build in a peaceful agricultural nation of 16,000,000 people an effective modern military machine, to create, literally from scratch, a respectable army, well-clothed, provisioned, equipped and housed, as well as a much bigger potential civilian army which could be called swiftly into being at the threat of attack on the Islands. MacArthur worked persistently toward this goal. And last July, it was a pleasant surprise to the American people to learn that by the spring of 1942, the Philippine government would be able to contribute to the U.S. 125,000 well-trained and fairly well-equipped Filipino soldiers. He had, in addition, founded at Baguio a military academy modeled in miniature on his beloved West Point. He had also informed the nucleus of an air force, turning out 150 Filipino pilots trained by the same rigid methods in force at Randolph or Kelly Field.
Trained in U.S. methods, like the use of pontoon bridges (above), Philippine Army has approximately 1,600 regulars, 125,000 reserves.
American games, like basketball and this intercompany bowling tournament, are played by the Filipino Army which has been Americanized under Field Marshal MacArthur.
In the days of appeasement, all of this received scant recognition. Some Americans living in Manila were even wont to refer derogatorily to MacArthur as “the Napoleon of Luzon.” To many of Manila’s Pacific Appeasers, sitting on fan-cooled porches of the Polo Club and Army and Navy Club, perspiring gently over their iced gimlets, the Field Marshal and his sweating “little Native Army” may well have seemed opéra bouffe. But MacArthur knew that the Filipino is one of the toughest soldiers on earth. At the turn of the century, it took 100,000 American troops two years to quell the badly-equipped, poorly-organized Filipino insurgents. And if his equipment was pitiful, the fault was certainly not his. At home, the U.S. Army itself didn’t have the stuff.
By creating his “little Native Army,” the Field Marshal had rendered an outstanding service to the Philippines and to the USA. MacArthur induced in the Filipinos an active desire to defend the Philippines – which for years it hardly seemed likely an isolationist USA would even in a pinch do for them. He infected them with his own courage and vaulting optimism and won their hard loyalty, and by so doing helped to keep them from sinking, in apathy or terror, into the arms of Japanese diplomats. The President’s appointment was not only a recognition of heretofore publicly unrecognized services to American prestige in the Orient. It was also a notification to the world that in this area of Axis marauding, the U.S. meant business.
‘He’s a hell-to-breakfast baby’
In days of “international amity,” democratic peoples tend to accord professional soldiers the same degree of social respect extended to local fire chiefs. The People’s Army runs down, and the people run down their army. But when the winds of war begin to blow, the people look about them to see who and where their fighting men are. They ask of one another urgently:
Say, have we got any good generals?
MacArthur’s record might be summarized by the remark of an AEF private made in 1918:
He’s a hell-to-breakfast baby, long and lean, who can spit nickels and chase Germans as well as any doughboy in the Rainbow.
At West Point in 1903, he graduated with highest scholastic rating attained in 25 years. He was also on the baseball team.
MacArthur graduated as second lieutenant of engineers at the head of the West Point Class of 1903, in which stiff competition had been provided by Ulysses Grant III, grandson of the Civil War general. He piled up the highest scholastic record made at the Point in 25 years and, as a plebe, in spite of the race with Grant for top honors, found time to break another West Point record by getting “engaged” to eight girls at one, seven having been the previous cadet record. MacArthur denies this story, saying he was at noontime aware of having been so “heavily engaged by the enemy.”
As youngest Superintendent of West Point in the Academy’s history, MacArthur was visited by Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1920.
After a spectacular performance as commander of the Rainbow Division in France, in 1919 he was appointed Superintendent of West Point, the youngest man ever to hold that position. In 1925, he became the youngest active major general in the Army, and when, in 1930, Hoover made him Chief of Staff, he was still a military prodigy: youngest Chief of Staff the country had ever had, the only one to be reappointed for an additional year, and thus the one who held that top-flight Army job longest. Coincidentally, at the age of 50, he was the youngest living U.S. four-star general, a rank therefore held only by Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Pershing, Bliss, March and Summerall.
Like George Washington, who wrote to his mother:
I heard the bullets whistle, and believe me there is something charming in the sound.
…MacArthur is a lover of the art of war. This was perhaps childhood condition. He says his earliest recollection is the sound of Army bugles. He was born Jan. 26, 1880 on his father’s post at Little Rock Barracks, Arkansas, and he claims to remember his mother and a company sergeant protecting him, at the age of 4, from Indians with bows and arrows raiding his father’s Army barracks in New Mexico. As a young boy, MacArthur gobbled up with his breakfast porridge much melodramatic lore of the Civil War, as well as many a sound professional lecture on Civil War tactics and strategy. His father, Gen. Arthur MacArthur, was a Wisconsinite of Scotch ancestry, who in 1861 had joined the 24th Wisconsin Infantry in the Army of the Union as a lieutenant, emerged with four wounds as a colonel (“The Boy Colonel of the West”) and, by that time himself in love with the art of war, decided to remain in the Army. MacArthur Sr. saw action in the Philippines during 1898-1901: in 1900, he was made commander of the Philippine Division.
His father, Gen. Arthur MacArthur, resembled Theodore Roosevelt in looks. Like his son, he headed U.S. Army in the Philippines.
Long before Douglas MacArthur ever dreamed of being a general, much less a field marshal, Father MacArthur was minding his Ps and Qs – Philippines and Quezon – in the Pacific. It was to Gen. Arthur MacArthur that a young Filipino insurgent major surrendered his sword in 1901. Thirty-five years later, this same Filipino, Manuel Quezon, now 1st President of the Philippines, gave the general’s son the gold baton of a Philippine field marshal.
His father’s death was stranger than fiction
In 1900, Gen. Arthur MacArthur was appointed Military Governor of the Philippines. Almost before the guns stopped firing on the Insurrectos, Arthur MacArthur had begun installing a system of education, law and justice for the Islands. He was perhaps entirely responsible for the fact that Filipinos enjoy that basic right of all free men: the writ of habeas corpus. He also advocated (40 years ago) military training for the Filipinos. The organization of the famous Philippine Scouts of today – the fightingest men in the Pacific – was founded by him.
The circumstances of Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur’s death in 1912 outdo in drama anything that even his son has achieved. Against doctor’s orders, he had insisted on attending in Milwaukee the 50th Annual Reunion of his regiment of the Grand Army of the Republic. There, in the banquet hall, he was called upon to make a speech, and minted the platform to deliver what he began prophetically by saying was to be his last tribute to his old comrades in arms. As he reached his fiery peroration, his voice suddenly faltered, he swayed – and he dropped dead. There was a shocked silence in the hall. Then his old adjutant, who stood beside him, took the tattered and blood-stained flag of the regiment, cast it over the dead general – and, piling drama on drama, himself fell lifeless over his beloved chief’s body.
His mother, shown with a photograph of her son, died in 1935 at the age of 82, after medicine flown to Manila failed to save her life.
In the years between his own first service in the Philippines in 1903, and the days of America’s entrance into the World War, the rise of Douglas MacArthur up the military ladder was steady if not spectacular. In 1914, Douglas MacArthur was with Gen. Funston in Veracruz. Disguised as a “Mexican bum,” he reconnoitered voluntarily behind the Mexican lines to locate three available locomotives for his general. He located them. But what he remembers with most pleasure about this incident was that his “liaison” behind the enemy lines was a helpful young German Legation official named Franz von Papen.
During the Mexican campaign, MacArthur (arrow) was a captain. Disguised as a “bum,” he captured locomotives behind the lines.
In World War, he fought alongside French (above), in 1918 became the commander of 42nd (“Rainbow”) Division which he named.
MacArthur has been called “the D’Artagnan of the AEF,” “the Beau Brummel of the Army,” “the Disraeli of Chiefs of Staff,” “the Buck Private’s Gary Cooper.” One World War reporter in a flight of patriotic fancy wrote:
You could tell he was a soldier, even in a fur coat or a bathing suit.
Currently MacArthur, dressed in a bathing suit and standing by the blue-tiled swimming pool of the Manila Hotel, might not look obstreperously “military.” White-skinned and lean, his shoulders are narrow and sloping. His nervous hands are small. His hair, once black and thick, is now black and thin, and combed from left ear to right, across the top of a narrow forehead. His face is intellectual, aesthetic, rather than martial. But whether MacArthur in bathing trunks looks like a movie fan’s idea of a warrior is not important. In sharkskin or shorts, khaki or cutaway, MacArthur has a soldier’s courage. It has been written into the record in the form of two World War wound stripes, 13 decorations for gallantry under fire, and seven citations.
His penthouse apartment on top of Manila Hotel overlooks poll in which he swims. His living room is lined with books and autographed photographs of famous soldiers.
While the doughboys were singing in the bloody trenches,
The General got the Croix de Guerre, parley-voo
The General got the Croix de Guerre,
The so-and-so was never there, Hinky-dinky-parley-voo.
…the men of the 42nd Division knew that their Gen. MacArthur was very much there. Wearing an overseas cap instead of the safer (and regulation) steel helmet, “the Fiery Arkansan” was reckless to the point of accompanying his troops on raids into enemy trenches. On one such occasion, he escorted an unwilling German officer back across no man’s land with the aid of nothing more than a riding crop.
His immediate commander, Gen. Menoher, wrote Gen. Pershing:
The contributions made to our military establishment by this General Officer have already had far-reaching effects. He has stood for the actual physical command of large bodies of troops in battle – not for a day but for day’s duration, and I believe has actually commanded larger bodies of troops on the battle line than any other officer in our Army, with, in each instance, conspicuous success.
His eloquence astounds listeners
MacArthur’s gift of words, his flair of dramatizing incidents, as well as his sound military understanding, stood the young officer in good stead as Press Relations Officer on the General Staff in 1915. After World War I, his instinctive preference for ten-dollar words delivered in a million-dollar manner developed rapidly into a penchant for oratory and he speedily became the most effective and spectacular speaker and writer the Army had. Rumor in the Philippines has it that his reports from 1936-41 to the War Department made such good reading by contrast with duller reports that in simple gratitude for a few literate hours he got command of the USAFFE. His knowledge of military history is profound and his memory of that prodigious sort that gives a man’s subordinates the creeps, so accurately can he quote, days later, a report, a record, a book, a conversation. In conversation, the general is positively pyrotechnic. Changing at will from a mellifluous melodramatic whisper to a fiery snort, from brutal fact to flight of sheer rodomontade, he uses phrases like “We must foil the enemy,” “We stand on the eve of a great battle,” “We must not spill our precious blood on foreign soil in vain, in vain!” Intelligent listeners, however, rarely fail to perceive that beneath this baroque façade of rhetoric, MacArthur’s ideas generally make shattering sense. His eloquence – and his wisdom – reached a peak during the years from 1930 to 1935 when he was Chief of Staff. Winston Churchill’s compilation of his own unheeded warnings to the Empire, While England Slept, could be, if not matched in literary style, surely surpassed in military value by a compilation of MacArthur’s warnings to the Senate, the Congress, the public, while America was not only sleeping, but snoring.
He returned to Philippines for the second time in 1925 when, like his father, he was the commander of Philippine Division.
As Army Chief of Staff from 1930 to 1935, MacArthur saw much of Roosevelt and Secretary of War Dern (above). “It is undefended riches which provoke war,” he warned.
In 1930, everywhere in the Western world, even in Germany, military ardor was at a low ebb. Nevertheless from 1930-35, as U.S. Chief of Staff, he repeatedly and eloquently warned private Senate or Congressional committees, the President, the State Department and the public, that American defenses had fallen into an abysmal state of obsolescence and disrepair, and that projected economies would deliver them a death blow. Long before Göring or Goebbels had become words with which to frighten naughty children, at West Point graduation exercises, MacArthur was bitterly counseling against “retrenchment which cripples national defense and ceases to be economy.” He said that unless:
…an effort is made to curb or combat the unabashed and unsound propaganda of the peace cranks… a score of nations will soon be ready for the sack of America.
He visited Europe in 1931 as Chief of the U.S. General Staff. Here he is shown while visiting the Tomb of the Polish Unknown Soldier.
He was kissed by Maginot, builder of line, in French ceremony (1931).
MacArthur foresaw not only the inevitability of war, he also foresaw the kind of highly mechanized war it would be, and projected in exact specification after specification the sort of equipment and training a nation would need to win such a war. With Cassandra-like insistency, he warned Congress that the next war would be mobile warfare. He pled unceasingly for a giant air force, for tanks, trucks and motorized columns.
With national pacifism rampant, the typical reaction to MacArthur’s preparedness campaign was that of a wag who suggested that his eagerness to motorize the Army was due to the well-known fact that the general, from his cadet days, has always hated to ride a horse. MacArthur, however, backed by President Roosevelt, managed to do some Army modernizing. He fought for and achieved the General Headquarters Air Force.
The Bonus Army collides with MacArthur
MacArthur has always been too colorful and controversial a figure not to have acquired some enemies. He has been accused of being a swaggerer, swashbuckler and a backslapper; dictatorial, self-opinionated, austere, obstinate and aggressive. He has been criticized for his long matinee-idol cigarette holders (which in later years he has abandoned for Corona Coronas), for his sartorial effects when in mufti and the plum-colored ties he wears when in khaki (he promoted the introduction of the open-jacket and soft collar into the Army), for the consciously rakish tilt at which he wears his heavily-brassed hat. The late Floyd Gibbons wrote that it was:
…just the tilt which permitted his personality to emerge, without violating Army regulations.
Even in the muck and grime of the French front, MacArthur always managed to look as though he were on dress parade, often wearing Errol Flynnish black turtleneck sweaters which did not show trench mud. One colleague remembers that in France, when he climbed over a barbed-wire fence in a raid and returned with a rent in the seat of his britches, even the tear seemed either slyly or luckily contrived to expose one thigh and half a rump, rather than the whole of man’s most ridiculous aspect. MacArthur’s detractors also like to dwell upon the only incident in his whole career which seems to reflect discredit upon him: “the only time,” according to a brother West Pointer, “Doug ever took his finger off his number.” This was the inglorious “Victory of Anacostia Flats” in 1932 when, on horseback at the head of his troops, Four-Star General MacArthur drove the ragged Bonus Army out of Washington.
After “Victory of Anacostia Flats” when he evicted the Bonus Army from Washington in 1932, he drank coffee with tired troops.
The true story of the eviction of the Bonus Marchers has never been written. MacArthur could, if he would, write it but neither at that time, nor since, has he ever publicly sought to defend himself, or “pass the buck” to Hoover. A true record would show that at no time did Hoover consult MacArthur about the eviction, nor was there any military precedent by which MacArthur could “advise” Hoover. It was at the urgent direct request of the “City Fathers,” the District of Columbia Commissioners, to President Hoover – and over the previous advice of Gen. MacArthur, who had strongly urged against the use of force – that the President was obliged to call out the troops. The Bonus Marchers, claimed the City Fathers, had not only become a public nuisance, but their ranks were being daily swelled by organized communist groups of demonstrators and street brawlers, and they had gotten entirely out of the hands of Glassford’s local police force. When Secretary of War Hurley told Gen. MacArthur that, following the demand of the City Fathers to restore public order, a telephone call had come from the White House, he coupled this brief information with a military order to “act at once to clear them out.” MacArthur did not pause to weigh any political scruples he may have had, nor even to point out that a soldier is supposed to have none. That the ensuing action was accomplished without a shot fired by MacArthur’s troops, although there were two dead, 55 injured, is something MacArthur is still proud of.
During the actual eviction, although it had been prearranged with MacArthur that he and Walter W. Waters, the Bonus Army leader, would keep in touch, so “no one would be hurt,” Waters had been “shoved out,” evicted himself – by the communist elements in his own “army.” MacArthur says no orders existed, or were given, to burn the Bonus Marchers’ shacks, and in his army, he says coldly:
Nobody acts without orders.
He lays this to the organized demonstrators in the Bonus Army… Having lost contact with Waters, MacArthur did not see him again until two years later when his orderly announced to the Chief of Staff:
There’s a bum outside, but he says he’s an old soldier.
MacArthur, whose standing order was never to close his door to any old soldier, said:
Show him in.
Waters entered, down-and-out and hungry. MacArthur found a job for him.
Most criticism of MacArthur boils down to the accusation that he is “ambitious.” Those who envy him have accused him of political wire-pulling and putting pressure on friends in high places. One friend of MacArthur in a “high place” was certainly Newton D. Baker, to whom MacArthur undoubtedly owes more than to any other man – except his father. But the only “pressure” MacArthur used on Newton Baker was the impact which his brilliance and organizational ability made on the World War Secretary.
Reaching France ‘fastest with the moistest’
When Baker made Maj. MacArthur a colonel, and entrusted to him, as Chief of Staff, the formation of the famous 42nd, or Rainbow, Division, he was not deceived in the young officer’s ability. The word Rainbow was of MacArthur’s own coining: as a description of a division drawn from every state in the country, it instantly caught the popular imagination. Formed at Camp Mills, Long Island, in August 1917, the Rainbow arrived in France in October 1917, one of the first American divisions to land on French soil. But anxious though MacArthur was to get there first – and despite the fact that he was being raced by Gen. Edward’s New England 26th Division – MacArthur refused to embark until his division was completely equipped for a long, hard winter in the trenches. In fact, so well was he equipped that he had to cough up equipment to the not-nearly-so-well-turned-out 26th Division.
Another “friend in a high place” was MacArthur’s belligerently Republican multimillionaire father-in-law, Edward T. Stotesbury. In 1922, while MacArthur was Superintendent of West Point, he met and married that old tycoon’s only stepdaughter, socialite Louise Cromwell, sister of politico-playboy James (“Doris Duke”) Cromwell. Seven years of being married into the upper reaches of the social register may well have given MacArthur some of the social ease more often found among European soldiers than American ones. But it is hard to prove that the Stotesbury influence helped rather than hurt his career. And the fact remains that it was a good year after Louise Cromwell divorced him amicably in 1929 in Reno that Herbert Hoover made him Chief of Staff. And the Stotesburian era was an echo from the economic grave when Franklin Roosevelt reappointed him for an additional year in 1934. He has been accused of trying to wangle his own reappointment for a second tour. It was precedent-busting Franklin Roosevelt himself who wanted to keep MacArthur. Apparently, even in those days, President Roosevelt did not entirely believe in the Dämmerung of World War heroes. After MacArthur’s retirement as Chief of Staff to what, so far as the U.S. was concerned, looked like military obscurity, made doubly obscure by his leaving for the Philippines, Roosevelt still continued to muse nostalgically over his departed soldier. The President was quoted as having said:
I must always find a way to keep MacArthur close to me. If we ever have another AEF, he’s the man to take it over…