Douglas MacArthur (26 January 1880 – 5 April 1964) was an American general during the time of World War II and the Korean War. He was one of only five to receive the rank General of the Army in the U.S. Army. He is a highly polarizing man in American history — you either think he was a great war hero and commander, or a dangerous and egotistical madman.
Born and raised a Military Brat, Douglas was the son of Arthur MacArthur Jr., a veteran of the American Civil War. In 1899, while Arthur was military governor of the Philippines leading U.S. forces against Filipino nationalists in the Philippine Insurrection, Douglas MacArthur began his education at West Point, eventually graduating at the top of his class in 1903. He was then sent to the Philippines with the Army Engineer Corps, where he made a name for himself as a heroic guerrilla fighter. In 1912, MacArthur was appointed to the Office of the Chief of Staff, before being sent to Mexico during the U.S. occupation of the port of Veracruz in 1914. During World War I, MacArthur, then a colonel, was a commander in the 42nd Infantry Division, which saw fighting in France during the final months of the war. After the war, MacArthur was promoted to brigadier general and served as the Superintendent of West Point.
As the youngest major general by 1925, MacArthur became the Chief of Staff of the United States Army. Infamously, in 1932 President Herbert Hoover sent MacArthur to peacefully remove the "Bonus Army", a group of thousands of unemployed World War I veterans and their families who, at the height of The Great Depression, marched on Washington, D.C. to request the early payment of the bonuses that they were promised — instead, MacArthur used tear gas and tanks, killing two people and injuring hundreds more. In contrast, he's revered in the Philippines, particularly among older generations, for his role in the country's history in World War II and his personal respect for the Filipino people, even going as far to denounce racism towards Filipinos by Americans and openly criticize Spanish and American colonial exploitation of the Philippines. He was the lone field marshal of the Philippine Army, of which he supervised and spearheaded its foundation and development, when the country was still a Commonwealth under the U.S.
A Medal of Honor recipient, MacArthur played a prominent role in (among others) the Pacific War, the Philippines campaign, and the New Guinea campaign, elevating to the role of Supreme Allied Commander for the Allied Forces. As the de facto military governor of Japan, he effectively restructured Japanese society in the aftermath of the occupation, thereby garnering the nickname of Gaijin Shogun, a.k.a the Foreign Generalissimo, though only after his death.
If you could describe him with one word, it would be "imperious". He was very much his own man, caring little — if at all — about any established power outside of his own, whether it was other nations or that of his superiors and carefully crafted his public image to attract as much attention as possible.note He disobeyed or ignored orders entirely, even getting into verbal clashes with Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. He promoted soldiers based on their loyalty towards himself, and his influence extended through the Army and somewhat into the Air Force (but never in the Navy). He even recommended himself for a Medal of Honor (he didn't get it), and the circumstances and justification for the Medal of Honor that he was eventually awarded remain highly controversial to this day.note . During the Korean War, MacArthur commanded the U.N. offensive into Korea, though was eventually relieved of command by President Truman due to insubordination. This prove to be a public relations disaster, though Truman defended his decision, stating:
MacArthur was highly intelligent, memorizing intelligence reports down to the known personal details of the enemy commanders he faced. He was also highly impatient, and was known for relieving subordinate commanders who were on the verge of winning their battles (among the few exceptions was Major General George Kenney, commander of the 5th Air Force and later of Far East Air forces, who was the rare combination of good at his job and good at keeping MacArthur happy). For all his General Ripper tendencies, he had a soft spot for the Filipino people, and his ill-fated defensive campaign in 1941-42 was designed to shift combat away from the most populated areas and spare them collateral damagenote . He also had a very notable but little-known moment of swallowing his pride and his attitude in endorsing Captain Harl Pease’s Medal of Honornote .
Douglas MacArthur in popular culture
- On Smallville, Lex Luthor's father Lionel makes a bid to retake the family company from Lex, with the backing of a consortium of Asian financiers. Lex finds Lionel just chilling in the executive suite, toying with a silvery revolver. Lex snarkily asks if Lionel's back to kill him, to which Lionel replies "Oh no, Lex...I'd never fire this! This is a piece of history. You know, General MacArthur wore this when he returned to the Phillipines. What was it he'd said? I shall return."
- From A To Z-Z-Z-Z: Ralph imagines himself to be MacArthur and leaves the classroom, paraphrasing the general's famous line: "I shall return."
- Another Looney Tunes entry ("Bugs' Bonnets") sees Elmer Fudd take on his appearance. "I have returned!"
- Portrayed by Gregory Peck in MacArthur and Laurence Olivier in Inchon. While the former film is seen as pretty decent, the latter was not-so well received.
- William Sunday in Men of Honor claims he won one of MacArthur's own corncob pipes when he bet him he could hold his breath for five minutes to escape a sinking aircraft carrier.
- Appears in Godzilla: Awakening to brief the newly formed Monarch Unit, with his signature imperiousness, corncob pipe and all. He later appears to give the official order to nuke Godzilla at Bikini Atoll.
- Referenced frequently in M*A*S*H and makes a passing appearance at the 4077th where he was confronted by Klinger dressed as the Statue of Liberty (complete with flaming torch).
- Makes an appearance during the ending scene of Call of Duty: World at War, giving one of his iconic speeches aboard the USS Missouri during the Japanese surrender.
- He is one of the many military leaders appearing in Hearts of Iron. In the Man the Guns DLC for the fourth game, he gets a Historical Villain Upgrade as a potential leader of a fascist United States alongside the likes of William Dudley Pelley.
- Game mod Kaiserreich: Legacy of the Weltkrieg significantly increases the role he has in the mod's Alternate History setting compared to the base game. MacArthur can take the country over as America's situation deteriorates and the Second American Civil War starts. Depending on player choice, he can either help restore America's democracy or keep ruling as a (generally) benevolent military dictator under the title of 'American Caesar'.
- Portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones in Emperor (2012), about the surrendering and occupation of Japan.
- Portrayed by Liam Neeson in Operation Chromite about the Korean War.
- In The Falcon Cannot Hear, MacArthur seizes control of the federal government after the Bonus Army stages a revolt in 1937 and kills both the President and Vice-President. For a time, he's strongly supported by most state governments and it appears he'll be able to pull the country back from the brink. But then a group of his generals try to stage a counter-coup, which triggers a series of events that starts a Second American Civil War and leaves MacArthur's military government one of five major factions, one that's actually in one of the weakest positions and which collapses altogether after MacArthur dies in a hurricane.
- In Reds!: A Revolutionary Timeline, after the socialist Workers Party wins in a landslide in the 1932 election, the American capitalist elite panics, and soon a plot for a coup, headed by First Secretary Nicholas Longworth, is hatched. Longworth manages to rope in MacArthur, an ardent anti-communist, for their plans, and together the two of them successfully persuade/threaten outgoing-President Herbert Hoover into suspending the Constitution. MacArthur then has socialist President-Elect, Norman Thomas, very publicly assassinated by the military the day before his inauguration, and the government proceeds to lead intense repressions of liberals and socialists. This eventually leads to a massive communist revolution that ends with MacArthur fleeing with the remnants of the American government to Cuba (though not before he declares "I shall return!" before jumping onto the boats), and the victorious socialist revolution proclaiming the new state of the Union of American Socialist Republics. With Longworth captured by the revolutionaries before he could make his escape to Cuba, MacArthur is left as the most obvious leader of the Government in Exile which he quickly takes over and turns into a Banana Republic, with himself as President for Life, taking the official title of "Defender of the Constitution". MacArthur then tries to turn Americuba into a Hereditary Republic by grooming his son, Arthur, into his successor (though it is obvious to everyone, but MacArthur, that Arthur is an Inadequate Inheritor). When MacArthur eventually dies in early 1964, his ultimate successor as President is Robert F. Kennedy, who immediately goes on to reform the republic's government and reinstate democracy, and even manages to negotiate an uneasy truce and a somewhat normalization of relations with the UASR.
- At the start of the paintball "civil war" arc in Assassination Classroom, Koro-sensei is suddenly dressed like MacArthur, complete with pipe, when announcing the competition.
- One episode of Codename: Kids Next Door had Nigel suddenly waking up as President of the United States; the adult Numbah 4 is his chief military advisor and he's clearly modeled after MacArthur, down to the giant pipe (though he's never seen smoking it). Just like the real deal, he advocates excessive force against the Kids Next Door, including Skunky Scouts and whales that fire missiles out of their blowholes (a Brick Joke from when he declared he'd deploy the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine...animals). Unlike the real deal, he's still The Ditz and can't count correctly.