Brilliant American general who commanded Allied troops in
the Pacific during World War II, governed postwar Japan,
and led United Nations forces in the Korean War.
General Douglas MacArthur served as the Commander of United States Forces Far East from 1941 until the end of the war in 1945. In 1941, he was forced out of the Philippines by the Japanese, but said "I shall return."
Once his forces were strong enough, he began a leap-frogging campaign, taking certain Japanese-held islands while bypassing others and leaving them cut off from the rest of the Japanese army and navy. MacArthur did return to the Philippines in 1944. In 1945, he was assigned the task of commanding the invasion of Japan itself, but Japan's surrender made the invasion unnecessary.
After the War, MacArthur became the American leader of occupied Japan. He was the architect of their metamorphosis into a democratic nation, and helped them on the road to becoming a world economic power.
In 1950-51, MacArthur led UN forces in the Korean War. Pinned into a small area of South Korea called the "Pusan Perimeter", he conceived a brilliant strategy for turning the conflict around. He conducted a daring amphibious assault near Inchon on the west coast. The gambit was successful, and the U.N. forces cut off the retreat of a major portion of the North Korean army.
Not satisfied with simply regaining all South Korean territory, he pressed northward until U.N. forces were very near the Chinese border. At that point, China entered the war, sending hundreds of thousands of "volunteers" southward.
MacArthur's forces were thrown back almost to the original frontier between the two Koreas. Negotiations began and dragged along.
MacArthur made comments about needing to use nuclear weapons to prevail. His relationship with Truman deteriorated steadily. A face-to-face meeting failed to resolve their differences, and he was relieved of command by President Truman. MacArthur returned to the States and retired from the Army.
Subsequently, he gave an unprecedented speech to a joint session of Congress in which he made his famous statement that "old soldiers never die, they just fade away."
MacArthur died in 1964 and is buried at Norfolk, Virginia.