A brief biography of Douglas MacArthur
  Douglas MacArthur was born on 26 January 1880 in Little Rock Arkansas, one of three sons of Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur, a recipient of the Medal of Honor during the American Civil War, and Mary Pinkney Hardy from Norfolk in Virginia. MacArthur spent his early childhood in New Mexico where his father commanded an infantry company protecting 'settlers and railroad workers from the Indian menace',1 before moving back to 'civilisation' (in the words of his mother) first to Kansas, then to Washington DC where his father took a post in the Defence Department. When Douglas was thirteen the family moved to San Antonio in Texas where he attended an Episcopalian school and later the West Texas Military Academy. In June 1899 he entered West Point Military Academy and graduated as valedictorian in 1903.

MacArthur commenced his professional military career as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army Corps of Engineers, serving for a time in the Philippines. (In 1898 his father had served in the Philippines in combat against the Spanish and subsequently held the post of military governor of the Philippines from 1900 to 1901.) In 1911, with the rank of Captain, MacArthur served as Officer-in-Charge at the Staff College at Leavenworth in Kansas and, following the death of his father in 1912, with the War Department in Washington DC. In 1915 he was promoted to Major and in 1916 became the Army's first ever public relations officer. Upon the entry of the US into the First World War, MacArthur served as Chief of Staff with the so-called Rainbow (42nd) Division, and was then appointed in June 1918 as the youngest ever Brigadier General and Commander of the 84th Infantry Brigade. Aided by his excellent war record MacArthur was appointed in June 1919 as Superintendent of West Point. From 1922 to 1925 he again served in the Philippines before returning to the United States as the youngest two star general in the US Army.

Brigadier-General Douglas MacArthur, Chateau St Benoit, September 1918.

JCPML. Records of Douglas MacArthur. Brigadier-General Douglas MacArthur, Chateau St Benoit, September 1918. JCPML00794/1. Original held by MacArthur Memorial Library and Archives: MML&A 3278.

  Following the break-up of his six year marriage to divorcee heiress Louise Crowell Brooks MacArthur had another two year tour of duty in the Philippines before his appointment in November 1930 as a full general and Chief of Staff of the United State Army. In this role in July 1932, in the depths of the Depression, there occurred the most infamous event of MacArthur's career when he led infantry and cavalry in Washington DC to force the evacuation from government property of more than 10,000 members of the so-called Bonus Army. This 'Army', alleged by MacArthur to be led by Communists, consisted of World War One Veterans who had been in the capital for several weeks seeking earlier payment of their promised war bonuses. Although no shots were fired, two babies died and there were many injuries when the veterans and their families were routed and their camps destroyed by fire.

In 1935 MacArthur reverted to the rank of Major General and served as Chief Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines, helping prepare the islands for independence. He retired from the Army in 1937 and was included on the retired lists with the rank of full general (and the rank of Field Marshal in the Philippine Army). In April 1938, while coming to terms with the death of his mother, who had lived with him for much of the time since the break up of his first marriage, he married 39-year-old Jean Faircloth. The couple's only son, Arthur MacArthur IV, was born in 1938.

MacArthur inspects Philippine Scouts, 1936.

JCPML. Records of Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur inspects Philippine Scouts, 1936. JCPML00786/4. Original held by MacArthur Memorial Library and Archives: 3713.


In July 1941 MacArthur was recalled to the Army and appointed Commanding General of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December, he was promoted to full general and ordered to defend the Philippine islands from invasion. However, with the military situation rapidly deteriorating, he was ordered to leave on 22 February 1942 delivering his famous parting message 'I shall return'. As Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the SouthWest Pacific Area he initially had his command base in Melbourne where he arrived on 21 March but his headquarters were relocated in Brisbane from 20 July. In 1944 he returned to the Philippines and in December was promoted to the rank of General of the Army: Manila was liberated on 5 February 1945. At one stage it was envisaged that Macarthur would lead a massive invasion of Japan, an outcome which did not eventuate with the Emperor's announcement of a Japanese surrender following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Instead it was MacArthur who formally received the Japanese surrender in September 1945.

Between 1946 and 1948 MacArthur, as Supreme Commander of the Allied powers, was responsible for overseeing the reconstruction of Japan, including creating the constitution promulgated in 1946. The new Japanese government took power in 1949. In the following year MacArthur was named Commander of all United Nations forces in Korea to lead the Allied counter offensive against North Korea. However in April 1951 he was recalled by President Truman after issuing a unilateral ultimatum to Mainland China. On 19 April in his farewell address to the US Congress, MacArthur concluded with reference to the old soldiers' barracks ballad, 'Old soldiers never die, they just fade away'.

MacArthur takes command of Philippine forces, Zabalan Field, 15 August 1941.

JCPML. Records of Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur takes command of Philippine forces, Zabalan Field, 15 August 1941. JCPML00786/9. Original held by MacArthur Memorial Library and Archives: 3693


After one unsuccessful attempt to run as a Republican for the US presidency, MacArthur spent his last years in New York apart from one visit to the Philippines in 1961 where he was decorated with the Philippine Legion of Honor. In May 1962 at West Point, when receiving the Sylvanus Thayer Award,2 he delivered his famous 'Duty, Honor, Country' valedictory speech. On 5 April 1964 he died in Washington, survived by his wife (who died in 2000 at the age of 101) and was buried in his mother's birthplace-Norfolk, Virginia. DC. To date MacArthur and his father remain as one of only two father-son combinations both to have received the Congressional Medal of Honor.


1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Macarthur    Back
2. The Sylvanus Thayer Award was awarded annually by the Graduates Association to 'an outstanding citizen of the United States whose service and accomplishments in the national interest exemplifying personal devotion to the ideals expressed in the West Point motto, 'Duty, Honor, Country'.    Back