Few men in American life have garnered more attention, more respect or simply more mixed feelings than Douglass MacArthur. Throughout a career that spanned nearly six decades, Mac rose and fell so many times that it was hard to catch him when he wasn’t at the top or on the bottom. There was no in between. All of this aside, however, he remains our greatest war hero. His effort to rise after each fall make him a profile in persistence.
Born into a military family, it was always assumed that Douglas would spend a life in service to his country. His father, an American General, had received The Medal of Honor and raised his son to follow in his footsteps.
Follow he did. Graduating first in his class from West Point, MacArthur was only 24 when he was first nominated for his own Medal of Honor for his role conducting a reconnaissance mission during the 1914 United States occupation of Veracruz.
With the outbreak of World War I, he was promoted from Major to Colonel to lead the “Rainbow” Division of the first Americans to fight in the bloody conflict.
At a young age, he showed a flair for charismatic leadership and inspired his men by taking missions deemed too dangerous by others. His bravery earned him a total of two Distinguished Service Cross medals and seven Silver Stars along with the rank of Brigadier General. His future was incredibly bright when he suffered his first setback.
Following the Armistice in 1919, He was assigned to serve as the Superintended of West Point. While he loved his Alma Mater, he earned for action that he wasn’t getting. His attempts at reform were met with contempt from his critics and he was genuinely unhappy.
And then he rose again.
In 1925 he was assigned the Philippines, where his father has shown so brightly and became the youngest Major General in the history of the US Army at 35. His distinction led him to chair the US Olympic Committee in 1928 and In 1930, he became Chief of Staff of the United States Army.
He was 40 years old and serving in the position that his father had always coveted. He had the ear of President Hoover and was chiefly responsible for turning back the Bonus March in 1932 when WWI vets marched on Washington D.C. to claim their war bonuses due to them in 1945. His actions of burning the protester’s cardboard village were unpopular with the American public but made cemented his reputation within right-wing circles.
He had power and influence and was young. And then he fell.
With the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, he saw the reach of influence start to slip. It was the beginning of a difficult relationship that would last the rest of FDR’s life.
When his recommendations weren’t followed, MacArthur took it personally. While he was credited with modernizing the American Army he was frustrated by the New Dealer’s lack of concern for foreign threats and in 1937, after nearly 4o years in uniform, he resigned from the Army.
Out of the Army for the firs time in his life, MacArthur took a job as Military Advisor to the government of the Philippines and the rank of Field Marshal or the Pilipino Army.
Douglas MacArthur served in that capacity until he was forced from the Island with the Japanese invasion in 1941. It was then, with the world at war, he was once again called back into service.
With a title of Commander of United States Army Forces in the Far East, MacArthur went to work but met failure after failure. His air force was destroyed, he was forced to retreat from Bataan to Corregidor and then, but PT boat across uneven seas to Australia. It was there that he once again showed the charismatic leadership that inspired his men in Europe thirty years before. Displaying a confidence, great ability and a lot of persistence, Douglas MacArthur overcame his initial setbacks to be named Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area.
His leadership and daredevil tactics worked as he began to pile up victories in battles all over Southwest Asia and on August 30, 1945, Douglas MacArthur landed in Japan to formally accept the surrender of the Japanese empire.
For all of his heroics, he was awarded the Medal of Honor making he and his father the only father/son duo in American History to hold such distinction.
After all of his many falls and many rises, Douglas MacArthur became an unlikely hero to the Japanese people. Initiating Habeas Corpus, giving women the right to vote and allowed freedom of speech that had for generations been gone. General Douglas MacArthur rose higher than before because of the many falls that he took and it made him an even greater leader of the people of Japan.
He would go on to lead our war efforts in Korea before falling again and being removed by President Harry Truman. While he would spend the rest of his life out of the service, he provided us with one of our greatest pieces of rhetorical excellence when, standing in House Chamber giving his retiring address, he closed with the words:
Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.
Throughout his life, MacArthur displayed a kind of perseverance and persistence that makes him an example to follow. Though he fell many times, no fall ever kept him down and that is why he is a true profile in persistence.