When the United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, General MacArthur was both Field Marshal of the Philippine Army (federalized into US service by President Roosevelt on July 26, 1941 as Pacific tensions increased) and commander of US Army Forces in the Far East. The Japanese invasion of the Philippines began on December 8, 1941. By January 8, 1942, American and Philippine forces were forced to withdraw to the tiny Bataan Peninsula and the island of Corregidor in Manila Bay. MacArthur had been commanding his soldiers from Corregidor's Malinta Tunnel since Christmas Day, 1941. By early March 1942, it was clear that the situation in the Philippines was beyond rescue and the Japanese conquest was assured. MacArthur was ordered by President Roosevelt to turn over local command in the Philippines to Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright and withdraw to Australia. MacArthur, along with his family, left Corregidor on the night of March 12, 1942 - 70 years ago today. For his steadfast leadership in the ultimately futile defense of the Philippines, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):
At America's entry into World War I, MacArthur was instrumental in the founding of the 42nd Infantry Division, made up of National Guard members from multiple states so as not to show a preference for one state over another. He accepted a commission with the rank of Colonel in the Infantry Branch, and served as the division's Chief of Staff.
His World War I service in France saw his promotion to Brigadier General. On March 9, his courage and leadership saw him decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross.
From Military Times' Hall of Valor: Douglas MacArthur
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Brigadier General (Corps of Engineers) Douglas MacArthur (ASN: 0-57), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving as Chief of Staff, 42d Division, A.E.F., in the Salient-du-Feys, France, 9 March 1918. When Company D, 168th Infantry, was under severe attack in the salient du Feys, France, General MacArthur voluntarily joined it, upon finding that he could do so without interfering with his normal duties, and by his coolness and conspicuous courage aided materially in its success.
Later in 1918, MacArthur's continued courage and leadership resulted in a both recommendation for promotion to Major General and for the Medal of Honor, neither of which happened. However, the Medal of Honor recommendation did result in MacArthur receiving his second Distinguished Service Cross:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to Brigadier General (Corps of Engineers) Douglas MacArthur (ASN: 0-57), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving as Chief of Staff, 42d Division, A.E.F., near Cote-de-Chatillon, France, October 14 - 16, 1918: As brigade commander General MacArthur personally led his men and by the skillful maneuvering of his brigade made possible the capture of Hills 288, 242, and the Cote-de-Chatillon, France, 14 - 16 October 1918. He displayed indomitable resolution and great courage in rallying broken lines and in reforming attacks, thereby making victory possible. On a field where courage was the rule, his courage was the dominant feature.
For his regular wartime duties as Chief of Staff for the 42nd Division, commander of the 84th Infantry Brigade, and then commander of the 42nd Division, he was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Army Distinguished Service Medal to Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur (ASN: 0-57), United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services to the Government of the United States, in a duty of great responsibility during World War I. General MacArthur served with credit as Chief of Staff of the 42d Division in the operations at Chalons and at the Chateau-Thierry salient. In command of the 84th Infantry Brigade, he showed himself to be a brilliant commander of skill and judgment. Later he served with distinction as Commanding General of the 42d Division.
In addition to those awards, he also received seven Silver Star medals for courage and valor in combat.
In between the wars, MacArthur served as both the Superintendent of West Point and the US Army Chief of Staff in addition to postings in the Philippines and command of the IV and III Corps stateside. His time as Chief of Staff saw him receive his second Army Distinguished Service Medal:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Army Distinguished Service Medal to General Douglas MacArthur (ASN: 0-57), United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services to the Government of the United States, in a duty of great responsibility. As Chief of Staff of the Army of the United States from 21 November 1930 to 1 October 1935, General MacArthur performed his many important and exacting duties with signal success. He devised and developed the Four-Army organization of our land forces; he conceived and established the GHQ Air Force, thus immeasurably increasing the effectiveness of our air defenses; he initiated a comprehensive program of modernization in the Army's tactics, equipment, training, and organization. In addition, the professional counsel and assistance he continuously rendered to the President, to the Secretary of War, and to the Congress were distinguished by such logic, vision, and accuracy as to contribute markedly to the formulation of sound defense policies and the enactment of progressive laws for promoting the Nation's security.
To pick up the narrative from the start, where MacArthur was awarded the Medal of Honor for his leadership in the Philippines, when he arrived in Australia he made his famous assertion that "I came out of Bataan and I shall return." MacArthur was appointed Supreme Allied Commander of the Southwest Pacific Area on April 18, 1942.
MacArthur's leadership as Supreme Allied Commander from saw him decorated both with his third Army Distinguished Service Medal for the period March 1942-January 25, 1944 and, for his skill in directing naval operations, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for February-October 1944. In the interests of brevity, these citations can be found at Military Times. Under his leadership and command, the Japanese were beat back from island after island until the next target for MacArthur's forces was the Philippine Islands.
On October 20, 1944 the Allied combined land, sea, and air forces under Douglas MacArthur's command began the liberation of the Philippines. That afternoon, he went ashore on the island of Leyte just hours after the landings, making good on his promise to return to the land that defeat had pushed him out of two and half years before. He said:
People of the Philippines: I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil - soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come dedicated and committed to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and of restoring upon a foundation of indestructible strength, the liberties of your people.On December 18, 1944 MacArthur became the second man promoted to the rank of General of the Army (after Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall) to establish rank equivalency with the British. He remained a hands-on leader and commander, never placing his own safety before that of his soldiers. On January 26, 1945 while visiting his forces after the landing on the main Philippine island of Luzon, he went right to the front to exhort our brave men forward. This resulted in him being awarded a third Distinguished Service Cross to go with the two from World War I:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Second Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Third Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to General of the Army Douglas Macarthur (ASN: 0-57), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy, in action against enemy forces on 26 January 1945, while visiting the 25th Division in combat at San Manuel, Luzon, Philippine Islands. On that date, General MacArthur advanced within 75 yards of the enemy lines to a point where two men had just been killed and several wounded by Japanese fire and which was still under heavy attack by enemy small arms, mortar, and cannon. Hidden enemy machine gunners and riflemen were opposing the advance with deliberately aimed cross-fire which intermittently covered the area. General MacArthur's example in the face of enemy fire, was a source of inspiration to the men of the 25th Division and was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States.
For his leadership and direction of the entire Philippine Campaign, MacArthur received his fourth Army Distinguished Service Medal:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Third Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Fourth Award of the Army Distinguished Service Medal to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur (ASN: 0-57), United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services to the Government of the United States, in a duty of great responsibility, during the period 20 October 1944 to 4 July 1945. As Supreme Commander of Allied Air, Ground and Sea Forces in the Southwest Pacific, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur planned and personally directed the campaigns which resulted in the liberation of the Philippine Islands. Strongly entrenched and superior enemy forces were overwhelmed and completely destroyed in a series of decisive operations and exploiting U.S. Air and Sea superiority, coupled with the resolute and courageous fighting of the Ground Forces. The immediate result of the campaign was control of the China sea, the isolation of Japanese Forces in Burma, Malaysia and Indo-China and the termination of coastwise traffic supporting the Japanese Armies in Central and South China. The liberation of the Philippines began with the landings on Leyte on 20 October in which complete strategic surprise was achieved. After bitter fighting under most difficult conditions of weather and terrain, General MacArthur destroyed the Japanese forces which included the noted 1st Division of the Kvantung Army. Again surprising the enemy, General MacArthur moved his forces boldly up the Western Coast of the main Philippine Island and effected a landing on the shores of Lingayen Gulf on 9 January 1945. The flawless execution of this hazardous amphibious approach and landing so disorganized the enemy that in a series of deep thrusts Manila was liberated on 25 February. The fortress of Corregidor fell soon afterward in a brilliantly conceived and directed combined land, sea and air operation. By the end of June only isolated groups of enemy remained in Luzon. While the United States SIXTH Army was so engaged, EIGHTH Army units cleared the enemy from the Southern Islands in a series of amphibious operations. By 4 July organized resistance had terminated, completing the liberation of the Philippine Islands and the 17,000,000 inhabitants from Japanese domination. More than 300,000 dead and 7,000 prisoners were lost by the enemy, our casualties in killed, wounded and missing totaling 60, 628. Seventeen of our divisions had opposed and defeated twenty-three enemy divisions. The air, ground, and naval forces worked in complete unison to inflict this crushing disaster on the Japanese Army.
Were it not for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the resulting Japanese unconditional surrender, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur would have been overall commander of Operation Downfall - the invasion of the Japanese home islands. As it was, on August 29, 1945 he became the Military Governor of Japan, and then on September 2nd he accepted the official Japanese Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the United States of America aboard the USS Missouri (BB-63) anchored in Tokyo Bay.
MacArthur's governance of Japan saw the establishment of a new Constitution, which is still the operative document of Japan today. He handed over control back to the Japanese government in 1949. His service to our nation also spanned as the first Commander in Chief of the United Nations Command fighting the Korean War. He was ultimately relieved of duty by President Truman, but still was awarded his fifth Army Distinguished Service Medal.
There is so much more about the life, times, and achievements of Douglas MacArthur, but this being the longest post I've written for a single Finest Hour honoree, I'll bring it to a close now. MacArthur is a very interesting topic for me, and I'll likely write more about him in future posts. Suffice to say, he was a presence, a force, who had an awesome role in the shaping of world history in the 20th Century.
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, age 84, died on April 5, 1964. In accordance with the authorizations given by both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, he received a State Funeral in Washington, DC. He rests in peace today in the former courthouse of Norfolk, VA, known now as the Douglas MacArthur Memorial.