Douglas MacArthur was born on January 26, 1880 in Little Rock, Arkansas. His father, Arthur, was a Lieutenant General in the United States Civil War and had won the Medal of Honor. His father had no hesitation in bringing Douglas into the military life and taught him to ride horses and shoot. Douglas later recalled learning to shoot and ride before he could read or write.
As a youth, Douglas had to move around the country to various military forts due to his dad's military profession. In 1893, they moved to San Antonio, Texas and Douglas enrolled in classes at the West Texas Military Academy. His academic reputation was excellent and helped to get him into West Point Military Academy in 1898.
Douglas excelled at West Point, graduating at the top of his 93-person class in 1903. His grades were so high that only two individuals had previously beat him, one of whom was Robert E. Lee. After graduating, Douglas was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army Corps of Engineers.
In the Corps of Engineers, Douglas worked as an aide to his father, who was appointed Governor General of the Philippines. From 1904 through 1914, MacArthur traveled the globe to work on various engineering projects in the Philippines, Panama, and the United States. From 1906 through 1907, he also studied at the Engineer School of Application, earning a degree in the subject.
In 1913, he was appointed to the general staff of the War Department. In 1914, he participated in an intelligence mission to Vera Cruz, Mexico, but his actions were overlooked since he had defied the orders of his commander, Frederick Funston. He continued serving on the general staff until 1917, when the United States joined World War 1.
When the United States joined World War 1, MacArthur was assigned to the 42nd "Rainbow" Division as the chief of staff. Shortly after, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and given command of the 84th Infantry Brigade. Just before the end of the war, he was promoted again to the rank of Division Commander. By the end of the war, he had received seven silver stars, two purple hearts, a distinguished service medal, and two distinguished service crosses. His numerous awards made him the most decorated American veteran of the war.
Following the war, he was demoted to a lower rank and was quite disappointed by the event. In 1919, he was appointed superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point. There, he made great strides in modernizing the school by updating the curriculum to meet modern needs. He also took the step of adding liberal arts courses to round out the educational experience.
On February 14, 1922, he married a woman named Henrietta Louise Cromwell Brooks, but they divorced in 1929. In 1922, he was also sent to the Philippines to serve a tour of duty and in 1928, he was appointed commander of the Philippine Department of the military. In 1925, he was appointed to the rank of Major General and oversaw the court martial of Brigadier General Billy Mitchell. In 1928, he was also appointed to head the US Olympic Committee for the games in Amsterdam.
In November of 1930, MacArthur was promoted to the rank of four star general. He was also appointed by President Herbert Hoover to serve as the US Army's chief of staff. As head of the Army, MacArthur faced severe budget problems as well as excessive enrollment due to the high rate of unemployment from the Great Depression.
To deal with the Army's problems, MacArthur called for the development of new mobilization plans as well as the production of a mobile headquarters for the US Air Force. He also supported the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps and led its operation. In 1932, a large group of veterans protested the government in Washington DC and MacArthur made the controversial move of dispersing them using tear gas. The decision led to the injuring of hundreds of veterans and even two fatalities.
In 1935, the Philippines were given semi-independence and MacArthur was asked by the President of the country, Manuel Quezon, to create a Philippine Army. Franklin Delano Roosevelt approved the decision and MacArthur took on the role with vigor, appointing Dwight Eisenhower to serve as his assistant.
In 1937, MacArthur remarried to a woman named Jean Faircloth, his second wife. He also decided to retire from the US Army and was made an honorary field marshal in the Philippine Army. However, when the US became involved in World War 2, he was recalled to the US Army and named Commander of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East, with headquarters in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.
In 1941, the Japanese began advancing on the Philippines and MacArthur was tasked with defending the islands. He set up headquarters on the island of Corregidor and made several trips to the front lines, earning the nickname "Dugout Doug". In March of 1942, President Roosevelt ordered MacArthur to move to Melbourne, Australia, a much safer location. MacArthur fled on a PT-41, evading an intense hunt by the Japanese for the boat and retreating general.
After reaching the island of Mindanao, MacArthur flew to Australia on a B-17 bomber, eventually arriving in Australia. There he made his famous speech in which he declared, "I came out of Bataan and I shall return." Philippines president Quezon awarded MacArthur with the Distinguished Conduct Star for his efforts in defending the Philippines.
After arriving in Australia, MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander of all Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific. Shortly afterward, he was given control of the entire Australian military, an event that greatly bolstered his forces. On July 20, 1942, he relocated his headquarters to the city of Brisbane in Australia.
By late 1942, the luck of the allies was turning. They experienced successes in the Battle of Milne Bay and the Kokoda Track Campaign. After the 32nd Infantry Division of the US Army made a poor effort at attacking Buna, MacArthur directed general Robert Eichelberger to replace the officers in the division and take Buna at all costs.
In March of 1943, MacArthur's grand plan for seizing the Japanese military base in Rabaul was approved by the Army's Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was dubbed Operation Cartwheel and entailed cutting off the Japanese supply lines behind the base as well as creeping up on islands in front of it. The first attack began on June 30, 1943 and Allied forces finally reached the Philippines on October 20, 1944. The islands were cleaned of Japanese forces by the end of 1944 and MacArthur relocated his headquarters to Manila in early 1945.
By this time, the Japanese were on the defensive and the creation of the atomic fission bombs ensured an Allied victory in the Pacific Campaign. In September of 1945, the Japanese formally surrendered, ending World War 2. After the war, MacArthur was given the Medal of Honor and the Philippines' Medal of Valor.
With Japan under occupation by the United States, MacArthur oversaw the reconstruction effort in the country. In 1946, he led the creation of Japan's new constitution, which is still in effect today. In 1949, he returned power to the Japanese government and continued living in Japan until he was relieved by Matthew Ridgway on April 11, 1951.
In June of 1950, an attack on Allied forces in Korea led the United Nations to form a defensive force to aid South Korea. MacArthur was given control of the coalition forces and executed a very successful counter-offensive in the Battle of Inchon. In the battle, MacArthur led an amphibious landing behind enemy lines, allowing coalition forces to flank the North Korean military. The move forced the enemy to retreat north, with the coalition in hot pursuit.
As the coalition forces approached the Chinese border, the Chinese government threatened to get involved in defending the North Koreans. MacArthur advised President Harry Truman that there was no substitute for victory and advocated the use of nuclear fission bombs to deter the Chinese from getting more involved. Truman, however, refused to allow more nuclear bombing in fear of the Soviet Union. After Truman announced that cease-fire talks were in progress with the Chinese, MacArthur made public comments threatening the Chinese and challenging them. After the comments, Truman relieved him of command on April 11, 1951.
After MacArthur returned to the United States, he gave a famous farewell speech before Congress and received thirty standing ovations. MacArthur entertained speculation that he would run for president in 1952, but a senate hearing regarding his removal from service made him change his mind. MacArthur later moved to New York, but made one last trip to the Philippines in 1961, where he received an honorary rank of Chief Commander in the Philippine Legion of Honor. After the Bay of Pigs incident, he was also consulted with by President John F. Kennedy.
Douglas MacArthur died on April 5, 1964 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the city of Washington, D.C.