September 1, 2015


Gen. Douglas MacArthur signs Japan's surrender on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur signs Japan’s surrender on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.  View Enlarged Image

Douglas MacArthur produced victories in war and peace. He held the rare U.S. Army rank of five-star general — and the only one to receive the Medal of Honor.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called him the best American commander of World War II — and with good reason.

MacArthur (1880-1964) led the battering of Japanese forces in the South Pacific during World War II, culminating in the liberation of the Philippines.

After the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, prompting Japan to give up the fight in August 1945, President Truman empowered MacArthur to arrange and accept the Land of the Rising Sun’s formal surrender.

That end of WWII came during MacArthur’s choreographed ceremony 70 years ago this Sept. 2 on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

“I received no instructions as to what to say or what to do,” MacArthur wrote in “Reminiscences.” “I was on my own, (with) only God and my conscience to guide me.”

Show Me The Surrender

With the ship decked out in colors and military brass, MacArthur emerged from the Missouri’s interior flanked by Adms. Chester Nimitz and Bull Halsey, and said:

MacArthur’s Keys

  • Defeated Japan in 1945.
  • Overcame: Initially depleted resources and forces in the Southwest Pacific during World War II.
  • Lesson: Outthink and outfight the enemy.
  • “We are doing what we can with what we have.”

“It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past — a world founded upon faith and understanding, a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance and justice.”

Toshikazu Kase, an American-educated member of Japan’s surrender party, recounted his impressions of the day and of MacArthur: “The supreme commander … is a man of peace. … The gathering rays of his magnanimous soul embrace the earth.”

For the next five years, MacArthur guided the rebuilding of Japan from a militaristic dictatorship torn by war into a democracy headed toward economic growth.

He did so by turning Emperor Hirohito into an ally rather than humiliating him, overseeing the writing of a constitution, giving women the vote and holding free elections.

In 1961, the U.S. Congress lauded MacArthur’s “outstanding devotion to the American people” and “his brilliant leadership during and following World War II.”

MacArthur was aggressive in battle, but tempered his strategy to minimize casualties. “Good commanders do not turn in heavy losses (of life),” he said.

Upon MacArthur’s death at age 84, President Lyndon Johnson ordered a state funeral and called him “one of America’s greatest heroes” whose “valiant deeds for us will never die.”

Gen. Douglas MacArthur (middle) hits the beach at Leyte Island in October 1944 during the Allies' invasion of the Philippines on the way to ousting...

Gen. Douglas MacArthur (middle) hits the beach at Leyte Island in October 1944 during the Allies’ invasion of the Philippines on the way to ousting… View Enlarged Image

Retired Marine Col. William Davis, the director of the MacArthur Memorial and executive director of the General Douglas MacArthur Foundation, noted in “No Substitute for Victory,” by Theodore and Donna Kinni, that Mac “was a courageous combat leader in World War I, an instrumental figure in the winning of World War II, and the architect of the amphibious assault at Inchon — an operation that turned the course of the Korean War.”

After MacArthur clashed with Truman over Korean War policy, the president relieved him of command in 1951. MacArthur returned home to a hero’s welcome, with a ticker tape parade in New York City that drew 7 million people.

MacArthur was born in Little Rock, Ark., the son of Civil War hero Arthur MacArthur.

True North At West Point

Early on, Douglas set his sights on attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and hit his target, graduating first in the class of 1903. He promptly went to the Philippines as a second lieutenant.

After distinguishing himself in battle in World War I, MacArthur stood as a brigadier general.

By 1937, he had gone from Army chief of staff to military advisor to Philippine President Manuel Quezon. Also that year, he married Jean Marie Faircloth. He became a father at 58 when Arthur was born in February 1938.

When the Japanese attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, America was suddenly at war.

And it got worse. Within hours, another Japanese bombing raid hit the Philippines, destroying U.S. air power. Also in December, enemy infantry landed north of Manila.

Japan’s strafing left the isolated Allies on the verge of surrender. President Franklin Roosevelt couldn’t afford to have his top battlefield general fall into enemy hands. So he ordered MacArthur to head for Australia in March 1942 and take over the Southwest Pacific Theater.

MacArthur did so with his wife and young son, and upon landing in Allied territory said: “I came through and I shall return.”

Did he ever. In the next three years, MacArthur coordinated air, sea and land forces to advance island by strategic island toward the Japanese-held Philippines.

Closing in on the Philippines in October 1944, MacArthur pointed his armada at Leyte Island.

With his troops hitting the beach, the general waded ashore while sporting his signature sunglasses — an image immortalized in his statue at the Leyte Landing Memorial.

He Was Back

MacArthur made his way to a mobile radio broadcasting unit and said, “People of the Philippines: I have returned. … Our forces stand again on Philippine soil — soil consecrated in the blood of our two people … committed to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control. … The hour of your redemption is here.”

After the atom bombs brought Japan to its knees, MacArthur flew to the mainland on Aug. 30, 1945. Landing at Atsugi Airfield, 20 miles from Tokyo, he was unarmed and with only a small party, despite the Japanese government warning him of the danger of touching down in such a potentially hostile and uncontrollable environment.

MacArthur then traveled through streets teeming with armed Japanese soldiers. His point? “Leadership is often crystallized in some sort of public gesture.”

Churchill said: “Of all the amazing acts of bravery of the war, I regard MacArthur’s landing at Atsugi as the greatest of the lot.”

After overseeing WWII’s official end at the Tokyo Bay ceremony, MacArthur ran war-torn Japan. The country, with 15 million homeless, also suffered economically.

He first set out to feed the nation, providing 3.5 million tons of food from the U.S. Army. Early on he re-assured the Japanese people that his office was “not concerned with how to keep Japan down, but how to get her on her feet again.”

Back in America and addressing a joint session of Congress in 1951, MacArthur said of battle: “Once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War’s very object is victory — not prolonged indecision. In war, indeed, there is no substitute for victory.”