Thursday 26 January 2012

Duty, Honor, Country

"Duty, honor, country.  Those three hallowed words dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be." 

These are the opening words of General MacArthur as he addressed the graduating class at West Point Military Academy on May 12, 1962.  These are words that he lived by as he fought in three wars:  World War I, World War II and the Korean War.  Alexander Haig said that he was one of a dying breed of heroes:  a leader that could make his own decisions, unhampered by our instant communication society and our media.  He was a real leader who wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty, wasn't afraid to jump in with both feet. 

Born on this day in 1880, MacArthur was raised on the American Frontier, claiming that:  "I knew how to ride and shoot before I knew how to read or write."  Graduating first in his class at West Point, he put his skills into practice during the First World War.  On the Western Front, one soldier reported that he jumped over the trenches, ran across no man's land and captured a German Colonel, all with only a riding crop in his hand.  Brigadier General MacArthur returned to the United States highly decorated, wearing a Medal of Honor, two Croix de Guerre, two Distinguished Service Crosses and seven Silver Stars. 

Although MacArthur retired from the United States Army in 1937, he was recalled to active duty upon America's entry into the Second World War, serving as Chief of Staff in the Pacific Theatre.  Forced to retreat via PT boats from the island of Bataan, the General and his troops sought refuge in Australia.  On October 20, 1944, MacArthur and his men were photographed triumphantly wading throught he waters surrounding the island of Leyte, a stepping stone to recapturing the Philippines.  The general practised servant leadership asking himself the question:  "Do I delegate tasks that should be mine?"  Great at building the morale of his men, he once encouraged a subordinate to capture the enemy position, saying that if he did so, he would earn the Silver Star.  Then, going one step further, he pinned the silver star to the soldier's uniform right there and then. 

Accepting Japan's surrender in August of 1945, General MacArthur oversaw the occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1950.  Then President Truman offered him command the United Nations forces in Korea.  Once again, MacArthur took on the role of leader.  Pressing northward with the motto "In war, there is no substitute for victory" the general was ready to take on the Chinese Communists but was forced to stop at the 38th Parallel after orders from the president.  MacArthur publically criticized Truman for his policy in Korea and was therefore relieved of command.  Although he lived out his remaining years as a civilian, he would always be remembered as the four-star general with the corn-cob pipe.

Photo of American troops landing on Leyte island courtesy

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