Douglas MacArthur, the son of the high-ranking military figure, Arthur MacArthur, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, on 26th January, 1880. Although previously a poor scholar, in 1903 MacArthur graduated first in his 93-man class, at West Point Military Academy. Commissioned in the Corps of the Engineers, MacArthur was sent by the United States Army to the Philippines and by 1904 had been promoted to the rank of first lieutenant. Later that year he joined his father who was serving in Far East before becoming aide-de-camp to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. MacArthur was assigned to general staff duty with the War Department and was an official observer with the Vera Cruz Expedition. On the advice of General Leonard Wood, MacArthur was promoted to major.
In the First World War MacArthur commanded the 42nd Division on the Western Front and was decorated 13 times and cited seven additional times for bravery. Promoted the the rank of brigadier in August, 1918, three months later he became the youngest divisional commander in France.After the war MacArthur returned to the United States where he became brigadier general and the youngest ever superintendent of West Point in its 117 year history. Over the next three years he doubled its size and modernized the curriculum. In 1922 MacArthur was sent to the Philippines where he commanded the newly established Military District of Manila. At the age of forty-three MacArthur became the army’s youngest general and in 1928 was appointed president of the American Olympic Committee.
MacArthur was appointed chief of staff of the US Army in 1930. Once again he was the youngest man to hold the office and over the next few years attempted to modernize America’s army of 135,000 men. MacArthur developed right-wing political views and at one meeting argued that: “Pacifism and its bedfellow, Communism, are all about us. Day by day this cancer eats deeper into the body politic.” In June 1932, MacArthur, controversially used tanks, four troops of cavalry with drawn sabers, and infantry with fixed bayonets, on the Bonus Army in Washington. He justified his attack on former members of the United States Army by claiming that the country was on the verge of a communist revolution. Dwight D. Eisenhower and George Patton also took part in this operation. In 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent MacArthur to organize the defence of the Philippines. He retired from the army in 1937 but stayed on the island where he became the country’s military adviser. When negotiations with the Japanese government broke down in June 1941, Roosevelt recalled MacArthur to active duty as a major general and was granted $10 million to mobilize the Philippine Army. It was also decided to send MacArthur 100 B-17 Flying Fortress to help defend the Philippines. Most of MacArthur’s troops were deployed to protect the two main islands of Luzon and Mindanao and by October 1941, MacArthur informed General George Marshall that he now had 135,000 troops, 227 assorted fighters, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft and this provided a “tremendously strong offensive and defensive force” and claimed that the Philippines was now the “key or base point of the US defence line.”
The Japanese Air Force attacked the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on the 7th December 1941. The following day they carried out air strikes on the Philippines and destroyed half of MacArthur’s air force. MacArthur was much criticized for this as he had been told to move his airforce after the raid on Hawaii the previous day. The Japanese Army also invaded the Philippines and they soon held the three air bases in northern Luzon. On 22nd December the 14th Army landed at Lingayen Gulf and quickly gained control of Manila from the inexperienced Filipino troops. Although only 57,000 Japanese soldiers were landed on Luzon it had little difficulty capturing the island.General Douglas MacArthur now ordered a general retreat to the Bataan peninsula. A series of Japanese assaults forced the US defensive lines back and on 22nd February, 1942, MacArthur was ordered to leave Bataan and go to Australia. General Jonathan Wainright remained behind with 11,000 soldiers and managed to hold out until the beginning of May. The American forces were re-organized and MacArthur