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No soldier has ever captured the American imagination like Douglas MacArthur.
He led Americans into combat for a half-century, through glorious victories and
soul-numbing defeats. Courageous and supremely egotistical, he battled anyone
who dared question his military judgment -- even the President of the United
THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE presents
MacArthur, a compelling portrait of a complex man from producer Austin Hoyt
(Reagan) and co-producer Sarah Holt. Drawing on archival footage and first
person interviews, MacArthur tells the story of a true American hero. He was
America's most decorated officer during World War I. During World War II, he
recovered from a humiliating defeat to make a triumphant return to the
Philippines. In the Korean War he engineered a bold invasion only to suffer a
bitter reversal at the hands of the Chinese. Fired by Harry Truman in one of
the most controversial presidential decisions in history, he returned home to
the greatest hero's welcome ever.
Yet even in the midst of the acclaim, something was missing. "The sad thing for
him is that those achievements were never enough," says historian Michael
Schaller. "He always felt that those above him denied him the recognition that
he rightly deserved and I think nurtured lifelong grudges against anybody in a
position superior to him."
"I regard him as probably the greatest soldier we've ever had in all American
history," says General Vernon A. Walters, USA (retired). "His only problem was
that he didn't fully understand that in the United States, it's the President
who makes national policy."
A magnetic, dignified presence, MacArthur was also vain and suspicious. "He was
a tremendously great man with tremendously great weaknesses," recalls Faubion
Bowers, an aide to the general. "He was a paranoid. Everything was an arrow in
his heart, and yet he could charm anyone."
"Wherever MacArthur was, he was the center of attention," adds marine historian
Edwin H. Simmons. "All eyes were always riveted on MacArthur. He was a great
actor. When you speak of the theater of war, he was the producer, the director,
the star actor, and he played it to the limit."
In 1899, nineteen-year-old Douglas MacArthur enrolled in the United States
Military Academy at West Point. He already had his own image of the ideal
soldier: his father. Arthur MacArthur was a Civil War hero who had been awarded
the Congressional Medal of Honor and became the military governor of the
Philippines. Douglas would devote himself to living up to his father's example.
To be a MacArthur, he knew, meant being brave, a scholar, a gentleman, and wary
of interference from Washington. "You must grow up to be a great man -- like your
father and Robert E. Lee," his mother had whispered to him at bedtime.
Douglas MacArthur distinguished himself on the battlefields of World War I. He
was wounded, gassed, cited as "the greatest front-line general of the war,"
awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, and was known for leading his troops
into battle carrying a riding crop.
In 1922, MacArthur, age 42, married Louise Cromwell Brooks, a divorced
socialite ten years his junior with two children -- and a fortune. The unlikely
union between the high-flying flapper and general ended seven years later. When
he was Army Chief of Staff, he brought to Washington Isabel Rosario Cooper, a
27-year-old actress of Scottish and Filipino ancestry known as "Dimples," who
had become his mistress in Manila after his divorce. In 1937, the 57-year-old
MacArthur wed again, this time to Jean Faircloth, a 37-year-old from
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who called him "Sir Boss."
That year President Franklin Roosevelt, fearful of provoking the increasingly
aggressive Japanese, cancelled MacArthur's appointment as US Military Adviser
in the Philippines. He remained on the Phillipine payroll but retired from the
Army. As war appeared imminent, FDR recalled MacArthur and put him in charge of
US forces in the Far East. Within hours after their attack on Pearl Harbor, the
Japanese attacked Manila. MacArthur withdrew his troops to Bataan and
Corregidor. Three months later, under orders from Roosevelt, he fled the
Philippines with Jean and their four-year-old son Arthur, declaring "I shall
return." His quest to keep his word became one of the greatest sagas of World
The General's last campaign was as commander of the UN forces in Korea. He
bridled under the constraints of the nuclear age -- limited war. In the spring of
1951, following a series of confrontations, President Harry Truman relieved
MacArthur of his command. He died in Washington, DC, in 1964.
"He is not just unlike most other men, he's unlike most soldiers," says
biographer Geoffrey Perrett. "There is an element in MacArthur's temperament
that is really that of the writer, the poet, the artist who has somehow ended
up in uniform. And he believed only a handful of people really counted in
history. And his role in life was to be one of that handful of people."
A fascinating look at the private and public worlds of a preeminent modern
military leader, "MacArthur" is both an intimate biography and a sweeping view of
America at war in the 20th century.