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From Mother's Pen: Letter #2
In 1908, when he was just five years out of West Point, Douglas MacArthur had a
fairly significant career crisis. Following a series of rather exciting
assignments -- which included surveying in the Philippines, touring Asia with
his parents, and serving as an aide in President Theodore Roosevelt's White
House -- MacArthur was assigned to river and harbor duties at the engineering
office in frigid Milwaukee. While his lack of enthusiasm might be
understandable, it resulted in a poor efficiency report, which threatened his
so-far bright Army career. His superior, Major William Judson, wrote that
"MacArthur seemed to take but little interest in his course at the school and .
. . the character of the work done by him was generally not equal to that of
most of the other student officers and barely exceeded the minimum which would
have been permitted." MacArthur did not take the criticism well, and a feud
with Judson ensued.
Perhaps sensing that his career was in jeopardy, Pinky went to work -- in all
likelihood without her son's knowledge -- on finding him a more lucrative
career outside of the Army. On April 17, 1909, Pinky wrote to railroad magnate
E.H. Harriman; here are excerpts from that letter:
My dear Mr. Harriman,
After quietly investigating his background, Harriman's lieutenants approached
Douglas to discuss an offer. They were surprised when he declined to leave the
Army. They wrote, "It is evidently a case where the mother wants to get her
son out of the army, and not where the son is figuring on getting out himself."
At Ambassador Griscom's in Tokio [sic] some three years ago, I had the good
fortune to be seated next to you at a luncheon. The amiable manner in which
you then, listened to my talk, in behalf of a possible future for my son
Douglas MacArthur outside the Army, encourages me now, to address you now, in
that connection; and more especially as I recall that first class men are
always in demand, and that you frequently have occasion to seek them....
[While Douglas] cannot be regarded as an expert in any particular subject .
. . his splendid mathamatical [sic] and technical training, together with
exceptional stability of habits and flexibility of mind, fit him for any work,
especially of an administrative character....
Frankly, I would like to see my son filling a place promising more of a
future than the Army does....
The son referred to is 29 years old....
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