The Film & More|
David McCullough, Series Host: Hello. I'm David McCullough. Welcome to the
American Experience. The United States of America is a nation born of war, a
bloody eight-year struggle for independence. Our first larger-than-life hero
and first president was a soldier. And a long line of soldier-heroes followed
--Andrew Jackson, Grant, Lee, Pershing -- until the onrush of the Second World
War. Then, miraculously, from a tiny professional army that the country had
pretty much forgotten, came an array of general officers as remarkable as any
in our history -- Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, Stillwell, Bradley, and the
most conspicuous and, some felt, the most brilliant of them all, General
What follows is a two-part film biography of MacArthur, an American life story
ranging over much of the world, and that begins at a army post in New Mexico
in the 1880's, far removed from the tumultuous century to come. But then
MacArthur himself often seemed like a figure from another time, this man who
was such a force in altogether three major wars. There was nothing simple
about him. He was vain, haughty, theatrical, an incurable poser, and given to
oratorical flourishes of a kind only he could have gotten away with. He was
also, most importantly a born leader, fearless, intensely patriotic, and highly
ambitious, indeed, supremely conscious of himself as a "man of destiny." But,
as Shakespeare reminds us, big wars make ambition a virtue. That Douglas
MacArthur was one of the most interesting and important figures of the century,
there is no question.
Part I of MacArthur, written and produced by Austin Hoyt.
The American Experience: MacArthur
NARR: In the winter of 1942 the eyes of the world were fixed on a tiny outpost
in the Philippines where America's most famous general was under siege. His
command post destroyed. His army near starvation. Reinforcements no where in
sight. "The end is near," the Japanese commander taunted Gen. Douglas
MacArthur, "You are advised to surrender." A MacArthur, he knew, never
surrendered. He was prepared to die as a soldier. Ordered to abandon his
army, he felt betrayed by enemies in Washington. His lonely quest to rescue
his men became one of the great sagas of World War II. A journey\ less lonely
because of a family who shared the war years with him - a wife he married at
age 57 and a son who he hoped would one day be a soldier. He was welcomed home
as no American had ever been - a hero as well to Australians, Filipinos, South
Koreans - even the Japanese.
MICHAEL SCHALLER, Historian: The sad thing for him is that those achievements
were never enough. He always felt that those above him denied him the
recognition that he rightly deserved and I think nurtured lifelong grudges
against almost anybody in a position superior to him.
VERNON A. WALTERS, U.S. Army: I regard him as probably the greatest soldier
we've ever had, in all American history. His only problem was that he didn't
fully understand that in the United States, it's the president who makes
NARR: Douglas MacArthur became so controversial that he stirred political
passions Americans had not known since the Civil War.
FAUBION BOWERS, Aide to MacArthur: He was like old Grecian statues, larger
than life. And such absolute self-confidence. He had such dignity, such
presence. He was a tremendously great man, with tremendously great weaknesses.
He was a paranoid. Everything was an arrow in his heart, and yet he was a
magnetic person who could charm anyone.
EDWIN H. SIMMONS, Marine Historian: Wherever MacArthur was, he was the center
of attention. All eyes were always riveted on MacArthur. He was a great
actor. When you speak of theater of war, he was the producer, the director,
the star actor, in that theater and he played it to the limit.
GEOFFREY PERRET, Biographer: He is not just unlike most other men, he's unlike
most soldiers. 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.