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This Day in History: Truman Dismisses MacArthur | April 11, 2016

This Day in History: Truman Dismisses MacArthur

On April 11, 1951, President Truman relieved the man he once referred to as “Mr. Prima Donna, Brass Hat, Five Star MacArthur” of his commands.

“With deep regret I have concluded that General of the Army Douglas MacArthur is unable to give his wholehearted support to the policies of the United States Government and of the United Nations in matters pertaining to his official duties … I have, therefore, relieved General MacArthur of his commands.”

So, why did President Truman dismiss General MacArthur? We’ve selected 6 documents archived in the Truman Library’s collection that give an insider’s glimpse of Truman’s decision.

  1. August 26, 1950: Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson to General MacArthur
    “The President of the United States directs that you withdraw your message for National Encampment of Veterans of Foreign Wars, because various features with respect to Formosa are in conflict with the policy of the United States and its position in the United Nations.”Johnson
  2. October 8, 1950: Joint Chiefs of Staff to General MacArthur
    “In any case you will obtain authorization from Washington prior to taking any military action against objectives in Chinese territory.”
  3. August 27, 1950:  Dean Acheson Responds to MacArthur’s Proposed Message Regarding Formosa
    “The President cannot debate with the General… The President’s statement must stand before the world unconfused and uninterpreted as the official position of the United States.”Acheson
  4. March 20, 1951: Douglas MacArthur to Congressman Martin
    “It seems strangely difficult for some to realize that here in Asia is where the Communist conspirators have elected to make their play for global conquest, and that we have joined the issue thus raised on the battlefield, that here we fight Europe’s war with arms while the diplomats there still fight it with words; that if we lose the war to communism in Asia the fall of Europe is inevitable, win it and Europe most probably would avoid war and yet preserve freedom. As you point out, we must win. There is no substitute for victory.”Martin
  5. April 5, 1951: Harry Truman’s Diary Entry
    “MacArthur has made himself a center of controversy, publicly and privately. He has always been a controversial figure.”Diary
  6. April 6, 1951: Harry Truman’s Diary Entry
    “MacArthur shoots another political bomb through Joe Martin, leader of the Republican minority in the House. This looks like the last straw. Rank insubordination. Last summer he sent a long statement to the Vets of Foreign Wars – not through the high command back home, but directly! He sent copies to newspapers and magazines particularly hostile to me… I’ve come to the conclusion that our Big General in the Far East must be recalled.”Diary 2

Eight days after being relieved of command, General MacArthur delivered an eight-page address to a Joint Session of Congress.

“I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barracks ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”

 13 years later, Douglas MacArthur passed away at the age of 84.