General Douglas MacArthur: A Biography
General Douglas MacArthur, a 1903 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, rose to command of the 42nd (“Rainbow”) Division in France during World War I, served as Superintendent at West Point from 1919 to 1922, and became U.S. Army Chief of Staff in 1930. In 1935, he accepted assignment as military advisor to the Philippine government with the rank of Field Marshall to supervise the creation of a Philippine army.
In 1941, with the beginning of World War II, General MacArthur was named Commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East and in 1942 was appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific. After leading the Allies to victory over Japan, he formally accepted the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945, and administered the Allied occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1951. Upon the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, General MacArthur served as Commander-in-Chief of the United Nations forces in Korea until he was relieved of command by President Truman in 1951 and retired from military service.
General MacArthur considered Milwaukee his ancestral home. His grandfather, Arthur MacArthur, Sr., was a prominent Milwaukee attorney and later a circuit court and federal court judge. His father, Arthur MacArthur, Jr., was a decorated hero of the Civil War with the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment recruited from Milwaukee. Young Douglas studied for the West Point entrance examinations at Milwaukee’s West Division High School and received his appointment to West Point from Milwaukee Congressman Theobald Otjen in 1899.
From General to Citizen
MacArthur returned to the U.S. in 1951 where he was greeted as a conquering hero. He made his famous Old Soldiers Never Die speech before a joint session of Congress and then began a lengthy and triumphant tour of cities throughout America, including Milwaukee. on April 27, 1951. He was greeted by huge crowds lining the route of his motorcade along Wisconsin Avenue, and spoke at the dedication of MacArthur Square and was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Marquette University.
MacArthur retired to private life but U.S. presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson came to the General’s residence at the Waldorf Astoria for advice and consultation and cadets from West Point honored MacArthur on his birthday each year at the Waldorf. Congressman Otjen’s great-grandson, John P. Otjen, and several fellow West Point cadets celebrated General MacArthur’s final birthday with him on January 26, 1964, at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. When MacArthur died on April 5 of that year, Cadet Otjen carried the General’s five-star flag in the honor procession and at the funeral service in Norfolk, Virginia.
Both MacArthur and his wife, Jean, are now buried at the site of the MacArthur Memorial Museum in Norfolk, VA.
MacArthur Memorial Weeks
Fifteen years after his death, Milwaukee honored General MacArthur by hosting the first MacArthur Memorial Week from June 8 to 14, 1979. On June 8, 1979, Lieutenant Colonel Otjen escorted the General’s widow, Jean Faircloth MacArthur, to unveil the statue of the General at the dedication ceremony in MacArthur Square.
In 2014, Milwaukee once again honored General MacArthur with a second MacArthur Memorial Week, which took place from June 3 to 7, 2014. For this occasion, the War Memorial Center, VCRT MacArthur Forum, Inc., Marquette University and the American Legion Cudworth Post No. 23 joined forces to present a five-day program highlighting the General’s career as well as his immense impact on the countries of Australia, the Philippines, Japan and South Korea.