Harry Anderson: “The MacArthurs of Milwaukee”
The following is the text of an address given by Harry H. Anderson at the dedication of a statue of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur in MacArthur Square on June 8, 1979. The statue was unveiled by the General’s widow, Jean MacArthur, and Mrs. Erwin C. Uihlein, who gave the statue to the people of Milwaukee in memory of her husband.
Mrs. MacArthur, Mrs. Uihlein, distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen. I am honored and also deeply grateful to have the opportunity to share with you today some insights into the career of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, and to reflect upon some of the factors which have motivated this tribute to the General and to his Milwaukee heritage.
We are, in effect, observing an anniversary on this occasion, for eighty years ago this week a young man by the name of Douglas MacArthur received an appointment to the Military Academy at West Point from Milwaukee Congressman Theobald Otjen of Bay View. This event stirred interest and reaction in Milwaukee for at least two reasons. First, was a recognition of signifi-cant achievement, for the frontier–educated youngster, bolstered by some intensive special instruction at West Division High School, scored a highly distinctive 93% on the competitive exams for the appointment-some thirteen points better than his nearest competitor. And second, some within the Milwaukee community questioned whether he, in fact, merited Congressman Otjen ‘s appointment since, it was alleged, he was not actually a Milwaukee native. The reaction to this latter allegation from prominent and knowledgeable Milwaukeeans was both prompt and decisive, and the evidence assembled in support of the MacArthur heritage in Milwaukee established, to any fair-minded observer, that the young man and his family had roots that were deeply and firmly embedded in Milwaukee’s past.
Douglas MacArthur’s grandfather, Arthur MacArthur, Sr., came to this city in 1849, and almost immediately made his mark in community and public affairs. He was elected Milwaukee City Attorney in 1851, and successfully campaigned for the office of Lieutenant Governor of the State of Wisconsin in 1855. In this capacity, as a result of a contested gubernatorial election, he served as Governor of this State for a brief period in 1856.The following year, he again put his name before the voting public, and was elected as a Circuit Judge in Milwaukee – a position that he won for a second six-year term in 1863. As a result of this distinguished public record, he was subsequently appointed to the Federal bench in Washington in 1870, where he finished out his notable judicial career.
Arthur MacArthur, Jr., the judge’s son and Douglas’s father, was one of thousands of Milwaukeeans who responded to the call to military service during their nation’s hour of peril in the early years of the Civil War. Commissioned a Lieutenant in the 24th Wisconsin Infantry at the age of seventeen, he rose to the command of that regiment within two years. As the celebrated “Boy Colonel of the West,” he displayed heroism and courage that was unmatched by any of his age or experience, and by few of his seniors. Following a long career in the regular Army, his military abilities were recognized at the outbreak of the Spanish–American War when, commissioned as a general officer, he was sent to the Philippine Islands to begin a lengthy and historic family association with the people of that Far Eastern land. After serving as military governor of the Philippines, he was eventually promoted to Lieutenant General of the Army, highest rank in the American military service, before returning to Milwaukee for retirement and his last years. Arthur MacArthur died in this city in 1912.
Thus, it was this heritage – this long and significant record of service to community and country – that Douglas MacArthur took to West Point in 1899. Graduating four years later, his record at the academy was remarkable. Not only was he first in his class academically, accumulating the highest grade average of any cadet for twenty-five years, but he also was selected First Captain of the Corps of Cadets, a rank reflective of the highest measure of military achievement. Douglas MacArthur’s initial duty assignment as a young Lieutenant was in the Philippine Islands, the first of four occasions when orders took him to that distant land to which his name and his achievements have become firmly associated.
In World War I, he served in France with the famous 42nd or Rainbow Division, was wounded twice, and decorated nine times for heroism and bravery before ending that conflict as a Brigadier General and 42nd Division Commander. The MacArthur record during the 1920s and 1930s was equally noteworthy as he held important commands in the peacetime Army, including the Superintendency at West Point; the post of Chief of Staff of the Army; and assignment as Military Advisor to the President of the Philippine Commonwealth.
At the outbreak of World War II, his determined and inspirational leadership in defense of the Philippines was a vital morale booster at a time when days were darkest for the American cause. His electrifying promise, “I Shall Return,” represented both an inspirational commitment and a military objective that played a major role in producing an Allied victory. His masterful direction of American strategy in the Southwest Pacific did, indeed, bring him back to the Philippines, bypassing in the process enemy strong points and gaining control of a vast area at a minimum loss of precious human lives.
With the successful conclusion of World War II, Douglas MacArthur embarked upon what is probably his greatest single achievement – that of giving a personal direction and implementation to the task of bringing democracy to post-war Japan. Never in history, has a defeated nation benefited so much from a one-time enemy, as in his role in the reformation of the economic, political and social fabric of the Japanese nation.
And even during the Korean period of his career, where his military achievements often became obscured in the controversy surrounding his removal by President Truman as United Nations Commander, his positions on certain vital issues merit continuous consideration in light of American experience in the Far East in more recent years.
Even from such a very brief recitation of the MacArthur record as this, certain positive objectives may be seen as being realized from this MacArthur Memorial Observance. First, we are giving dramatic visibility to the identity of a great American after whom this section of Milwaukee’s Civic Center is named. MacArthur Square, designated in 1945, dedicated in 1951 at the time of the General’s visit to this site, now has the identifying presence of Douglas MacArthur to grace its landscape in the form of this inspiring statue. Second, we pay tribute to a notable son of this city, who took pride in his roots in this community – his “ancestral home” as he called it.
We acknowledge his professional achievements in time of war, and his lasting contributions to the betterment of mankind in time of peace. And third, and possibly most important, we provide a framework for our generation and for those who come after us to recognize new meaning for the future in the lives of the MacArthurs of Milwaukee. Within the MacArthur story, we see Judge Arthur MacArthur, a man dedicated to the rule of law as a vital part of the American way of life; an individual proud of his ethnic heritage (a characteristic so vital to our Milwaukee today) and active in the organizations that perpetuated this heritage; and a public figure with faith in the electoral process and commitment to the concept of public service. From Arthur MacArthur, Jr. one can learn again of the inspirational achievement of which our young people are capable; we can begin to understand the experience that saw the United States expand the horizon of its national concern to the far corners of the world; and we can observe a loyalty and affection for this city as a place to return in friendship after years of service elsewhere. And finally from Douglas MacArthur, the potential lessons are legion.
But perhaps the object of his first personal Milwaukee association – his desire to attend the Military Academy – offers those we best could consider today. The motto of his beloved West Point – Duty, Honor, Country – allows us to reflect upon standards that have meaning for military and civilian alike. Outside of its strict military sense, Duty may also mean fulfillment of obligation, adherence to principle, dedication to responsibility – all traits our society could use more of today. Honor we may understand as commitment to integrity, to honesty, to a basic sense of right and wrong, and an adherence to these values no matter how inconvenient or how uncomfortable. For Country there need be no translation, for soldier and civilian, we all share a common heritage in a United States that stands unmatched today by any other nation, or by any other system of government on the face of the earth. No one can offer us a Country which is better, nor one more deserving of our loyalty, or participation in its affairs, and our service and sacrifice if need be.
This, then, it seems to me, is the legacy which the memory of Douglas MacArthur offers to Milwaukee, and to all Americans. As Milwaukee looks back at its MacArthur associations on this occasion, it behooves us to study these lessons with great care and to profit from the MacArthur example as best we can.