Saturday, June 03, 2006



General Douglas MacArthur: Thayer Award Acceptance Address
delivered 12 May 1962, West Point, NY at the age of 82 just two years before him death.

"Duty, Honor, Country"
KARNOW: He's left with this extraordinarily ambitious mother and who was driving and pushing him all the time, and in him there's this great desire to fulfill the ambition of his mother, to fulfill her dreams for him and prove to her in many ways that he is going to surpass his father.
NARR: His chance would come in World War I. Douglas MacArthur became chief of staff of the Army's 42nd Division - which he had created from national guard units. He said it would stretch like a rainbow across the country. The 42nd became known as the Rainbow Division. MacArthur served under General John Pershing who commanded from headquarters well behind the lines. He expected MacArthur, now a brigadier general, to do the same. But the only real soldier, MacArthur felt, was at the front. In September 1918 Pershing ordered a bayonet charge with minimal artillery, hoping to catch the Germans by surprise. MacArthur's troops rejected this as too risky. He agreed. "It's sometimes the order you don't obey," he told a fellow officer, "that makes you famous." He changed the plans. He also led the charge. And he did it with style.

HARRY J. MAIHAFER, Military Historian: Everyone in the Rainbow Division knew their chief of staff went over the top not wearing a gas mask, not wearing a steel helmet, wearing that long scarf that his mother had made draped around, wearing his West Point sweater, and the troops loved it. And he did this quite deliberately, maybe to win glory, to stand out, but it was a doubled purpose that he had: one was to help the troops to overcome their own fear, and then there's also to make a mark for himself. And I think this was resented at higher headquarters.
NARR: In the fall of 1918 Pershing prepared to storm the German defenses. The key was a low hill known as the Cote de Chatillon. It was littered with the corpses of American and French troops. On October 13th, MacArthur's commander paid a visit. "Give me Chatillon, MacArthur," he said abruptly, "or a list of 5000 casualties." "All right, General," MacArthur replied, "we'll take it, or my name will head the list." His men could take some comfort knowing he would share their risks. The challenge was daunting. Embedded in the Cote de Chatillon were 230 machine gun nests - protected from artillery by pillboxes. Protected from advancing troops by coils of barbed wire often 25 feet deep. MacArthur organized a small patrol to probe for weak spots. "We had not gone far in the darkness," he recalled, "when the enemy opened up with everything he had." In the eerie light of bursting shells, he discovered a thin spot in the wire where men could cut through. "Then I called in muffled voice, 'Get up when I give the signal...I will lead you back to our lines.' I gave the command. No one stirred. I crawled along from shell hole to shell hole. I took hold of each man and shook him. They were all stone dead. I made my way back with God's help."
PERRET: How could it be that of all the people on that patrol, he isn't even scratched. The others are all dead. The only logical explanation is that God has spared him. Things happen in this world for reasons, and as far as MacArthur is concerned, this is the only reason that makes any sense at all. It could not be blind chance.
NARR: MacArthur planned to exploit the vulnerable flanks in the German lines. He wrote, "There was where I planned to strike with my Alabama cotton-growers on the left, my Iowa farmers on the right. We moved out in the misty dawn. Death, cold and remorseless, whistled and sung its way through our ranks." MacArthur placed himself at the head of his brigade. Like his father at Missionary Ridge he would win glory, leading men in a desperate uphill assault.
PERRET: And he's in the thick of the fighting, but he's not carrying a weapon. He carries a riding crop because it isn't his business to kill the Germans with his own hands. It's his business to inspire in other men in the business of killing. So when MacArthur went up a hill, he didn't have to look behind to see if men were following him. Where he led they would follow. He could inspire men to fight and possibly die rather than disappoint him.
NARR: MacArthur's Rainbow Division had breached the German line. Within weeks the war was over. The toll was frightful. Four thousand men, one-third of the division, had fallen.
PERRET: And although MacArthur never talked specifically about the casualties on the Cote de Chatillon the emotional impact remained with him for the rest of his life because he could never speak about what happened there without tears coming to his eyes and he would choke up and he just couldn't really talk about it. Seeing so much human sacrifice, I think, left a scar on him till the day he died.
NARR: A board of officers recommended MacArthur for the Medal of Honor. Pershing awarded him less saying he had not met that standard of heroism. He had not even killed anyone. Douglas MacArthur was the most decorated officer of the war, but he came to believe that Pershing's clique was out to thwart him, armchair generals who resented a fighting officer. When he arrived in New York with his troops on April 25th, 1919, MacArthur expected an adoring throng "to proclaim us monarchs of all we surveyed." At the foot of the gangplank "one little urchin asked us who we were," MacArthur wrote, "and when we said 'We are the famous 42nd', he asked if we had been to France. "Amid a silence that hurt we marched off to be scattered to the four winds, a sad, gloomy end of the Rainbow.