Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Douglas MacArthur

My Dad served in the Pacific Theater in World War II.  He was a surgical technician, attached to the 11th Airborne, serving under General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Pacific.

My Dad had little respect for his commanding officer.

Apparently, Dad was not the only one skeptical of MacArthur.  General Omar Bradley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Korean conflict, said of MacAurthur:

He was awesomely brilliant; but as a leader he had several major flaws:  an obsession for self-glorification, almost no consideration for other men with whom he served, and a contempt for the judgment of his superiors… “MacArthur was a megalomaniac.”[1] 

Few could doubt MacArthur’s brilliance as a field commander.  His service in World War I and the campaign against Japan in World War II was remarkable.

But, it was his oversight of occupied Japan after World War II that has found him mentioned in my blog on tolerance.  His attitude toward defeated Nippon mirrored that of Grant and Lincoln toward Lee and the Confederates after the Civil War.  This was all the more surprising in light of the atrocities committed by the Japanese against military and civilians alike during the War.

MacArthur oversaw the transformation of Japan from an Imperial government headed by an emperor to a democracy.  He even incorporated freedom of religion in the new Japanese Constitution, to the surprise of many of the occupied population. 

He (MacArthur) jolted Japanese sensibilities by insisting on religious freedom and dismayed certain Westerners by his explanation.  “Although I was brought up as a Christian and adhere entirely to its teachings, I have always had a sincere admiration for many of the basic principles underlying the Oriental faiths,” he said.  “Christianity does not differ from them as much as one would think.”[2]

It’s my observation that many people who are prejudiced against one minority or another have never been exposed or even spoken to members of that minority.  MacArthur shows that one can gain a (grudging?) respect, even for one’s enemies, by studying them and being exposed to them.

How much more can we, who are not at war with our fellow citizens of this country, learn and grow by exposing ourselves to their experiences and lives?

[1] The General vs. The President, MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War, H.W. Brands (Doubleday 2016), p. 78.
[2] Id., P 19

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