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A Leader I Admire: General MacArthur

Abelardo Lopez
April 16th, 2013

During the mid-half of the 20th century, humanity surely did not find itself short of
heroes; and of those heroes there is one who stands out as one of the most in not only his valor
on the battlefield, but also his command over the public imagination; and that man is General
Douglas MacArthur. Over the decades, a lot has been said and written about MacArthur.
With countless stories, legends, testaments by his contemporaries, along with numerous
biographies; evidently, to say this man was well discussed by historians and admirers alike
would be a grand understatement. With that said, some works choose to highlight MacArthur as
one of the last Generals of Medieval valor, reminiscent of the knightly Christian Crusaders of
Olden Europe, whom greatly exemplified the words: honor, duty, and country like no other.
Other biographers however, chose instead to paint the general not as a great general of
yesteryear, but who one whom was nothing more than a high maintenance Prima Donna who
was simply given command for the sake of public morale during the Second World War. Finally,
for the most part a consensus of historians acknowledge the fact that General MacArthur was a
very interesting character whom exhibited multiple dimensions, some of virtue- especially in his
military skill, and some of not-so virtuous quality- his tendency for insubordination. In my
opinion, that which bests illuminates the shroud of mystery which seems to engulf MacArthurs
character are the words of a contemporary of his, Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey: Who
commented on the General: "The best and the worst things you hear about him are both true Hetherington, John (1973). Blamey, Controversial Soldier: a Biography of Field Marshal Sir
Thomas Blamey. Canberra: Australian War Memorial. ISBN 0-9592043-0-X.OCLC 2025093.
Therefore, through his ability to inspire public moral during the Second World War, influence
public policy, effectively defeat enemies of the United States in close combat, and ultimately win
wars, that I can firmly call General MacArthur, a leader I admire.

Moving forward, there were two personality traits that MacArthur effectively practiced
throughout his career in which I personally admire in a leader, humility and soldier-like
obedience to superiors. Bursting forth out of the halls of West Point, MacArthur launched
himself through an illustrious military career right in the thick of The American Age of
Imperialism; beginning with The Spanish American War (1898), The Great War(1914), and
numerous other conflicts; making a name for himself as one of the most gifted military geniuses
the United States had in its arsenal. Eventually, during the start of Americas involvement in the
Second World War, General MacArthur would find himself commanding the vastly outnumbered
defense of the Philippines against the numerically superior Imperial Japanese forces. As the
events unfolded during MacArthurs command of the defense, the Japanese surrounded and
assaulted allied strongholds in the Manila, and the world as the numerically inferior combined
forces of Pilipino and US soldiers successfully withstood the overwhelming Japanese onslaught.
According to biographer William Manchester*, General MacArthur viewed his combined
defense as the Filipino campaign for independence and freedom from Japanese tyranny, and
more than once did his eyes swell, publicly and privately, with tears at the sights of Filipino
soldiers fighting alongside US forces in defense of their homeland. With that said, although,
according to Manchester, although the continued defense of Manila against overwhelming
Japanese forces greatly enhanced public morale at home, and simultaneously instilled worldwide
confidence in the US armed forces as an effective fighting force, US military leaders ultimately
deemed the defense of the Philippines a lost cause. Therefore, with a presidential promise of
becoming the Supreme Commander of US pacific forces during the Second World War, if and
only if he abandoned his condemned defense of the Philippines at Bataan in 1941, with a heavy
heart and direct orders, MacArthur soon sailed from the shores of the fortified Filipino

archipelago, proudly proclaiming the words: I will return to his former command. What one
may find the most admirable about MacArthur during the defense of the Philippines would be
two things: humility and soldier-like obedience. Humility, because although MacArthur would
later be awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for commanding the impressive defense of the
Philippines, according to many biographers, he personally felt the honor belonged solely to the
impressive force of Filipino and U.S. Soldiers that defended the archipelago valiantly. With that
said, soldier-like obedience, because although MacArthur himself personally felt that he should
reside amongst his men in the defense of the Philippines, upon his receiving of a direct order
from superiors that his expertise were needed elsewhere, he faithfully resigned his command of
the defense of Manila. Thus humility, in my opinion, by far one of the most difficult qualities to
hold within one's character, and soldier-like obedience, "doing what you are supposed to do,
because you're supposed to do it", are two traits virtuously exemplified by MacArthur during his
command of the defense of the Philippines; and two traits I personally admire and strive to adapt.
*Pg. 525, Manchester, William (1978). American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 18801964.
Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-440-30424-5. OCLC 3844481

Although admirable alone, humility and obedience were not the only traits that made
MacArthur an inspiration to future generations of military leaders; clear expertise in his trade in
life, also added onto his proven record. Moving onward, it was at this point in 1942, that General
MacArthur found himself with the consolation of being granted supreme command over the
entirety of US forces stationed across an area spanning from Australia to his beloved Philippines
(officially named the Southwest Pacific Area(SPA) by the Joint Chiefs of Staff); which included
wings of the Army Air Corps and Seventh Fleet, all to combat and wage war against the efficient

and effective Empire of Japan; whom already held the home-field advantage. Needless to say,
The General went to work, quickly utilizing Seventh Fleet, or as the newspapers would refer to
as MacArthurs navy***, in arms with strategic land based bombers, MacArthurs air
force***, and other nearby friendly naval units in halting the ferocious advance of the Imperial
Japanese Navy off the coast of New Guinea in the Battle of Coral Sea; which effectively ended
any plans for a full scale Japanese invasion of Australia. **. While at the same time, it can be
noted that the General did whatever he could, short of losing the war, to not only outshine but
also grimly cast his shadow on his co-commander Admiral Nimitz; or whom MacArthur would
refer to more affectionately as: my competitor.*** Yes, through all the death marches and
shells the Japanese seemed to throw at his forces, MacArthur still seemed to cling to a belief that
would later come to characterize the Great General: that the worst of his enemies remained at
home. However, through the demonstration of his skill in commanding military forces,
culminating in the prevention of the Japanese invasion of Australia during the Second World
War, did MacArthur illustrate the importance of one to be skilled in one's core competencies.
**pg. 546 Manchester, William (1978). American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 18801964.
Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-440-30424-5. OCLC 3844481

*** pg 630 Manchester, William (1978). American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 18801964.
Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-440-30424-5. OCLC 3844481

*p.718 , Manchester, William (1978). American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 18801964.

Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-440-30424-5. OCLC 3844481

Finally, the ability to innovate and influence public policy, especially within the
sometimes stalemated legislative branch is also an impressive feat. Sometimes despised for it, as
much as praised, what MacArthur was best known for, perhaps, was his outspoken nature.
Appropriately, most of the contributions General MacArthur gave to modern warfare doctrine
were founded during this period during the Second World War to the Korean War. Fueled
primarily from his own eyewitness accounts, partly biased by the fact that Navy leadership did
whatever it could to keep Pacific carriers away from his command, MacArthur readily declared
one morning the following statements : ( control of the sea) no longer depends solely or even
perhaps primarily upon naval power, but upon air power operating from land bases held by
ground troops. . . . The first line of Australian defense is our bomber line*
*p.. 609 Manchester, William (1978). American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 18801964.
Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-440-30424-5. OCLC 3844481.
Although his statements entailing the superiority of air power were universally contested,
whether completely true or utterly false, time would soon tell that his statements were ultimately
influential by the post-war founding of the United States Air Force (Defense Act of 1947) and the
evolution of US Strategic doctrine-via the concept of winning wars through strategic bombingfor decades to come.

General MacArthur has been called many things: a showman, a politician in a military
uniform, wild, and at times even downright insubordinate, and as you can see, with some of the
incidents regarding his seemingly childish behavior with his co-commander Admiral Nimitz,
those words might hold some truth to them. However it cannot be stressed enough, that
MacArthur , from a military perspective was by far an essential asset to the US Pacific Theatre

and US naval forces during the Second World War. Furthermore, if MacArthur had perished, as
he might have even planned to, in command of the crumbling, yet valiant, defense of the
Philippines early in the war; many of the key victories in Pacific theatre may not have gone so
smoothly. In conclusion, through his actions MacArthur stands as an example for myself, and
future military leaders of four principles of successful leadership: The practice of humility over
hubris consistently, soldier-like obedience to superiors, with reason of course, the importance of
ones expertise in ones core competencies, and having the courage to take the initiative and
speak ones mind in order to positively impact ones company, organization, and nation. For
these accomplishments and exploits alone MacArthur carved his place in history, so perhaps Sir
Thomas Blamey was right: The best and worst things about him- may in fact be true.


Manchester, William (1978). American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 18801964. Boston: Little,
Brown. ISBN 0-440-30424-5. OCLC 3844481

Hetherington, John (1973). Blamey, Controversial Soldier: a Biography of Field Marshal Sir
Thomas Blamey. Canberra: Australian War Memorial. ISBN 0-9592043-0-X.OCLC 2025093.