Monday, April 11, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 5, No. 1916


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) President Harry S Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur from his command of United Nations forces in Korea sixty-five years ago today, April 11, 1951.

The decision came after a long dispute between the Commander-in-Chief and the General.  MacArthur personally told the President in a meeting in October 1950 that the probability of the Communist Chinese entering the war was "slim".  Then, later in the year, after Chinese troops crossed the Yalu River into Korea, MacArthur asked Truman for permission to bomb China.

General Omar Bradley disagreed with MacArthur's advice by saying:
"This is the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy".

President Truman said:

"I believe we must try to limit the war in there will be no doubt or confusion as to the real purpose and aim of our policy."

In his "Reminiscences," General MacArthur wrote...

"At one o'clock in the morning of April 11th, President Truman...announced my relief from command.  His action was fraught with politics, as he was...of the belief that I was conspiring...with Republican leaders.  This is completely erroneous."

The General went on to criticize the United Nations for "yielding to counsels of fear," and added regarding the argument that the fear that Russia would enter the war if the U.S. pressed for victory, "the entry of Soviet Russia...was a risk inherent in the original decision to intervene in Korea."

And despite Truman's dismissal of General MacArthur from command, the President wrote...

"General MacArthur's place in history as one of our greatest commanders is fully established."

For MacArthur's part, the General wrote that in his view "the supremacy of the civil over the military is fundamental to the American system of government."


Truman's firing of MacArthur was widely criticized at the time.  The General was welcomed home with a ticker-tape parade and spoke before a joint session of Congress.  As the years have passed, however, there is a consensus among historians that Truman's action was warranted.  


"Reminiscences:  General of the Army Douglas MacArthur,"  McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1964.

MacArthur and Truman