Magazine article The New American

"Doug Macarthur Is the Man"? Douglas MacArthur, Dubbed a Military Genius for His Actions in WWII and the Korean War, Was a Republican Who Found His Most Diehard Backer in a Democratic President

Magazine article The New American

"Doug Macarthur Is the Man"? Douglas MacArthur, Dubbed a Military Genius for His Actions in WWII and the Korean War, Was a Republican Who Found His Most Diehard Backer in a Democratic President

Article excerpt

The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur, by Mark Perry, New York: Basic Books, 2014, 380 pages, hardcover.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Mention the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and chances are anyone even vaguely aware of the decade of the 1930s will immediately associate that Depression-era public works program with president and New Deal impresario Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But that the CCC was also an important link in the legendary career of General Douglas A. MacArthur is something perhaps known only to a few historians such as Mark Perry and readers of Perry's book The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur. The title is based on an assessment Roosevelt offered of the flamboyant and headstrong MacArthur in the summer of 1932.

"I've known Doug for years," Roosevelt, then campaigning for the White House, told political advisor Rexford Tugwell. "He has the most portentous style of anyone I know. He talks in a voice that might come from an oracle's cave. He never doubts and never argues or suggests; he makes pronouncements. Whatever he thinks is final." If anything should come of all the talk about the government falling apart and disorder spreading throughout the land, he told Tugwell, "Doug MacArthur is the man."

That assessment was voiced the day after MacArthur achieved a form of infamy as the man who drove the "Bonus Marchers" out of Washington. In the depth of the Great Depression, some 43,000 veterans, family members, and supporters descended on Washington in May of 1932, and several thousand stayed well into the summer in encampments along the Anacostia River. The veterans were seeking cash payments on the certificates they had received under the World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924. The certificates were not redeemable until 1945, however, and after Congress had rejected the veterans' pleas and a handful of protesters clashed with local police, President Hoover decided it was time to clear the streets of the Bonus Army. Ordered by Secretary of War Patrick Hurley to "surround the affected area and clear it without delay," MacArthur, who was then Army chief of staff, arrived on the scene with a machine gun squad and six midget tanks, which charged into the crowd on Pennsylvania Avenue. As the marchers fled south, Hoover sent orders to MacArthur instructing him not to send troops into the encampments. "MacArthur angrily waived [sic] aside the president's message," Perry wrote, "saying he was too busy directing operations to be 'bothered by people coming down and pretending to bring orders.'" Mac Arthur's troops burned the veterans' hovels and sent some 11,000 marchers fleeing from the nation's capital. Had Hoover waited another week, MacArthur informed the press that night, "the institutions of our government would have been threatened."

The negative publicity surrounding the event reinforced the urgency with which Roosevelt's aides pressed their chief to begin the new administration with a new Army chief of staff. MacArthur, after all, was a Hoover appointee, well connected to Republican elites. His "portentous style" and imperial airs were especially irksome to many of the New Dealers who somehow managed to find the same traits appealing in their boss. "MacArthur," said Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, "is the kind of man who thinks that when he gets to heaven, God will step down from the great white throne and bow him into His vacated seat."

A Political Odd Couple

But Roosevelt saw the usefulness in having a conservative in his "progressive" administration and kept MacArthur on as Army chief of staff until granting the general's wish to return to the Philippines shortly before the outbreak of World War II. MacArthur's fights against Roosevelt's cuts to the military budget, while largely successful, nonetheless gave FDR the appearance of fighting to hold down the deficits driven by his domestic agenda. …

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