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The Decision to Dismiss General MacArthur

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In April 1951, President Truman dismissed General Douglas MacArthur from four military assignments of great responsibility, including the Commander in Chief of United Nations forces in Korea. At that time, the decision was received with great emotional reaction among members of the Administration, the Congress, the American public, and U.S. allies. Now that 15 years have passed, it is possible to see with greater clarity that the dismissal was due to a head-on collision between the followers of two quite different national strategies. Today the world is giving its attention to a strategic debate over whether U.S. policy in Southeast Asia will lead us to direct confrontation with Communist China and result in war with that nation. Todays debate is linked to the Great Debate of 1951, which took place immediately following President Trumans dismissal of General MacArthur. Editorialists occasionally quote from the Senate hearings on U.S. strategy which followed that event. Now voices are raised once again on behalf of General MacArthurs strategy, asserting that he was right and that we should have fought China in 1951, when China was relatively weaker and not a member of the atomic club. Frequently MacArthur is misquoted, and his strategy misunderstood. The reasons for the Presidents drastic action also are misinterpreted and incorrectly stated. The immediate cause for MacArthurs dismissal was his calculated insubordination. To discover the other military, political, international, and psychological causes, it is necessary to go back to 1951 and look at the forces which came to bear on the problem. This is useful in gaining an understanding of the forces that bear on our current problems with Communist China.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Humanities and History
  • Psychology
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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