General Douglas MacArthur's Speech to Congress (19 April 1951)

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Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) was a leading American general in World War II. The youngest army chief of staff in U.S. history, he was a military adviser for the Philippines before Franklin D. Roosevelt named him Commander of the Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific in 1942. Two years later he took command of all Allied forces in the Pacific, and when the Japanese surrendered in 1945, he became sole administrator of the occupation government in Japan.

In 1950, the Republic of Korea, known as South Korea, was invaded from the north. Fearing communist expansion, the United Nations authorized the United States to organize armed forces to aid the republic. In addition to his occupation work, MacArthur then became U.N. commander in Korea. When China offered support to the North Korean invaders, MacArthur called for a tougher prosecution of the war. He proposed to institute a naval blockade of China and invade North Korea to destroy enemy bases there. President Harry S. Truman, however, was afraid that such aggressive action would provoke a much larger war. After MacArthur made several public statements in conflict with U.S. and U.N. policy, Truman relieved him of the Korean command, creating a nationwide controversy. MacArthur defended his policies in this speech to Congress. Later the recipient of many honors, MacArthur received a unanimous joint resolution of tribute from Congress in 1962.


See also Korean War .

…The Communist threat is a global one. Its successful advance in one sector threatens the destruction of every other sector. You cannot appease or otherwise surrender to communism in Asia without simultaneously under-mining our efforts to halt its advance in Europe.…

…While I was not consulted prior to the President's decision to intervene in support of the Republic of Korea, that decision, from a military standpoint, proved a sound one, as we hurled back the invader and decimated his forces. Our victory was complete and our objectives within reach when Red China intervened with numerically superior ground forces. This created a new war and an entirely new situation—a situation not contemplated when our forces were committed against the North Korean invaders—a situation which called for new decisions in the diplomatic sphere to permit the realistic adjustment of military strategy. Such decisions have not been forthcoming.

While no man in his right mind would advocate sending our ground forces into continental China and such was never given a thought, the new situation did urgently demand a drastic revision of strategic planning if our political aim was to defeat this new enemy as we had defeated the old.

Apart from the military need as I saw it to neutralize the sanctuary protection given the enemy north of the Yalu, I felt that military necessity in the conduct of the war made mandatory:

  1. The intensification of our economic blockade against China;
  2. The imposition of a naval blockade against the China coast;
  3. Removal of restrictions on air reconnaissance of China's coastal areas of Manchuria;
  4. Removal of restrictions on the forces of the Republic of China on Formosa with logistical support to contribute to their effective operations against the common enemy.

For entertaining these views, all professionally designed to support our forces committed to Korea and bring hostilities to an end with the least possible delay and at a saving of countless American and Allied lives, I have been severely criticized in lay circles, principally abroad, despite my understanding that from a military standpoint the above views have been fully shared in past by practically every military leader concerned with the Korean campaign, including our own Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I called for reinforcements, but was informed that reinforcements were not available. I made clear that if not permitted to destroy the enemy buildup bases north of the Yalu; if not permitted to utilize the friendly Chinese force of some 600,000 men on Formosa; if not permitted to blockade the China coast to prevent the Chinese Reds from getting succor from without; and if there were to be no hope of major reinforcements, the position of the command from the military standpoint forbade victory. We could hold in Korea by constant maneuver and at an approximate area where our supply line advantages were in balance with the supply line disadvantages of the enemy, but we could hope at best for only an indecisive campaign, with its terrible and constant attrition upon our forces if the enemy utilized his full military potential. I have constantly called for new political decisions essential to a solution. Efforts have been made to distort my position. It has been said that I was in effect a warmonger. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes.

SOURCE: "Gen. Douglas MacArthur's 'Old Soldiers Never Die' Address to Congress, 19 April 1951." "Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division's First 100 Years." Library of Congress.

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General Douglas MacArthur's Speech to Congress (19 April 1951)

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General Douglas MacArthur's Speech to Congress (19 April 1951)