General Douglas MacArthur fought and successfully led troops in World War I, served in peacetime, and led U.S. forces in the Pacific in World War II. He later led, and was then relieved of duty, U.S. military efforts in Korea.
While MacArthur had had a successful military career, he began to question his superiors during World War II. As commander of the Pacific, MacArthur disagreed with the strategic decision to focus most of the resources of the U.S. military in Europe, rather than the Pacific.
In the Pacific, MacArthur embraced the island-hopping strategy. This was an old naval strategy, but had not been used on this scale previously. The island-hopping strategy focused on a single island at a time, progressively gaining more and more land. In the final battle to retake the Philippines, the United States lost less than 6500 men, while the Japanese lost more than 20,000. While MacArthur was highly critical of the decision to focus energy in Europe, his strategy was winning by the time Truman opted to drop the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. United Nations forces, led by MacArthur, responded. While MacArthur had been an abrasive, but successful leader during World War II, he now became more vocal about his opposition to U.S. President Truman’s policies. MacArthur pushed back the initial offensive, but was soon forced to retreat. His past strategies were proving themselves ineffective in Korea.
In particular, Truman prioritized avoiding a war with China at nearly any cost. MacArthur strongly disagreed. He was relieved of his command by Truman in 1951. MacArthur devised a plan to contain communism and presented it to President Eisenhower in 1952. The plan showed the same extremity MacArthur had relied upon throughout his career, including, in this case, the use of atomic weapons. Eisenhower refused the plan.
Douglas MacArthur was impetuous and daring, willing to fight, and willing to take risks. His strategy was effective in the Pacific, but certainly not without costs. It was not, however, an effective choice in Korea, nor one to move forward with during the Cold War years.