Monday, October 21, 2013

Two MacArthurs and a Mitchell

Arthur MacArthur (1845-1912)
The life of Arthur MacArthur is overshadowed by the brilliant career of his son Douglas, Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces in the Pacific during World War II. However, father Arthur’s career is nearly as remarkable if not nearly so flamboyant.

Arthur MacArthur was born June 2, 1845, in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father came to Massachusetts with his widowed mother from Scotland in 1825. His father was a distinguished lawyer and federal judge. At age 17, Arthur was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 24th Wisconsin Infantry at the outbreak of the Civil War. He saw action in several campaigns and was mentioned in dispatches for gallantry and meritorious service. At age 20, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel. McArthur was cited for bravery at the battle of Missionary Ridge and was given the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor.

For the next 20 years, he was stationed in the West and Southwest where he took part in several Indian campaigns. When the Spanish-American war broke out, he was appointed general and assigned to the Philippine Islands. He was later commissioned a major general and appointed military governor of the Philippines.

In 1906 he was made an assistant Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army with the rank of Lieutenant General.  During the Russo-Japanese war (1905), he served as a special observer.

He retired from active service in 1909 and died in Milwaukee on September 5, 1912. Author Clayton James said, “few families in American history have produced more capable leaders in three successive generations than the MacArthurs.”
The dominant figure in American aviation from 1919 until his court-martial in 1925 was Billy Mitchell. Revered by many as a martyr-patriot, he sharply criticized the military establishment for its refusal to recognize the importance of air power. The price Mitchell paid was high – a broken marriage, wrecked career, alienation of many of his peers, and a court martial that found him guilty of insubordination. He had accused the armed services of “criminal negligence.”

Mitchell was born December 29, 1879, in Nice, France, where his parents were visiting. At age 21 his grandfather, Alexander Mitchell, was a clerk in an Aberdeen bank when he decided to immigrate to Milwaukee in 1839. By shrewd investments in banks, railroads, and real estate, he became a multimillionaire.

Both Mitchell’s grandfather and his father John represented Wisconsin in the U.S. Congress. Billy was an outdoors type but finished high school at 15. He left college to enlist for service in the Spanish-American war. He liked the military, was commissioned in 1901, and became the youngest staff officer in 1912. Convinced of the potential of the airplane, he learned to fly and commanded an armada of 1,481 Allied planes in France in 1918.

After the war he preached the need for a powerful Air Force, setting up examples of warships attacked and sunk by airplanes. But he met resistance in postwar public disillusionment. He predicted the rise of the German Luftwaffe and warned of the Japanese threat.

He died in New York on February 19, 1936, and is buried in Milwaukee. Ironically, he didn’t live to see his views vindicated by World War II. In 1946 Congress honored him posthumously with a special Medal of Honor.

Probably the most colorful and controversial of all the American military commanders in World War II was General Douglas MacArthur. Reeling from the sledgehammer blows dealt U.S. forces in the Pacific right after the Pearl Harbor attack,  Douglas McArthur rallied his forces in Australia and led the long road back to Tokyo and Japanese surrender.

MacArthur traced his ancestry back to the Strathmore Valley in Scotland. He was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and reared in the military tradition. His father Arthur was a career officer. At 20, he commanded a division as a colonel in the Union forces in the Civil War. Douglas was graduated first in the class of 1903 at West Point.  During World War I, he commanded the Rainbow Division. He was head of West Point (1919 – 22). In 1930 he became U.S. Army Chief of Staff and served five years.  Mac Arthur retired December 31, 1937, but was recalled to service in the Philippines when tensions rose in the Pacific and the outbreak of war seemed imminent

When the Japanese struck, Gen. MacArthur’s forces were badly outnumbered and he was forced to retreat to Bataan and Corregidor from which he was rescued by submarine and taken to Australia to organize the assault on Japan. Five years later McArthur accepted the Japanese surrender and served as military governor of Japan for five years. During the Korean War, he became embroiled in controversy and President Truman forced him to resign his command in a dramatic confrontation

MacArthur made a memorable speech before Congress explaining and defending his policies. He retired to private life with the highest Army rank, General of the Army. He died April 5, 1964, in Washington.

NOTE:  Arthur MacArthur, Billy Mitchell, and Douglas MacArthur are all members of the Scottish American Hall of Fame maintained by the Illinois Saint Andrew Society.  The Hall of Fame is located in Heritage Hall at the Scottish Home in North Riverside, Illinois.  The Hall of Fame was the work of James C. Thomson who died December 20, 1994. Mr. Thomson became a member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society in 1950 and served in every elected office culminating with his presidency in 1979.  As a nation approached its Bicentennial, Mr. Thomson originated the idea of a Scottish American Hall of Fame, a prominent display of plaques bearing the biographical and likeness of notable Americans of Scottish descent. He was adamant in his belief that Scottish immigrants who came to America by way of Ulster, Ireland were in fact Presbyterian Scots. The Hall of Fame was his way of proclaiming to America, “look who we are and what we have accomplished.”

I had the privilege of visiting Mr. Thomson in Winter Haven, Florida, a few months before he died.  His eyes still glowed with pride as we discussed the gifts of Scotland to the world. He died on December 20, 1994, and his funeral was directed by Dr. Roger M. Kunkel, pastor of the Riverside Presbyterian Church. It was my privilege to eulogize this self-made man from Scotland.  There are 119  plaques in the Hall of Fame.  The research and writing is the work of one man - a great writer and historian.  He is missed by both family and friends.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Upcoming Events:

Scottish American Leadership Conference, October 25.  Go here for information and registration.

Scottish American History Club Meeting, November 2 - Jim Sim will present a history of Pipe Bands in Chicago at a meeting of the Scottish American History Club.  The meeting will be held in Heritage Hall at the Scottish Home in North Riverside, IL. beginning at 10 a.m.  The Museum and Hall of Fame will be open at 9 a.m.

1 comment:

  1. I have no quarrel with your first two choices. Both were outstanding men. However Douglass Mac Arthur was a national disgrace. After he ordered the firing on the Hoovervills to disperse the WW 1 Veterans who marched on Washington to pressure Congress to give them the bonuses promised them he should have been court marshaled and dishonorably discharged. His grandstanding visit to the Philippines before the islands were taken. resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths of Americans Philippine nationals and the destruction of Manila. EXPERTS NOW TEND TO AGREE THAT THE Philippines COULD BE IGNORED AS WERE MANY OTHER ISLANDS ON THE WAY TO JAPAN. Finally he disobeyed orders from President Truman. Military discipline requires obedience to orders. His name would be appropriate of wall of shame. Mary Tulloch