MacArthur’s Triumphant Return

President Truman and General MacArthur got into a dispute regarding how to conduct the Korean War. Truman was the Commander-in-Chief over the armed forces and MacArthur had a duty to obey his superior. MacArthur wanted to use American air power to attack the People’s Republic of China. Truman refused, fearing that an American attack on China would bring the Soviet Union into the war. MacArthur criticized Truman’s decision publicly, which Truman viewed as violating the historical citizen’s control of the military. Truman declared MacArthur insubordinate and removed him as commanding general. Truman explained his decision in a speech to the nation. But, public opinion favored McCarthy and the White House was deluged with critical mail.

MacArthur returned to the United States and received a hero’s welcome. Television cameras followed MacArthur’s arrival in Hawaii, his stop in San Francisco, his triumphant Manhattan ticker tape parade, and his address to Congress. It was in his speech to Congress when MacArthur made his famous comment: “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” An estimated 44 million people watched some part of his four-day tour. “We’ll follow MacArthur from the time he arrives until he’s down to his shorts in his hotel room,” one television executive said, and the TV crews did almost that. Time magazine opined that “the MacArthur show was TV’s biggest and best job to date.”

“Oh, Mr. President,” R.D.Henden and his Western Jamboree Cowboys (1951) MacArthur’s firing was a national cause celebre. The story created a furious controversy across the nation, generating Senate hearings, editorial condemnations and at least one protest record. This may be the only record to take direct aim at President Truman’s decision to fire MacArthur. (I transcribed the song from the internet, which explains any mistakes or gaps.)

Oh, Mr. President, do you know what you have done

The people trusted you as a friend

But the thought of how you hurt us all and brought about this tragic end

It was early one Wednesday morning when the sad news came over the wire

Was the ——— shocked concerned the nation our beloved General MacArthur was fired

We don’t want to believe you’d sell us out, our boys are getting Korea tired and worn

The fought and fought and bled and died to keep forever safe our democratic home

How do you think they feel tonight Their leader and friend has been taken

They’re out there on the battlefield wondering what has happened to their nation

Don’t you think our general rated consideration for his service in the past

Just for him to resign was the least that you could ask

For we still remember how the general brought us through the last war to win

So get down on your knees Mr. President and ask God to forgive you for your deed

Remember God is the leader over you and our friend in this time of need

(See also “When They Drop the Atomic Bomb” in the main Songbook which speculated that if General MacArthur dropped the atomic bomb on the communist forces in North Korea, it would bring a swift end to the Korean War and halt the spread of communism. The song reflected some of the public criticism that President Harry S. Truman faced in pursuing a limited war in Korea, as well as the support that General MacArthur enjoyed for his bellicose stance on the war and the broader fight against communism.)