MacArthur was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and was the son of the Civil War Medal of Honor winner Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur and of Mary Pinkney Hardy MacArthur of Norfolk, Virginia. Douglas MacArthur's older brother, Arthur, attended the United States Naval Academy and died in 1923, as a Captain. His other brother, Malcolm, died in 1883.
General Douglas MacArthur, circa 1944
During World War I MacArthur served in France, first with the 42nd Division and, upon his promotion to Brigadier General (the youngest ever in the United States Army), as commander of the 84th Infantry Brigade. He spent most of the inter-war period on different assignments in the Philippines. He left the U.S. Army in 1937 to command the Philippines Army, but returned in July of 1941 as commander of US Army Forces - Far East.
During World War II, MacArthur fought in Southeast Asia against Japan. MacArthur lost the Battle for the Philippines, with much of his airforce destroyed on the ground. After the defeat of his forces in the Philippines, he became Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific and took command of Australian, American, Dutch and other Allied forces defending Australia, fighting mainly in and around New Guinea. MacArthur's forces eventually achieved success, overrunning Japanese resistance in 1943 and 1944; afterwards, American forces under MacArthur's command took back the Philippines in October 1944. In September 1945 MacArthur received the formal Japanese surrender which ended World War II; he then served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) in Japan until June 1950.
After the surprise attack of the North Korean army in June 1950 started the Korean War, the United Nations General Assembly authorized a United Nations (UN) force to help South Korea. MacArthur led the U.N. coalition counter-offensive, noted for an amphibious landing behind North Korean lines at Inchon. As his forces approached the Korea-China border, the Chinese warned they would become involved. During his trip to Wake Island to meet with President Truman, he was specifically asked by President Truman about Chinese involvement in the war. MacArthur was dismissive. On October 25, 1951, the People's Liberation Army attacked across the Yalu River, forcing the U.N forces to embark on a lengthy retreat. MacArthur sought an extension of the conflict into China, but President Truman relieved him of his duty in April 1951. Recently declassified documents indicate that MacArthur planned to drop many nuclear bombs on China (some sources put this number at 50). Truman did not agree, fearing a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union and needless Chinese deaths. General Matthew B. Ridgway replaced MacArthur and stabilized the situation near the 38th parallel. MacArthur made his last public appearance in a farewell address to Congress, interrupted by thirty ovations.
On his return from Korea, after his relief by Truman, MacArthur encountered massive public adulation, which aroused expectations were that he would run for the US presidency as a Republican in 1952. However, a Senate Committee investigation of his removal, chaired by Richard Russell, contributed to a marked cooling of the public mood and, once his presidential hopes had died away, MacArthur spent the remainder of his life quietly in New York.