|The Western Way of
"Peace," General Douglas MacArthur as Army Chief of Staff, 1931-1935
by Bob Seals
This paper is respectfully dedicated to my maternal grandfather,
Private Lattie C. Sentelle, U.S. Regular Army, 6882836
Company K, 33rd Infantry Regiment,
Fort Clayton, Panama Canal Zone 1936.
An Army Regular in Khaki from the hills of East Tennessee.
"There's allot to be said for a career in the service."
"The President has just informed me that the civil government of the District
of Columbia has reported to him that it is unable to maintain law and order in
You will have United States troops proceed immediately to the scene of the
disorder. Cooperate fully with the District of Columbia police force which is
now in charge. Surround the affected area and clear it without delay.
Turn over all prisoners to the civil authorities.
In your orders insist that any women and children who may be in the affected
area be accorded every consideration and kindness. Use all humanity consistent
with due execution of this order."
This order, given to the Army Chief of Staff, by the Secretary of War, on a
sweltering July afternoon, was one, if not the, most difficult orders ever
given to United States Army troops in it's 230 plus years of existence.
Civilian authorities had lost control after three police officers and two
demonstrators had been killed and wounded. Prescribing the use of force against
American civilians, in the nation's capital city, was fraught with danger and
dire political repercussions, to say the least. Troops, equipped with live
ammunition, bayonets and "tear gas" grenades could have wreaked havoc upon the
thousands of unlucky demonstrators, if soldierly good order and discipline were
lost in the heat of the moment.
The above episode from 1932 would go down in history as the Bonus March
incident and would do much to ensure defeat of a sitting Republican U.S.
President, Herbert Hoover, and election of a populist Democratic Governor from
New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The distasteful, but legal eviction of
Great War Veterans, demonstrating for their Congressionally authorized service
bonuses, would be but one of the many challenges faced by the U.S. Army, and
its Chief of Staff, General Douglas MacArthur, during the critical interwar
years of 1931-35. During his four year tenure as Army Chief of Staff, General
MacArthur would personify and illustrate many of the virtues found in the
Western Way of War, as defined by Dr. Victor Davis Hanson in his notable book
Carnage and Culture. To many this is a different concept; that is, to take a
theory or historical paradigm used exclusively for warfare, a controversial one
at that, and apply the same to a peacetime era; albeit a period fraught with
danger and challenges as typified by the Bonus March incident. But in many
respects this is one of the true strengths of the Western Way of War, the fact
that it is as applicable in peacetime as in war.
Warfare is often defined by the dictionary as (1) the waging of war against an
enemy, (2) a state of disharmony or conflict; strife, or (3) acts undertaken to
destroy or undermine the strength of another. Thus, as per the definition,
even periods of peace often times have considerable disharmony, conflict or
strife. In fact, the way a nation or army handles this "war," or conflict,
during peacetime is one of the truest tests ever faced by an institution. This
war, during peacetime, is never acknowledged with medals, campaign streamers,
parades and speeches, but is supremely important and worthy of study and
recognition. This paper is an attempt to illuminate one of the lesser known and
acknowledged periods of war during peacetime and demonstrate why such periods
are important to the Western Way of War.
The situation, late in November of 1930, as General MacArthur took the oath of
office as the thirteenth U.S. Army Chief of Staff, could not have been more
serious for the United States, and its Army. The year before, the 24th of
October 1929, would go down in history as "Black Thursday" as the wildly
inflated New York Stock Market collapsed, plunging the nation into a full blown
economic crisis. The "Roaring Twenties," a time of pleasure and plenty after
the First World War was over. President Herbert Hoover, with less than a full
year in office in 1929, would continue to issue reassuring statements to the
effect that the "fundamentals" of the financial system were sound and that the
United States was "more prosperous and more industrious than ever before."
The Great Depression, as the economic disaster would be forever known, was the
worst the United States had ever experienced. Exact figures as to the magnitude
of the disaster vary but in very short order U.S. industrial production
declined by half, new construction fell by over eighty percent and some ten to
forty million workers were unemployed or lacked steady employment, out of a
nation composed of only 122 million at the time. Banks failed, individuals
lost their homes and life savings, farms were foreclosed and families hit the
road in search of a better life in California, or at least steady work that
would keep the wolf from the door.
The United States Army faired little better during the depression, as always, a
reflection of the society at large, on a smaller but more khaki or olive drab
scale. Following a reoccurring American military history theme of wartime
expansion and peacetime contraction, the Army, after expanding to a massive 4
million men during the First World War, had fallen back to more traditional
skeleton like force levels. After the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the
National Defense Act of 1920, as approved by the U.S. Congress, had authorized
a sound, but modest plan for the post-war Army. The Army, in theory at least,
would be composed of three elements, a professional Regular Army, a part time
National Guard, and organized reserves consisting of the Officer and Enlisted
Reserve Corps. The Regular Army's authorized strength would be 280,000 enlisted
and 12,000 officers with additional units and soldiers coming from the Guard
and Reserves on the event of mobilization. Army strength had never matched the
above authorizations and had been; in fact, on a slow, steady curve of decline
from 1920. That year, Regular Army personnel figures peaked at 200,000 enlisted
and 12,000 officers total, falling to 125,000 and 12,000 two years later in
These crippling figures would remain fairly constant for many years, with only
about 25% of officers and 50% enlisted authorized in almost all units. The Army
was in many respects a relic of 19th century frontier days, spread across the
nation in small, isolated posts, with some 34 posts having only a battalion or
smaller force permanently stationed at that location. Training and readiness
suffered, and making any sort of field training exercise above battalion level
almost impossible. Shortages abounded, and as could be expected, the Army had
to exist primarily on World War One surplus arms and equipment. Only meager
funds were available for experimentation and procurement of expensive new
weapons systems such as tanks and aircraft. Pay, and promotions, for the
average soldier were dismal with rates little changed in over twenty years. A
private earned the magnificent sum of 21.00 dollars a month, and had little to
no hope of achieving the lofty rank of corporal, until well into his second
enlistment, some 5 or 6 years into the future. By the start of the new decade
in 1930, the United States Army had fallen to 17th in terms of strength
worldwide, ranking behind such small nations as Portugal and Greece.
Across the two protecting oceans, the situation, in respects, was just as grim
in Europe and Asia. The economic depression was worldwide, and with the dawn of
a new decade, political stability crumbled. In Europe, that year of 1931, as
MacArthur assumed his duties, King Alfonso XIII of Spain was overthrown, and
the Allies evacuated the Saar. In Asia, Japanese Army aggression in Manchuria
precipitated a crisis that attracted world wide attention and diplomatic
protests, but little to no concrete actions against Imperial Japan from the
west. President Hoover would be urged by MacArthur and others in his
administration to consider steps such as economic sanctions but would
ultimately reject any measures against Japan, apart from protests and sending
the 31st Infantry Regiment from the Philippines to reinforce the small American
garrison in Shanghai. Throughout MacArthur's term as Chief of Staff global
political unrest would continue as the Axis powers gathered strength. During
the early 1930's Japan established the puppet state of Manchukuo with the "Last
Emperor," Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, both Germany and Japan withdrew
from the League of Nations, denounced the Naval Reduction and Versailles
Treaties, and Italy's Mussolini began his war of aggression against one of the
few independent nations of Africa, Ethiopia. General MacArthur would travel
twice to Europe during his term as Chief of Staff to observe Allied maneuvers
and would declare the continent to be "troubled and confused."
The Axis dictators would see only weakness and disorder in the democratic
nations. Many were convinced, with some justification that the Allies who had
won the First World War had lost the will to fight. Case in point was the
impression made by the shameful Joad Resolution in Oxford, England, in 1933
that declared "That this house will in no circumstances fight for its King and
Country." Little wonder that the Italian Duce remarked afterwards "These men
are not made of the same stuff as Francis Drake and the other magnificent
English adventurers who created the Empire. They are, after all, the tired sons
of a long line of rich men." The storm was gathering during those
"wilderness years," to paraphrase Churchill, for those willing to look ahead.
Douglas MacArthur, at age 50 when appointed as Army Chief of Staff, was the
youngest Chief of Staff since William T. Sherman held the post after the Civil
War. General MacArthur, even at that point, was already one of the most
intriguing, and capable, personalities in American Military History. He was the
son of a celebrated Union general, Arthur MacArthur, who had won the Medal of
Honor during the Civil War. His father would eventually run afoul of his
civilian masters after the Spanish-American War, thereby not achieving a fourth
star, and appointment in his own right as Army Chief of Staff.
Douglas MacArthur would literally go from the cradle, at Fort Dodge, Arkansas,
to the grave, at Walter Reed Army Hospital, in the United States Army. First in
his class of 1903 at the Military Academy at West Point, the most decorated
officer to come out of World War I with two Distinguished Service Crosses and
seven Silver Stars, he was described by no less an authority than George S.
Patton Jr., after a battlefield encounter at St. Mihiel in 1918, as the bravest
man he had ever met. He ended the First World War as the Commanding General
of the 42nd Infantry, the celebrated "Rainbow Division," composed of National
Guardsmen from across the country. After the war, General MacArthur went on to
success after success, serving as the Commandant of the Military Academy,
Commander of the Manila Military District, Corps Commander, and Commanding
General of the Phillippine Department. He was appointed by President Hoover as
a full general, the thirteen Chief of Staff of the Army, on 21 November 1930,
replacing General Charles P. Summerall.
The Army Chief of Staff at the time, as per Army Regulations, had considerable
authority and responsibilities. His duties included "command, discipline,
training, and recruitment of the Army, military operations, distribution of
troops, inspections, armament, fortifications, military education and
instruction and kindred matters, but includes also in an advisory capacity such
duties connected with fiscal administration and supply as are committed to him
by the Secretary of War." Additionally, in the event of mobilization and war,
the Chief of Staff, as opposed to our current system with layers of Joint and
Unified Commands in the United States and across the globe, would become the
Commanding General of all Army forces in the field.
The United States, after the "War to End All Wars" was understandably weary of
warfare and the military in general. A wave of anti-militarism and pacifism
swept over both Europe and the United States. The era was marked by various
international efforts, sincere but misguided, to prevent another slaughter in
the trenches. These efforts would include the Kellogg-Briand Pact of Paris in
1928 outlawing war, the 1930 London Naval Conference and the 1932-34 World
Disarmament Conference held in Geneva. Never one to avoid a fight, General
MacArthur stood firm against this tide of anti-military sentiment, willing to
challenge presidents, politicians and the public.
In 1931 the new Army Chief of Staff faced a myriad of peacetime enemies, some
rather benign, others much more threatening. One of General MacArthur's
opponents, as he fought for the survival of the Army, was the sitting U.S.
President, Herbert Hoover, the thirty-first man elected to the Presidency. The
"Great Engineer" in the White House was an intelligent, sincere and thoughtful
man. Hoover had proven himself as an efficient mining engineer and organizer to
include noteworthy service during the Boxer Rebellion in China and on the
Committee for Belgian Relief and American Food Administration during World War
I. Although a Quaker by religion, he was not a pacifist, but had a considerable
"abhorrence for war" that would lead him to support concepts such as the
Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawing war, and non-resistance to aggression from Axis
Powers such as the 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria.
At the 1932 World Disarmament Conference in Geneva President Hoover had
proposed to the fifty one nations in attendance that all offensive weapons of
war, to include submarines, tanks, heavy artillery, chemical and
bacteriological agents, and bombers, be outlawed and all standing land forces
be reduced by a third. He constantly sought to achieve economy by slashing
the Army's budget, and manpower, by limiting responsibilities to defense of the
Western Hemisphere; thereby disregarding the considerable American overseas
possessions such as the Hawaiian and Philippine Islands in the Pacific. After
1929 President Hoover would intensify his cost cutting efforts with the Army
share of federal government spending falling to 7.5% of the budget, half the
pre-World War One amount. Throughout Hoover's term of office MacArthur
would be persistent in challenging both the President and Congress for
increased funding for the Army, with little to no success. Ironically Hoover
and MacArthur would both reside at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York after
retirement, both supreme individualists, remaining on friendly terms until
their respective deaths in 1964.
With the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, it was commonly assumed
that the new President would select a new Army chief of Staff; however, to the
surprise of many he retained General MacArthur. Relations between MacArthur and
Roosevelt would be strained from the beginning, perhaps due to the General's
personal involvement in the Bonus Army incident. As the governor of New York,
Roosevelt had once described to a confident that he considered the populist
Huey Long and General MacArthur to be "the two most dangerous men in the
country." The stage would be set for a clash of powerful personalities, as
FDR and the New Dealers sought to achieve even great economy at the expense of
the Army. Lost in the flurry of the first 100 days of the new administration,
and the blizzard of new agencies and projects to lift the nation out of the
depression, were additional cost savings measures directed against the Army.
Pay was cut by 15%, reducing a privates pay from $21 a month to an abysmal
$17.85. Additionally, proposals were added to the Army appropriation bill to
give the new president the power to "furlough" every officer in the force if so
desired and cut additional personnel and funding as required. General MacArthur
made the decision that time had come to challenge the President openly and he
demanded an appointment with the President, "Unless I have word that I can talk
with President Roosevelt by one this afternoon, I shall hand in my resignation
as Chief of Staff at two and shall explain my reasons in full to the press
associations at three." If nothing, the General most certainly had a flair for
the dramatic. After their tempestuous meeting, during which MacArthur informed
the President that when the next war was lost he wanted dying soldiers to curse
FDR and not MacArthur, MacArthur offered to resign. After the drama, with
General MacArthur dramatically vomiting on the steps of the White House,
Roosevelt would back down and rescind many of the drastic measures to include
the force reductions and officer cutbacks. 
The decisive point, during these peacetime battles of the depression, to
MacArthur, was the officer corps of the Army. He would be willing to accept
risk and shortfalls in the modernization and mechanization of the Army but not
the officer leadership. As General MacArthur emphasized, in a letter released
to the public, "Trained officers constitute the most vitally essential element
in modern warfare…An army can live on short rations, it can be insufficiently
clothed and housed, it can even be poorly armed and equipped, but in action it
is doomed to destruction without the trained and adequate leadership of
officers. An efficient and sufficient Corps of Officers means the difference
between victory and defeat."
In addition to Presidents, General MacArthur would battle other politicians as
Chief of Staff. Contentious budget battles with Congress would be a hallmark of
his tenure as Army Chief of Staff. These were battles that he would fight year
after year but would most often lose. As Chief of Staff the budget would
decline steadily from a high of 347 million, in 1931, falling to a low of 277
million in 1934, before beginning to rise from the pre-war ashes. MacArthur's
chief congressional enemy during these years was Representative Ross Collins, a
long serving Democrat from Mississippi. As the powerful chairman of the House
Military Appropriations Committee, Congressman Collings would make the annual
budget battle difficult for the new Chief of Staff. MacArthur would become
increasingly bitter about his clashes with Congress, and Collins, reflecting at
one point that "I have humiliated myself, I have almost licked the boots of
some gentlemen to get funds…" Collins, like FDR, would propose cost saving
measures also to include cutting certain costly Army pensions, to include the
war hero General Pershing, and reducing personnel in order to purchase more
arms and equipment. Collins and MacArthur would clash repeatedly, to include
MacArthur walking out of an appropriations hearing after declaring he had been
insulted and that "I in my profession am as high as you are in yours. When you
are ready to apologize, I shall return." MacArthur would return and testify
but the hard feelings between the Chief and Congress would remain. The Army and
Navy Journal would thank the Chief of Staff, after proposed officer cutbacks
were defeated, "for seven, long dreary months General MacArthur fought the
forces of destruction in the Congress."
If General MacArthur achieved some peacetime success with Presidents and
Congress, by preserving the Army's officer corps, he would be rather less
successful with the third opponent he faced during his tenure, the American
public. Perhaps the biggest public relations disaster for the pre-war Army
would occur with General MacArthur at the helm as Army Chief of Staff.
In 1924 Congress voted the Adjusted Service Certificate Bill into law. The law
authorized payment of a bonus, a dollar a day for every day served in the
states, with a dollar and quarter each day served overseas, for all veterans of
the First World War. The bonus would be paid in full in the distant year of
1945. Most veterans were due around $1000 or so, a significant sum of money at
the time, given that a loaf of bread cost about 7 cents. In 1932 Congress
proposed to pay the Bonus rather than wait and an army of unemployed veterans,
the Bonus Army, led by a former sergeant, Walter Walters, marched to Washington
from across the nation in support of immediate payment. The payment bill would
be eventually voted down at the urging of President Hoover. As June turned into
July, many of the veterans refused to return home, and the patience of many
began to wear thin. President Hoover, who had informed the veterans that he was
too busy to meet with them, began to see the Bonus Army as a potential threat
to the government. On 28 July 1932, after several policemen and veterans were
killed and injured during an eviction protest, a formal request went to the
President for assistance in keeping order from District of Columbia
authorities. After receipt of written orders from the President, General
MacArthur alerted the 12th Infantry and 3rd Cavalry Regiments at Forts Myer and
Washington. MacArthur prepared to oversee this distasteful duty personally,
over the objections of his aide, a future President of the United States.
"General MacArthur decided that he should go into active command in the field.
By this time our relationship was fairly close, close enough that I felt free
to object…I thought it highly inappropriate for the Chief of Staff of the Army
to be involved in anything like a local or street-corner embroilment….I
remarked that there would probably be newspaper reporters trying to see him. I
suggested it would be the better part of wisdom, if not valor, to avoid meeting
them." But, as decisive in peace as in war, MacArthur would not hide, as
President Hoover, but would be on the scene, seen by all. "In accordance with
the President's request, I accompanied General Miles and brought with me two
officers who later wrote their names on world history: Major Dwight D.
Eisenhower and Major George S. Patton." A full account of the Bonus March
incident is outside the boundaries of this paper, but by midnight on the 28th
of July the unfortunate veterans had been forcibly evicted from their shanties
with only minor injuries to all concerned. Recent historical evidence suggests
that MacArthur may have not received a vital order to stop at a key point
during the incident, due to the efforts of his Vice Chief of Staff.
The fact is, overlooked by most, the day could have been much, much worse. With
hundreds of troops armed with live ammunition, the potential for disaster, when
attempting to disperse brick throwing demonstrators, was most definitely
present. Major Patton, who had ridden during the incident as the Executive
Officer of the 2nd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry, afterwards wrote "If, during this
operation, a single shot had been fired many would have died, for in the dark
on a flat plane [plain] fire discipline could not have been maintained, and
there was no cover. It speaks volumes for the high character of the men that
not a shot was fired." MacArthur reflected also in his report to the
Secretary of War that "Thus a most disagreeable task was performed in such a
way as to leave behind it a minimum of unpleasant aftermath and legitimate
resentment." After the immediate political fallout began the following day,
MacArthur offered to resign as Chief of Staff, but Hoover declined to accept
the resignation. The Bonus March, of course, was a disaster for all
concerned, the veterans, the Army, President Hoover, and General MacArthur.
Since he was on the scene the legend was born of MacArthur on horseback,
brutal, ruthless, firing upon hungry veterans peacefully protesting. As with
most legends the truth is considerably different, and much more interesting,
but the reality is the Bonus Army incident was a public relations disaster for
MacArthur, and the Army, alienating the American public at large. General
MacArthur would continue to challenge what he referred to as "pacifism and
communism" where ever he found it, to include various college campuses and
pulpits across America during the depression years. Critics ranging the
spectrum from columnist Drew Pearson to the American Legion would express
resentment and bitterness towards MacArthur for years. This dissent and open
debate between MacArthur and his critics, Presidents, Congressmen, and the
public, is illustrative of the freedom and strength of a democratic society,
key values of the Western Way of War.
In the end how does one access General Douglas MacArthur's tenure as Army Chief
of Staff from 1931-35? Like most significant human endeavors, his term as U.S.
Army Chief of Staff was a mixture of considerable success and failure; enough
success to establish his place as one of the greatest Chiefs in history, with
enough shortcomings to quicken the pulse of the legion that dislike General
On the positive side of the ledger General MacArthur made decisions that
undoubtedly made the U.S. Army a more effective fighting force during the
Second World War. Technologically speaking, newer and powerful weapons such as
the M-1 Garand Rifle, the 105-mm howitzer, the B-17 Flying Fortress, and light
and medium tanks were developed, perfected and adapted. Organizationally
speaking, the Army was reorganized and strengthened by the adoption of a modern
General Headquarters Staff in Washington, the four Armies and nine tactical
corps plan, and an educational system to include the Command and General Staff
School, the Army War College and Industrial College, all either revitalized or
established. Plans were developed that would provide the initial framework for
American entry into the war, to include the famous "Rainbow" series of plans
dealing with threats from various nations. Stagnate, and glacier like, officer
promotion rates were modernized, lowering the average age for a full Colonel to
50 from the near retirement age of 60 or so.
The Army Air Corps also progressed during those years to include the
establishment of a General Headquarters for Air Forces in 1935. His
modernization of uniforms, and the Army's awards and decorations policies, such
as reinstating the Purple Heart, raised morale through out the force. But it
was MacArthur's fighting for, and protection of, the officer leadership of the
Army that was his most significant accomplishment as Chief of Staff. He fought
for and eventually won, increases in not only the size of the U.S. Military
Academy's Corps of Cadets but additional increases in the Reserve Officers
Training Corps (ROTC) , the Officers' Reserve Corps, and the Citizens' Military
Training Camps (CMTC). It is interesting to note that a future U.S. President,
Ronald Reagan would attend CMTC training and earn his Reserve Officers
commission with the 14th Cavalry Regiment in Iowa.
One will never know, a fascinating what-if of history, but perhaps officers
such as Marshall, Bradley, Patton, Eisenhower, would have been placed upon
furlough, and subsequent retirement, had not General MacArthur so ably defended
the leadership of the Army during those turbulent early years of the Great
Depression. MacArthur, always one to see the essence of the matter, stated in
his memoirs "At a time when Hitler was still popularly regarded as a windbag,
Japan publicized as a fake, and our government promising it would forever keep
us out of war, we formed the central character of the United States Army of
World War II."
On the negative side of that ledger, and there is a downside to MacArthur's
tenure as Army Chief of Staff, he did seem to not fully grasp the tremendous
potential of mechanization, to include the airplane and tank, in the war to
come. True, he supported establishment of experimental armored forces during
the period but Army mechanization never progressed past brigade level.
Additionally, his mischaracterization of the Bonus Army marchers as communists
and criminals in 1932 did not add any luster to his or the Army's record, no
matter how much a potential disaster was avoided. Pay for the troops, officer
and enlisted, remained at peon like levels, virtually unchanged since 1908,
thus the embarrassing spectacle of Army privates in 1935 earning the
magnificent sum of 18.00 dollars a month while CCC recruits were paid 30.00 for
that same month! But perhaps it was unrealistic to expect better pay during
the depression with millions of Americans in soup lines battling daily to
house, clothe and feed their families.
It is clear that General MacArthur was a bold, capable and controversial leader
who was not afraid to challenge all his enemies, real and imagined, in his
fight for the betterment of the institution that he held most dear, the United
States Army. Only in a free and democratic system of government, with open
debate and dissent, could an Army Chief of Staff speak his mind to his civilian
superiors, to include a President, without fear of dire repercussions such as
being beheaded, sent to the gulag, or run through a wood chipper. General
MacArthur was politically aware but, at least in the 1930's, not a partisan
supporter identified with one political party. He was just as willing to
confront a Republican President as a Democratic President, and offer his
resignation if he felt the occasion possibly warranted his dismissal by the
Commander-in-Chief. Far from being one of the two most "dangerous men" in the
country, as described by FDR, the leading MacArthur scholar of our time has
stated that nothing in his letters, speeches or actions during the 1930's
suggests that the general had either presidential or dictatorial ambitions.
MacArthur's ambitions would change over the years. Two decades later, in the
wake of his dismissal from command in Korea by President Truman, he would come
to be identified with the hard right wing of the Republican Party, willing to
serve as President but not having the political savvy to be a viable candidate.
Many, then and now, would rate General MacArthur's tenure as Chief to have been
on the whole successful, strengthening a small embattled Army for the coming
storm. A retired officer, who was an institution himself, had this to say of
the General's tour as Chief of Staff "I have only praise for General MacArthur
as Chief of Staff. He has fully measured up to that high position. He has the
clear conception rarely found of the functions of the Chief of Staff and the
General Staff, itself. He thoroughly comprehends the requirements necessary to
develop the Army, the National Guard and the Reserves into a unified fighting
force for National Defense. He is progressive without being radical. His
courageous presentations to high authority of his sound views and
recommendations have been admirable. By his administration of his office he has
won the entire confidence of the Army and Country." This from General
Pershing, a superior of MacArthur's during the Great War, and afterwards, who
often had strong disagreements with the general.
Finally, the archivist of the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia, had the
following to say "MacArthur's period as Chief of Staff should be remembered as
one of the high points of his career. He kept the officer corps together at a
time when Congress and the President felt that the Armed Forces were the last
priority during the depression…the officer corps was kept intact and was there
to put together the army that won World War II." The Great Depression
turned out to be a time of great stress and challenges for not only the nation
but the Army as well. During a time of economic woes, isolationism and
pacifism, the U.S. Army was well served by General Douglas MacArthur.
"In the last few years, it has become popular to say that history is determined
largely by sweeping inanimate forces of technology, the environment, gender,
class or race. We play down the role of individuals—as if the notion that one
person can shape history is old-fashioned. Fearless iconoclasts…really can make
an enormous difference. They remind us that history is not faceless, but can
still be changed by just a few brave people after all." History is
brilliantly illuminated with examples of the difference that one individual can
make. We are reminded of the above by Dr. Hanson in a recent column. The
Western Way of War, as articulated by Victor Davis Hanson in Carnage and
Culture is just as applicable during those long, unglamorous, unstudied years
of peace as well as war. Western values such as political freedom, capitalism,
individualism, democracy, scientific inquiry, rationalism and open debate are
as effective, and at times decisive, in peace as in war. Battles and war,
naturally enough, are what military historians concentrate on and write of, but
it is the years of peace, with their mundane training, drills, exercises,
weapons development, bitter budgetary battles and distasteful duty which lays
the foundation for success, or failure during war. Our example of General
Douglas MacArthur, as the Army Chief of Staff during the crucial years 1931-35,
is a stark reminder of how important the years of peace are to a successful
The values expressed in the Western Way of War must be present, and effective,
during peace to such an extent that a General can openly, respectfully disagree
with his civilian superiors to include a Secretary, Prime Minister or
President. This openness and freedom is the only way the West, and its unique
way of war, can operate at maximum efficiency against all enemies. The healthy,
respectful, give and take of ideas and opinions can only serve to ultimately
create a stronger system of government, and war. General MacArthur was not on a
traditional battlefield during his years as Army Chief of Staff but the enemies
he, and the Army faced, were all too real; to include public apathy, declining
budgets, hostile politicians, modernization pains and international strife.
The entire decade of the 1930's would be a lean one for the Army, witness
soldiers training with sticks and trucks marked with signs marked tank, stark
examples of a lack of funds and interest. It is to General MacArthur's
everlasting credit that he maintained the integrity, morale and leadership of
the U.S. Army during those tough years against the forces of apathy and
economy. This was an Army that would expand, harden, and mature into the superb
8 million man force, of 91 divisions, that would completely destroy, on ground
and air, the most implacable foes ever faced by our nation during World War II.
As Dr. Hanson reminds us, the general public, and many scholars, are, on the
whole, unaware of how unique, and lethal, our western societies are in war.
That supreme deadliness does not simply spring forth fully formed from the
forehead of Mars, but is a result of years of effort during periods of peace.
To General MacArthur's ever lasting credit, let it said that he fought the good
fight for an Army during some very savage years of peace, 1931-1935.
Show Footnotes and
. John W. Killigrew, The Army and the Bonus Incident, Military Affairs, Vol.
26, No. 2. (Summer, 1962),
. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition. (Springfield:
Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2003), 1409.
. Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933,
Avon Books, New York, 1997, 768.
. Clayton D. Laurie and Ronald H. Cole, The Role of Federal Military Forces
in Domestic Disorders 1877-1945, Center of Military History, U.S. Army,
Washington, DC, 1997, 368.
. Maurice Matloff, General Editor, American Military History. (Washington:
Office of the Chief of Military History, United States Army, 1969) 405-415.
. Ibid, 410-411.
. R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy, The Encyclopedia of Military History:
from 3500 B.C. to the present. (New York: Harper & Row,
Publishers, 1986), 1027-1028.
. Douglas MacArthur, Reminiscenes. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company,
. Robert Leckie, The Wars of America, Volume II: San Juan Hill to Tonkin.
(New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1968), 159.
. Martin Blumenson, The Patton Papers, Volume I, 1885-1940, (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972), 585-6.
. U.S. Army Center for Military History, Chronological List of Senior
Officers of the United States Army, January 18, 2008.
http://www.history.army.mil/books/cg&csa/APPDX-B.htm (accessed January 18,
. D. Clayton James, The Years of MacArthur, Volume 1, 1880-1941. (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1970), 365.
. Dupuy, 1027-1028.
. John R.M. Wilson, "The Quaker and the Sword: Herbert Hoover's Relations
with the Military," Military Affairs, April 1974, 41-2.
. James, 378.
. Perret, 145.
. Ibid, 577-578.
. James, 411.
. Perret, 173.
. James, 360.
. Perret, 174-5.
. James, 362.
. Laurie, 368.
. Ibid, 374-378.
. Dwight D. Eisenhower, At Ease: Stories I tell to friends. (Garden
City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967), 216-7.
. MacArthur, 95.
. Perret, 159-161.
. Blumenson, 896-7.
. James, 408.
. Ibid, 164-5.
. Donald M. Kington, Forgotten Summers: The Story of the Citizens' Military
Training Camps, 1921-1940, Two Decades Publishing, San Francisco, CA, 1995,
. MacArthur, 91.
. James, 455.
. James, 412.
. MacArthur, 103.
. James Zobel, MacArthur Memorial, personal email to author, 17 January
. Victor Davis Hanson, "A Few Good People," Tribune Media Services column,
03 December 2007.
. Victor Davis Hanson, Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of
Western Power. New York, NY: Doubleday, 2001, 5.
Henry E. Armstrong, "General Staff of the Army is Ready for Emergencies," New
York Times, 11 November 1934.
Martin Blumenson, The Patton Papers, 1885-1940, Volume I. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972.
Edward M. Coffman, "Talking about War: Reflections on Doing Oral History and
Military History," The Journal of American History, September 2000.
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3500 B.C. to the present. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers,
Dwight D. Eisenhower, At Ease: Stories I tell to friends. Garden City,
NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1967.
Robert T. Elson, Prelude To War. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books,
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twenty Century, Volume One: 1900-1933.
New York, NY: Avon Books, 1997.
Robert K. Griffith, Jr., Men Wanted for the U.S. Army, America's Experience
with An All-Volunteer Army Between the World Wars. Westport,
Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1982.
Victor Davis Hanson, "A Few Good People," Tribune Media Services column, 03
December 2007. http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/hanson120307PF.html
(accessed December 04, 2007).
Victor Davis Hanson, Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of
Western Power. New York, NY: Doubleday, 2001.
George F. Hoffman, Though Mobility We Conquer: The Mechanization of U.S.
Cavalry. Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 2006.
D. Clayton James, The Years of MacArthur, Volume 1 1880-1941. Boston,
MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1970.
John W. Killigrew, "The Army and the Bonus Incident," Military Affairs, Vol.
26, No. 2. Summer, 1962.
Donald M. Kington, Forgotten Summers: The Story of the Citizens' Military
Training Camps, 1921-1940. San Francisco, CA: Two Decades Publishing,
Robert Leckie, The Wars of America, Volume II: San Juan Hill to Tonkin.
New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1968.
Geoffrey Perret, Old Soldiers Never Die: The Life of Douglas MacArthur.
Holbrook, MA: Adams Media Corporation, 1996.
Douglas MacArthur, A Soldier Speaks: Public Papers and Speeches of General of
the Army Douglas MacArthur, edited by Major Vorin E. Whan, Jr., USA.
New York, NY: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers, 1965.
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Maurice Matloff, General Editor, American Military History. Washington,
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General, November 2005.
"New Chiefs," Time, 18 August 1930.
Richard B. Frank, "The MacArthur No One Knew," World War II, September 2007.
"MacArthur Urges Increase in Army," New York Times, 30 November 1932.
"M'Arthur Cites Need of Officers," New York Times, 27 April 1933.
"MacArthur Warns Against Economy," New York Times, 14 June 1933.
"Roosevelt Plans Cut in Army Posts," New York Times, 17 August 1933.
"Army Weakened, Says M'Arthur," New York Times, 27 November 1933.
"MacArthur's Warning," New York Times, 28 November 1933.
"M'Arthur Urges ‘Adequate' Army," New York Times, 21 April 1934.
"Army Will Study to Revise Training," New York Times, 14 July 1934.
"New, Fast Machines Seen for Next War," New York Times, 23 December 1934.
"MacArthur Honored for Staff Service," New York Times, 6 September 1935.
U.S. Army Center for Military History, Chronological List of Senior Officers of
the United States Army, January 18, 2008.
http://www.history.army.mil/books/cg&csa/APPDX-B.htm (accessed January 18,
James Zobel, MacArthur Memorial, personal email to author, 17 January 2008.
Copyright © 2007 Bob Seals.
Written by Bob Seals. If you have questions or comments on this
article, please contact Bob Seals at:
About the author:
Bob Seals is a retired Special Forces officer employed by General Dynamics Information Technology in the Mission Command Exercise Division of the U.S. Army Special Operations Mission Command Training Center on Fort Bragg, the center of the special operations universe. He lives in North Carolina on a small horse farm with his wife, a retired Army Veterinary Corps officer, and son, who both ride polocrosse and hunt. His duties on the farm include Stable Sergeant, groom and horse holder. He is a graduate of the Norwich U Masters of Military History program.
Published online: 11/24/2007.
* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent
those of MHO.