Letter to the Editor of US News and World Report 4-30-06





Letter to the Editor: US News and World Report


April 30, 2006


Dear Editor:


Recently I was on vacation and picked up an old issue of US News (January 30, 2006- the birthday of FDR) that featured an article titled The Presidents at War.  Your so-called expert, Mr. Michael Barone, when writing in his know-it-all arrogant fashion wrote that FDR, “did a masterful job (referring to his wartime appointments), however better than any other president, far better than Lincoln, of selecting the right commander for the right tasks early on – General John Marshal…General Mathew Arnold for the Army Air Force.” Unfortunately the confused Barone must have been daydreaming when he wrote that sentence. John Marshall, as we all know was a famous Supreme Court Justice, and George Catlett Marshall was the Army Chief of Staff. Mathew Arnold was an English poet and writer of the 19th Century, who was the son of the founder of the Rugby School, of which “Tom Brown” became famous.  Henry “Hap” Arnold just happened to be the famous head of the Army Air Force and the Arnold Air Society of college ROTC fame is dedicated to his memory. Either your proofreader doesn’t know the difference between a Norden bombsight and iambic pentameter, or Michael Barone should bone up on his facts.


Richard J. Garfunkel




Letter to the Editor- Regarding Israel 4-21-06

Letter to the Editor-Journal News

April 21, 2006


I must comment Mr. Philip Cohen in his reply to Mr. Victor Lama, a consistent apologist regarding Arab violence and critic of Israel’s right to exist. There was a Jewish governmental presence in that area of the world that pre-dated the rise of Islam by 1700 years. Kings David and Solomon ruled the land where modern day Israel and the West Bank exists from 1000 to 925 BC. After hundreds years of Babylonian, Persian, and Greek occupation, a new Hasmonean Jewish Kingdom existed from 165 BC until the Romans conquered the area, in 63 BC. From that time on, despite incredible pressure from outside conquerors that included: the Egyptian Hyksos, the Arabians, the Crusaders, the Turks, Napoleon and the British there always remained a Jewish presence in what is modern Israel. There has been continuous Jewish settlement in Jerusalem, Safed, Hebron, and Tiberias from Biblical times. Despite expulsions that forced Jews out of land that they had inhabited for over 3.5 millennia, Jewish residents and settlers continued to cultivate a barren desert into arable land. With the victory of the Allies over the Central Powers in 1918, Turkish rule ended, and a Homeland was promised the Jewish people. Therefore one must not ignore that history, and the fact that outsiders had forced the Jews either out of their land or submitted them to the sword. Despite that ugly historical reality 84,000 Jews still lived in the Mandate Area in 1922. Without those historical events, there would have always been a land of Israel and the Jewish population would have been many, times larger. Against incredible Arab opposition and threats of annihilation, the Jewish Agency in Palestine accepted the United Nations partition plan, in 1947, that gave the Jewish population of 650,000 a small, disjointed fraction of the British Mandate. But did the Arabs compromise with that plan? No! They declared war on the fledging state and have sustained the cycle of hatred and violence ever since. Today the Jews of Israel live and enjoy a multi-cultural democracy that guarantees democratic rights to all races, creeds and religions. What can be said of the Arab world and all of their oil riches? A history of violence, religious fratricide, intolerance, prejudice, hatred, discrimination, dictatorship and mayhem is the Arab legacy. The list is endless and their irrational demands and conduct has spawned the violence that has beset Beirut, the West Bank, Gaza, Iraq, and caused the Iranian and Kuwaiti wars along with the multiple wars against Israel. It is time for the Arabs to come into the modern world, to end their violence to others and themselves, and seek peace as the path to follow.


Richard J. Garfunkel

The Revolt of the Generals- 4-20-06

The Revolt of the Generals


Richard J. Garfunkel

April 20, 2006



President Truman once said while commenting on the “draft” versus a professional army and I paraphrase, that because we have a “draft” a President is made much more careful about using citizens in foreign adventurism. Basically what he was alluding to was the fact that in a “free” country, when men/women are inducted involuntarily to serve in combat or harm’s way, the country had better have a good reason for that action, or the public will speak out at the polls. Whether the public was right or wrong, in their righteous indignation, they spoke out in 1952 and 1966, and 1968. Of course each era is a bit different, and each circumstance requires a different mindset and rationalization. Whether Cindy Sheehan, the Tillman family or other “Gold Star” mothers are right or wrong is up to historians of the future. But for sure when people lose their sons and daughters they have to feel that their sacrifice was not done in vain, They must understand, and it should be made crystal clear from the commander-in-chief, that this effort was justified for our security, and that the country was better off for their supreme sacrifice.


Therefore Truman was wise in his understanding that the “draft” was a type of political “check and balance” on the unlimited war-making powers of the chief executive. Of course we are told that times are different, and we are told that a “draft” is unnecessary at this time. Of course we also know the downside to a “draft” and I personally will not waste time elucidating its shortcomings. I, like many others, understand the reality and necessity of a professionally trained standing army. I also know the problems of drafting the poor, the under-educated, and the middle and upper middle class college aged youngsters. What comes of that action is usually a combination of incompetence and discontent. We do have a highly motivated and professionally trained armed force that is quite capable of dealing with the new demands of the computer age battle arena. But still numbers count, and “boots on the ground” still win wars.


Therefore I am not advocating a return to the “draft” for political or military reasons. But on the other hand, the current crisis of “manpower” has started to decimate and erode our standing forces, reserves and National Guard with potentially dangerous consequences. We are already facing erosion in our elite leadership. Recently it was reported that one-third of our West Point graduating class of 2000 is resigning and all who read the newspapers know and understand what has happened to our Guard and the re-enlistment of our reservists. They have faced the total brunt and burden of this so-called Fourth World War by being the only ones making the sacrifice. Truman fired MacArthur for insubordination. And though the Korean War was unpopular, and General MacArthur was worshipped and respected by millions in this country, many understood the supremacy of civilian control over the military. Many others saw the failure of MacArthur’s vision and the danger of his proposals. MacArthur was warned by many about the build-up of massive Chinese forces on the Yalu River, and he ignored those “red flags.” After the Chinese intervention and the subsequent disaster that ensued, MacArthur called for the use of atomic weapons to be used along that frontier separated by the Yalu. Truman understood the inherent risk of nuclear war, the danger of enlarging the conflict and the divided message MacArthur was sending and therefore he took action in recalling him. Ironically the situation has almost reversed itself. Many people are having their eyes and minds opened by the six generals, who have publicly criticized Defense Secretary Rumsfeld for his mismanagement of the war effort from its instigation, rationalization and prosecution. It seems now the roles have been completely reversed. It is the President, who is rattling the nuclear sword of Damocles. It is the President, through his strategy of “war-on-the cheap” and “go it alone” diplomacy and war making, who is reaping the wild-wind of failure in this vital region. I ask, where is our “grand coalition” and what is our purpose there? If is for oil, then so be it. Make it plain. But like the “Emperor’s New Clothes” we are all patently aware that oil is the issue, plain and simple.


Maybe one could defend the war by being against dictatorship, but there are countless dictators and some of them have been our friends and allies. One could also say that we are obsessed with the addiction of “cheap” energy and that we must commit endless treasury and manpower to protect those resources and supply lines. We have always, since the days of Stephen Decatur, fought to keep our sea-lanes and our access to markets open. The Berlin Airlift was a classic example of our desire and will to keep our treaty obligations to West Berlin. Maybe one could “buy in” to the rationale that we must promote democracy in the Middle East and that once it is imparted and implanted in Iraq it will spread throughout that cursed region. That may be so, and if it were possible it would be a noble endeavor. But in reality one just has to read Assassin’s Gate by George Packer to learn the “real” plans concocted by the neo-cons with regards to Iraq. But that is an old story today. We all know that this war had little to do with dictatorship or democracy but with oil and possibly revenge over the blunders of George Bush in the first Gulf War.


Therefore in regards to strategy General Anthony Zinni anticipated the ongoing failure, and it is summarized on page 119, of Assassin’s Gate. Packer wrote, “General Anthony Zinni, who proceeded (General Tommy) Franks at Centcom, had anticipated just that. (The country would disintegrate) The allied bombing of Iraqi targets in December of 1998 had rattled the regime in Baghdad, and Arab leaders had warned privately of a power vacuum if Sadaam fell. Zinni, realizing that the responsibility for a postwar would fall on the military, began work on a plan for Iraq’s reconstruction to go along with his war plan. Desert Crossing covered the protection of the infrastructure, the sealing of the borders, humanitarian crises, politics, economy and even social issues like the role of women.”


In 2000 he left this plan with Franks, and though he stated it was not complete it went far along the correct path. He said, “It should be seamless with the military plan.” “Shortly before the war, he called Centcom and said, ‘You guys ought to dust off Desert Crossing, take a hard look at that.’ The deputy commander asked, ‘Desert Crossing, what’s that? Never heard of it.’ At the Pentagon, Zinni learned, Desert Crossing had been dismissed because it assumptions were ‘too negative…’ Franks made one effort to get Zinni’s advice before the Iraq war began. He was stopped by someone higher up.”


To my many conservative and patriotic friends, this is not just a matter of “better be red than dead” leftists” opposing the war and putting their xenophobic heads in the sand. I could hardly be associated with that way of thinking. I have no real cares about Iraq, or its people. I have no real cares about the Arab world and its future. I have no real cares about the pipedream of democracy in the Arab world. Just look at the disaster in so-called Palestine and its democratic support for the terrorist group Hamas that blows up restaurants with its insane, suicidal and exploited youth. These people have no concept of democracy, of how it works and what sacrifices it demands. This is “democracy” in the same way that the Nazis were elected in Germany in 1933. What Hitler said in his best-selling book Mein Kampf was no secret to the German people. They German people were “willing executioners” in the words of Daniel Goldhagen.  The attitude and desires of Hamas are no secret to the Arab people living in the West Bank and Gaza. What I do care about is American and its future. What I care about is our national sanity and well being, our economy, and the future of our children and children’s children. What I do care about is the need for honesty with the American people, a sound strategy for victory, if possible, or a sensible withdrawal. To fight an endless war of attrition, with the resultant draining of our resources, the debilitating of our armed forces, the continued split in our nation state seems to me a fool’s journey. We have seen what that result has caused when actions are built on a mountain of lies. We have seen our national unity in the wake of 9/11 evaporate. (The latest Gallup Poll shows a 32% support of the war!) We have seen the failure of our effort in Afghanistan as the Taliban brigands, religious fanatics and terrorists have melted into the warm bosom of the countryside. We have seen the failure of our strategy when we linked the Taliban to the repressive but anti-clerical regime of Sadaam Hussein. We have spread the war from one of the most barren and isolated places in the world to a vital area astride a large percentage of the world’s oil supply. If the war is for oil, how come it is not being protected and pumped from Iraq to the world markets that needs it and can pay for it? It was these revenues that were promised be used to re-build Iraq, pay for our effort and solve all the problems of the region. What happened? What about those empty promises? How come the price of oil and gasoline keeps on skyrocketing? How come? Who should be held accountable? We all should cry out and ask. But of course there are no answers from the administration, only double-speak from its minions. The only answer we will get is at the polls. That is the ultimate arbiter.


Just read Carl Bernstein’s article in Vanity Fair called, “Senate Hearings on Bush, Now.” Please read the article I just sent by Sean Wilentz “The Worst President in History,” and if you have a chance read Assassin’s Gate by George Packer. Of course there are many, many other books, by people like John Dean, Kevin Phillips, Joe Wilson, etc, who aren’t paragons of the left who have exposed this administration’s incompetence, lies and criminality.


News of the Day -April 12, 2006

News of the Day –April 12, 2006- A Happy and Sweet Pesach!


On this Day in 1945 Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia of a massive stroke.


The 32nd President was born on January 30, 1882 and was 63 years old. Aside from natural health problems one accumulates with age, the stress of leading our Nation through 12+ tumultuous years took its toll. Assuredly he died in the service of his country, as many others would on that day in Okinawa and with the Fleet.


The President mourned by countless millions will be remembered as the Soldier of Freedom, the author of the Atlantic Charter, the founder of the United Nations, the originator of Lend-Lease, the creator of the Arsenal of Democracy and among many other titles and attributes, the architect of Victory. The whole free world today should bless his great memory, for he and his great trans-Atlantic partner Winston Churchill were able to overcome great odds, warn their countries of the coming menace, beat back the appeasement and isolationist foes and forge a democratic partnership of the remaining free peoples to triumph over the twin black and brown shirted scourges of Fascism and Nazism.


The weather was beautiful for the Yankee home opener. They started out well, in front of a sellout crowd approaching 55,000 fans, with a three run home run off the bat of Jason Giambi. But much opportunity again was squandered and their young starter Wang couldn’t hold the lead. Shoddy defense and a base running blunder by Bernie Williams took the Yankees out of the lead. Poor relief work by Tanyon (Not the Grand Tanyon) Sturtz almost did the toothless Bombers in again. But after being down 7-4, they rallied for 5 big ones in the 8th, with El Capitan Derek Jeter’s 3 run homer was the crusher. Mariano (Sure Thing) Rivera, though rusty from a lack of work, came in and quieted the pesky Royals for the Yanks 9th opening win in a row at the House that Ruth Built.


Down in DC it was finally fun and games as baseball, with the Nationals, were a generous loving host for the rejuvenated Metsies. Their twin terrors of Reyes and Wright along with Carlos “The Jackal” Beltran pummeled the Nats 7-1. The Mets look like the real deal, and they are playing exiting NL ball. The Yanks had better take them seriously. for the town is up for grabs.


With regards to leakage in DC at the Presidential mansion, Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald maybe ready to drop another bombshell when more Libby Grand Jury testimony is revealed. Bush’s last comments on declassification of secret and sensitive documents were patently laughable. Almost any other decent individual would be so embarrassed that they would have come into sight with a bag on their head. Even his greatest spinmeisters can’t re-shape his bull-tickie into understandable language. They would be better off speaking in “tongues.” The claim that he automatically declassified his selective leak of sensitive information, for political gain, no less, is challenged by the fact that he leaked the story days before his office claimed it was declassified. Can anyone really follow that? Maybe that is like backdating one’s age for an insurance policy? If this “Laurel and Hardy” show weren’t so tragic it would bring the house down. I assume it is bad form to lie over sex, though that happens countless times a day. And, I assume, it is probably worse form to fool-around with one’s intern, but when you a start to “screw” a whole people over classified information, phony stories about weapons that don’t exist, imagined threats and a propensity to “cook the books” now one is really stretching form to a new dimension.


Most people around here are so turned off that they have “written him off” as a complete dunce. All the polls, taken before this recent round of flummery have now collapsed his so-called popularity into the mid 30’s. Just you wait “’Enry ‘Iggins, just you wait.” Now millions of our little brothers from south of the border, down Mejico way, are marching in the streets calling for the political blood of GOP House members who have authored the “Deport Maria and Pedro Bill.” What else is new? What is the next shoe to drop? When will the American people just say, “Go?”


On this 14th Day of Nissan, Jews celebrate Passover all over the world with their friends and family. It is a story of the struggle for freedom, the “Exodus” from slavery from an unfriendly land, and the beginning of a “wandering” that culminated with the return to the “Promised Land.” As usual, this ageless story is an apt metaphor for our time, that not only reminds us of the continuing Jewish struggle to protect Israel, but the magnet America has become for the modern “wanderers” who seek a new “Promised Land.”  


Richard J. Garfunkel


Franklin D. Roosevelt and Douglas MacArthur -Similar Men, Different Legacies 4-6-06

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Douglas MacArthur

Similar Men Different Legacies

Rotary Club of Elmsford Speech


Richard J. Garfunkel

April 6, 2006



Good afternoon to all of you and thank you for having me to your lunceon. I want to extend my regards to Mr. Louis Del Rosario, whom I met through the Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner and Mr. Harold Kellner for inviting me here. Mr. Del Rosario and I had a very interesting conversation about General Douglas MacArthur, a man whom we both admire for his patriotism and commitment to the Filipino people. When Mr. Del Rosario asked me to speak, since I write and speak on the life, and times of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, I suggested that I talk about both men, their differences, their similarities, their association with each other and how history remembers them both.


My grandfather, Mr. John Kivo, a world traveler and a pioneering international businessman, who had opened up the Japanese artificial flower market to the United States in the 1930’s, was not only a great admirer of the General, but was invited by him to re-invigorate trade between post-war Japan and the United States. Therefore I was brought up with a great interest in the world, an admiration for General MacArthur’s efforts in the Far East and history in general.


Both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Douglas MacArthur, were two of the most dominating Americans of the first half of the 20th Century. At the tender age of 38, regarding national leadership, they were on their way to fame and adulation. But for both men, who reached the foothills of great success, the fates, and the G-d’s of chance, had a way of interfering. FDR suffered a devastating attack of Infantile Paralysis, known as polio and almost died at his beloved summer retreat at Campobello Island. He then entered into a long period of being bed-ridden, with resultant depression, then a long period of rehabilitation, new resolve and eventual triumph. MacArthur, who had left the bloody fields of France as a great hero, came home as just one of many officers from a war people wish to forget. Though he is still a rising star and is chosen to be the youngest Superintendent of West Point, and is recently married, he too enters into a long period of disillusionment with the army, which includes a forced departure from West Point, severe cutbacks in standing army, exile to the Philippines and the loss of his marriage. From early lives marked for greatest, to their middle age years of tragedy, disappointment and failure, both men rose to greatness. This is their story.


Their Early Lives


a)      Franklin D. Roosevelt, the second son of James Roosevelt, and the first and only son of his second wife Sara Delano, was born to wealth in Hyde Park, NY. He was born at home to a loving family in a large estate they called Springwood, located just north of Poughkeepsie in a place previously called Crum’s Elbow. His young mother, who was half the age of her husband, adored him. He had a half bother, James “Rosey” Roosevelt, who was 29 years older. “Rosey” was an investment banker, acted like an uncle to young Franklin, who was home educated until the age of 14, and died a few years before he became President of the United States. Franklin was a healthy active child, who went off to the Groton School and was placed under the care of Headmaster Endicott Peabody. His father James, was wealthy, a world traveler and had brought young Franklin to meet President Grover Cleveland. He unlike the Oyster Bay branch of the Roosevelt Family was a Democrat. James Roosevelt, like Theodore Roosevelt, Senior, Teddy’s father and his fourth cousin, bought their way out of serving in the Civil War. Franklin traveled often to Europe and Germany, as a boy, for hopeful cures that his aging and unhealthy father sought. They traveled often to the baths at Baden, Germany. It was there that the future FDR developed his intense dislike for Germanic attitudes, manners and ethos. When he was 18 and at Harvard, his father died. His loving and possessive mother became a very strong influence in his life. Franklin was her only child and she would always be very protective of his interests and desires.

b)      Douglas MacArthur was the son of a famous Army General Arthur MacArthur, who was called the Boy Major for his heroism at the Battle of Missionary Ridge, in Tennessee. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for that action in 1890 and he and his son Douglas became the first father and son to be awarded that highest medal. The only others were President Theodore Roosevelt and his son Ted Jr. Arthur MacArthur was from Massachusetts, volunteered for the Civil War from a Wisconsin regiment at age 16 and eventually remained in the Army for the rest of his life. He traveled for 30 years from, post-to-post, fighting Geronimo in 1885 and in the Spanish-American War in the Philippines. He married Mary Pinkney Hardy, known as Pinky. He retired as the highest-ranking General in the United States at age 64 in 1909 and died three years later at a dinner in his honor. His wife, Pinky, had three sons Arthur III, a distinguished naval officer (1876-1923) who died of appendicitis, Malcolm who died at age five, and Douglas. Pinky MacArthur was so concerned about her son that when he was at West Point she moved into the Craney Hotel right in the town of Highland Falls for those four years. There she could see whether the lights of his room were still on and he was studying. For years he was mortified over the ludicrous letters that she wrote to his superiors, demanding his promotion.

c)      Unlike Franklin, who married at 23 years old and quickly had five children, Douglas waited until he was 42 years old when he marred the vivacious divorced socialite Louise Cromwell Brooks. He was married to her for 7 years, there was talk of some scandal, and when MacArthur was posted again to the Philippines in 1928, they were childless, and Louise Brooks filed for divorce.  


Roosevelt and MacArthur were close to the same age, but they came from very different backgrounds, and grew to manhood under much different circumstances. They both had possessive, loving, hands-on, and domineering mothers. MacArthur’s father was a very important and active role model for him, wherein Roosevelt’s father, being sickly for years before his death when Franklin was 18, was a bit less of an influence. MacArthur grew up in many areas of the country. I was in the army barracks in Fort Dodge (Little Rock) where he was born and remained only a year or so. The army arsenal, as it was called, is now in modern Little Rock, where there is now a museum dedicated to him and other Arkansan military heroes. Franklin always considered Hyde Park his home no matter where he lived. He drew energy and vitality from the Hudson River Valley and always yearned to return to his Dutch Hudson River roots. MacArthur, who was the ultimate army “brat,” lived in many forts, ultimately applied and was admitted to West Point, where he had the highest grades since Robert E. Lee, and was first in his class. Roosevelt was a better than average student at Groton, and an average student at Harvard. He graduated in three years but remained behind to be the editor of the Crimson, before going on to Columbia University’s Law School. He was interested in politics and though a Democrat like his father, he did form a “Democrats for Roosevelt” in 1904 at Harvard. His great father figure, after his father’s death, was Endicott Peabody, the famous Headmaster and founder of the Groton School, and Theodore Roosevelt, who throughout his life, he called the greatest man he had ever met. He later would marry Eleanor Roosevelt, Teddy’s favorite niece and his distant cousin.


Franklin D. Roosevelt and Douglas MacArthur came to know each other through their joint work with the Departments of Navy and Army in 1916-7 before the entry of America into the First World War. Roosevelt, on one hand was a lawyer, elected to the NY State Senate at the age of 28 and was appointed Assistant Secretary of Navy. He had carved out an ambitious political career and life at a very young age. He emulated his famous cousin and followed him into the Department of the Navy. His early thoughts reflected an interest in becoming Governor of New York and later President of the United States.


As a young man he became the first Democrat in generations to be elected to the NY State Senate from Poughkeepsie. He took on an early political fight with Tammany Hall and campaigned aggressively for Wilson in 1912 and was rewarded with a position in the Navy Department. The new Secretary of the Navy was a land-loving North Carolinian newspaperman named Josephus Daniels, who happened to be a pacifist. Daniels gave his young enthusiastic assistant full reign at the Navy Department. Roosevelt took advantage of his position and pushed forward with many of his own initiatives. Eventually towards the end of Wilson’s term and before the President became sick and isolated, Roosevelt had alienated the Wilson over his supposed personal diplomacy with the British Foreign Minister. But by that time, the affects of Wilson’s stroke and debilitation, limited his concerns with the young Roosevelt’s actions. During the war Roosevelt met Lucy Mercer, who was his wife’s social secretary and an affair ensued. This relationship though short, remained a secret until the 1960’s, and affected his marriage throughout his life. Ironically the personal life of MacArthur was also tainted with scandal revolving around his first wife, a sexy divorcee whose antics embarrassed him often. Later after their divorce, he kept a beautiful Eurasian woman, Isabel Rosario Cooper, ensconced in both his apartments in Manila and in a hotel apartment on Washington’s Sixteenth Street (American Caesar, William Manchester page 17.) Finally when MacArthur was 54 years old and 4-star General, his “friend” rebelled against being a ”kept” woman, and in bed all day. She started speaking to reporters (Drew Pearson) and MacArthur, ever fearful of his mother’s wrath, had a friend pay her off at the Willard Hotel with a bankroll of hundred dollar bills. Eventually after a few more failed romances, and his mother’s death he wooed and won the much younger Jean Marie Faircloth. (He paid $15,000 for the letters from Pearson.)


MacArthur had carved out a remarkable early record. He was involved anti-terrorist activities in the Philippines and was recommended for the Medal of Honor in a fight with Mexican bandits, in Veracruz, while on a long-range reconnaissance mission. He was therefore elevated up the staff ladder immediately. When America declared war on Germany in 1918, he was ready for combat. Through his actions, he became the most decorated officer in World War I, while serving first under Leonard Wood and then as commander of the 42nd  (Rainbow) Division. He was in the thick of action, and was awarded seven Silver Stars, the Distinguished Service Cross and two Purple Hearts. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but General John J. Pershing personally made sure that he was given a lesser award. Asst. Secretary Roosevelt also traveled to Europe to get closer to the action and even volunteered for active duty, but President Wilson forbade any of this administration from enlisting. Roosevelt’s distant cousins, Teddy’s sons, all saw action, with young Quentin getting killed while in action with the Army Air Corps.


After the war and during the 1920’s both Roosevelt and MacArthur had their own challenges. His wife Eleanor confronted FDR over his affair with Lucy Mercer, and he promised a complete and irrevocable break with her. FDR suffered from an attack of Infantile Paralysis or polio in 1921 and eventually was crippled for life. He spent years of rehabilitation, in and out, of Warm Springs, Georgia and this theoretically enabled him to temper his seemingly boundless enthusiasm, which was quite often seen as arrogance. This long period of rehabilitation changed and mellowed FDR in more ways then one. He had always been used to success, had never been limited in his actions, had been an avid athlete, and now was completely dependent on others. This “dark period” for Roosevelt would serve as a vital crucible for him that would change his character, channel his thoughts, focus his energy and mold his future being.


In a sense MacArthur also felt the challenge of the 1920’s. His meteoric and heroic actions in the First World War were over before they almost began. He had finished the war in 1918 at the age of 38 as a great success and famous. But he, like others, in the huge wartime army, felt the sting of the necessary de-mobilization and cutbacks. The 1920’s were a period of pacifism, isolationism, meager military budgets, obsolete weaponry, disarmament conferences, and anti-war legislation (The Kellogg-Briand Act). Again the American public and their representatives felt that the two-oceans would keep America protected from threats coming from outside our Hemisphere. It was both a period of the “Banana Wars” where the Marines continually intervened in the affairs and social disorders of Haiti, Nicaragua, Santo Domingo, and Guatemala along with the emergence of “economic royalism” sponsored by United Fruit and their business rivals. It was an era of the big Navy and the concept, first promulgated by William McKinley, and now sustained by Harding and Coolidge of “Pax Americana.” The Caribbean was our sea and it was up to our Navy to protect and enforce our brand of economic peace and welfare. With regards to the Army, it was in full retreat. When Brigadier General William Mitchell, a far-sighted and heroic aviation theorist, warned of our vulnerability to future air attacks, senior army officers mocked him. His outspoken effort to promote modern aviation put him in direct conflict with both the brass hats of the Army and the black shoe Navy. After an unauthorized demonstration of airpower regarding the sinking of two captured and obsolete Central Power battleships off Hampton Roads, Virginia and his subsequent remarks on the subject, Mitchell came in direct conflict with his superiors at the War Department and their philosophy. For that action, he was brought in front of a court-martial for “conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline.” MacArthur was dragooned to be part of the 11 man military tribunal. He was a friend of Mitchell, as was his father, and though he later talked of sympathy for Mitchell’s cause he never spoke out at the trial. Mitchell was convicted of insubordination regarding his outspoken criticism of the Army’s senior leadership by a secret split decision. MacArthur later claimed that he had voted for acquittal, and prevented his dismissal from the service. But the whole case, and sordid episode, haunted his legacy and relationship with future Air Corps personnel for decades. During this period MacArthur continued to advance and became one of the few bright lights and colorful officers in a rather dull Hoover Administration.


MacArthur had suffered politically when he was asked by President Hoover, in 1932, to break up the so-called “Bonus Army” of squatters who had created a shantytown on the Anacostia Flats in Washington D.C. These poor and hungry veterans of the First World War had come to Washington, with their leader, the former heroic and famous Marine General Smedley Butler. They were demanding an immediate bonus payment of an amount of money, which Congress had previously authorized, to be paid in 1945. Of course President Hoover was not happy with their encampment and their not so veiled threats. He claimed that there were communist agitators amongst the group of homeless veterans who had hiked and ridden the rails to gather in Washington. Finally after weeks of built up angst and tension on both sides, Hoover finally asked his Chief of Staff to clean them out. MacArthur, with Majors Patton and Eisenhower as his aides, cleared the vets with tear gas and tanks. The shantytown was burned to the ground and plowed under and away. But despite that unpopular action, and after Roosevelt’s landslide election victory in 1932, and inauguration, FDR had decided to re-nominate MacArthur to the post of Chief of Staff. He still believed heartily in MacArthur’s talent and leadership skills.


Of course Roosevelt and MacArthur were quite similar. The writer John Gunther pointed out that they were alike in many ways. Both were intensely patriotic, authentic patricians, and always were on stage. Each seemed dominated by an ambitious mother who lived to great old age. I would disagree personally regarding their mother’s ambition, but it is true they were strong and powerful personalities. There was a famous quote by Dwight Eisenhower, when he was appointed to head the Allied invasion of Europe, and MacArthur, when asked about his long-time assistant, said “He was the best clerk in the Army.”  Eisenhower retorted that he has “spent seven years studying dramatics under MacArthur.” On the other hand Roosevelt told Orson Welles that there were two great actors in the world and when they met they were both in the room.


Ironically MacArthur was a distant cousin to both Winston Churchill (8th cousin) and Franklin Roosevelt (6th once removed). Harold Ickes quoted Roosevelt, as stating that Huey Long was one of the two most dangerous men I America. When Ickes asked if Father Coughlin was the second, FDR said, “No it was Douglas MacArthur!” FDR was aware of MacArthur’s tendencies and always tried to keep in him close or very faraway.


In actuality they had a long relationship that was marked by some arguments, some mutual admiration and much backbiting. FDR did say to MacArthur’s face, that, “I think you are our best general, but I believe that you would be our worst politician.” Many New Dealers did not like MacArthur. They thought of him as imperious and too conservative. But even though he did support much of the work of the early New Deal and especially the CCC, he was still a Herbert Hoover conservative at heart, and objected to many of the New Deal’s social programs. He was also baffled by FDR’s finessing skills.  Roosevelt could charm anyone, even MacArthur. Once during a White House dinner, the General asked: “Why is it, Mr. President, that you frequently inquire my opinion regarding social reforms under consideration…but pay little attention to my views of the military?” His host replied: “Douglas I don’t bring those questions up for your advice but for your reactions. To me, you are the symbol of the conscience of the American people.” This MacArthur later said, “…Took all the wind out of my sails.” It meant, of course, absolutely nothing.


Later on when the government needed to cut spending and directed the money for other things, Secretary of War George Dern asked for a conference with FDR and took MacArthur along with him. Roosevelt was adamant about the cuts. The General, his voice trembling with outrage, said: “When we lose the next war, and an American boy with an enemy bayonet through his belly and an enemy foot on his dying throat spits out his last curse, I want the name not to be MacArthur, but Roosevelt.” FDR, livid, said, “You must not talk that way to the President!” Mac Arthur would remember long afterward that he apologized, “but I thought my army career was at an end. I told him that he had my resignation as Chief of Staff.” He turned toward the door, but before he could leave Roosevelt said quietly, “Don’t be foolish, Douglas; you and the budget must get together on this.” Outside, Dern said jubilantly, “You’ve saved the Army.” The General, sick to his stomach, recalled: “But I just vomited on the steps of the White House.”


Of course, their relationship continued with its ups and downs until he was basically exiled to the Philippines in 1935. When he finally retired in 1937 from the US Army he was made a Field Marshall in the Philippine Army. The Depression Years were obviously as tough on the military as they were on the country. There were many conflicting forces, pulling and pushing on the body politic. In those early years of the New Deal and in the depths of the collapse, there were few thoughts about a standing army. The country had never really supported much of a peacetime army. The rise of fascist dictators started to threaten the peace and eventually new alliances were formed as new issues arose in the world. The country was awash with different political elements and the far right and left seemed to be in agreement that they wanted peace at any price. Eventually as Hitler started to threaten the peace of Europe, opinion started to shift. Roosevelt was at the forefront of starting a slow, but decisive re-armament, especially regarding the Navy. Even despite isolationist pressure and the rise of the America First and the Liberty Lobby groups, led by powerful forces in Congress, and out like Charles Lindbergh, President Roosevelt understood what was ahead. He understood clearly what the threats were and started our long hard road to preparedness.


Eventually war would break out in Europe in September of 1939, and America could not avoid the threats to Western Hemisphere forever, and intense preparation started in earnest. Eventually after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, our bases stretching out to the Philippines were also vulnerable. Wake Island, Guam and the bases in the Philippines; Clark Field and Cavite were quickly under attack. MacArthur also had made some serious mistakes regarding the deployment of our air assets including our B-17 bombers. Many were destroyed on the ground. He did put up an aggressive layered defense against overwhelming odds, and he was widely admired for his stirring defiant stances at Bataan and Corregidor. Eventually without hope of being relieved, FDR ordered him to be evacuated and to take command of the Allied forces in Australia, and to start to re-build and create a force strong enough to stop and reverse the Japanese advance. FDR knew the country needed a hero after the defeats at Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, and the loss of the Philippines. Therefore he decorated MacArthur, stroked his ego, promoted him, and made sure the press made him the hero that the country needed. His mistakes were ignored and his promise of “I shall return” was trumpeted loud and clear across the land and the Fareast. He became the voice of freedom and liberation and a beacon of hope for both the people of the occupied Philippines and the Dutch East Indies.


It is a long an involved story, but eventually the wide Pacific was divided into two theaters of action. The Southwest Pacific was placed under MacArthur’s direct command and the Southeast Pacific was placed under, the Navy and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Nimitz commanded the Navy and the Marines from Pearl Harbor, and started the long road back starting with actions starting at Guadalcanal, and eventually Tarawa, the Solomons, the Marianas, Saipan, the Palaus and all the way up and through Okinawa and Iwo Jima. MacArthur had his own air force and limited navy, without aircraft carriers, and with less supplies, less men and less equipment and for sure less glamour, wound up doing a great job of defeating the enemy starting in New Guinea. MacArthur’s forces sustained much less losses then Nimitz’s frontal assaults. In their important conference in Hawaii, regarding the final phases of the Pacific War, MacArthur fended off Nimitz’s desires to have his forces first take Formosa and ignore the Philippines. He convinced FDR that this was a terrible idea, and that we owed our effort to the Filipino people.(Freeing 17 million Christians as he had articulated his argument.) FDR agreed! Nimitz forced, as a concession to both FDR and MacArthur, that they support his landings in the Palau’s at Pelleliu, to protect the Eastern flank of the Philippines. That was a catastrophic mistake. MacArthur was against that effort, but Nimitz demanded that the Navy take on those islands. That battle was fought too late to positively affect the protection of the Philippines, caused the loss of thousands of men unnecessarily and wound up being worthless.


MacArthur was right, and he vocally spoke out against the Navy’s use of Marine frontal assaults on these Pacific islands. MacArthur, because of his lack of aircraft carriers, established successfully, the island-hopping strategy of avoiding pockets of heavy Japanese resistance and letting them die on the vine once they were isolated and bypassed. During the long and brutal years of the Pacific War, MacArthur overcame the criticism that had dogged him over the lack of preparedness in the Philippines. His strategy was impeccable, our (his) losses were conservative in comparison with the Navy and Marines, and he accomplished miracles of movement, with less supplies and equipment, than is generally understood. His innovative use of the Army Air Force, under the command of Robert Eichelberger, was highly successful. He and his staff developed the tactic of skip bombing, and his use of landing craft, as a vehicle to outflank Japanese positions, was uniquely creative and successful.


In a sense, by the end of the war, MacArthur, as well as all of the American leadership in both the Pacific and European Theaters, had reached iconic status. Supreme commanders like Marshal, King, Leahy, Arnold along with their theater heads; MacArthur, Nimitz, Eisenhower were idolized by the public. In Europe men like Bradley, Clark, Patton, Hodges and Simpson were also accorded great acclaim along with the Pacific naval commanders like Halsey, Spruance and Mitscher. Only in the Southwest Pacific Theater did MacArthur have no real rivals. Because of his ego, men under MacArthur were rarely known or publicized in the same way as their European Theater counterparts. Because of the public’s adulation with him, his bearing and presence, he was placed in charge of the surrender proceedings in Tokyo Bay and the eventual military and political command of conquered and defeated Japan.


By the time of VJ Day and the surrender of Japan, FDR had been dead for five months. Both FDR and MacArthur’s legacies would be incredibly enhanced by their actions in World War II. FDR’s image would suffer a bit in the years directly after the start of the Cold War. MacArthur rose to greater heights as the progressive post war leader of Japan. He would also get exceptionally high marks for his strategy and execution of the famed Inchon Landing in South Korea. Of course his subsequent actions in routing, encircling and pushing the remnants of the invading North Korean Army back to the Yalu River, which separated North Korea from China, was spectacular. But mistakes were eventually made in the coming winter along the Yalu, and MacArthur and his legacy suffered greatly with the unexpected attack of the Chinese Army. Unfortunately our troops were too strung out, our supply lines inadequate, and warnings from Washington about a huge Chinese build-up were ignored. Later rancorous conflict ensued between Truman and MacArthur, and the rest is history.


That is a story for another time. Both FDR and MacArthur emerged from the war as great national heroes. FDR, because of his sudden death on April 12, 1945, was accorded a heroes send off of almost unprecedented level. Not since Lincoln’s time was there such an outpouring of grief and sympathy. Even with, and despite a short period of revisionism in the 1950’s towards his actions at Yalta and with the Soviets, Roosevelt’s legacy continues to grow. He is the most written about individual in history and his monumental job as President and Commander-in-Chief has been admired in, and out, of our country by countless millions. His leadership, charm, innovation and boundless optimism have inspired people for decades. His overcoming the ravages of polio has been a remarkable story for almost 80 years. On the other hand, MacArthur, because of his public fight with President Truman and his re-call from Korea, has suffered greatly. He, unlike FDR was not seen as a modern man, but more of a vestige from the Victorian Age and the age of colonialism. Most Americans mainly forget his work in Japan, and his lack of influence during the Cold War kept him away from the public eye. Other then his famous speeches, the one in front of a joint session of Congress, after his re-call from Korea, “Old Soldiers Never Die, They Just Fade Away,” and his remarkable farewell address at West Point, “Duty, Honor and Country,” MacArthur lived out lonely years in a type of exile in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. He was on the boards of a few corporations, was asked to moderate the fight between the Amateur athletic titans, the AAU and the NCAA but was rarely consulted. MacArthur, in a long three hour meeting with President Kennedy, warned him about future adventurism in Vietnam. Kennedy when asked about the meeting, stated that he was most impressed with the General’s grasp of the situation and its potential consequences. In conclusion, these two similar and differently motivated giants of the first half of the 20th Century helped mold our history and secure our legacy in its important leadership role that continues to move forward.


At the end of the half-century, FDR was still the icon of millions and his reputation, even after death, was still growing. Today he is still mentioned daily by friend and foe alike with the utmost of respect. In spite of his obvious mistakes, which include the abortive Court Re-organization Plan and the internment of Japanese citizens during the early days of World War II, he is recognized as the embodiment of the modern Presidency. Douglas MacArthur, a mere five years after FDR’s death, came to the real end of his active career in 1950 after his dismissal by President Truman. He enters into a long period of public exile, both self-imposed and a result of the change in values and style. Ironically MacArthur is still a highly revered individual in the Philippines, South Korea and Japan.


In retrospect both men came to the public arena with great promise. Their names, their early achievements, their personal struggles, and their ultimate triumphs reflected their great ability to recover from adversity and persevere. No matter how the whims of history re-write their story their names will still be strongly associated and emblazoned with the success and emergence of America as a great country and a powerful force for democratic change in the world.