Speech on the Firing of MacArthur

Sen. Alexander Wiley (R-WI)

April 17, 1951

. . . A great crisis in American and world politics has arisen. It has been precipitated by the Chief Executive of our country in his firing of a great soldier, statesman, administrator, patriot—Douglas MacArthur…

When Harry Truman sacked this great leader he was not simply re-moving a brigadier general or a captain down the line, he was removing a man who has become the world-wide symbol of America’s fighting greatness, of our strength and courage, a man…who has carved for himself a niche in American history which is virtually unique. He removed a man who was not only the commander of our forces, but those of 52 other nations.

Surely, if the President felt that his differences were so intensely strong with MacArthur and that some decision was necessary, surely a better way could have been found. Further consultation could have taken place between our Chief Executive and the United Nations commander. In-stead, the President chose to take an action whose repercussions are so staggering that we can only barely perceive them now…

…[T]here has been a great deal of bunk and baloney put out by the administration within the last 4 or 5 days in its puny attempt to justify the dismissal action. I want to analyze point by point some of the smears and phony inferences that have been made; some of the innuendoes that have been cast against General MacArthur; some of the misinterpretations that have been made of his position.

Now, first, is it true as administration supporters say, that MacArthur has willfully flouted higher authority? I say “No.”

As has been documented from MacArthur headquarters in Tokyo, the general is firmly convinced that he complied with the letter and spirit of the directives sent to him by Mr. Truman and by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As a soldier, as former Chief of Staff, as a man who has been subject to discipline all his life and who has necessarily imposed discipline, MacArthur knows the necessity for obedience to one’s superiors. He is not a man who lightly dismisses higher authority…

Second, I want to point out that the administration’s supporters would have us erroneously believe that MacArthur was lightly toying with a third world war in Asia. I think that such a charge is absurd. Douglas MacArthur has seen the horrible results of war. He carries the scars of battle on his body. He has seen enough combat to know that war is a bloody, sickening affair. He knows that war, of itself, solves nothing.

Third, the administration’s supporters contend that Douglas MacArthur by urging the bombing of Manchurian bases would bring on a full-scale war with Red China. Well, my friends, according to the latest reports, there are over a half million Red Chinese troops posed for a spring offensive against the some three hundred thousand UN troops. If that is not a full-scale war, what is?[…]

…[T]here are those who contend that MacArthur wants us to fight endlessly on the Asiatic continent. Well, we seem to be fighting endlessly on the Korean Peninsula and, according to geographers, that is still a part of the Asiatic continent.

But let me further point out this, my friends: Earlier this week the question was asked in the Senate, Has General MacArthur ever stated that he wants to land an American army on the Asiatic continent? No supporter of the administration could answer that question by proving that MacArthur ever made any such a recommendation…

But I ask you…what would you do if you were in MacArthur’s shoes and you saw the Red Chinese forces building up for their spring offensive? Would you keep your hands tied behind your back, so to speak, or would you want to send bomber formations up so as to stop the Red offensive before it started?

What I am driving at is this, my friends: Douglas MacArthur with all his years of military background knows that the best time to stop an attack is to hit it before it is in a position to hit you. What’s wrong with that policy? Nothing.

And so, we could go on, answering point by point the smears against MacArthur. The situation boils down to the fact that the American people have faith in Douglas MacArthur, just as they lack faith in the Democratic administration. On the other hand, the administration lacks faith in Douglas MacArthur just as it lacks faith in the American people.

It is quite clear that the Democratic Party has been handling this MacArthur situation with the November 1952 election in mind. I say that it is up to the Republican Party to realize that to a tremendous extent the 1952 decision is at stake in how the MacArthur situation is handled. But I want to make myself perfectly clear.

I don’t feel that we can become so exclusively absorbed in partisan politics and angles that we forget that infinitely more important than the welfare of our party is the welfare of our country. In this instance it is my firm judgment that a victory for the Republican Party in November 1952 is imperatively necessary for the future peace, prosperity, and freedom of America.

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