General MacArthur confronts President Roosevelt to save the U.S. Army

April 26, 2012

General Douglas MacArthur

At the end of April 1933 MacArthur appeared before the House Military Affairs Committee to oppose a bill that would have placed a large number of regular officers on a forced furlough list…. Patiently MacArthur restated his arguments:

“The foundation of our National Defense system is the Regular Army, and the foundation of the Regular Army is the officer. He is the soul of the system. If you have to cut everything out of the National Defense Act (of 1920) the last element should be the Officer Corps. If you had to discharge every soldier, if you had to do away with everything else, I would still professionally advise you to keep those 12,000 officers. They are the mainspring of the whole mechanism; each one of them would be worth a thousand men at the beginning of a war. They are the only ones who can take this heterogeneous mass and make of it a homogeneous group….”

Pres. F. D. Roosevelt in conference with Gen. D. MacArthur, Adm. Chester Nimitz, Adm. W. D. Leahy, while on tour in Hawaiian Islands.

Nevertheless, the anti-army drive in Congress went steadily forward…

[Gen. MacArthur] immediately asked for an appointment with the President….

The President was obdurate. His conception of his almost unlimited authority became evident as he argued that his Chief of Staff must accept the decisions he had made….

Sharp words were exchanged. MacArthur…. was conscious of the significance of the fight he was making. He could not retreat in his arguments or in his demands. He felt that his country’s safety was at stake, and that if necessary he would sacrifice his own professional career. His sense of duty was clear and undeniable….

General Douglas MacArthur 1945

The tension shortly reached the breaking point. Both men were emotionally exhausted, yet neither would compromise. Finally MacArthur played his last card….

“Mr. President,” he said in effect, “if you pursue this policy, which will lead inevitably to the destruction of the American army, I have no other choice but to oppose you publicly. I shall ask for my immediate relief as Chief of Staff and for retirement from the Army, and I shall take this fight straight to the people.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt seated at desk

It was a violent and unprecedented scene. Roosevelt was beside himself with anger.

MacArthur saluted, turned on his heel and walked out of the room. He was so incensed and wrought up that he was physically ill on the White House lawn.


Frazier Hunt, The Untold Story of Douglas MacArthur (New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1954), pp. 150-152.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no.172



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