On this day…

… in 1951, President Harry Truman fired General MacArthur for insubordination. The NYT of the day reported the decision thus:

Washington, Wednesday, April 11 – President Truman early today relieved General of the Army Douglas MacArthur of all his commands in the Far East and appointed Lieut. Gen. Mathew B. Ridgway as his successor.

The President said he had relieved General MacArthur “with deep regret” because he had concluded that the Far Eastern commander “is unable to give his wholehearted support to the policies of the United States Government and of the United Nations in matters pertaining to his official duties.”

General MacArthur, in a message to House Minority Leader Joseph W. Martin Jr. Of Massachusetts, made public by Mr. Martin last Thursday, had publicly challenged the President’s foreign policy, urging that the United States concentrate on Asia instead of Europe and use Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s Formosa-based troops to open a second front on the mainland of China.

The change in command is effective at once. General Ridgway, who has been in command of the Eighth Army in Korea since the death in December of Gen. Walton H. Walker, assumes all of General MacArthur’s titles – Supreme Commander, United Nations Forces in Korea, Supreme Commander for Allied Powers, Japan, Commander-in-Chief, Far East, and Commanding General U.S. Army, Far East.

I’ve always admired Truman. He’s been unfairly under-estimated, mainly because he stepped into FDR’s shoes and forever lingered in his shadow. He’s also the author of one of my favourite sayings: “It’s remarkable how much you can accomplish in life so long as you don’t care who gets the credit”.

David McCullough wrote a terrific biography of him.

When you read the background stuff about MacArthur’s behaviour, it’s obvious that the decision had to be made. But MacArthur was a very big figure in his time, and something of a popular hero in the US. What’s striking about Truman was his ability to make very tough decisions. Gordon Brown is the exact opposite.