MacArthur, Douglas (1880–1964), a United States army officer. MacArthur was one of the outstanding military leaders in American history. He was also one of its most controversial and colorful military figures. His active career spanned nearly a half-century and included service in World Wars I and II and the Korean War. MacArthur was a brilliant strategist, a charismatic commander, a skilled administrator, and an eloquent orator. He was inclined to act independently and was convinced that his judgment was superior to that of others; these traits eventually led to conflict with President Harry S. Truman and to MacArthur's removal from command and forced retirement.
MacArthur was born at Fort Dodge, an army post in Little Rock, Arkansas. His father, Arthur MacArthur, was a distinguished army officer. Young MacArthur grew up in frontier posts and entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1899. His scholastic average at graduation in 1903 was the third highest in the Academy's history. MacArthur joined the Corps of Engineers and had his first tour of duty in the Philippine Islands. He was aide-de-camp to President Theodore Roosevelt, 1906–07. In 1914, as a captain, he served in the expeditionary forces in Veracruz, Mexico.
During World War I, MacArthur helped to form the 42nd Division, nicknaming it the “Rainbow Division.” He became its chief of staff and was promoted to colonel. MacArthur later commanded the 84th Infantry Brigade. In November, 1918, he was named commander of the 42nd, with the temporary rank of brigadier general, becoming the youngest divisional commander in the army. His wartime service included the St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and Sedan offensives. He was decorated 13 times.
As superintendent of West Point, 1919–22, MacArthur broadened and modernized the curriculum. After two additional tours of duty in the Philippines, he served as army chief of staff with the rank of full general, 1930–35. In 1932 he directed the removal of jobless army veterans (the so-called bonus marchers) encamped in Washington, D.C., an action that received widespread public criticism.
MacArthur became military adviser to the new Philippine Commonwealth in 1935 and was made a field marshal of the Commonwealth the following year. In 1937, when orders called for his return to the States, he retired from the U.S. Army so that he could continue to direct the national defense of the Philippines. In 1941, as war with Japan threatened, he was recalled to active duty as commander of U.S. Army forces in the Far East, and the Filipino army was federalized and put under his command.