Plans to Drop Atomic Bombs Would Have Caused WWIII

The fame of Douglas MacArthur saturates American history. As a graduate of the United States Military Academy his exploits have filled numerous books. His rise to power came through his brilliant and sometimes flamboyant victories in the brutal war in the Philippines during WWII. He had retired from active service in December, 1937, but was recalled to active duty as a Lt. General and named Commander of the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East in July, 1941.



In 1947 he was designated Commander in Chief Far East Command. Upon the North Korean invasion of South Korea he was designated Commander, UN Command in the Far East, July, 1950. He had arrived in Japan in 1945 and operated out of the top floor of the Dai Ichi building where he ruled the reconstruction of bombed out Japan.

The Japanese crowds lined the streets to get a glimpse of him as he arrived at his office. Showing great humility, they were in awe of him since he arrived in 1945 as Viceroy. The Japanese press loved him, and life was good. He liked the preferential treatment and God like respect he received. It was inconceivable that another war was about to start in Korea, of all places. There had been skirmishes along the 38th parallel. MacArthur once again miscalculated the capability of another countries military.The Korean peninsula was divided, with a Russian -Allied communist government in the North, and a pro-Western government in the South. On June 24, 1950, the South was viciously attacked as North Korean armies swarmed across the dividing line. General MacArthur, in charge of the Allied occupation of Japan, assumed command of the United Nations troops


MacArthur, who had done as he pleased his whole life, began talking of "marching to the Yalu". He did not yet know he was in a war he would not be allowed to win. He felt he had the freedom to do what he wanted. The first dark clouds were beginning to appear on the horizon. Would anyone dare challenge MacArthur's judgment ? Truman reminded him that operations North of the 38th had to be authorized by the U.S. MacArthur, used to ruling in Japan with an iron hand, made policy statements without first clearing them with his superiors. In spite of his Inchon success he was not infallible. He had been warned by Truman many times, and now received notification that he was to obtain authorization from Washington prior to taking any military action against objectives in Chinese territory. MacArthur's military plan was to proceed with all deliberate speed in advancing to the Yalu. He did not believe that the Chinese would intervene and would remain on their side of the Yalu. He had no knowledge that the Chinese decision to intervene had already been made by Mao, who was pressuring Russia to upgrade nine divisions to counter the U.S. hardware. Again MacArthur was warned not to provoke the Chinese, as it could draw not only China but Russia into a third World War. There were repeated warnings that the Chinese were already preparing to cross the Yalu and attack the U.S. forces. MacArthur in his usual pompous attitude anticipated immediate victory after his success at Inchon. Truman scheduled a showdown meeting with MacArthur on Wake Island. MacArthur was extremely displeased over the proposed meeting, which went on exactly as predicted. Truman expressed his growing concern over Chinese intervention, being careful not to anger the explosive MacArthur. It was here that MacArthur made his biggest mistake. He announced that the war "would be terminated by Thanksgiving - they are thoroughly whipped. The winter will destroy those that we don't --- In North Korea, unfortunately, the government is pursuing a forlorn hope. It has no possibility of success". What an arrogant and unfortunate statement. He ranted on further, declaring that the North Koreans were poorly trained, led, and organized. He reiterated that "it will be over by Thanksgiving". He said " the Chinese have no air umbrella. There would be the greatest slaughter if China tried to put ground troops across the Yalu. They would be destroyed". Little did he know that even as he spoke tens of thousands of Chinese were swarming across the Yalu. MacArthur's prediction was that any intervention would be pounded into a "rabble", and that the Russian air force would not be a match against ours. With the conference nearing an end, MacArthur continued his tirade of "complete annihilation of any troops who dared to intervene". Truman and MacArthur parted with kind remarks to each other and how successful the meeting had been. He would soon have to eat his eloquent words.

American troops after capturing the North Korean Capitol of Pyongyang were looking forward to the promised withdrawal to Japan and leave the cleanup to the South Koreans. MacArthur believed the North Korean military had fled into Manchuria. How wrong he was. Four infantry armies, three artillery divisions and an anti - aircraft regiment, 260,000 men, crossed the Yalu into North Korea. When asked for his evaluation of the military escalation, MacArthur downplayed the involvement. He became involved in a controversy with General Stratemeyer over B-29 bombing of Yalu bridges. He was again urging escalation. Tensions and tempers were rising over the proposed handling of the Chinese situation.

General Douglas MacArthur Photo inscribed to Adm. Nimitz - ctsy. Army Archives.


In spite of the Chinese intervention our troops were still thinking about being "home by Christmas". MacArthur wanted to give an ultimatum to China which would have provoked Russia. He wanted to bomb Manchuria. His aggressive plans were upsetting both the British and U.S. Governments who feared WWIII if MacArthur was allowed to proceed. His misjudgments had a potential for catastrophe. His document for victory brought an accusation of "an insane plan". MacArthur announced that "tell the troops that when we get to the Yalu River they can all go home. You will be home by Christmas". MacArthur soon had numerous enemies. Matthew Ridgway objected to his plans. The situation in Korea was becoming precarious. Chinese troops were surrounding and overpowering many of our marine units, especially around the Chosen Reservoir. Weather at 20 below was taking it's toll. Soon the Eighth Army was in full retreat with a real catastrophe in the making. Most of MacArthur's requests were rejected outright as being unwise. Truman expressing his concern said "I should have relieved General MacArthur then and there". MacArthur sat in the Dai Ichi building, sizing up his "entirely new war".


With the on-coming defeat a distinct possibility, talk of using the Atomic Bomb was making the rounds. Hoyt Vandenberg, speaking for the Air Force, suggested they were prepared to use it. MacArthur suggested a plan to use numerous bombs. The U.S. had a stockpile of nearly 300 air-burst bombs. Only President Truman could order them used. MacArthur insisted on bombing the Yalu power plants with multiple strikes by B-29s. Suggestions came from all services and every General offered his own plan. Headlines in all the papers gave the impression that MacArthur had already received the go-ahead after Truman said the U.S. was considering use of the Atomic weapon in connection with the war in Korea. The world watched and held it's breath following the media frenzy. A state of affairs was rapidly going from bad to disastrous. In a conference in the war room Vandenberg dismissed the idea of sending MacArthur further orders. "What good would it do? He won't obey the orders." Ridgeway exploded. "You can relieve any commander who won't obey orders, can't you?" Thus the idea of relieving MacArthur was on the table. MacArthur requested that the Pentagon grant him a field commander's discretion to employ nuclear weapons as necessary. He wanted them stockpiled in Okinawa. He explained he would drop between 30 and 50 atomic bombs- strung across the neck of Manchuria, and spread behind us, from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea-a belt of radioactive cobalt-for at least 60 years there would be no land invasion of Korea from the North. The Russians, he claimed, would be intimidated by this and do nothing. He continued to seek authority to deploy the bomb.

With all American forces in full retreat , some of the military decisions made by MacArthur were accused of accelerating the crisis. American losses, particularly marines, reached the unacceptable range. The U.S. retreat was humiliating. The conversation now turned to total evacuation of our forces. General Ridgway assumed more and more responsibility in decision making. The U.S., during a lull in the fighting, announced that negotiations might be possible with both sides separated by the 38th parallel. As usual MacArthur rejected the idea of a negotiated settlement. He continued to irritate Ridgway, however so far Ridgway had kept it to himself. MacArthur continued to make statements that were contrary to not only Ridgway but to the official position of Washington, and specifically Truman. The arrogant MacArthur had derailed the U.S. initiative with his "routine communiqué", which was actually a dare for China to continue the war. The Pentagon received his message, which infuriated many high ranking officials. Acheson said that MacArthur had "shot his mouth off" for the last time. The next morning Truman awakened to the news of MacArthur's "sabotage". At that moment he could no longer tolerate his insubordination. Truman had considered firing MacArthur many times previous to this, but this was the last straw. Actually the order of Dec. 6 which MacArthur had disobeyed was explicit enough to warrant court-martial proceedings. MacArthur's statements were causing consternation in Washington as was his insulting personal letter to Ridgway. His advice letter to the House of Representatives again infuriated everyone. The British Government called the letter the "most dangerous" of an "apparently unending series of indiscretions". They claimed it was another irresponsible statement without the authorization of the U.S. or any U.N. member government. The Foreign Secretary complained that MacArthur wanted a war with China, and his leadership could no longer be tolerated. On Apr. 6 a meeting was held with Truman to determine how to get rid of MacArthur. Truman insisted "I'm going to fire the son of a bitch right now". MacArthur was ordered to turnover his command at once to Lt. General Ridgway. General Bradley warned Truman that if MacArthur heard about the orders before they reached him officially he might resign with an arrogant flair. Truman exclaimed "The son of a bitch isn't going to resign on me, I want him fired". MacArthur's dismissal was announced on late night radio:
"With deep regret I have concluded that General of the Army Douglas MacArthur is unable to give his wholehearted support to the policies of the U.S. Government and of the U.N. in matters pertaining to his official duties. In view of the specific responsibilities imposed upon me by the Constitution of the U.S. and the added responsibilities entrusted to me by the U.N. I have decided that I must make a change in command in the Far East. I have, therefore, relieved General MacArthur of his command and have designated Lt. Gen. Matthew Ridgway as his successor". MacArthur accepted the unsurprising news impassively. He said that he had never disobeyed orders, and that his dismissal was a plot in Washington to weaken the American position in the Far East.

On April 16, in Tokyo, thousands of Japanese gathered along the route to Haneda Airport from where MacArthur would depart. He had helped their country out of confusion and poverty, everywhere he moved he was applauded, many of the thousands were crying. He received a cannon salute, and a flyover by 18 jet fighters and 4 B-29s. As the army band played Auld Lang Syne, General MacArthur boarded the Constellation and waved his final goodby to the tearful crowd.

Back in the U.S. the public thought the dismissal was demeaning, even insulting. 69% sympathized with MacArthur. Truman was burned in effigy. Everyone wondered how such an event could have happened, and felt the U.S. had suffered a great loss of a man who had devoted his entire life to defending his country.

MacArthur received a huge parade with tens of thousands cheering admirers and tons of confetti. He graciously accepted the admiration. On April 19, 1951, he gave his now famous "Farewell Address" to Congress. He closed his nostalgic and eloquent speech with the following:

I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that "old soldiers never die: they just fade away."

And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty.

Good Bye.


MacArthur lost his most important battle, and died in Washington, D.C. on 5 April 1964. His body was flown to Norfolk, Va. Here at the Naval Air Station, began the last solemn ceremonial tribute. From this point, the body was taken to the heart of Norfolk, placed on a caisson and drawn slowly to the downtown Memorial. A crowd of more than 150,000 silently watched the cortege pass and in the remaining hours before the funeral, more than 60,000 filed past his bier. Mourners from many nations paid their respect. It was Saturday, April 11, 1964, and the flag was removed from his casket. The General was laid to rest in one of the two sunken crypts in the rotunda. There he sleeps amidst all his glory, surrounded by all his medals, books, flags, personal souvenirs and effects. There are few indeed who have served their country so well. Duty - Honor - Country. His wife, Jean Marie Faircloth, died in N.Y. City on Jan. 22, 2000, at the age of 101.



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