BIO Classroom

BIO Classroom

Bio of the Month Douglas MacArthur


Douglas MacArthur is perhaps the most famous American military leader of the modern era. His brazen style and unmistakable swagger led him to become the face of the American military during the war-torn 1940s and 50s. Born on a base in Arkansas to a distinguished American General, MacArthur grew up in a military family and eventually graduated at the top of his class at West Point. From commanding troops in the Philippines to his promotion to Supreme Allied Commander of South West Pacific forces, MacArthur held great responsibility throughout his career. Known for his audacious military tactics and Jimmy Stewart-like charm, MacArthur would never shy away from a battle or political arena. Yet despite his many talents, he faced much political turmoil in his rise through the ranks, which ultimately led to his termination by President Truman in 1951.
Douglas MacArthur brings valuable insight into the story of man who is still considered one of the great military figures of the 20th century. Using archival footage from WWII and the Korean War, A&E explains the crucial impact MacArthur had in the Pacific and explores the ramifications of his leadership style. The program provides insides into MacArthur's unique style, and the complexity of viewpoints about his leadership throughout two crucial wars. This documentary offers excellent background information on World War II and the Korean War, the causes and consequences of these conflicts, and to discuss how and why MacArthur became one of the most significant leaders of this era.


Douglas MacArthur would be useful for middle school and high school classes on United States History, Global History, Political Science, and Civics. It is appropriate for high school students. This program fulfills the following standards set forth by the National Council for History Education: (1) Civilization, cultural diffusion and innovation, (2) Values, beliefs, political ideas and institutions, (3) Conflict and cooperation, (4) Comparative history of major developments, and (5) Patterns of social and political interaction.


Using a dictionary ( or an encyclopedia, students may want to define or explain the significance of the following terms from this program:
  • Communism
  • Elusive
  • Enigmatic
  • Fascism
  • Feat
  • Gregarious
  • Nepotism
  • Overt
  • Recalcitrant
  • Stalwart


DID YOU KNOW that the Congressional Medal of Honor was created in 1861? More than 3,400 of America's bravest Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have received the nation's highest military honor.
WERE YOU AWARE that MacArthur was on board the U.S.S. Missouri on September 2, 1945 to witness the official Japanese surrender?
IT IS TRUE that 51,983 American military personnel died on the Pacific front during WWII.


  1. Why is MacArthur's lineage important to understanding his career path and personality?
  2. Why do you think Macarthur is often considered America's most famous general?
  3. Presidents Roosevelt and Truman both held strong opinions of General MacArthur. How did their opinions differ? How did MacArthur's responsibilities and military influence change from the Roosevelt Administration to the Truman administration?
  4. How did MacArthur fare at West Point? Why do you think his training at West Point was important for his career?
  5. How did MacArthur conduct himself in his military engagements during WWI? Where do you think he found his success? Why did his soldiers so respect his courage?
  6. How did MacArthur change the face of West Point after WWI?
  7. When did would-be General and President, Dwight Eisenhower, work for MacArthur? Briefly explain their relationship.
  8. When did Japanese forces land in the Philippines? What was MacArthur's response?
  9. What was MacArthur's role in governing Japan after WWII? What changes did he make and how were they received, both in the United States and Japan?
  10. What was MacArthur's role in the Korean War? How did the war eventually bring the end of MacArthur's career?
  11. How would you describe MacArthur's legacy? Do you think he deserves admiration? What adjectives would you use to describe him?


Primary Source Analysis
General MacArthur gave his famous 1951 farewell speech to a joint-session of Congress after the termination of his command in Korea by President Truman. The following link provides the speech's text: As a class, read and analyze the speech's significance in light of MacArthur's storied military, yet politically divisive career. Be sure to discuss at least some of the following topics after reading the speech: MacArthur's termination, the Korean War, the relationship between a civilian president and his military advisors, military tradition, and the politics of war.
What Makes A Leader?
After watching this documentary in its entirety or in clip form, have a class discussion about MacArthur's leadership style. On the class blackboard or in small groups, make a list of adjectives to describe General MacArthur. Then, discuss and debate his leadership style and the factors that made MacArthur a powerful leader. What were the pros and cons of his style? How did opinions of MacArthur differ based on the perspectives of those who encountered him? For example, how was he regarded in Japan? After this discussion, write an epitaph for MacArthur which encapsulates your view of his leadership style and legacy.
Compare and Contrast: 3 Famous American Generals
3 figures stand out in 20th century United States military history: General Douglas MacArthur, General Dwight Eisenhower, and General George Patton. Research the three men using search engines like and books at the library. Write a well- 3-5 page paper comparing and contrasting their personalities, their view of American policy and / or their military impact on the world. Be sure to include a thesis and sound evidence to support it.
Many Views of MacArthur
This documentary presents a complex perspective on the life and career of General MacArthur. His powerful leadership style and dominating personality were key factors in his success, but many would argue that his style also contributed to the early ending of his military career. How do you think MacArthur should be remembered, and why? For this activity, write a short obituary, opinion piece, or letter to the editor summing up the life and legacy of Douglas MacArthur. You can include your own views of MacArthur, but be sure to back up your arguments with facts or examples from his life.



National WWII Museum:
Douglas MacArthur Memorial:
FDR President Library:
Korean War National Museum:
President Truman's Library on Wake Island Meeting with MacArthur:


Brady, James. The Coldest War: A Memoir of Korea. (St. Martin's Griffin, 2000)
Lipsky, David. Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point. (Vintage, 2004)
Manchester, William. American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964. (Dell, 1983)
Miller, Francis Trevelyn. General Douglas MacArthur - Fighter for Freedom. (Gleed Press, 2007)
Perret, Geoffrey. Old Soldiers Never Die: The Life of Douglas MacArthur. (Adams Media Corporation, 1997)