Gen. Douglas MacArthur was relieved of all his commands today while he was fighting his third war as an American soldier.
President Truman fired the nation's senior five-star general because MacArthur was "unable to give his whole-hearted support to the policies of the United States government and of the United Nations in matters pertaining to his official duties."
MacArthur received the news while at lunch in the American embassy at Tokyo. It came to him in the form of a terse, four-paragraph message captioned: "Order to General MacArthur From the President." As soon as MacArthur read it he automatically was stripped of the following titles:
"Supreme commander, Allied powers; commander in chief, United Nations command; commander in chief, Far East, and commanding general, U. S. army, Far East.
Mr. Truman's order was effective "at once."
Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, commander of the U. S. Eighth army in Korea and MacArthur's personal choice to succeed the late Gen. Walton H. Walker, assumed all the titles by direction of Defense Secretary George C Marshall.
Something apparently happened in the last 24 hours to cause Mr. Truman to take action at the unusual hour he did. A White House press conference was called at 1 a.m. today. The news was released and it broke like a bomb shell all around the world.
United Nations delegates in New York said they had received no advance warning. MacArthur's staff In Tokyo was stunned. Lt. Gen. James A. Van Fleet, named to succeed Ridgway as U. S. Eighth army commander, was not even in Washington. He was in Florida and was ordered to depart for the capital immediately en route to the Korean battlefield.
Reporters in Tokyo rushed to the U. S. embassy and sought MacArthur's reaction.
"Not now, not now," he said. Two hours after MacArthur was relieved of his command he left the embassy to drive to his office in the Dai Ichl building. A cold rain was falling and the general's car moved silently away from the crowd gathered outside the embassy. Fifteen minutes later MacArthur's military secretary, Maj. Gen. Courtney Whitney, called in reporters.
"I have just left the general," he said. "He received the word of the president's dismissal from command magnificently. He never turned a hair. His soldierly qualities were never more pronounced. I think this was his finest hour."
The capital reeled with surprise and political shock as word spread by telephone and word of mouth that MacArthur had been fired.
Congressional reaction largely was partisan. Many republicans called immediately for MacArthur's instant return to this country and a congressional inquiry.
But Senator James H. Duff, (R.-Pa.) backed Mr. Truman.
"It is regrettable that this had to take place," Duff said. "But if this is the only way to get unity, then it had to be done. Lack of unity was detrimental to our country. It was an impossible situation and had to be resolved."
Senator Robert A. Taft, (R.-Ohio): "It is a terrible tragedy. It is the result of an obstinate course of action by the state department and White House."
Senator Homer Ferguson, (R.-Mich-): "At a time of grave peril to our country, it is hard to believe that men of responsibility would put personal feelings before the security of our nation."
Senator Robert S. Kerr, (D.-Okla.): "In order to insure victory our military leaders must work as a team. When MacArthur got there he wouldn't do that."
Representative Overton Brooks, (D.-La.), second ranking majority member of the house armed services committee: "A man in service has got to be a soldier; be able to take orders as well as give them."
Representative Brooks Hays, (D.-Ark.): "The thing to do Is stand behind Ridgway so this action will not harm us in Korea. But the action in no way affects my individual judgment of Mac-Arthur's greatness as a general."
Ridgway has been little heard from since he took over command of the Eighth army in Korea last year. But he is known to believe the Korean war is in stalemate as things now stand. Two days ago, Ridgway said:
"I see no end to military operations unless there is a political settlement."
MacArthur can go any place he wants now and at any time. Mr. Truman authorized him to have issued "such orders as are necessary to complete desired travel to such place as you may select." It generally was assumed he would return to the United States. He has not been on American soil since 1937. There were unconfirmed reports he would resign from the U.S. army.
Today's events brought an end to a career almost unparalleled in American military history. MacArthur was a brilliant divisional commander in World War I; youngest army chief of staff in American history; architect of victory over Japan in World War II; chief of the Allied occupation of Japan, and first supreme commander ever named by the United Nations. His troops in Korea were over the 38th parallel and on the offensive when the news crackled across the air from Washington that he was through.
First reaction to the firing of MacArthur was summed up by two United States senators.
Speaking for MacArthur's supporters, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, (R.-Wis.) said: "This is perhaps the greatest victory the communists have ever won." Senator Robert S. Kerr, (D.-Okla.), who has been critical of MacArthur, said: "In order to insure victory our military leaders must work as a team."
Mr. Truman's action apparently was a surprise to everybody in London except possibly the highest-level officials. The British, who have been urging a negotiated peace in Korea, have felt that MacArthur was jeopardizing chances for it by his political utterances. They have been making informal protests to Washington for some time.
The White House made public a series of messages that have passed between theJoint chiefs of staff in Washington and Mac-Arthur. They revealed part of the inside story of what has been going on for months In the argument over how to conduct the Korean war.
President Truman tried to silence MacArthur on diplomatic; matt on Dec 6 of last year. But be did it in a nice way. He sent out a general order to American military commanders and civilian officials around the world and did not single out Mac-Arthur. It said: "In the light of the present critical international situation, and until further written notice from me, I wish that each one of you would take immediate steps to reduce the number of public speeches pertaining to foreign or military policy made by officials of the departments and agencies of the executive branch. This applies to officials in the field as well as in Washington. No speech, press release, or other public statement concerning foreign policy should be released until it has received clearance from the department of state."
On March 25, Far Eastern time, MacArthur issued a statement which Washington apparently believed violated the president's directive.
He made a trip to Korea and issued a statement on how the war was going. Then he offered to meet the communist military commander in a battlefield conference to try to settle the war.
The joint chiefs of staff cracked down on him the same day. This time there wasn't any doubt about whom they were talking. The message, addressed, "Personal for MacArthur," read:
"The president has directed that your attention be called to his order as transmitted 6 December, 1950. In view of the information given you 20 March, 1951. any further statements by you must be co-ordinated as prescribed in the order of 6 December. The president also has directed that in the event communist military leaders request an armistice in the field, you Immediately report that fact to the joint chiefs of staff for instructions."
On April 5 the Congressional Record carried a letter which MacArthur had written on March 20 to House Republican Leader Joseph Martin. MacArthur called for a second front in the Korean war an invasion of the Chinese mainland by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist, garrison troops on Formosa.
The clamor among MacArthur's opponents, particularly the British and the French, rose to a new high. Protests were made in Washington on the grounds that MacArthur was making inflammatory statements that jeopardized the chances for a negotiated peace.
The impact of MacArthur's dismissal was heavy in Japan. The Korean war had pushed into the background the fact that Mae-Arthur virtually had been running Japan since the day he accepted the Japanese surrender on the deck of the battleship Missouri, Sept. 2, 1945.