General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), one of the most powerful military officers in modern American history, was the Allied Commander of the Southwest Pacific Theater during World War II and the Commander in Chief of the Far East (CINCFE) in the postwar period. He accepted the Japanese surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in September 1945, then acted as supreme commander over the occupation of Japan. He commanded all American forces in the Korean War until being relieved of his command by President Harry Truman in April 1951.
MacArthur was born into a military family, with generations of male ancestors who had once fought Indians in the American West. He attended West Point and became the youngest divisional commander in France during World War I. He went on to become Chief of Staff of the US Army from 1930-35. He commanded American forces in the Philippines during World War II.
In Korea, MacArthur organized a brilliant amphibious attack behind enemy lines at Inchon, nearly allowing the United States to win the war in the fall of 1950. However, MacArthur badly underestimated the threat of Chinese intervention, and was caught completely off-guard by the Chinese advance of November 1950. His forces thrown into retreat, MacArthur demanded a massive retaliation—possibly involving nuclear weapons—against China itself. President Truman denied his request, fearing such an escalation would lead to World War III. The two stubborn leaders became enmeshed in a nasty public dispute over American policy, leading to Truman's decision to relieve the general of his command on grounds of insubordination. MacArthur received a hero's welcome in cities from San Francisco to New York after he was discharged in April 1951, but subsequent Senate hearings over his dismissal largely discredited him in the public eye, and he faded from public prominence after an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1952.