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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 barracks 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-by. "
(U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., April 19, 1951)
Douglas MacArthur, the hero of the war against Japan, was commander of all U.N. forces in Korea. After the Chinese intervened in the war, the Allies were forced into a serious retreat. MacArthur pressed for permission to bomb Chinese bridges and bases across the border. President Truman, fearing the Cold War implications of an expanded war in the Far East, refused.
MacArthur took his displeasure at this decision to the press. He made the dispute very public and highly confrontational.
On April 11, President Truman fired him.
Whether MacArthur's strategy was correct or not, the issue here was civilian power over the military. The American system has vested power in the President of the United States on the assumption that he can see a broader perspective than just winning the war. And a watchful eye on the world reveals the dangers of allowing the military to rule.
Yet, MacArthur was a man of mythic proportions. He received a hero's welcome upon his return. On April 9, he announced the end of his military career before a joint session of Congress. After unsuccessfully running for the Republican nomination in 1952, MacArthur did, in fact, fade from public view.