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Firing the General
Harry Truman Tells How He'd Had Enough of MacArthur
by Merle Miller
No episode during the administration of President Harry Truman caused a greater uproar than his firing of General Douglas MacArthur. World War II hero, a dominant figure in the remaking of Japanese society after the war, and never a man to shirk in cultivating his own personality, MacArthur had been named to command United Nations (and U.S.) troops in Korea at the onset of that war in 1950. But there was continuing friction between his military aims and the administration’s policy of avoiding a larger war. MacArthur sought to go beyond the restoration of South Korea’s borders by moving across the Yalu River to invade the People’s Republic of China and punish the Chinese Communists who were aiding the North with significant troop strength. There was much talk of the general being handcuffed by the politicians and of unleashing Chiang-kai Shek’s Nationalist Chinese armies. When MacArthur began to state publicly his complaints and tactical preferences, Truman’s patience wore thin and finally ran out. In this excerpt from Merle Miller’s Plain Speaking, in which he conducted extensive interviews with the always candid former president, Truman explains what happened.
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