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To the wrestlings with the Academic Board, the demands of the reservation and the lagging restoration of the Corps of Cadets, were added distinguished visitors. They swooped in at the most unlikely and inconvenient moments to sprag the wheels of learning and Post operation. It seems every prominent person of the Allies wanted to see America after our first war venture into European affairs. When they arrived in Washington, the easiest way to entertain them was to get rid of them — to let them see the permanent show of flourish, trumpets and bedizened cadets.
My continually ringing phone spoke up one morning after I had entered the office fairly early. It was probably somebody wanting to know if there would be a parade that evening, or an officer wanting a leave.
The voice said, "I'm Colonel Reed. I'm temporary Aide to the King of Belgium. He and the Crown Prince will land in one‑half hour by hydroplane just off your South Dock. The Chief of Staff expects you to show them the proper honors."
"In thirty minutes!" I grasped.
"In thirty minutes."
I clamped the phone back fast. It was the first time for a reigning sovereign to visit West Point, and there was less than a half-hour to prepare the proper reception and honors. The cadets were in classes, the Army detachments scattered on various duties, and where was a boat to bring the King ashore? This wasn't Annapolis.
I was able to put a few wheels in motion before I notified MacArthur. "General, the King of Belgium will be here in twenty-five minutes."
I'll never forget his tone.
"The King of the Belges? Well, well, we're getting up in the p66 world." His words were as carefree and unmoved as if he were discussing an editorial in the morning paper. "Go ahead, Chief, do what you can to welcome him. We can do just so much in a limited time. Don't worry!"
He sounded more concerned over the pressure on me than over the entrance of a King.
Mr. Boyle and I hurried with the preparations. Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed, and no General. Mr. Boyle's face drew into lines. "Would be kind of sad if the Superintendent didn't get here in time."
It was less than ten minutes before we were due at the dock when MacArthur sauntered in, tapping his crop indifferently against his leggings, and watching silently my frenzy in running from phone to phone making certain that the Cavalry Guard of Honor was at the dock, the band turned out and the cadets lined up on the walks before barracks to present arms to the royal party. His head followed my movements, but his mouth didn't. He didn't hang around me anxiously asking if I'd done this or overlooked that. He didn't ask anybody about anything, but stood there eying the goings on in amused relaxation.
When I had done all I could and picked up my cap, he asked gaily, "Are we off?"
On the stairway he said, "Before we get to the dock you can fill me in on the protocol."
In the car he said, "This King of Belgium is, I hear, a mountain climber. I think what would entertain him most would be a drive through our majestic hills."
We arrived at the dock in time to see the plane land in the Hudson and the royal party alighting into a launch the Quartermaster had scared up. MacArthur watched the proceeding nonchalantly, and when the boat came alongside, he reached down, helped King Albert up and gave him a casual pleasantry of welcome.
The King responded with a serious bow, and his calm blue eyes looked over the cavalry platoon drawn up on the road as a guard of honor. He bulked over MacArthur's •six feet, and p67 his whole manner and stature were to me impressively disconcerting. But not so the more slender, boyish-looking Supe. The more he looked up to the King, the more limber and alive he became in explaining the coming procedure as if he'd been brought up with kings and princes. He was as natural as with me in the privacy of his office.
The Prince, a teen‑age copy of his father, dressed in the uniform of a private soldier, with an overseas cap, and accompanied by Belgian officers, followed along as we moved to the waiting cars. After showing them into the second one, I took my place beside the chauffeur of the Supe's car, the King and MacArthur already on the back seat.
While I was indicating the route to be followed, I could hear bits of conversation behind me. In reality, it was more of a dissertation by MacArthur as he described the meaning for the cadets being drawn up at the "present" along the walk, the surrounding buildings and the proposed sight-seeing. So thoroughly did he cover the subjects that I can remember no questions asked by the King.
So it was as the day progressed through the hills, Cadet Barracks and the honors on the Parade Ground. The more MacArthur took charge of the succeeding situations, the more the King was content to recede into negative listening. I had a feeling after a time that anyone not recognizing the different stations of the two would, from manner alone, have mistaken MacArthur for the King. With neither forwardness nor toadying, he seemed unable to suppress his natural commanding manner, which in no way appeared offensive to the King.
After the review given by the Corps, one of the King's suite decorated MacArthur with a high order of Belgium. I watched his face as they were pinning on the medal. It was no more electrified than if he were thanking someone for picking a raveling from his coat. He showed later far more enthusiasm and excitement over an Army touchdown.
When the royal party had left the Post, he undid the medal and I saw him wear it afterward only at supremely stiff ceremonials.
p68 We got more notice of the visit of the Prince of Wales, later Edward the Eighth and Duke of Windsor, who was a young man then of college age.
As soon as the directive for the visit arrived, MacArthur paced and ruminated aloud.
"This Prince, Chief, is a youngster at heart like any other lad. The fact he was born to royalty can't change his natural boyish impulses and desires. He has the same longing for relaxation, freedom and play. He probably has far more, because he's been treated more like an inmate of an institution than a normal boy. As a child he has had to play the part of a mature man. Even our cadets are freer than he. As he has gone about, I daresay he's been physically hauled and mentally mauled by a lot of prudish old men who've counseled and criticized his every act. He's not interested in buildings, grounds and ceremonies. He's overstuffed with them. England can give us cards and spades on all that. And as for reviews and parades, he's so exposed to them every day, and put on exhibition before them, he's been made to feel more like an ornament than a natural being. West Point will be just another vexation and unhappy duty unless we do something to alleviate the exhibition side of his stay. He must not be made to associate the Academy with a boring trial."
He stopped suddenly and turned to me. "Ask Com to come over."
"Com," of course, was Danford, then Lieutenant Colonel and Commandant of Cadets.
"I want you," said the Supe, "to select four of your most engaging, personable cadets. They must be good-looking and well-spoken. I'm going to turn them loose at the proper time with the Prince. I'm going to give him for once in his life the freedom of this garrison, if not the seas. When you've selected them, bring them over so I can tell them directly before you what I have in mind. It will save channels and possible misunderstanding."
When the Com had gone, I asked him, "How, General, are you going to pry the Prince loose from his bodyguard?"
p69 He looked at me, with that up‑his‑sleeve smile, and said, "I'm not even going to try. It will just come to pass."
When the cadets with the Commandant had been ushered in, he said, "You have been selected for duty of high honor and international import. You are going to escort the Prince of Wales around the Post. There will be no one in authority supervising you or controlling your actions. You will be entirely on your own. I want you without delay to write down an itinerary of places in the open air which are constantly of interest to you. I want you to consult among yourselves from your point of view. I am suggesting nothing for your list. What might be interesting to me at my time of life might not be interesting to you or the Prince. I do suggest, however, that you not be overawed on the one hand or overfamiliar on the other. Be your natural, gentlemanly selves.
"Follow the Prince's lead. If he becomes unbending and jolly, you become unbending and jolly. If he assumes an offish air, you be courteously dignified. But from all I hear, he will be anything but withdrawn and will welcome a chance to be unhampered with men of his own age. I know you will give good accounts of yourselves on this critical, yet enjoyable, mission."
The four cadets, well chosen and impressive, saluted with beams of excited anticipation.
It was a brisk, bright November morning when the Supe and his staff waited at the foot of the hill for the royal party to come across the river from Garrison. It was both a novelty and uncertainty as to just what we were to do. There was no guiding etiquette for greeting a prince landing from a dinky ferry; and with no Emily Post to guide us, the procedure had to be improvised.
To MacArthur, in no wise a creature of rote or routine, there was no problem — or, should I say, every problem was an exciting adventure. As ever, relaxed, he chatted cheerfully with the rest of us about everything but the Prince until the boat was about to enter the slip. With a mischievous smile, he told me to go ahead and act as something between a forerunner p70 and boarding officer, and make the first salaams.
As the ferry stopped bumping against the piles and the chains jangled to the deck, I hopped aboard with the heart palpitation of facing an enemy singlehanded. I was not calmed as I approached a young man with a distressed face and garb of a high-ranking British officer. He wore a billowy overcoat with flaring, Napoleonic lapels and stood stolidly before gold-braided members of his suite.
Something cautioned me that it would be unseemly to rush up, salute, stick out my palm hickwise and wait for it to be pumped. So I made a deep bow, and was in the midst of uttering stilted words of welcome, when the Prince's expression changed to softness, his hand reached out like any American's on Main Street, and gave mine a manly squeeze.
It was easy to lead him ashore to the Supe and get off my silently rehearsed speech. "Your Highness, let me present the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, General Douglas MacArthur."
I hadn't finished before their hands were locked and the Supe was speaking in his gay freedom as if he were meeting and greeting an old friend. In the same unaffected way, he welcomed the members of the suite. His easy informality melted any ice which might have remained to cool the atmosphere. We all fell to talking as he led the Prince to his waiting car.
Then began the rounds of inspection and ceremony from the rooms in barracks to a review by the Corps on the Plain. MacArthur had the Com give an explanation of the training of the cadets as the Corps stood at ease on the Parade Ground. Except for that interlude, the Prince looked like a boy slicked up for church when he wanted to go fishing. Tagging along behind, I watched his half-smile at the dock degenerate into boredom.
It wasn't relieved when MacArthur, instead of entertaining the Prince and his suite in the Officers' Club, had us all eat the same fare with the cadets in the Mess Hall. After the meal the Prince, with shaky hand and shakier voice, read a little speech p71 of appreciation. He had no sooner finished than the entire cadet battalion jumped to a standing position at the tables and gave, instead of a short Corps yell, a deafening long Corps yell with three "Prince of Wales!" on the end.
Being only a table length away, I had an excellent view of his face. At the last boom of the yell, he lost his screwed‑up look and beamed with delight.
As the cadets poured out of the Hall and fell into ranks, the four selected ones were unnoticed in the noise and movement as they waited on the Prince. Somehow, he and they disappeared also. I caught a glimpse of his grinning face as he was engulfed by his escorts.
When asked by some of his entourage where he had gone, MacArthur assured them he was in good hands and would be fully protected by the Military Police.
When the Prince returned with the cadets, the five of them were giggling and bantering each other as if they'd been brought up together. The Prince thanked MacArthur with overflowing words and a broad smile of relaxed informality.
A week after the royal party had left the Reservation, MacArthur received a letter of enthusiastic gratitude, devoid of British understatement. I've always attributed the warmth of the words to the keen perception of MacArthur in providing that surcease for a harried boy.
All the Supe said was, "It won't hurt international relations."
Royalty was but one type of interruption. Sudden sallies of statesmen, generals and delegations from home and abroad kept surging in to sprag the wheels of a forward-moving Academy. Although MacArthur realized the dire effect of these delays on his coveted reforms, he offered no complaint and showed no ill‑nature. He kept his smile of sportsmanship and gave me to believe he was glad to make these obstacles work for the good of the Academy. Nor did he evidence negative resignation to the will of higher authority or meek submission to the workings of a cruel fate. When I notified him of a coming onslaught, his whole being seemed to come alive with the p72 stir of opportunity. His eyes glinted and his face glowed as he explained how we would entertain according to each guest's wants.
Up to that time there had been a set ritual in print at Headquarters. The visitors would be welcomed at the ferry or station by the Supe with his staff, a cavalry escort of honor and a stiff ceremony. The cavalcade would move up the hill to where the guests would be set down to a sort of state meal. There would be a review by the Corps and then a trip around the Post to the same points of interest every other guest had visited.
To MacArthur that sort of dumb routine was detestable and decadent. The lengths to which he would go to personalize a visit can be illustrated by the reception and entertainment of a delegation of cadets from the French Ecole Polytechnique, who arrived to present a large statue to the Academy.
The gift, symbolizing the brotherhood between the two schools, was an almost life-size figure of an ancient cadet with sword raised. Intrinsically and spiritually, it was a noble, heart-warming outpouring by an institution of a nation torn and impoverished by a recent war. It was set up with due ceremony just off the Parade Ground and not far from the venerable statue of Sylvanus Thayer.
Thayer's Note: The statue has since been moved, and is seen here in its current location (2016), in the Cadet Central Area. This photograph is not in the book transcribed here, but was taken independently and released to the public domain.
MacArthur wasn't satisfied with just that.
"Com," he said to Danford beforehand, "I want you to select from our cadets as many who can speak French as there are in this group who came with the statue. Each one of our cadets will attach himself to one of them, stay with him and see that his desires are taken care of. These French cadets must not be allowed for a minute to feel they are strangers in a strange country."
Nor was he satisfied with that gesture.
"Chief," he said to me, "the French seem to have been ahead of us in initiating gifts. Probably no presentation to any nation can surpass our Statue of Liberty, which has become a national and international shrine. Now in delicate forethought and at great expense they have given us this handsome statue, which p73 shall remain as a bond not only between our academies but our nations. We shall, of course, show these lads every hospitality and honor within our power. We shall wind up with the finest dinner possible in the Officers' Club. But the best we can offer will allow them only memories. There will be nothing tangible like the statue to be a constant reminder. And, of course, we haven't the funds to give them something commensurate with their gift."
I don't know whether it was he or I who suggested it, but I found myself on the train to New York and then in the offices of Tiffany's. There, with the aid of sketches which had been given me by the Drawing Department, we were able to work out folders which would be favors at the dinner.
They turned out better than I had hoped. They contained hand-painted scenes of West Point, including the statue, quotations of friendship between the two schools and the name of each foreign cadet embossed on it as his personal favor. Neither did MacArthur scruple at the cost — twenty dollars apiece in 1920;a and, of course, the dinner in the impressive large hall in the Club was practically made climactic by these personal gifts which the guests could take as mementos back to France.
Quite in contrast was another delegation, the Committee of Congress, known as The Board of Visitors. But even with them, MacArthur's over‑all view was consistent.
"Chief," he said during his pacing, "as far as I can ascertain, this visit has heretofore been looked upon both by visited and visitors as a chore, something they had to go through with, and of doubtful accomplishment. As long as these Congressmen were looked upon as a unit like a squad of soldiers, taken here and there by minions of the Supe, regardless of their likes and dislikes, that sort of result was bound to take place. This time we're not going to do that. These lawmakers deserve their individuality just as much as the Prince of Wales. There should exist here on this Post officers from many states. Consult the Congressional Directory. Find out from what states and districts the Congressman come. Find the most personable officers p74 from those states and districts and attach one appropriately to each Congressman as his official Aide while here."
My office went into high, but we were able to come up with officers from the very districts of the members of the Board.
When the Congressman stepped off the train, he was immediately greeted by someone from his locale, escorted to the hotel, where the page stayed during daylight hours. Naturally, with the nostalgic bonds between the Congressman and his Aide, there amounted to what was almost a family tie. The rigid routine of protocol and formality was done away with during the whole visit, and the lawmaker went where he wanted to go and saw what he wanted to see irrespective of the others, and was thoughtfully escorted by his Aide.
To illustrate how well this personal hospitality worked out, one Congressman ran out of his particular brand of smoking tobacco. The Aide noticed the fact, said nothing, but at his first opportunity got in his car and drove away. He had to go clear to Peekskill before he could find the right brand.
When the Congressman returned to his room, there on his dresser were two large packages of his favorite leaf. He looked at them in astonishment and exclaimed, "By golly, you West Pointers can do anything."
I am confident the good-will engendered did much to enable a law to be enacted which would double the Corps, in keeping with the new kind of warfare and the size of the country — something MacArthur tenaciously held out for from the time of his arrival.
But the DOGs and Old Guard shook their heads knowingly, and said, "He surely knows how to get that second star."
However, no one could accuse him of jockeying for promotion in his almost fanatical love of sports. Though he didn't cast a seductive fly or dig a nasty iron shot, he vicariously played every position of every game he saw.
He surged into the office one morning with, "Just had an invitation from the Mayor of New York to sit in his box and watch the Giants. Anything of monumental importance here to detain us?"
p75 After that inquiry, there couldn't have been. So he, with his Aide and myself, motored down the river. I had not seen him looking more carefree and expectant, even though developments over the Corps had become ticklish through the resistance of the DOGs and the Old Guard. He talked about everything but shop and West Point, going from scenery to baseball. Since as a cadet he had been too light for football, but had managed to earn his letter in baseball, he knew the game we were about to see. It was the first time for him to witness the sport after the horrors of the Western Front, and he elaborated on its fine points and various plays with the ardor of a boy at a Christmas tree. I was less interested in what he said than the way he was saying it. His dramatic magnetism would have been compelling had he been talking about beeswax.
In the box during the game, the Mayor tried to interest him in the complex affairs of New York, but he wouldn't be diverted from the plays. The back of him answered questions or responded intelligently while the front of him was fastened on the contest. I knew his extraordinary mentality could carry on such dual effort, but I realized also he could enjoy the game more if I called off the dog. So I did my best to keep up a stream of questions to the Mayor on subjects he apparently liked to be voluble about. In the process, I could hear MacArthur's explosions: "If he had bunted, he wouldn't have rapped into a double play . . ." "This is the time to try to steal . . ."
As soon as he had cordially thanked the Mayor, and we were on our way to the car, he tapped me on the shoulder and half-whispered, "Nice work, Chief." Through all his preoccupation with the game, he had noted my efforts at diversion and, more, had acknowledged them with thanks.
Even though baseball was absorbing to him, he was overwhelmingly devoted to football. It was a passion outside of the press and strain of resurrecting West Point along lines a lot of people didn't want. During the season he would be among the coaches watching practice. In his short overcoat, with a crop tightly tucked under his left arm, he would discuss plays p76 and players with such intense absorption that the rest of the world vanished. I once took a paper out to him for his signature and he signed it without looking down. Off the field he would discuss possibilities and probabilities with the coach, Charlie Daly. The fact that the Naval Academy had twice the number of cadets as we, spurred him on rather than deterred him. His attitude was: "We'll show them it isn't quantity but quality. We'll show them we can beat them even with handicaps."
In one of his rapt speeches to the wall, he revealed his deep feeling about athletics.
"Over there," he said, "I became convinced that the men who had taken part in organized sports made the best soldiers. They were the most dependable, hardy, courageous officers I had. Men who had contended physically against other human beings under rules of a game were the readiest to accept and enforce discipline. They were outstanding in leading soldiers and facing the enemy. It is a type appropriate to West Point. I propose, therefore, to obtain for the Academy athletes, those who have had bodily contact, especially in football. There was much hand-to‑hand fighting in the war. I will be bold and frank in seeking candidates with athletic reputation and background. We have nothing to hide. We seek the best in scholarship. It is highly compatible and imperative that we seek the best in physical training and stamina. I would even prefer the physical to the mental, all things being equal."
The contention surprised me in many ways, but especially from a man who had come out number one in his class and had not played football. Yet it revealed that his love of the game was not based on puerile fancy, but a deep-seated conviction that athletics were the first asset of a soldier.
Nor did he scruple to carry out his belief. He let it be known to sympathetic graduates and boosters for a winning Army team, that the Academy wanted men who had shown skill on the gridiron. He even let officers go as scouts to distant parts in order to interest the prospect in becoming a cadet.
What he actually did was to bring a practice which had gone p77 on covertly out into the open, with utmost candor.
But a Supe couldn't do that undenounced. The DOGs and the Old Guard rose in their might. West Point was stooping to the level of a common salesman. The Superintendent was again degrading himself by being partial to a certain type contrary to the principle of the equality of the open competition for entrance. He was placing West Point on a par with institutions which were looked down on for their commercialism in athletics. But what fundamentally hurt the cavilers was that he would let the athletic cat out of the hypocritical bag.
When I told him of the criticism going the rounds, that West Point was no more playing the game for the game's sake, he turned on that easy smile. "I wonder," he mused, "how they'd feel on the battlefield about fighting for fighting's sake."
The remark echoes through me now with trenchant meaning as I think of Korea. Fighting for fighting's sake? If it wasn't for that, what was the purpose? We are told it wasn't to win. And if it wasn't, was it to pile up wounds and death so as to lose ground and face? What else have we to show for the fear of doing the same thing to the enemy he was doing to us? Were we willing to sacrifice thousands of our young men for that unreasoning fear? Was the fear unwarranted? Are we any better off today for having chosen to lose? Was the fear of a third world war reminiscent of the fear of Hitler which brought on a second? Didn't somebody somewhere say the greatest fear was fear itself?
These are the questions men skilled and schooled in military and political ways are asking. Has a perversion of a sound principle ever reaped advantage?
Those queries, and the stricken days of the future, MacArthur couldn't foresee as he paced out his trenchant logic under the painted eyes of past supes.
"No," he went on, "there is no other sensible, frank, practical way to meet the athletics question. The will to win has many ramifications. It is a habit to be early cultivated for a military career. It is an excellent habit for any field of endeavor. It is best inculcated by athletic performance. The better p78 the athlete, the better the game; and the better the game, the better regarded will be the institution which has a team high up on the scale of contention. More young athletes will be willing to clear the tough hazards of entrance here if we have a top‑notch team. How many would make the effort to enter if West Point came into the news a few times a year on the fourth page over a parade on the Plain or a review of a foreign visitor? It is quite different when he sees exciting pictures on the front page of the sports section. Young athletes like the athletics of their institution to be successful and prominent. We must be realistic. We must take advantage of things as they are, so long as the end and aim are right."
In accord with these principles, I had a chance to take a small advantage. There passed over my desk the physical rejections of four appointees. Their heights, weights and descriptions showed they were athletes who had been scouted by some of our officers. From their twenty-twenty eyes to their seventy‑two pulses, they were perfect. Finally, at the bottom, was the remark: "Rejected due to color blindness."
I came as close to nervous prostration as at any time in that chair. I rushed into the Supe's office, flourishing the long thin slips, sputtering the exasperating news and asking finally, "General, did you ever have any reason overseas for distinguishing colors?"
His reaction was just another one of those unpredictables. Basing my expectancy on the past performances of other commanding officers, I supposed he'd send for the Surgeon, talk over pros and cons about reversing the action or sending a letter or wire requesting the War Department to relent.
What did MacArthur do? He didn't deign to answer my question about color blindness. He rose, thrust his chin toward me and lowered his voce to the bass with a cutting edge.
"Chief, hop a train to Washington, act with full powers from me and have the Surgeon General pass those youngsters."
That was all. Considering the long line of Gordian knots he had cut behind him, I might have known he wouldn't fool around with skilfully delaying paper work. Neither would he p79 handle the matter himself, even though he was supremely interested in the outcome. It was another example not only of his expert surgery but of the fullest use of his subordinates. He never grabbed the receiver from their hands, but put in them instead a royal warrant. His eyes said, "Galahad, you are on your way to the Grail. I don't care what route you take or how you handle yourself. Just get it." His smile of blessing said, "I know you'll bring it back. In fact, you're the one who can. That's why I picked you."
His spurring send‑off not only gave me a thrill of importance as I hopped the train but an ardent wish to succeed. There was no fear of consequences should I fail after I'd tried everything. I'd be received as Jerry had been with his flop of a report. Since I had an inordinate desire to please and help, I worked beyond my abilities, and was able, by exerting everything from finesse to chicanery, to see the Surgeon General's Executive and have the physicals approved.
When I laid them on the Supe's desk, he didn't ask what I'd done, how I'd done it or how I came out. He didn't even look at the approved papers. He merely said off‑hand, "I knew they were in when you hopped the train from here." Then he got up, put his hand on my shoulder and smiled approvingly.
Is it any wonder subordinates worked for him with the holy zeal of apostles? Inspiration, trust, blessing! I said before that he built you from a cog to a wheel. It is truer to say a whole motor. He made you a driving force with the fewest words of concentrated inspiration. He stretched your talents to the elastic limits. He did not hold back, hedge or give you the slightest hint of uncertainty. There was no cautioning, "Now I'd look out for this," or "If this should happen, try this." There was no nervousness, anticipation of a situation or implied reservation that he really ought to be handling the matter himself. There was just the plain what, without any hows, whys, ifs or maybes. You were freed of any cluttering side issues.
To a subordinate who had served under commanders who loaded him down with details, cautions, hesitancies, hamperings and meddlings, it was an emancipation and delight to p80 serve under MacArthur. For him there seemed to be no fear that his agent might not be up to par and no temptation to arrogate everything to himself. He would send his athletics representative away with full powers to make contracts with universities, and his Quartermaster to deal with architects in projects involving millions.
I was continually being trusted and saddled with responsibility. Here is an instance.
He had a plan whereby he would increase the Corps by giving the lawmakers additional appointments. It came time for him to appear, according to custom, before the Military Affairs Committee and demonstrate the scheme.
"Chief," he said as I went in with some papers, "prepare displays and explanations of our proposed legislation." I was ready for that but not for the next. "You will represent me in Washington and portray our intent with all its implications."
Naturally, since I would have to be sort of imitation Supe, I worked nights on making graphic charts and thinking up appropriate patter. When I had everything ready, I set up the illustrations in the Chief Clerk's room. As MacArthur came through my office, I asked him if he didn't want me to go over my presentation for his criticism. He stretched his mouth in that knowing smile, squinted through the doorway at the display and said in an easy tone, "Chief, you're the teacher," and walked back to his office.
That combination of trust and boost I've been seeking ever since, but have found everything from a mild approach to the downright opposite both in the military and in industry. In my live research there was an amazing amount of haughtiness, ill‑treatment, aloofness and downright jealousy of subordinates. But the outstanding evil was interference, which seems to have grown into a general habit.
We remember how George Washington was hamstrung and vilified in his dark hours by a meddlesome and undercutting Continental Congress; how Winfield Scott was actually opposed and drained of resources at Jalapa in the heart of the enemy's country by a perfidious Polk; how McDowell, McClellan, p81 Burnside, Hooker and Meade were heckled and harassed by an "Aulic Council" until they were more afraid of the Union capital than of Lee; how George Patton said to me, "I can fight the Heinies in my front but I can't fight Washington in my back"; and how MacArthur must have felt when pleasant men along the Potomac knew better how to run the war thousands of miles from Korea than the outstanding military specialist on Far Eastern problems at the scene of action.
How he must have wished for a Woodrow Wilson, who was the exceptional example of noninterference, when in World War I the temptation for such an egoist to meddle must have been keen. But Wilson gave his commander overseas one general directive at the outset and allowed none after that from the United States. He must have done a lot of gulping and lip‑biting when Pershing had to enter the tense foreign political field and administer some face-slapping to other nations. But Wilson was a scholar and historian who knew how many lives had been uselessly lost by interference, especially at a distance.
In my talks with military men of discernment, they have agreed that the deplorable condition in Korea would not today exist had MacArthur been accorded a Wilson-like hands‑off.
But MacArthur's treatment of subordinates was more than noninterference. His consideration extended even to the inimical members of the Academic Board. He went to great pains to explain his position on favoring the open procurement of athletes, although, in all strictness, it was not within their authority.
The Board meeting at which he made his exposé took place the week after we had been drubbed in football by Navy. He had been as nearly smileless during the forty-eight hours afterward as any time at West Point.
In the silence following his pronouncement and explanation, one of the older members evidently felt something should be said. So he discussed the game. In fluent defense of the showing, he held out that the loss was not really a defeat but a victory, that with our small reservoir of material, our comparative youth and inexperience compared to the Naval Academy, p82 our team had virtually won by keeping the score as low as it was. He made it appear almost as if David had slain Goliath, and we should all be happy over the dull thud of the giant.
I watched MacArthur's face during the discourse and saw it go from surprise and wonder to astonishment. Then it took on that inscrutable look of gagged laughter. When the Professor had finished, he pressed his lips, smiled faintly at the mantelpiece and said nothing.
"Chief," he confided when we were alone, "you can't stretch defeat into victory by rhetoric. You've got to earn it by downright achievement. You've got to have that spirit behind, that will to win, that self-abnegation to sacrifice up to your capability, no matter what the odds. Even a tie is a defeat."
Fifteen years later, when he was Chief of Staff of the Army before World War II, I remembered the above words as he uttered his famous warning to the country: "Second best is to be defeated, and military defeat carries with it disaster — political, economic, social and spiritual disaster."
These fixed beliefs came back to me more sharply as I saw the very opposite forced on him in the Korean debacle. I was so upset over such an astonishing mandate that I appealed to practical men highly schooled in diplomatic and military technique. I found them to a man even more aghast that an administration once engaged in warfare should order its army to stand still or go backward before the enemy, to the useless slaughter of men and loss of treasure and prestige.
Comments flared up like these: "From the walls of Troy to the Maginot Line hasn't reliance solely upon defense been tantamount to defeat?" — "Hasn't every war college in the world taught that the defense should be only a temporary evil until you could pass to the offense?" — "Remember how we wouldn't fortify Guam for fear of offending the Japanese? Bang! We got Pearl Harbor." — "And we got more than that in Korea." — "When ignorance and stupidity have to take refuge in stubbornness and spleen, you get misery." — "Might bring on a third world war." — "A lot of Chamberlains with timid umbrellas in Downing Street and the Pentagon. . . ." — p83 "Remember what Sherman said in his memoirs. It was something like this: 'I know more military strategy and tactics in a week than Grant knows in a year, but there's one thing Grant has over any of us: he doesn't give a damn for the enemy.' "
Throughout all the discussions, I could visualize the mental tortures of MacArthur as I looked back at his resolute stand about the fields of friendly strife at West Point, his horror of undertaking anything but victory once the team was engaged in the contest.
Second best was to lose. A tie is a defeat.
Although he vigorously pressed for his principle of the offense and the will to win, he was not overbearing or stubborn. He accepted new facts as if they were true facts, weighed them and, sometimes, when the evidence was against his inclinations, he'd let intellectual honesty prevail.
One instance occurred during an Academic Board meeting. There had grown up before his arrival a custom of excusing varsity men from the last class in the afternoon forty minutes early. Over it there had been hot disputes between the coaches and departments of instruction. In this particular session the Athletic Department asked for an hour, feeling possibly MacArthur would support such a move.
One of the fiercest of the Old Guard arose and spoke vehemently. He recited how at first the coaches wanted thirty minutes, then forty, and now it was an hour. Pretty soon it would be all afternoon. Where would this encroachment stop? Were we going to turn the Academy into a school for games? To be sure, the cadet recited early so that he could be released early. But just the same, he was missing the recitations of his fellows and the comments of the instructor. The principle essentially was a preferment of certain cadets. It was an infringement on the democracy of the Corps.
The Professor when he sat down had his teeth clenched and a jaw set ready to snarl back at the new Supe's contentions.
I've never seen a man's face grow blanker when MacArthur said, "I agree with you heartily. It is an infringement on the democracy of the Corps. Nothing must mar that. But I beg of p84 you, gentlemen, not to press the matter. The practice has been going on a long time. A sudden dislocation might be worse than the practice. If you will co‑operate, I think we can work out a speedy evolution which will be satisfactory all around."
a $239 in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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