Chicago Greets the General (4-26-1951)


America’s General had returned.  After 14 years on foreign soil, Douglas MacArthur was back in the United States.  Today he was in Chicago.  And the city went wild.

MacArthur was a national hero.  He had led U.S. forces to victory in the Pacific during World War II.  When the Korean War broke out, he had turned back the enemy advance at Inchon.

But now that war had become a stalemate.  MacArthur thought President Truman was being too cautious.  When the general’s views became public, the president relieved him.

That created a sensation.  Truman was a very unpopular president in 1951.  Most of the country thought he’d made a mistake sacking MacArthur.

The general had gone to Washington to deliver his report to Congress.  Now, with his wife and young son, he was making a triumphal progress across America.

MacArthur’s plane touched down at Midway a little after noon on April 26.  City officials greeted him, then he was off in a motorcade to downtown.  A long, meandering route was used, so that the maximum number of people could witness the general’s passage.  An estimated 3 million spectators lined the various streets—still the largest turnout for a single person in the city’s history.

The main event was an evening reception at Soldier Field.  The crowds began gathering at 5:30, three hours before the general was to arrive.  While they waited, they were entertained by drum and bugle corps, color guards, marching units, and military bands.  Veterans’ groups and ROTC squads dominated the proceedings.

04-26--MacArthur at Soldier Field

As the skies darkened, the beacon atop the Palmolive Building—two miles away—was focused on the field.  Finally, MacArthur made his entrance.  The assembled throng cheered.  He acknowledged the greeting, then spoke.

The general called for a realistic end to the Korean conflict, with a minimum loss of American life.  He said the U.S. had no clear war policy.  In case anyone doubted what he thought, he said that our goal should be “victory over the nation and men who, without provocation, have attacked us.”

Applause interrupted him 19 times.  In conclusion, he declared: “[Even] without command authority or responsibility, I still proudly possess the greatest of all honors and distinctions—I am an American!”

The thousands rose to their feet and cheered again, long and loud.  Then came the fireworks display.  Then it was over.

The next morning MacArthur was gone.  He left behind a dazed and dazzled Chicago.  And in the long sweep of history—by his conflict with President Truman—he left behind a controversy that is still debated.



3 Responses to “Chicago Greets the General (4-26-1951)”

  1. 1 James F. O'Neil April 28, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    The parade route came down Garfield Boulevard. My uncle took me to the corner of Seeley and 55th. I practically touched the general in the open Cadillac limo. I knew about him and the war, my being a youthful War Lover of 10 years old! He was then one of my heroes. One of the first. And he just faded away…. Thanks for the great memory.

  2. 2 Doug's BoomerRants August 15, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    As I was growing up my mother would occasionally share with me about how I had met the General at Soldier Field as a baby. I was adopted nearly at my birth date, 1/9/1951. It wasn’t until I read this that I now know “the rest of the story”. My mother made sure I was named… Douglas. No.. the General never did any baby-kissing that night. My “new” mother, father and myself were in Soldier Field that evening… somewhere in those cheering crowds. I would make many other trips to the Field throughout my life for one venue or another… but none was more famous.

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