The military career of General Douglas MacArthur is depicted from World War II to the Korean War.
General Douglas MacArthur (Gregory Peck) is speaking at West Point about duty, honor, and country as the rallying points of what they should be as an officer and a gentleman. He says the long gray line has never failed them. He says they are not warmongers. Soldiers pray for peace because they must bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. He quotes the words of Plato that only the dead have seen the end of war.
In February 1942 at Corregidor in the Philippines many soldiers have been wounded. MacArthur is riding on a jeep in a tunnel during an air raid. He walks among the wounded and talks to a veteran of Bataan who says there was no Uncle Sam there. MacArthur says he has Washington’s solemn promise that help is on the way.
General George Marshall (Ward Costello) and Admiral Ernest J. King (Russell Johnson) go in to meet with President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Dan O’Herlihy) in the White House to talk about the Corregidor problem. Roosevelt pours martinis for them and asks if they have got anything through the Japanese blockade but inspirational messages. They tell him they have got three ships to the Philippines, but they have lost 80,000 tons in captured and sunk ships. Roosevelt concludes that MacArthur has got practically nothing, and he asks how long he can hold out. They say only weeks. King says they have sent submarines and have managed to land some munitions and drugs and evacuate the wounded; but that is all they can do without stripping the west coast of its defenses. Marshall says that one bombing of the Panama Canal would put it out of operation for two years. Roosevelt says if they don’t stop Hitler in Europe, he will have the North American continent for a target. He adds that MacArthur is taking this personally and thinks that he is being robbed of glory. The President says they have to support Stalin in his fight against the bulk of the German Army. They have to help Churchill in England. He says they need McArthur, and Marshall says he won’t leave the Philippines unless the President orders him off. Roosevelt gives that order.
MacArthur oversees the burning of $140 million in American money so that the Japanese won’t get it. He says he has never disobeyed an order in his life, but now he feels bound to disobey. He threatens to resign and fight on as a private, but the other officer says he is the only man alive who can save the Philippines. He says they must be planning for him to mount an immediate counter-offensive. They are waiting for him in Australia, and if he leaves now, he can be back before the food runs out. He cannot disobey a Presidential order. MacArthur says he has to believe the strange ways destiny pulls men’s lives.
Filipino soldiers are shooting at attacking planes, and some are killed.
One end of the tunnel has officers working at desks with MacArthur’s office at the end. A Major Sidney Huff (Nicolas Coster) knocks and finds him marching around with a child. He says that a submarine has arrived to evacuate President Quezon and his family as he ordered. He still wants MacArthur to join him, but he says no. He will not skulk out of there on a submarine, but he will go on a PT boat. Huff says those boats are like coffins and advises him at least to put his family on a submarine. Mrs. Jean MacArthur (Marj Dusay) comes in and says that she will stay with the general. MacArthur cautions her it is too dangerous, but she says she and their son Arthur will go with him because they “drink from the same cup.” He says she is his finest soldier and hugs her.
General Jonathan M. Wainwright (Sandy Kenyon) is on a pier and is told that General MacArthur is arriving. The jeeps go on the pier. MacArthur talks to Castro who says he is joining a guerrilla force. MacArthur says they will meet again, and he tells Wainwright that he will be back. He is not going by submarine to show that the blockade can be pierced. He boards the boat which departs.
By radio Tokyo Rose invites MacArthur to a surprise necktie party to celebrate their victory. MacArthur tells the PT boat captain to skip that party. The boat passes by mines, and he holds Jean’s hand. MacArthur declines coffee and says he is not really a navy man. He says he can’t sleep. He quotes a song he heard about how he is safe, and he is glad his father is not alive to hear it.
MacArthur is on a train to Melbourne, and Jean says this is the first time he has really slept since Pearl Harbor. The train is welcomed by a crowd. Before he leaves the train, MacArthur asks Dick for the bad news. He says no one knows anything about a relief expedition. In all of Australia there are only 30,000 US personnel mostly artillery and engineers scattered on the continent. There are no American infantry, and about 250 planes of all types with many being repaired or being assembled. There is very little navy. The 300,000 Australian troops have been described as under-trained and under-equipped. Not only is there no Bataan mission, but there are doubts whether they can defend Australia. He informs MacArthur that President Roosevelt has awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor. He says his father got it when he was only 19. He says he would swap it for one trained division. Some have been chanting “MacArthur,” and he goes out to greet them.
From the back of the train MacArthur speaks with a microphone that the President ordered him to break through the lines from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose of organizing the American offensive against Japan and the retaking of the Philippines. He says he came through, and he shall return. They cheer and wave flags.
General Wainwright announces that all the American and Filipino army troops in the Philippines are surrendering.
While walking MacArthur says it is a trick, or he must be mentally deranged. He says if it is true, they must strike back at once. The officer says they cannot do that for months. MacArthur says his job was to defend the Philippines until help arrived; but the officer says he had no food left and that the malaria was out of hand. MacArthur has entered his office and looks out the window. He realizes that it was a matter of time. He declines to take a phone call. MacArthur refuses to recommend a medal of honor for Wainwright because it would be an injustice to others who did more. He sends a message to General Marshall that he considers Wainwright mentally unbalanced and susceptible to use by the enemy.
Infantry troops are being trained as MacArthur walks and observes them. Brigadier Harding (Charles Cyphers) says they are green and will not be ready for weeks. MacArthur says he wants action from him, but Harding says he cannot transport them or land them on the beach. MacArthur says if he does not get going, the Navy is going to win the war. He notes what Nimitz did at Coral Sea and Midway. He says their friends in Washington are sending the supplies to General George Patton in North Africa. MacArthur asks to see his air commander General Kenney.
MacArthur is standing in a jeep as a B-17 lands. He asks the pilot General Kenney (Walter O. Miles) where he got the planes and how soon he can get them in the air. Kenney says he has several squadrons in Brisbane and that with five days to prepare he can ship the army to New Guinea by air.
MacArthur observes the soldiers being trained.
In a room with maps an officer is briefing others on Japanese plans to invade northern Australia. He suggests token resistance and then falling back to the Brisbane line across the middle of Australia while burning things north of it. In the southeast they will defend the cities that are the living heart of Australia. He calls on MacArthur who says he is deeply moved by the Allied efforts and the courage of the Australians. However, he says he will not be the leader of another lost cause. They are attacking, and he says he is going to make the fight for Australia on the island of New Guinea north of Australia.
American soldiers are fighting in the jungles of New Guinea, and MacArthur tells General Bob Eichelberger (G. D. Spradlin) that he heard the American soldiers have been turning tail and running away. That has not happened since Bull Run. He wants him to relieve Harding. Bob says this is not the Civil War and that Harding is a good man. MacArthur wants him to remove any officer who will not fight and promote others who will fight to replace them. He orders him to take Buna or not come back alive, and that goes for his chief of staff as well. MacArthur promises him if he comes through to give him awards.
In the rain Eichelberger comes back to his tent and is told that according to Stars and Stripes this battle was already won by General MacArthur and that this is just a “mopping up operation.” Eichelberger asks if men will die for that phrase, and he is surprised he says they are policing the area. The soldier asks who writes that propaganda. Eichelberger says that MacArthur does not have a staff; he has a court.
Many soldiers have been killed and wounded, and planes are attacking them. MacArthur and Eichelberger arrive in a jeep, and a soldier says they just killed a Japanese sniper there. Eichelberger says they ran into 6,000 Japs there, not 1,500. MacArthur sees the wounded and dead and says this is not his idea of how to win a war.
As they walk in the jungle, MacArthur says he is thinking about Hansa Bay up ahead, but Eichelberger says they need more men to fight there. Harding says that bombing Hansa is one thing, but taking it is another. MacArthur says they will bypass Hansa and other strong points and then cut off their supply lines. He says starvation is his ally and gets back in the jeep.
In a building they are watching a film about MacArthur. A man says he came from Washington and commends the officer for his publicity which has made the general a national hero. People are writing letters saying he should run for President. The film shows on a map how MacArthur’s forces are leap-frogging over the Japanese strong points across New Guinea and toward the Philippines.
In the shower MacArthur tells the officer from Washington that he has no political ambitions. He is told that Democratic as well as Republican newspapers are favoring him. They read letters, and in one a little boy asks why he carries a cane and asks if he is feeble. MacArthur picks up his cane and tosses it in a waste basket. His public relations officer asks him if they can print “I shall return” on candy bars and other things, and MacArthur calls it a first-rate idea. However, the officer from Washington says they want him to change the wording to “We shall return.” He says he fails to see what purpose that would serve.
On a plane MacArthur is wondering why Roosevelt wants to meet him at Pearl Harbor. He says he is willing to discuss strategy with Admiral Nimitz. He suspects Roosevelt has been keeping him in the dark and says that he has always favored the Navy.
A beautiful new car with the top down brings MacArthur to the ship, and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (Addison Powell) tells Roosevelt and others they should see the car he drove up in. Roosevelt says he has been keeping him waiting. Eisenhower told him that he spent nine long years with MacArthur studying dramatics. MacArthur joins them on the deck as sailors take photographs. Roosevelt presents him with a decoration for “Conspicuous Inspiration” and hands him a campaign button with MacArthur’s picture that reads “MacArthur for President.” They laugh.
In a room with maps the President is meeting with the top commanders to discuss the next step in strategy for the Pacific war. Admiral Nimitz is asked to present the Navy’s plan. He says their goal has been to cut Japan’s line of communication. He notes the islands they have taken in the central Pacific. Their plan is to occupy Formosa as a jumping off point to attack Japan. After MacArthur has taken the southern Philippines, they should go next for Formosa. Then MacArthur could move into the island of Luzon and take Manila after his forces have taken Formosa. His planners believe they could attack Formosa by March 1, 1945. Roosevelt asks MacArthur how that sounds to him. MacArthur says as a soldier he will pull the horse; but he says leaving 250,000 Japanese troops in the Philippines in their rear would be taking unnecessary risks. He says that from Luzon he can stop all Japanese lines from the south up to Japan and force their capitulation. He advises a landing on the west side of Luzon and then fighting to Manila. He predicts that he can be in Manila in five weeks from the landing on the beaches well before next March. He says Filipino guerrillas have been working behind the Japanese lines for two years to prepare for their landing. Nimitz does not agree, and Roosevelt says his losses on Luzon would be too heavy. He thinks they should bypass it. MacArthur says that in two years of fighting in the southwest Pacific fewer Americans have been killed than in the single battle at Anzio. MacArthur says the days of frontal attacks are over, and good commanders do not turn in heavy losses. Roosevelt says that the victories of Nimitz have been just as great as his. MacArthur says that his father won the medal of honor at Missionary Ridge by seizing the flag and rallying the troops. He says that while listening to the plans of Nimitz, he thought he saw their flag going down. He says they did not have to lose Bataan and Corregidor in the first place, and he cannot condone sacrificing Luzon a second time. Roosevelt says bypassing it is not sacrificing it. MacArthur argues that it would stain American honor. He asks if he realizes what Japanese propaganda is telling the Filipino people, that Americans will never shed their blood to save the colored peoples of the Earth. Roosevelt admires his zeal, but he cannot let it interfere with a workable Pacific strategy. MacArthur reads from a paper the pledge to the Filipino people that says the American people stand behind it. He shows it to Roosevelt that they are his words. Nimitz says that MacArthur’s points are well taken and that the joint chiefs will want to consider them carefully. MacArthur says he will return if he has to paddle a canoe. He says millions of people and thousands of American prisoners of war are languishing there in anguish and despair. He warns that the American people might be so aroused that they would show their resentment against the President at the polls next fall. Roosevelt asks for two aspirins and says no one can give him a headache like General MacArthur. He says it is time to call a recess because it has been a fatiguing day.
After the others have left, Roosevelt asks MacArthur why he has not come home all these years. He says he has had his hands full. Roosevelt says the country has evolved and matured with changes. MacArthur says the things he values never change. His son has never been home. Roosevelt asks where home is for him, and MacArthur says it is the Army. He thinks of West Point as home and a terrace over Manila Bay is also his home. Roosevelt says he appreciates his feelings. He says when he returns home, he will tell the joint chiefs that he has had two excellent briefings. He is sure they will be delighted, and he will ask for their decision promptly. MacArthur says he wants to return to his command as soon as possible. For forty years he has believed that a commander’s place is at the scene of the battle. Roosevelt says that is why he is there, and he laughs.
Orders arrive that the Southwest Pacific forces are to invade Leyte on October 20, two months earlier than expected.
General MacArthur is on a ship and goes up on deck and sits by President Osmeña with earplugs as troops prepare for the landing. The ships’ guns begin firing, and planes take off from aircraft carriers. MacArthur says he knows the 5th cavalry and remembers how they fought against Geronimo. Using binoculars he sees that the soldiers are running on the beaches upright, and he says nothing will stop them. Tanks land on the beach. MacArthur says he is going ashore. On the beach movie cameras are being set up. MacArthur and President Osmeña walk through some water to the beach. On a telephone MacArthur tells the people of the Philippines that he has returned. He says the hour of their redemption is here, and he asks them to rally to him. He urges them to rise and strike for their homes and hearths for future generations. He says the divine guidance of God points the way to righteous victory.
A soldier stops MacArthur’s jeep and tells him he has reached the front lines and that they are under fire there. He sees men up ahead and tells his driver to go on. During shooting only MacArthur stays in the jeep. Aides tell him that he has been promoted to General of the Army and got his fifth star, and he thanks them for the new stars.
MacArthur visits a camp of Filipino and American prisoners who are being liberated. He goes in and talks with them. He is taken to the survivors of the death march. He apologizes for being a little late and overdue. He sees Castro who says he is sorry he is unpresentable on crutches. MacArthur hugs him and says he looks good to him.
President Harry S. Truman (Ed Flanders) says he feels like a load of hay fell on him, and he asks the reporters to pray for him.
MacArthur is listening on the radio to Roosevelt’s funeral.
An officer asks Truman for his authorization, and Truman says that Roosevelt never told him about the atomic bomb.
MacArthur is frustrated because they have planned an invasion of Japan, and now an air force officer tells him they have an apparatus.
An atomic bomb explodes.
On the Missouri in Tokyo Bay an aide brings General Wainwright to see MacArthur who hugs him and introduces him to admirals Halsey and Nimitz. Wainwright says they were starving and that he had to shoot his horse. He realizes they will never restore him to active duty, but MacArthur offers him command of his old corps whenever he is ready.
On the deck the Japanese Emperor and military leaders are present. General MacArthur announces they are there to sign the instrument of surrender. The Emperor and top military leader of Japan sign. Then MacArthur signs as the supreme Allied commander on behalf of all the nations in the alliance. He gives pens to generals Percival and Wainwright. MacArthur announces the representatives of each nation which sign. Nimitz signs for the United States. Then MacArthur says a great tragedy has ended. He prays that an omnipotent providence will summon all people of good will to realize the utter futility of war. They have known bitterness and defeat and exaltation and triumph, and from both they have learned that there can be no turning back. They must go forward to preserve in peace what they won in war. The destructiveness of war through advances in science has now reached a point that revises the traditional concept of war. War, the most malignant scourge and greatest sin of mankind, can no longer be controlled but only be abolished. He says we are in a new era. If we do not devise some greater and more equitable means of settling disputes between nations, Armageddon will be at our door. He says that we have had our last chance.
MacArthur tells Col. Courtney Whitney (Dick O’Neill) to send a message to Washington that he is transferring food and medical supplies to the Japanese authorities. The next priority is to get those men home and at work rebuilding this country. Court says there is really no country left, and MacArthur says they will have to build a new one while preserving the best ideas of the old. He will hold all the soldiers to account for treating the Japanese with courtesy and respect. He says that Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon failed in their occupation of other countries because of the harshness of their policies. He says he does not intend to fail. They drive by the palace that is surrounded by a moat of water. MacArthur says he must not challenge the authority of the Emperor directly. He is half man and half god, and his word is absolute. He says at some point Hirohito will leave that palace and come to MacArthur, and that will mark the beginning of the end of his power over the Japanese people.
MacArthur gets out of his car and goes into an impressive building. He gets a report and says he does not want to hear the words “tenant farmers” again. He wants the big land owners stripped of their estates. He says they have been squeezing the famers long enough. He says the right-wing industrialists led Japan to ruin, and he wants them expunged but in legal language. He wants to see a labor movement take root. The workers must have a strong voice in the means of production. An aide says this reminds him of the New Deal. MacArthur says that because of Japan’s fascist past it might be good to move her a little left of center, but they will not call it the New Deal. He says the Japanese women must be given the vote. The aides say the men will not like that, and he says our men did not like it at first either. Court doubts that Japan can adapt to such radical changes because the cabinet will never go for it; but MacArthur says the new prime minister may.
MacArthur congratulates Prime Minister Shidehara (Yuki Shimoda) on his appointment, and he thanks him for the penicillin that helped him recover from a serious illness. They sit down on a couch. Shidehara says diseases can be cured, but sometimes the process is slow and painful. MacArthur asks if there is a difficulty. Shidehara says their new constitution must forbid any military establishment in Japan whatsoever. There must be no army, no navy, and no air force. They must renounce the use of force as an instrument of national power now and forever. He asks MacArthur to hear him out and says that only in this way can they eliminate the power of the militarists and reassure the world that Japan no longer has any warlike design against any people. He says they are a poor country with 70 million people to feed and clothe, and they cannot afford armaments and the trapping of power. Never again can they suffer Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He asks him to let them renounce war in the new constitution and forever. MacArthur says no man detests war more than he. His abhorrence for it reached its height with the development of the atom bomb. He says no man could be more moved by his offer nor more determined to accept it.
President Truman in the White House says it is embarrassing because he held a press conference and said they need 400,000 troops in Japan, but then MacArthur held a press conference and said they can get by with half that number. He asks Marshall if he cleared this with him, and he says no. Truman says he invited him to come home so that he could discuss occupation policy with him. He offered him welcome-home demonstrations and a speech before a joint session of Congress, but he said the situation was too dangerous over there and that he was too busy to come home. Truman is angry at what MacArthur said to the President.
In the back seat of a car MacArthur tells the Russian General Derevyanko (Alex Rodine) that he has missed him. He says he made a short visit to Moscow to meet with his superiors and then had a vacation by the Caspian Sea. MacArthur was afraid that Stalin had him shot. Derevyanko asks why he says that and asks if Truman would have him shot. MacArthur replies that sometimes he wonders. MacArthur says his superiors and Japanese authorities want an accounting of the hundreds of thousands of Japanese prisoners of war who fell into the hands of the Russians. Derevyanko admits they have small numbers of prisoners, and he assures him that his government will abide by the decisions of the Potsdam conference. MacArthur asks when they will be repatriated, and he says soon. His government is making plans for the occupation of Hokkaido Island, but MacArthur says it is occupied under his command. Derevyanko says that the Soviet Union as a co-equal ally intends to occupy it on its own behalf. MacArthur says he is the Supreme Allied Commander, but Derevyanko says they intend to occupy it rightfully whether he approves or not. MacArthur says his command is absolute; this is not Germany. He will not countenance separate spheres of influence or occupation of the home islands of Japan as long as he is in command. Derevyanko says that then his government will insist upon a new supreme commander. MacArthur says if the Soviets try to land on Japanese land without his consent, he will throw the entire Soviet delegation in Tokyo in jail including him. Derevyanko believes him and gets out of the car.
A newsreel describes the changes in Japanese life and how they are giving women new rights. Thirteen million women voted and elected 38 women to the House of Representatives.
A Japanese official tells MacArthur that a prostitute was one of the women elected with 256,000 votes, and he says she must have a very loyal clientele.
A newsreel reports that after two and a half years the war crimes trials in Japan have been completed. In the United States there is another presidential election in 1948 as Japan celebrates the first anniversary of its new constitution.
MacArthur picks out a photo of himself and wants to know the result of the vote in Wisconsin; he won eight delegates out of 27. He asks what is on the calendar for today.
President Truman celebrates his re-election by playing the piano and singing “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
MacArthur and Jean watch a newsreel on the cultural changes in Japan including a baseball world series and can-can dancing. MacArthur answers the phone and is told that the North Koreans have crossed the border at the 38th parallel in great strength and attacked South Korea. He orders the staff assembled. He tells Jean it is one last gift to an old warrior.
President Truman gives a speech on television announcing the serious situation, and he has decided to commit United States ground forces as a police action to counter-act a bandit raid into South Korea by North Korean Communists.
MacArthur rides in a jeep and observes the situation and says they will fight.
News reports that MacArthur went to Formosa to meet the Chinese Nationalist Chiang Kaishek. Truman sees their troops marching and says they are doing a “goose-step.” The reporter says this is providing a foundation for Sino-American cooperation. Truman swears and asks if they did not send MacArthur to Formosa to do just the opposite. He says he did not send MacArthur there to conclude his own alliances. He says it sounds like a mutual defense treaty. He tells his secretary to radio a message to “his majesty General MacArthur.”
MacArthur reads the message and asks what is the matter with them and if they have lost their nerve. He says they should use Chiang as long as he is anti-Communist and then reform him later. He says it is his destiny to defeat Communism and that only Washington and those politicians will keep him from doing it.
Truman reads MacArthur’s letter to the Veterans of Foreign Wars that refers to appeasement and defeatism in the Pacific out of fear that if we defend Formosa, we alienate continental Asia. He asks Alvin to explain why he did this, and he says he can’t. He demands that the letter be withdrawn.
MacArthur arrives in a jeep at the battlefield to tell General Walker not to conduct retrograde movements and abandon the perimeter. He orders him to hold the perimeter, but Walker says there is no perimeter but only a few scattered strong-points. Walker says they are outnumbered and asks for more troops, but MacArthur says he can’t do it. However, they are planning an overwhelming amphibious assault led by General Shepherd at Inchon in order to divide the North Korean forces. MacArthur believes it will finish the North Koreans, but Walker predicts it will never be approved.
In the White House the naval commanders explain to Truman the many drawbacks of trying to invade from the sea at Inchon where the tides are only large enough once a month. Another man defends MacArthur’s plan for its surprise. Truman asks Marshall who calls it “daring, brilliant, and dangerous.”
MacArthur is on a ship watching the invasion of 70,000 men ready to hit the coast, and he says so far the President has not approved the mission. The joint chiefs told him that he had been informed. He complains that they have vacillated and delayed. Finally he got grudging permission to proceed. He tells Court that he has powerful enemies who told him he was insubordinate when he visited Chiang Kaishek and who forced him to withdraw his letters to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He asks who are the ones who seek to humiliate him and undermine his authority. He believes they are Communists and fellow travelers and the British Foreign Office. He is worried they may have enormous losses at Inchon if the enemy is prepared. They could lose this entire fleet. General Shepherd comes and says they got Wolmi Do Island in 58 minutes. MacArthur is happy and tells him good work.
Truman on the porch says he will be the first to admit that he did a hell of a job, and they drink to him. Truman calls it good generaling, and he is glad to see the North Koreans retreating. Alvin warns him that Mr. Panika, the Indian ambassador to Beijing, has informed them that if the American troops are found north of the 38th parallel, it will provoke an intervention by the Chinese. They heard the same warning on Beijing radio. Truman says they have heard that before and asks how serious they are. Marshall says that MacArthur called it political blackmail, and Truman says he is probably right. Marshall advises the President to be careful. He warns that if they expand the Korean War to include Red China, they will be up against the Soviets and their atomic weapons. Truman orders Alvin to go to Wake Island and make preparations for Truman to have a talk with MacArthur. He has never met the man.
On a plane Truman sees Wake Island and says the President should be greeted, not be the greeter. The plane lands, and they see a car parked. Then MacArthur comes out of the building. Truman does not like him making his commander-in-chief wait. They get off the plane, and MacArthur salutes him and shakes hands. Truman gives him plum cake for the missus. In the back seat of the car Truman commends MacArthur for his success at Inchon. MacArthur apologizes for any misunderstanding that might have arisen from his trip to Formosa. Truman recalls how he fought in World War I, and MacArthur says maybe he should have stayed in the Army. Truman says he heard it is bad for those in the Army to engage in politics, and MacArthur says he is not involved in politics in any way. He admits the politicians made a chump out of him in the 1948 elections. He says if a general is going to run against him, it will be Eisenhower, not him. Truman says Eisenhower does not know anything about politics.
In a hanger they sit at a table. Truman says he came to listen to MacArthur’s ideas on the rehabilitation of postwar Korea. MacArthur says the formal resistance should end in Korea by Thanksgiving. Truman asks now that they have authorized operations above the 38th parallel, does he include North Korea in that estimate. MacArthur says by the time he is finished they will control the entire Korean peninsula. An advisor asks MacArthur if he understands the joint chiefs’ concern that no troops enter China or the Soviet Union or get close to their borders. MacArthur says their boys should be home by Christmas provided Red China stays out of the conflict. Truman says he is glad to hear that because he has the United Nations on his back. About two dozen nations have troops in the conflict, and they are scared they are pushing them into World War III. He says Stalin’s pact with Mao Zedong promises that if China is attacked, the Soviet Union would defend them. He asks MacArthur if there is much chance of Chinese intervention, and he says the President has more intelligence and that any decision on China requires a political evaluation as well as a military one. He says the Chinese are believed to have about 300,000 men in Manchuria. He doubts they could get more than 50,000 across the Yalu River because they would be vulnerable to their air attacks. He believes the chances are minimal. If they were to get near the 38th parallel, they would suffer a crushing defeat.
Truman gets off the plane in San Francisco and tells people that he has never had a more satisfying conference since he became President. He says MacArthur is confident that the fighting in Korea will soon be over.
At an army camp in the snow soldiers are enjoying turkey on Thanksgiving. Suddenly they are attacked and slaughtered.
Truman comes into his office and says that General Bradley called him at 6:15 this morning with a message from MacArthur and told him that the Chinese have 260,000 troops there and that they have had to go on the defensive. Truman says the Chinese have jumped in with both feet.
An aide tells MacArthur that some think he walked into a trap. MacArthur says they had defeated the North Koreans, but then the Chinese committed the most offensive act of international lawlessness in history. Now they are facing a new, fresh, highly trained army. He asks why Truman calls this a police action. The casualties are mounting daily, and this “police action” has nearly destroyed the Korean nation. He has seen much blood and disaster, and it makes him sick. He asks if he is going to let this go on. His aide says that they are concerned about the Russians and the Chinese. Bradley said that a war now against China would be the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place and with the wrong enemy. MacArthur says the joint chiefs of staff denied his request to bomb the Chinese airfields in Manchuria. They also denied hot pursuit of enemy aircraft into their sanctuaries beyond the Yalu River. When he requested to bomb the Yalu bridges to keep the Chinese out of Korea, they said he could only bomb the southern half of the bridges. He says it is appeasement. Unless some positive action is taken, he thinks they should withdraw their forces from Japan. Shepherd says some believe that it is possible to regain the offensive without the danger of widening the war. MacArthur says that the 8th Army is Ridgway’s now, and he can do what he likes. He says for the first time in military history a commander has been denied the use of his military power to safeguard his soldiers and army. He is shocked.
Truman reads the news that Ridgway retook Seoul, and he says he predicted it.
MacArthur is walking with Sidney Huff and says there is no victory in sight. He says it is not a war but a half war, an immoral compromise with evil. He says it is American blood settling there. Huff says the head of the United Kingdom mission wants an appointment with him. He is worried they are getting desperate and may use the bomb. MacArthur says he is probably more worried about protecting British profits in Hong Kong than in saving lives in Korea. Court tells MacArthur that they just learned that Washington wants him to stop all offensive operations immediately. They want a political solution rather than a military one and are drafting a cease-fire proposal. He says they want his advice regarding minor adjustments for defense. MacArthur asks what they are talking about, and he calls it total capitulation. He says he could not substitute his policy for Truman’s because Truman does not have a policy. MacArthur says he will send a message to the Chinese commander, and he tells them to put it on all the wire services for maximum exposure. Shepherd says the President has ordered him not to issue any public statements. MacArthur says that is part of a dangerous concept, that men in the armed forces owe their primary allegiance to the temporary occupants of the White House instead of to the Constitution which they have sworn to defend.
While walking with a few men on the White House lawn Truman says he should kick his insubordinate ass right into the Sea of Japan. He says it is the worst trick he has done after he traveled 14,000 miles to have a talk with him. Alvin says that MacArthur actually sent a message to the Chinese threatening to destroy their forces unless they would negotiate a solution with him personally. Truman tells a story about Lincoln and a horse and says he is not getting off. He says Roosevelt should have pulled Wainwright out of Corregidor and left MacArthur to be the martyr. Alvin asks about the cease-fire proposal, and Truman tells him to scrap it. He cannot negotiate after this. He says that man is trying to start World War III while he is trying to prevent. He is going to fire him right now. He asks if he thinks he is God. He asks what Congress would think if he fires the big general, and Alvin says Congress would flay him alive.
At his dining table MacArthur is telling how he scored the winning run for West Point in a baseball game against Annapolis. Jean gets up and consults with his aide. MacArthur says he and his mother almost graduated together from West Point. Jean whispers to him, and he says they are going home at last. He leaves the table with Jean.
A newsreel shows the parade welcoming the return of MacArthur with an estimated ten million people. The joint chiefs issued a statement that it is fundamental that all generals must be governed by the laws and the constitutional guarantee of civilian control over the military. Truman says that people who think they are God are bound to get into trouble sooner or later. He says the people of this country have common sense and that whenever anyone gets too far out of line, they will put him out of business.
Truman is watching television as MacArthur gives his speech to the Congress. He warns against appeasement which is like blackmail that results in additional demands, and violence becomes the only alternative. He asks why he should surrender military advantages to an enemy in the field. He commends the courage of the Korean people who chose to risk death rather than accept slavery. They told him not to scuttle the Pacific. He is closing 52 years of military service from the turn of the century. It fulfilled his boyish dreams, and they have vanished; but he remembers the ballad that proclaimed that old soldiers never die; they just fade away. Now he closes his military career and just fades away as an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. They stand and applaud.
Truman says, “Goodbye, hell, he is running for President,” and he turns off the TV.
Television shows the Republican political convention which is nominating Dwight Eisenhower for President. MacArthur says he will make a fine President; he was the best clerk who served under him.
MacArthur gives his speech at West Point emphasizing duty, honor, and country. Today is his final roll call with them. He says his last conscious thoughts will be of the corps. He bids them farewell, and they applaud.
This biopic portrays the dedicated army general who devoted his life to military service for his country. He shows his courage but also his pride and flamboyant style. Many people do not know how MacArthur was a benevolent dictator in Japan after the war and approved their renunciation of militarism and development of democratic reforms, perhaps the greatest transformation of a nation from fascist war criminals to a humane and peaceful and society.