1951 September 5

One Senator Supports President Truman’s Firing General MacArthur


Senator Wayne Morse, a Republican from Oregon, it was reported on this day, was the only senator on the Foreign Relations Committee to strongly support President Truman’s firing of General Douglas MacArthur as Commander of Allied forces in the Korean War. (See the firing on April 11, 1951). Truman’s firing of MacArthur in the middle of the war asserted civilian control of the military, and is one of the major actions contributing to Truman’s reputation for strong presidential leadership. MacArthur had been making public statements about the war that were inconsistent with official U.S. policy. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, whom Truman consulted in advance, unanimously supported the firing. MacArthur, however, had very strong popular and political support, which explains why Morse was the only senator to support Truman’s action.

Wayne Morse, a former Dean of the University of Oregon Law School, was a fiercely independent senator. Notably, he was one of only two senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which supported expansion of U.S. military efforts in Vietnam on August 7, 1964.

Learn more about Truman’s record on civil liberties: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)

Learn more: Richard Frank, MacArthur (2007)

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