1951 April 11

President Truman Fires Gen.Douglas MacArthur, Asserts Civilian Control Over Military


President Harry Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur, commander of United Nations forces in the Korean War, for making public statements that contradicted the administration’s policies toward the War. By firing MacArthur, Truman asserted civilian control over the military. The president sought and received approval from the Joint Chiefs of Staff beforehand.

This act is one of several that established President Truman’s reputation for strong presidential leadership. Another important one was his executive order desegregating the U.S. armed forces on July 26, 1948. Many historians also cite his actions launching the Cold War as evidence of strong leadership, but both the Truman Doctrine overseas (March 12, 1947) and his Loyalty Program at home (March 21, 1947) involved serious civil liberties violations.

Watch Truman’s speech firing General MacArthur: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuLHJzDINP8

Read Truman’s statement on firing MacArthur: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=14058

Truman’s “unofficial” statement: “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President… I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the laws for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”

Learn more: Richard Frank, MacArthur (2007)

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