Audio clip of Douglas
MacArthur's Old Soldiers Never Die speech with still images.
See text transcript below.
It follows the full text transcript of
Douglas MacArthur's Old Soldiers Never Die speech, delivered at
Washington D.C. - April 19, 1951.
Mr. President, Mr.
Speaker and Distinguished Members of the
I stand on this
rostrum with a sense of deep humility and great
pride -- humility in the weight of those great
architects of our history who have stood here
before me, pride in the reflection that this
home of legislative debate represents human
liberty in the purest form yet devised.
Here are centered the hopes and aspirations and
faith of the entire human race.
I do not stand here as advocate for any partisan
cause, for the issues are fundamental and reach
quite beyond the realm of partisan
considerations. They must be resolved on the
highest plane of national interest if our course
is to prove sound and our future protected.
I trust, therefore, that you will do me the
justice of receiving that which I have to say as
solely expressing the considered viewpoint of a
I address you with neither rancor nor bitterness
in the fading twilight of life, with but one
purpose in mind: to serve my country.
The issues are global, and so interlocked that
to consider the problems of one sector oblivious
to those of another is to court disaster for the
whole. While Asia is commonly referred to as the
Gateway to Europe, it is no less true that
Europe is the Gateway to Asia, and the broad
influence of the one cannot fail to have its
impact upon the other. There are those who claim
our strength is inadequate to protect on both
fronts, that we cannot divide our effort. I can
think of no greater expression of defeatism.
If a potential enemy can divide his strength on
two fronts, it is for us to counter his effort.
The Communist threat is a global one.
Its successful advance in one sector threatens
the destruction of every other sector. You can
not appease or otherwise surrender to communism
in Asia without simultaneously undermining our
efforts to halt its advance in Europe.
Beyond pointing out these general truisms, I
shall confine my discussion to the general areas
of Asia. Before one may objectively assess the
situation now existing there, he must comprehend
something of Asia's past and the revolutionary
changes which have marked her course up to, the
present. Long exploited by the so-called
colonial powers, with little opportunity to
achieve any degree of social justice, individual
dignity or a higher standard life such as guided
our own noble administration in the Philippines,
the people of Asia found their opportunity in
the war just past to throw off the shackles of
colonialism and now see the dawn of new
opportunity and heretofore unfelt dignity, and
the self-respect of political freedom.
Mustering half of the earth's population, and 60
percent of its natural resources these peoples
are rapidly consolidating a new force, both
moral and material, with which to raise the
living standard and erect adaptations of the
design of modern progress to their own distinct
Whether one adheres to the concept of
colonization or not, this is the direction of
Asian progress and it may not be stopped. It is
a corollary to the shift of the world economic
frontiers as the whole epicenter of world
affairs rotates back toward the area whence it
In this situation, it becomes vital that our own
country orient its policies in consonance with
this basic evolutionary condition rather than
pursue a course blind to reality that the
colonial era is now past and the Asian peoples
covet the right to shape their own free destiny.
What they seek now is friendly guidance,
understanding and support, not imperious
direction, the dignity of equality and not the
shame of subjugation.
Their pre-war standard of life, pitifully low,
is infinitely lower now in the devastation left
in war's wake. World ideologies play little part
in Asian thinking and are little understood.
What the peoples strive for is the opportunity
for a little more food in their stomachs, a
little better clothing on their backs and a
little firmer roof over their heads, and the
realization of the normal nationalist urge for
These political-social conditions have but an
indirect bearing upon our own national security,
but do form a backdrop to contemporary planning
which must be thoughtfully considered if we are
to avoid the pitfalls of unrealism.
Of more direct and immediately bearing upon our
national security are the changes wrought in the
strategic potential of the Pacific Ocean in the
course of the past war.
Prior thereto the western strategic frontier of
the United States lay on the literal line of the
Americas, with an exposed island salient
extending out through Hawaii, Midway and Guam to
the Philippines. That salient proved not an
outpost of strength but an avenue of weakness
along which the enemy could and did attack. The
Pacific was a potential area of, advance for any
predatory force intent upon striking at the
bordering land areas.
All this was changed by our Pacific victory, our
strategic frontier then shifted to embrace the
entire Pacific Ocean, which became a vast moat
to protect us as long as we hold it. Indeed, it
acts as a protective shield for all of the
Americas and all free lands of the Pacific Ocean
area, We control it to the shores of Asia by a
chain of islands extending in an arc from the
Aleutians to the Marianas held by us and our
From this island chain we can dominate with sea
and air power every Asiatic port from
Vladivostok to Singapore -- with sea and air
power every port, as I said, from Vladivostok to
Singapore -- and prevent any hostile movement
into the Pacific.
Any predatory attack from Asia must be an
amphibious effort. No amphibious force can be
successful without control of the sea lanes and
the air over those lanes in its avenue of
advance. With naval and air supremacy and modest
ground elements to defend bases, any major
attack from continental Asia toward us or our
friends in the Pacific would be doomed to
Under such conditions, the Pacific no longer
represents menacing avenues of approach for a
prospective invader. It assumes, instead, the
friendly aspect of a peaceful lake.
Our line of defense is a natural one and can be
maintained with a minimum of military effort and
expenses. It envisions no attack against anyone,
nor does it provide the bastions essential for
offensive operations, but properly maintained,
would be an invincible defense against
The holding of this defense line in the western
Pacific is entirely dependent upon holding all
segments thereof, for any major breach of that
line by an unfriendly power would render
vulnerable to determine attack every other major
segment. This is a military estimate as to which
I have yet to find a military leader who will
For that reason, I have strongly recommended in
the past. as a matter of military urgency, that
under no circumstances must Formosa fall under
Communist control. Such an eventuality would at
once threaten the freedom of the Philippines and
the loss of Japan and might well force our
western frontier back to the coast of California
Oregon and Washington.
To understand the changes which now appear upon
the Chinese mainland, one must understand the
changes in Chinese character and culture over
the past 50 years. China up to 50 years ago was
completely non-homogenous, being compartmented
into groups divided against each other. The
war-making tendency was almost non-existent as
they still followed the tenets of the Confucian
ideal of pacifist culture.
At the turn of the century under the regime of
Chang Tso Lin efforts toward greater homogeneity
produced the start of a nationalist urge. This
was further and more successfully developed
under the leadership of Chiang Kai-Shek, but has
been brought to its greatest fruition under the
present regime to the point that it has now
taken on the character of a united nationalism
of increasingly dominant aggressive tendencies.
Through these past 50 years the Chinese people
have thus become militarize in their concepts
and in their ideals. They now constitute
excellent soldiers, with competent staffs, and
commanders. This has produced a new and dominant
power in Asia, which, for its own purposes, is
allied with Soviet Russia but which in its own
concepts and methods has become aggressively
imperialistic, with a lust for expansions and
increased power normal to this type of
There is little of the ideological concept
either one way or another in the Chinese
make-up. The standard of living is so low and
the capital accumulation has been so thoroughly
dissipated by war that the masses are desperate
and eager to follow any leadership which seems
to promise the alleviation of woeful
I have from the beginning believed that the
Chinese Communists' support of the North Koreans
was the dominant one. Their interests are at
present parallel with those of the Soviet, but I
believe that the aggressiveness recently
displayed not only in Korea but also in
Indo-China arid Tibet and pointing potentially
toward the South reflects predominantly the same
lust for the expansion of power which has
animated every would-be conqueror since the
beginning of time.
The Japanese people since the war have undergone
the greatest reformation recorded in modern
history, With a commendable will, eagerness to
learn, and marked capacity to understand, they
have from the ashes left in war's wake erected
in Japan an edifice dedicated to the supremacy
of individual liberty and personal dignity and
in the ensuing process there has been created a
truly representative government committed to the
advance of political morality, freedom of
economic enterprise, and social justice.
Politically, economically, and socially Japan is
now abreast of many free nations of the earth
and will not again fail the universal trust.
That it may be counted upon to wield a
profoundly beneficial influence over the course
of events in Asia is attested by the magnificent
manner in which the Japanese people have met the
recent challenge of war, unrest and confusion
surrounding them from the outside and checked
communism within their own frontiers without the
slightest slackening in their forward progress.
I sent all four of our occupation divisions to
the Korean battlefront, without the slightest
qualms as to the effect of the resulting power
vacuum upon Japan. The results fully justified
I know of no nation more serene, orderly and
industrious, nor in which higher hopes can be
entertained for future constructive service in
the advance of the human race.
Of our former ward, the Philippines, we can look
forward in confidence that the existing unrest
will be corrected and a strong and healthy
nation will grow in the longer aftermath of
war's terrible destructiveness We must be
patient and understanding and never fail them.
As in our hour of need, they did not fail us.
A Christian nation, the Philippines stand as a
mighty bulwark of Christianity in the Far East,
and its capacity for high moral leadership in
Asia is unlimited.
On Formosa the government of the Republic of
China has had the opportunity to refute by
action much of the malicious gossip which so
undermined the strength of its leadership on the
Chinese mainland. The Formosan people are
receiving a just and enlightened administration
with majority representation in the organs of
government, and politically, economically and
socially they appear to be advancing along sound
and constructive lines,
With this brief insight into the surrounding
area, I now turn to the Korean conflict.
While I was not consulted prior to the
President's decision to intervene in support of
the Republic of Korea, that decision from a
military standpoint, proved a sound one. As I
said, it proved to be a sound one, as we hurled
back the invader and decimated his forces. Our
victory was complete, and our objectives within
reach, when Red China intervened with
numerically superior ground forces.
This created a new war and an entirely new
situation, a situation not contemplated when our
forces were committed against the North Korean
invaders; a situation which called for new
decisions in the diplomatic sphere to permit the
realistic adjustment of a military strategy.
Such decisions have not been forthcoming.
While no man in his right mind would advocate
sending our ground forces into continental
China, and such was never given a thought, the
new situation did urgently demand a drastic
revision of strategic planning if our political
aim was to defeat this new enemy as we had
defeated the old one.
Apart from the military need, as I saw It, to
neutralize sanctuary protection given the enemy
north of the Yalu, I felt that military
necessity in the conduct of the war made
necessary the intensification of our economic
blockade against China, the imposition of a
naval blockade against the China coast, removal
of restrictions on air reconnaissance of China's
coastal area and of Manchuria, removal of
restrictions on the forces of the Republic of
China on Formosa, with logistical support to
contribution to-their effective operations
against the Chinese mainland.
For entertaining these views, all professionally
designed to support our forces in Korea and to
bring hostilities to an end with the least
possible delay and at a saving of countless
American arid allied lives, I have been severely
criticized in lay circles, principally abroad,
despite my understanding that from a military
standpoint the above views have been fully
shared in the past by practically every military
leader concerned with the Korean campaign,
including our own Joint Chiefs of Staff.
I called for reinforcements, but was informed
that reinforcements were riot available. I made
clear that if not permitted to destroy the enemy
built-up bases north of the Yalu, if not
permitted to utilize the friendly Chinese Force
of some 600,000 men on Formosa, if not permitted
to blockade the China coast to prevent the
Chinese Reds from getting succor from without,
and if there was to be no hope of major
reinforcements, the position of the command from
the military standpoint forbade victory.
We could hold in Korea by constant maneuver and
in an approximate area where our supply line
advantages were in balance with the supply line
disadvantages of the enemy, but we could hope at
best for only an indecisive campaign with its
terrible and constant attrition upon our forces
if the enemy utilized its full military
I have constantly called for the new political
decisions essential to a solution.
Efforts have been made to distort my position.
It has been said in effect that I was a
warmonger. Nothing could be further from the
I know war as few other men now living know it,
and nothing to me--and nothing to me is more
revolting. I have long advocated its complete
abolition, as its very destructiveness on both
friend and foe has rendered it useless as a
means of settling international disputes.
Indeed, the Second Day of September, 1945, just
following the surrender of the Japanese nation
on the Battleship Missouri, I formally cautioned
"Men since the beginning of time have sought
peace. Various methods through the ages have
been attempted to devise an international
process to prevent or settle disputes between
nations. From the very start workable methods
were found in so far as individual citizens were
concerned, but the mechanics of an
instrumentality of larger international scope
have never been successful. Military alliances,
balances of power, Leagues of Nations, all in
turn failed, leaving the only path to be 'by way
of the crucible of war. The utter
destructiveness of war now blocks out, this
alternative. We have had our last chance. If we
will not devise some greater and more equitable
system, Armageddon will be at our door. The
problem basically is theological and involves a
spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human
character that will synchronize with our almost
matchless advances in science, art, literature
and all the material and cultural developments
of the past 2000 years. It must be of the spirit
if we are to save the flesh. "
But once war is forced upon us, there is no
other alternative than to apply every available
means to bring it to a swift end. War's very
object is victory, not prolonged indecision.
In war there can be no substitute for victory.
There are some who for varying reasons would
appease Red China. They are blind to history's
clear lesson, for history teaches with
unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but
begets new and bloodier wars. It points to no
single instance where this end has justified
that means, where appeasement has led to more
than a sham peace. Like blackmail, it lays the
basis for new and successively greater demands
until, as in blackmail, violence becomes the
only other alternative. Why, my soldiers asked
me, surrender military advantages to an enemy in
the field? I could not answer.
Some, may say to avoid spread of the conflict
into an all-out war with China, Others, to avoid
Soviet intervention. Neither explanation seems
valid, for China is already engaging with the
maximum power It can commit, and the Soviet will
not necessarily mesh its actions with our moves.
Like a cobra, any new enemy, will more likely
strike whenever it feels that the relativity of
military and other potentialities is in its
favor on a world-wide basis.
The tragedy of Korea is further heightened by
the fact that its military action was confined
to its territorial limits. It condemns that
nation, which it Is our purpose to save, to
suffer the devastating impact of full naval and
air bombardment while the enemy's sanctuaries
are fully protected from such attack and
Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to
now, is the sole one which has risked its all
against communism. The magnificence of the
courage and fortitude of the Korean people
defies description. They have chosen to risk
death rather than slavery. Their last words to
me were: "Don't scuttle the Pacific.
I have just left your fighting sons in Korea.
They have done their bust there, and I can
report to you without reservation that they are
splendid in every way.
It was my constant effort to preserve them and
end this savage conflict honorably and with the
least loss of time and a minimum sacrifice of
life. Its growing bloodshed has caused me the
deepest anguish and anxiety. Those gallant men
will remain often in my thoughts and in my
I am closing my 52 years of military service.
When I joined the Army, even before the turn of
the century, it was the fulfillment of all of my
boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned
over many times since I took the oath at West
Point, and the hopes and dreams have all since
vanished, but I still remember the refrain of
one of the most popular barracks ballads of that
day which proclaimed most proudly that old
soldiers never die; they just fade away. And
like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close
my military career and just fade away, an old
soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him
the light to see that duty.