There was widespread dismay when President Truman relieved General Macarthur of his command in 1951 during the Korean War. Now, information has come to light that it may have been a lot more necessary than was perceived at the time.
The MacArthur firing prompted the Democratic-led Congress to invite the general to address a joint session, which MacArthur moved to applause and tears when he declared that “old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” Among Republicans, there were murmurs of support for a MacArthur candidacy for president. The Senate’s Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committes held joint hearings, at which MacArthur detailed his disagreement with the president and claimed the backing of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for his position.
The joint chiefs contradicted him. The Senate hearings were closed to the public, but a transcript was released each day including all but the most sensitive comments. Omar Bradley, the chairman of the joint chiefs, flatly rejected MacArthur’s call for a wider war. “In the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this strategy would involve us in the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time and with the wrong enemy,” he said.
Bradley’s categorical conclusion proved the most compelling public statement by any official at the committee hearings. For a soldier of Bradley’s stature, with no history of politics, to contradict MacArthur so completely caused even the most ardent of MacArthur’s supporters to pause and reconsider.
Yet it was the statements that were not made public that did the real damage to MacArthur. Not until the 1970s was the secret testimony declassified, and even then it languished in the archives, overlooked by all but a few specialists in a topic time seemed to have passed by. But to read it now is to understand how quickly, and thoroughly, one of America’s most popular generals was undone.
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Other excised testimony revealed a fundamental reason for the administration’s reluctance to escalate in northeast Asia: There was precious little for the United States to escalate with. American air power, in particular, was stretched very thin. Hoyt Vandenberg, the Air Force chief of staff, told the committee that Korea was already claiming a large part of America’s available air strength. “The Air Force part that is engaged in Korea is roughly 85 percent—80 to 85 percent—of the tactical capacity of the United States,” he said. “The strategic portion, which is used tactically, is roughly between one-fourth and one-fifth. The air defense forces are, I would judge, about 20 percent.”
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Democrat Walter George of Georgia, echoing MacArthur’s assertion that “China is using the maximum of her force against us,” said it was unfair that MacArthur had to fight a limited war while the Chinese fought all out.
Omar Bradley responded that George was quite mistaken—and, by implication, that MacArthur was quite misleading. The Chinese were not fighting all out, not by a great deal. “They have not used air against our front line troops, against our lines of communication in Korea, our ports; they have not used air against our bases in Japan or against our naval air forces.” China’s restraint in these areas had been crucial to the survival of American and U.N. forces in Korea. On balance, Bradley said, the limited nature of the war benefited the United States at least as much as it did the Chinese. “We are fighting under rather favorable rules for ourselves.”
Vandenberg amplified this point ... “I would like to point out that that operates just as much a limitation, so far, for the Chinese as it has for the United Nations troops in that our main base of supply is the Japanese islands. The port of Pusan is very important to us ... Our naval forces are operating on the flanks allowing us naval gunfire support, carrier aircraft strikes, and the landing of such formations as the Inchon landing, all without the Chinese air force projecting itself into the area,” Vandenberg said. “Therefore, the sanctuary business, as it is called, is operating on both sides, and is not completely a limited war on our part.”
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In other words—and this was Marshall’s crucial point, as it had been Vandenberg’s—the limitations on the fighting in Korea, so loudly assailed by MacArthur and his supporters, in fact favored the American side.
There's much more at the link. Great reading for military history buffs, and a solid lesson in geopolitics as well - something that might benefit contemporary leaders, faced as they are with the present confused and uncertain international situation.