You're Fired!

This Day in History

When communist North Korea invaded democratic South Korea in June 1950, the United Nations came to the aid of the southern country at once.  

The United States especially believed that the spread of communism had a domino effect, which largely threatened the freedom of the United States and the only way to protect U.S interests was to become involved.

The United States chose West Point graduate and decorated World War II veteran, General Douglas MacArthur. His “Americans never quit,” stance proved he would be the man to get the job done. As the war progressed, however, European countries did not share MacArthur’s view and began to be concerned that the flamboyant general might aggravate another world war. 

MacArthur with President Truman

Although the Americans were leading in the Korean War, President Harry Truman decided to abruptly end the conflict in Korea. He defended his position by saying, “it would be wrong—tragically wrong—for us to take the initiative in extending the war… Our aim is to avoid the spread of the conflict…I believe that we must try to limit the war to Korea for these vital reasons: To make sure that the precious lives of our fighting men are not wasted; to see that the security of our country and the free world is not needlessly jeopardized; and to prevent a third world war.”

MacArthur, however, was more aggressive and thought that it would be unpatriotic for the U.S to end mid-victory. Known to be flamboyantly egotistical, he found it difficult to accept, what he saw as a defeat. At the time, the American public favored more war involvement as well. 

After General Douglas MacArthur made comments contradicting and challenging the president’s policy in the Korean War, Truman fired him on this day in 1951 for insubordination. 

When the disgraced general returned, he received a hero’s welcome, complete with parades and speeches. Wearing deep aviator sunglasses while smoking a long-stemmed pipe, General MacArthur quoted a famous folksong, “old soldiers don’t die, they fade away.” 

Indeed, the old general faded away into the hearts of his people and the memories of history books. 

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