Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
President Harry Truman, pictured above, relieved General Douglas MacArthur as commander of U.S. forces in Korea on April 11, 1951. A week later, MacArthur received a hero’s welcome in the nation’s capital as he addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress.
On this date, General Douglas MacArthur delivered his famous farewell address to a Joint Meeting
of Congress, arguing for a tougher course against Communist China in prosecuting the Korean War. A little more than a week before MacArthur’s speech, President Harry S. Truman
had relieved him as commander of U.S. forces fighting in Korea. MacArthur had publicly challenged Truman’s leadership by threatening to attack China directly—a strategy that U.S. official feared would spark a wider war. MacArthur’s dismissal was not popular. Americans revered him as the mastermind of the victorious Pacific campaign in World War II. A quarter million persons filled the National Mall and the route from the Washington Monument to the Capitol, to cheer the war hero. In summarizing his 52-year Army career, MacArthur waxed eloquent, concluding his speech by recalling a line from a West Point barracks song from his school days: “'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.”