3-144 Memorandum for the President, March 25, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 25, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the President

March 25, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Medal of Honor, General Douglas MacArthur.1

The Secretary of War has today approved the award of the Medal of Honor to General Douglas MacArthur, with the following citation:

General Douglas MacArthur, Commanding General, United States Army Forces in the Far East. For conspicuous leadership in preparing the Philippine Islands to resist conquest, for gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against invading Japanese forces, and for the heroic conduct of defensive and offensive operations on the Bataan Peninsula. He mobilized, trained, and led an army which has received world acclaim for its gallant defense against a tremendous superiority of enemy forces in men and arms. His utter disregard of personal danger under heavy fire and aerial bombardment, his calm judgment in each crisis, inspired his troops, galvanized the spirit of resistance of the Filipino people, and confirmed the faith of the American people in their armed forces.

The statutes governing the award of the Medal of Honor provide that the actual presentation should be made by the President whenever possible. In this case it is recommended that you designate Lieutenant General George H. Brett, the second ranking United States Army officer in Australia, to make the presentation in your name.

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. In a January 30 telegram to Major General Richard K. Sutherland (a Yale graduate who had entered the Regular Army from the National Guard in 1916 and was serving as chief of staff of the United States Army Forces in the Far East), Marshall said that the War Department was anxious to give MacArthur a Medal of Honor; Sutherland was directed to “transmit at proper time your recommendations and supporting statement with appropriate description of any act believed sufficient to warrant this award.” On February 26 Congressman James E. Van Zandt (Republican from Pennsylvania) introduced a bill (H.R. 6685) to authorize the president to present the medal to MacArthur. Marshall told Secretary Stimson that “he felt that the honor would mean more if it developed from War Department rather than Congressional recognition.”

Sutherland responded on March 16 by suggesting that MacArthur’s award “be based upon his utter contempt of danger under terrific aerial bombardments” and for his “magnificent leadership and vision.” He also proposed that the citation be written in Washington rather than by him “due to the certainty of compromising the only code available to us en route if I send a citation before our arrival in Australia.” Marshall personally drafted the citation and sent it to Stimson with the observation that “while there is no specific act of General MacArthur’s to justify the award of the Medal of Honor under a literal interpretation of the statutes, I feel that the services that he has rendered merit some recognition far above that of any other decoration which we now confer. After Colonel Lindbergh made his flight to Paris in 1927 he was awarded the Medal of Honor by Congressional action. This in itself would establish a precedent for the proposed action in the case of General MacArthur. I submit this recommendation to you not only because I feel that General MacArthur is deserving of the honor but also because I am certain that this action will meet with popular approval, both within and without the armed forces, and will have a constructive morale value.” Stimson, who did not then know that Marshall had written the citation, replied: “I think the language of the proposed citation is particularly good.” (Marshall Memorandum for the Secretary of War, March 24, 1942, NA/ RG 165 [OCS, 210.522]; the other documents mentioned are attached to this.) “This action was taken,” Marshall later told the president, “among other things, to offset any propaganda by the enemy directed against his leaving his command and proceeding to Australia in compliance with your orders.” (Marshall Memorandum for the President, August 22, 1944, GCMRL/ G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) MacArthur had left Corregidor March 11 and arrived in Australia March 17. The award was announced by the White House on March 25 and the presentation was later made in Canberra.

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 147-148.

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