Heroes: At the Beginning

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The audience broke into spontaneous applause as the old man, still carrying himself with military grace, walked down the steps of the Capitol to the waiting microphones. The last time General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, 82, visited Capitol Hill was in 1951. during the angry aftermath of President Harry Truman's decision to fire him as commander in Korea. But last week the atmosphere was as warm as the noonday August sun, as Congress honored the soldier whose career spanned 52 years and three wars.

Extolling the general. House Speaker John McCormack, read off a list of his great battles that reverberated like an army drum roll: "The Marne, Meuse-Argonne, St.-Mihiel and Sedan; Bataan, Corregidor, New Guinea, Leyte, Lingayen Gulf, Manila and Borneo, Pusan and Inchon." Then McCormack presented Mac-Arthur with an engrossed copy of a special resolution, passed unanimously by both Houses of Congress, that expressed the "thanks and appreciation of the Congress and the American people" for his leadership "during and following World War II," and for his many years of effort to strengthen the ties between the Philippines and the U.S.

His hands trembling slightly, MacArthur replied in his deep tones: "I cannot tell you how greatly embarrassed I am at the compliments that have been showered upon me today. I am grateful that the American Congress, after a lapse of sufficient time to be swayed neither by sentiment nor emotion, has rendered an opinion of my services that I feel does me too much honor. I am grateful to the American men-at-arms who were my comrades.

A general is just as good or just as bad as the troops under his command make him. Mine were great! Something of the luster of this citation glows on each one's shoulders." During his brief visit to Washington, MacArthur also stopped off at the White House for a private talk with President Kennedy. When he emerged, MacArthur told newsmen: "The President and I discussed the world situation and reminisced about our old comradeship in the Pacific war." Someone wanted to know if he was optimistic or pessimistic about world affairs. "I am completely optimistic," the general replied. "Anybody who believes that the United States of America doesn't have a bright future should have his brain examined. We are at the beginning, not at the end."