When four-year-old Arthur MacArthur IV stretched out an arm to pat Prince, the beautiful white German Shepherd I was holding on a leash, the two U.S. Army sergeants guarding General Douglas MacArthur’s wife and young son drew their pistols; ready to shoot the dog if it as much as licked the boy’s hand.
Fortunately, Jean MacArthur recognized me and assured her minders that her son was in no danger of being attacked.
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How I met Jean and Arthur MacArthur
The scene was a public park in Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, in 1942.
The General, Supreme Allied Commander in the Southwest Pacific, had his operational headquarters in Brisbane from 1942 to 1944.
His office was on the eighth floor of what is now the heritage-listed MacArthur Chambers in the city’s central business district.
As a Brisbane-born staff sergeant in the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS), I was attached to his office staff.
I think he selected me ahead of American personnel because I could take a shorthand record of his dictation (mostly Top Secret) at 200 words a minute, and type it out at 120 words a minute.
I had often spoken to Jean MacArthur and her son when they visited the office.
They had given me a friendly wave when they spotted me walking past the park. I was exercising a friend’s German Shepherd on one of my all-too-rare rest days.
Jean must have reported the drawn guns episode to the General because he issued instructions that in the future her guards were not to interfere with me and my dog.
After that, whenever we met, they saluted and addressed me as “Ma’am,” but still kept a wary watch on Prince.
I remember Arthur as a polite and well-behaved little boy. Although Harold Tichman, one of his Australian bodyguards, is said to have described him as “a terror of a kid,” who once had kicked him, leaving a long-lasting mark on his leg.
Arthur MacArthur’s mother (Jean MacArthur)
Jean was a tiny person, even shorter than me (and I was just 5ft. 2in. in those days). Her dress size was SSW (very hard to find during the war).
Shortly before the General died in 1964, he described Jean as “my constant friend, sweetheart and devoted supporter.”
After his death, AP reported, she remained active in theatre, opera, civic and philanthropic pursuits. She also served as honorary chairman of the Norfolk, Virginia, foundation created as a memorial to her husband.
“Jean MacArthur has witnessed the great cataclysms of our time, survived war and peace, conquered tragedy and known triumph,” President Reagan said in awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988.
The citation for the medal, the nation’s highest civilian award, called her “a shining example, a woman of substance and character, a loyal wife and mother, and like her general, a patriot.”
Jean died on January 22. 2000, aged 101. She was buried alongside the General at the MacArthur Memorial in Virginia.
It’s an old domed building that is part of a complex which includes the Jean MacArthur Research Center, where her husband’s archives are held.
From time to time over the last 60 years, I’ve wondered what became of young Arthur MacArthur.
He received so much publicity in the 1940s, as the son and grandson of two famous generals, that it seems he has chosen to disappear from the public gaze.
Where Is General MacArthur’s Son?
Searching the Internet the other day, I found an interesting story, “Where Is General MacArthur’s Son?” written some years ago by Oscar Samuel Roloff (1918-1999) for the Woodinville Weekly in Washington state.
“In 1950, a colleague and I were the two-man press team for VADM [Vice Admiral] Turner Joy, Commander Naval Forces, Far East, in Tokyo, Japan. Our top boss was the flamboyant General Douglas MacArthur, who ruled from his high Tokyo tower over his family, friends, and foes. No one dared challenge his dictates.
“One day, he ruled that his son, Arthur, 12, would take a warship ride from Yokosuka to Tokyo. Col. S.C. Huff, aide de camp to the General, was ordered to go along and watch the kid’s every move, to protect him. During this stint, my colleague boarded the ship to take photos. I took some, too.
“I watched the lad, who seemed entirely uninterested, ill at ease, as he sat on a forward bitt [bollard]. No sailor was allowed to talk with him. His dad had ruled his son would go to West Point, become a General, and possibly someday be awarded the Medal of Honor as his Dad and Grandpa had received for bravery.
“As I studied the lad, and later took down the file folder of the photos we had taken, I studied them and came to the same conclusion. The kid wanted to march to a different drummer–not his Dad’s drum. He was a sensitive lad, one who had his own ideas of what he wanted to do, wanted to be.”
Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however, measured or far away.– Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862).
Where is Arthur MacArthur right now?
I found this possible answer on a Fayetteville Observer (North Carolina) webpage years ago:
“Whatever happened to Gen. MacArthur’s son? Did he go into the military? – H.P., Pinehurst …
A: No, he didn’t. Instead, [he] became a concert pianist and writer, according to June Weatherly.”
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I found one other clue on the Internet. In an article about the Spanish-born artist Juvenal Sanso, Philippine novelist, poet, playwright, and essayist Nick Joaquin wrote: “One hears that General MacArthur’s son is now an artist in Greenwich Village, but one doubts he’s doing any recollections of the Manila of his childhood..”
I suppose he can’t recollect our Brisbane park encounter either. If he reads this story, I’d like him to know that, after all these years, I still have fond memories of him and his mother.
I hope that he has found happiness in following the beat of that different drummer.
General Douglas MacArthur’s Prayer for His Son
While fighting in the Pacific during WWII, General Douglas MacArthur, whose father was Civil War hero Lieutenant-General Arthur MacArthur, wrote this letter to his son, Arthur IV:
Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak; and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee — and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.
Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.
Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high, a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men, one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
And after all these thing are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom and the meekness of true strength.
Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain!”