Awarded the Medal of Honor – Bataan Peninsula 1 April 1942.
It should be noted that General MacArthur’s Father was also awarded the Medal of Honor for Gallantry at Missionary Ridge. See bottom of page
Go to to below link for information on The May 1962 Speech by General MacArthur
The Japanese Surrender 1945
MacArthur played Football till injured
General MacArthur’s Duty, Honor, Country speech was recorded for us because Jim Ellis ’62 First Captain and Pete Wuerpel Bde Adjutant ’62 had the foresight to realize perhaps we would want to remember what the General said to us. He spoke to us without notes
What we remember of that day is at the bottom of this page
What we remember of that day in May when he talked to us
This Saturday, 12 May 2007, marks the 45th Anniversary of the presentation of the Thayer Award to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur ’03 and his legendary Duty, Honor, Country acceptance speech, and several graduates have shared their memories of that day. Perhaps the most significant recollection is of the absolute silence of the Corps and other attendees during the speech.
Larry Waters ’62 added that he had never seen the Corps standing so tall on The Plain as when the general trooped the line during the review that preceded the speech.
Dennis Bennett ’62 noted that “you could hear a pin drop” until a man began taking photographs using a camera with a noisy shutter. A general officer sitting nearby reached over to the man, gently touched his hand, and put a finger up to his lips to indicate silence was requested. All this was done without taking his eyes off GEN MacArthur for more than a few seconds.
Bob Mecada ’62 also recalled the silence during the speech but added that the mess hall was silent for at least 15-20 seconds afterwards as well, the effect of the speech was that dramatic. Then the attendees began to applaud.
Pat Canary notes that when Jim Ellis ’62 dismissed the Corps, the silence resumed as the cadets left the mess hall and returned to the barracks. Many seemed to appreciate the fact that the speech was GEN MacArthur’s farewell to West Point.
Perhaps the most comprehensive recollection was provided by Dick Chegar ’62, who served as escort for GEN Anthony McAuliffe ’19 of Bastogne fame. He recalls that Mrs. MacArthur, Mrs. Westmoreland, and their escorts were seated on the poop deck while a number of famous general officers were seated at ten-man tables near the podium on the ground floor. GEN MacArthur was 82 at the time, and this alone caused a sense of drama in the air, almost symbolic of the passing of an era. His opening joke about the doorman at his hotel asking if he had ever been to West Point before caused the mess hall to erupt in laughter, but the mood soon grew serious as MacArthur spoke of distant battlefields and the American soldier’s “patience under adversity, courage under fire, and modesty in victory.” He delivered his speech without notes, and most attendees were acutely aware of his exemplary oratory. About two-thirds of the way through the speech, however, MacArthur hesitated for a moment, turned to his right, and looked directly at his wife Jean. It was as if a ray of light passed between them in that moment. GEN MacArthur then flawlessly continued his speech to completion. Several weeks later, the Cadet First Captain visited GEN MacArthur in New York City and was told that the speech had been written in advance, committed to memory and rehearsed several times. Dick felt that the pause occurred because the next line may have been forgotten for a moment. Many years later, when one of Dick’s captains won the annual General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, Dick told him the story about the momentary pause. When the captain later met Mrs. MacArthur at the ceremony, she confirmed her recollection of the glance that passed between them on that day.
John Goodwin ’62 was a member of the cadet officer honor guard arrayed on the steps of Washington Hall. He recalls that GEN MacArthur was extremely gracious, stopping to talk and shaking hands with a strong grip.
“Fred Gorden” ’62, also in the honor guard on the steps, recalls an air of excitement because MacArthur was already a legend at West Point. At the top of the steps, the general turned and said, “I thank you all.”
Neil Nydegger ’62 was impressed by the General’s “sincerity and genuine commitment to the Army and to West Point” and how he had “captured the simple essence of being a soldier.”
Gary Sharp ’62 recalled: — “MacArthur’s well-chosen words and deliberate delivery made an emotional impression on me that I will never forget … being the first in war and possibly the first to die, the loneliness of remote duty, the hardships on a soldier’s family, the fears that all soldiers face in battle, the camaraderie soldiers experience, the pride and honor felt when a soldier’s job has been done well, and the deeply emotional sound of Taps at a soldier’s burial … were all in his speech. If they were not in his exact words, they were in the silences between them. If any soldier ever needs encouragement before or in battle, he only needs to hear or read MacArthur’s words.”
Fred Bothwell ’62, first in his class in English, was impressed with the general’s choice of words like “tocsin” and “mournful murmur of the battlefield,” calling his speech “the most brilliant piece of oratory that I have ever heard.”
Stu Sherard ’62 was moved by the reaction of his roommate, Frank Reasoner, a former Marine sergeant who returned to the Marine Corps after graduation and was killed in action on 12 July 1965 in Viet Nam, receiving the Medal of Honor posthumously. Hard core Marine Reasoner had tears in his eyes several times during the speech.
John Dilley ’62 also recalls that “there was not a dry eye in the house,” but his strongest recollection is of MacArthur’s intoning, “… the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.”
Bob Reid ’62 had a similar recollection of being touched deeply and moved to tears, especially by MacArthur’s final allusion to “the Corps.”
Forty-five years later, Bob Cooper ’62 still finds himself quoting MacArthur’s speech to those he meets who are opposed to the war in Iraq: “This does not mean that you are warmongers. On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”
Bill Ross ’62 recalled MacArthur’s sonorous delivery and a more pragmatic aspect: GEN MacArthur, as a former Superintendent, exercised the prerogative normally reserved to heads of state and granted amnesty, permitting Bill to enjoy the beautiful Saturday afternoon without sitting confinement.
John Taylor ’62 recalls that Army’s newly-established Rugby Team, of which he was one of the co-founders, went on that afternoon to beat the leading rugby club in the nation, the New York Rugby Club.
Mike Moore ’62 recalls being photographed presenting a 1962 Howitzer to the general (Mike was the editor) and then flying off to Syracuse to play lacrosse, Army winning by about ten points.
Gus Fishburne ’62 recalls that the baseball and lacrosse teams attended in uniform, standing along the walls of the north wing during the speech.
Tom Eccleston ’62 recalls a very personal and pragmatic result of having heard the speech. After several years of active duty and a tour in Viet Nam, Tom embarked upon a civilian career selling high voltage equipment and was given The Boston Edison Company as a challenge. While attempting to sell some old timers at Boston Edison his company’s equipment, he happened to mention that he had heard MacArthur’s speech. He was then seen as a minor celebrity and received a large contract within the year.
Like many of his classmates, Dave Francis ’62 initially was waiting impatiently for lunch to be over so that he could hop into his Austin Healey sports car and drive down to Philadelphia for the weekend: “in the subsequent years, the memory of that weekend in Philadelphia has faded, but the memory of MacArthur’s speech has remained with me.”
Denny Coll ’65, however, was just a Plebe at the time and a member of the football team brought back in uniform and pads from spring practice to hear the speech. He also was a sleep-deprived Plebe who had just had a hearty football training table meal in a very warm, un-air conditioned mess hall. He and some classmates dozed off after the opening minutes of the speech, only to be awakened by the sound of MacArthur’s West Point ring inadvertently striking the podium near the microphone. His recollection of the speech is limited to its moving conclusion: “Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps. I bid you farewell.” He then realized that he was a part of history but had missed most of a historic speech.
Others also missed the speech, but for official reasons. Ernest “Gus” Zenker ’62 had branched Air Defense Artillery and was visiting a Nike missile site in New Jersey that Saturday, along with several Air Defense classmates.
Many more would have missed hearing the speech, however, had it not been for the presence of mind of the First Captain, Jim Ellis. The previous evening he had contacted the Public Information Officer at the time and asked if the speech would be recorded. The PIO office had no plans to do so. Jim then asked his roommate, Pete Wuerpel, the Adjutant, to set up a recorder on the poop deck. All other recordings of the speech owe their genesis to Pete’s reel-to-reel tape .. which he still has. And now you know the rest of the story.