"Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields, will bear the fruits of victory." -General Douglas MacArthur
General Douglas MacArthur is well known as the man who led the Allied forces in the campaign against Japan in World War II To this day, his famous promise to return to the war-torn Philippines he was forced to flee echoes loudly within the halls of West Point and beyond. To be a soldier is to keep your promises as General MacArthur once did. However, not much is mentioned of his life before his service. Before he served in two World Wars, he was an athlete. Young MacArthur's backstory is littered with stories on the playing fields of military academies. As he grew as an athlete, his confidence soared as a man and as a soldier, an attribute that would serve him well in two world wars. This is his story.
The West Texas Military Academy
Captain Arthur MacArthur Jr. had enjoyed a distinguished career in the military, traversing all over the United States. He even earned the Medal of Honor as a Union officer at the Battle of Missionary Ridge during the Civil War. After marrying his wife, Mary, Arthur MacArthur had three sons, Arthur III, Malcolm and Douglas. Growing up, Douglas was very close to his mother and often dressed in skirts while sporting a long, curly flow of hair.
Like many military families, the MacArthurs moved frequently over the years before briefly settling in San Antonio, where Douglas enrolled in the recently established West Texas Military Academy in 1893. Yearning to fit in with his new classmates, young Douglas participated in baseball, football and tennis.
While he became a city champion in tennis as a freshman, his heart lay on the baseball diamond. He became the team's starting shortstop as a sophomore where he specialized in bunting. As both a junior and a senior, he managed the team, leading them to wins in every game but one. While he was starring as a shortstop, he also found time to be his school's quarterback. After graduating near the top of his class, Douglas MacArthur headed off to West Point where he would further his education in academia, athletics and warfare.
When the future leader of the Allied Eastern Front enrolled at the West Point Military Academy in the fall of 1899, he had two things on his mind: his future military career and baseball. In those days, freshmen were not allowed to participate on varsity and so young MacArthur was forced to wait til his sophomore year of 1901.
What a year it was! While his bat was below the team average at .266, he was good enough as a left fielder to start there for much of the year. OF course, the highlight of his first year on the Black Knights varsity squad was the first-ever Army-Navy baseball game. He even scored the winning run against the Midshipmen as Army won 4-3.
The following year, he switched to right field and again was a critical component in the soon-to-be-annual Army-Navy game. While he didn't do much on offense, his glove did most of the talking. Unfortunately, his ability in the outfield couldn't hold off the Midshipmen for long and Navy pulled away in the end, winning 4-3.
The Olympics and Beyond
While he didn't play his senior year, soon after his graduation from West Point, Douglas MacArthur was chosen as the new president of the U.S. Olympic Committee. At the time, the Olympics were in turmoil as the previous president had passed away just a year earlier. MacArthur proved to be perfect for the job, meeting with coaches, giving inspirational speeches to athletes while also planning travel and workout schedules.
For the rest of his working life, General MacArthur would continue to use athletics as strategic inspiration to either motivate his troops or to simply defeat the enemy. Quotes such as "I shall return" and "Hit 'em where they ain't" bear more than a whiff of his athletic past. Within those quotes lies a former athlete who once gave his all for his teammates on the fields of friendly strife, all the while knowing that that same effort would be expected on much more important fields years later.