In 1951 President Truman announced that General Douglas MacArthur was relieved of his duties as Allied Commander of United Nations forces in the Far East during the Korean War. MacArthur openly challenged U.S. civilian leadership by threatening to attack China in defiance of the President and the United Nations.
Statement and Order by the President on Relieving General MacArthur of His Commands
April 11, 1951
Statement by the President:
With deep regret I have concluded that General of the Army Douglas MacArthur is unable to give his wholehearted support to the policies of the United States Government and of the United Nations in matters pertaining to his official duties. In view of the specific responsibilities imposed upon me by the Constitution of the United States and the added responsibility which has been entrusted to be by the United Nations, I have decided that I must make a change of command in the Far East. I have, therefore, relieved General MacArthur of his commands and have designated Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway as his successor.
Full and vigorous debate on matters of national policy is a vital element in the constitutional system of our free democracy. It is fundamental, however, that military commanders must be governed by the policies and directives issued to them in the manner provided by our laws and Constitution. In time of crisis, this consideration is particularly compelling.
General MacArthur's place in history as one of our greatest commanders is fully established. The Nation owes him a debt of gratitude for the distinguished and exceptional service which he has rendered his country in posts of great responsibility. For that reason I repeat my regret at the necessity for the action I feel compelled to take in his case.
Order by the President to General MacArthur:
I deeply regret that it becomes my duty as President and Commander in Chief of the United States military forces to replace you as Supreme Commander, Allied Powers; Commander in Chief, United Nations Command; Commander in Chief, Far East; and Commanding General, U.S. Army, Far East.
You will turn over your commands, effective at once, to Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway. You are authorized to have issued such orders as are necessary to complete desired travel to such place as you select.
My reasons for your replacement will be made public concurrently with the delivery to you of the foregoing order. ...
Additional White House releases
April 11, 1953
On the same day Truman relieved MacArthur of his commands, the White House made public the following:
The text of an order from Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall to Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway informing him that the president was appointing him to succeed Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Marshall also notified Ridgway that Lt. Gen. James A. Van Fleet would take his place as commander of the 8th Army in Korea.
A message, dated December 6, 1950, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to MacArthur. The message transmitted the text of a presidential memorandum, dated December 5, directing that no speech, press release or other public statement concerning foreign or military policy should be released until cleared by the State Department or the Department of Defense, and further directing that advance copies of speeches or press releases be submitted to the White House.
A message, dated March 20, 1951, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to MacArthur, informing him that the president was about to announce that the United Nations was prepared to discuss conditions of settlement in Korea.
A statement by MacArthur, published in The New York Times on March 24, 1951, pointing out the weaknesses of China "even under inhibitions which now restrict activity of the United Nations forces and the corresponding military advantages which accrue to Red China."
A message, dated March 24, 1951, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to MacArthur informing him that the president had directed that his attention be called to the memorandum of December 6, 1950 and further informing him that "in view of the information given you 20 March 1951 any further statements by you must be coordinated as prescribed in the order of 6 December."