People: World War II
MacArthur soon left for the Philippines to prepare the islands for independence. But when Japan attacked the Philippines in World War II, MacArthur’s troops were initially defeated. President Franklin Roosevelt ordered him to Australia. MacArthur assured his men, “I shall return.” True to his word, in 1944 he liberated the Philippines. In 1945 he accepted the Japanese’s surrender. For the next five years he served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan, helping the country to rebuild and establish a democratic government.
Once again General MacArthur served his country during the Korean War. During this war, MacArthur had disagreements with President Truman over the course of action to take. When he made these differences public, President Truman relieved him of his duties in Korea. As Commander-in-Chief, President Truman had the authority to take this action. This led to MacArthur’s retirement from the military in 1951. He would return one final time to West Point to give his Duty, Honor, Country address in 1962.
When he took office the country was in the depths of the Great Depression. Thirteen million people were out of work and almost all banks had closed. In his First Inaugural Address he likened the crisis to a foreign invasion, and asserted that the Constitution’s separation of powers and system of checks and balances would have to be temporarily suspended in order to see the country through. He proposed what he called the New Deal: expansive federal programs, funded by citizens paying taxes. He sent a record number of bills to Congress attempting to bring relief to farmers and the unemployed. In 1935 he proposed the Social Security Act. Controls were enacted on utilities and businesses, and the government moved towards regulating the economy. The repeal of Prohibition also brought in more tax revenue for the federal government.
After his decisive reelection victory in 1936, Roosevelt became frustrated with the Supreme Court which had been overturning some New Deal legislation as unconstitutional expansions of Congress’ powers. In what has come to be called his “Court-packing scheme,” he proposed that Congress increase the size of the Supreme Court to a maximum of fifteen members. This proposal failed, but two justices changed their voting, and the court began upholding New Deal laws.
Roosevelt faced issues of national interest and foreign policy. He attempted to keep the country out of World War II, favoring a “Good Neighbor” policy of neutrality. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt believed he had to act; Congress declared war on Japan the next day, and on Germany and Italy three days later. Roosevelt served as Commander in Chief of the military making the defeat of Nazi Germany the first priority. Fearing Japanese saboteurs, he signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the forced internment of Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast. This action was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States (1944).
In all, President Roosevelt was elected to four terms as President. Until that time, US presidents had followed the example of President George Washington who had limited his service to two terms. In 1951, the 22nd Amendment was passed limiting US Presidents to two terms.