This was written in response to the request from Assembly Editor, Jay Olejniczak's request for memories of the speech and that day (12 May 1962).

 

MacArthur Speech to the Corps of Cadets

By Lieutenant General James R. Ellis, US Army (Retired)

 

Saturday, 12 May 1962

GOA MacArthur’s trip to West Point had been well publicized and would be a major event. The afternoon before, I called the Academy Public Affairs Officer (PAO)—(an excellent officer with whom the Brigade Staff had a good working relationship), and I asked him about arrangements to record the General’s speech. He said they did not do that—instead they would release a copy of the speaker’s written remarks to the press after the event. This did not seem satisfactory. I asked my roommate, Pete Wuerpel, to see if he could do something so that at least he and I would have a recording of the speech. Pete was the Cadet Brigade Adjutant and used the dining hall public address system at every meal to make announcements. He borrowed a reel to reel recorder from a fellow cadet and made the connections.

That Saturday was a perfect day—clear and sunny but not too hot. As you remember, the parade field was oriented differently than today with the reviewing stand directly across the street from the Superintendent’s House. The dining hall had not been expanded and had not encroached on the parade field—consequently the field was larger than it is now. Spectators completely surrounded the field—the Academy civilian police (who worked with the MP’s and were responsible for crowd control) estimated the number at 150,000. Remember, the Academy was wide open to the public at that time.

It was a full Brigade Parade. At the appropriate time the Thayer Award was presented to General MacArthur by the President of the Association of Graduates, Lieutenant General (Retired) Leslie Groves (who had directed the Manhattan Project in WWII). Following the presentation, Generals MacArthur and Westmoreland and I trooped the line in a jeep driven by the Supe’s driver. A picture of the jeep moving in front of the Corps appeared on one of those two page displays in Life magazine following MacArthur’s death in 1964. 

After the parade, the Corps, Tac Officers, Instructors and invited guests moved into Washington Hall. Generals MacArthur, Westmoreland and Groves took their places on the dais which had been set up just inside the main door. Glen Blumhardt, Cadet 1st Regimental Commander, escorted Mrs. MacArthur and Mrs. Westmoreland to a table on the Poop Deck.

My table was immediately in front of the dais. Cadet tables held 10 people. As Brigade Commander I was table-com hosting nine active duty and retired 4 Star Generals—minding my manners with every bite!

Following lunch, General MacArthur gave that great Duty, Honor, Country speech. I’m sure you have heard it many times. He had no notes except one 3 x 5 card with one word on it—“doorman”—you have heard the joke. The occasional ‘klunk’ on the audio is the sound of the General’s ring hitting the wooden podium as he shifted his grip. When he finished he turned around and saluted his wife on the Poop Deck. At the end there were no dry eyes on my table. 

After the official party left, Wuerpel and I were changing in our room (8½ Division which no longer exists), we both had dates waiting--(I married mine 7 weeks later—we celebrate our 45th this summer). Pete had recovered the recorder.

The phone rang:

PAO (in a panic), “The General had no written text and the press is going crazy for a copy of the speech—someone told me you made a recording.”

Ellis, “Yes sir, it is here on the table”.

PAO, “My minion will be there shortly to pick it up.”

(Interesting title for the Captain who rushed in 10 minutes later and ran out with the tape). The PAO took it to the Foreign Language lab and made multiple copies. A secretary worked all afternoon transcribing the speech to hard copy to release to the press. Pete retrieved the original tape and, to the best of my knowledge, still has it.

The Supe sent two of the written copies to General MacArthur— MacArthur signed both and sent them back. General Westmoreland kept one and gave the other to me. Seth Hudgins told me a few months ago that, over time, MacArthur signed several more.

12 May 1987—The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary:

The Academy held a ceremony to mark the 25th Anniversary of the D-H-C speech.

LTG Dave Palmer was Supe and invited me to attend—I was an Assistant Division Commander of the 10th Mountain Division at Ft. Drum. Mrs. MacArthur was the honored guest. General (Ret.) and Mrs. Stilwell came—Stilwell had been Commandant in 1962. And, there were several of MacArthur’s wartime comrades present. General and Mrs. Westmoreland were unable to attend. 

While there, Mrs. MacArthur mentioned that the General had rehearsed the speech 3 or more times to her. Though he spoke without notes, he was well rehearsed.

Pictures and film clips of General MacArthur’s life were super-imposed over the audio and the resulting video was shown to the entire Corps in Eisenhower Hall as part of the ceremony. I’m sure you have seen it.


For the MacArthur Speech, click this link:      http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/douglasmacarthurthayeraward.html