MacARTHUR, Douglas (1880-1964). Typed letter signed ("Douglas MacArthur"), to John G. Mahanna, New York, 1 September 1960. 1 page, 4to, edges slightly chipped.
"I REGARD SENATOR KENNEDY'S SERVICE IN THE PACIFIC WAR AS THAT OF A BRAVE AND RESOURCEFUL YOUNG NAVAL OFFICER"
MACARTHUR REJECTS CRITICISM OF JFK'S CONDUCT AS PT-109 SKIPPER, in this election year letter to the editor of the Berkshire Eagle newspaper in Massachusetts. "The quotation attributed to me," MacArthur writes, "is false and does not reflect my views. I regard Senator Kennedy's service in the Pacific War as that of a brave and resourceful young naval officer. His decorations were well earned. I gave no interview to the author of the article you mention and, in fact, have never personally met him." MacArthur is referring to Drew Pearson, whose 10 July 1960 syndicated column attacked Kennedy's seamanship in the famous PT-109 collision with a Japanese destroyer. Pearson's column included a quote, supposedly from MacArthur, stating that JFK "let a...destroyer mow him down...He should have been court-martialed." Mahanna--who served in the Navy during World War II and went ashore with MacArthur on his famous return to the Philippines in 1944--wrote the general at the behest of JFK (see photocopy included with the lot). MacArthur goes on to correct Mahanna's paper, which referred to him as a "candidate for President in 1952," which, of course, he was not. He was, he points out, the Keynote Speaker at the convention that nominated Robert Taft. He concludes on a nostalgic note: "Your letter recalled very vividly days that now seem long, long ago. The world has turned over many, many time since then. It is always a pleasure to hear from my former comrades-in-arms." The PT-109 flap did Kennedy no serious damage during the campaign. And while critics--and even some admirers--have often scratched their heads about how JFK failed to get his small, speedy craft out of the way of the destroyer (rather like a mosquito getting chased down by an elephant), his incredible courage and endurance in rescuing his men overwhelms any charge of poor seamanship.