TRUMAN, Harry S. (1884-1972), President. Typed letter signed ("Harry S. Truman") TO GEN. DOUGLAS MACARTHUR, Washington, 16 August 1950. 1 page, 8vo, White House stationery, matted and framed with photographic portraits of both Truman and MacArthur.
FATEFUL GOOD WISHES: TRUMAN TELLS MACARTHUR "I AM HOPEFUL THAT THE KOREAN MATTER WILL WORK OUT AS SUCCESSFULLY AS YOUR SOUTH PACIFIC CAMPAIGN"
Eight months before firing MacArthur, President Truman sends this warm letter: "General Lowe handed me your letter of the twelfth and I had a very interesting conversation with him about his interviews with you and with the Field Commanders in Korea. I am very happy that the general made the trip. He will be going back to Japan very shortly and I shall ask him to deliver this letter to you. I am hopeful that the Korean matter will work out as successfully as your South Pacific campaign did and I am sure it will." The kind words belied Truman's deep suspicions. Major General Frank Lowe's role as an intermediary was itself clear evidence of the President's distrust. Truman had known Lowe since their days together on the Senate investigative committee in the early 1940s--an experience which left Truman resentful towards what he called the "brass hats" of the military establishment. So with a 70-year old Douglas MacArthur--one of the brassiest of the brass hats--leading American forces in Korea, Truman sent Lowe as his "special envoy" to evaluate MacArthur's health.
Truman and Lowe spoke by phone on August 3--the "conversation" that the President alludes to here--and Lowe followed up with a written evaluation a few days later, on August 8 (that document is now in the Truman Library). His reports were glowing: "I thought his appearance improved and his vigor, both mental and physical, even greater than when I was with him in the Philippines in 1945" (Truman Library). MacArthur's doctors told Lowe their patient had the vigor of an exceptionally fit fifty year old, and MacArthur himself assured Lowe that "when we take the offensive he proposed to take the field and assume personal command of all combat forces," and that "when he cannot out-walk or out-last his staff...he will notify you [i.e., Truman] of that fact immediately and ask to be relieved of command at your convenience." (Truman Library)
Lowe was still in Korea at the time of MacArthur's coup at Inchon in September 1950. "I have witnessed a miracle, no less;" Lowe told Truman, "all calculated to the end we discussed in Washington...i.e., that no American troops shall be required to fight in the cold, the mud, and the filth of a Korean winter." That, of course, is exactly what did happen, in spite of MacArthur's promises to Truman at Wake Island in the fall of 1950 that fighting would soon be over. The disastrous Chinese intervention revived and inflamed all of Truman's simmering suspicions about MacArthur's fitness for command, and ultimately led the President to relieve him in April 1951 (see the following Lot).