INT: What sort of man, then, was MacArthur? You obviously knew him.
LB: I never really knew General MacArthur, but I was on staff jobs in World War II in the Navy, I was on Admiral (unclear)'s staff the last part of the war; Admiral Halsey's staff earlier than that; and the traffic I received as a member of the staff of the two admirals, I got to look... and loved it... got to look at all of the telegrams going back and forth with General MacArthur, and so I had come to assess him as a rather head-strong, highly egotistical man (unclear words). I'm sure he had many other qualities that... that were great, but I didn't know them. And I felt that his handling of the Korean War was extremely dangerous in a number of respects, and I felt that we ought to be very careful in giving too much latitude to him; and to cross the 38th Parallel without restriction, and to make up his own mind what he did next, that was... it seemed to me very dangerous, in the light of the military equipment that he had available, the military strength he had available, and the uncertainties of the future.
INT: ... (Apologies) Can you just tell me what sort of man MacArthur was, in your view?
LB: I never really knew General MacArthur. I met him once or twice. But I had been, as a very young man, on the... in the Navy in World War II. I was on staff jobs; I was on Admiral (unclear)'s staff the last year or so of the war, and I was, preceding that, on Admiral Halsey's staff in the South Pacific. So I'd been permitted, as a member of the staff of the Admirals, to read all the telegrams going back and forth between the commands, and I had formed a very strong view with respect to General MacArthur, and I felt he needed to be held in check and to be given very precise orders as to what he was supposed to do. The period leading up to his advance to the Yalu was a difficult one. He made the landing that he pulled off so very effectively, without question, and there'd been some opposition in the country to that, some opposition that he could not pull off such a thing, but he'd done it so brilliantly. Then he paused at the 38th Parallel. The press said, "Why is he being held back, why is he not being permitted to go on and finish the war right now, here, while we can?" And so the pressures... there were no orders for him for a little bit. The orders [were] then withdrawn, and they were brought up to the UN. I was with Secretary Acheson at the UN, and the telegram came up. The orders, I thought, were much too general and they permitted him to go across the Parallel without regard... That there's a reasonable case for that; but without any restriction as to what he did thereafter, seemed to be me to be much too lax. So it was... the telegram went out over my strong objections to Secretary Acheson. I had no right to object at all, but I had, I did. And he decided what he would do. There was also a message from General Marshall that went out, a private message to General MacArthur, which in effect encouraged him to believe he had the latitude to do whatever he wanted to do. And I felt that he needed to be restrained. And my view of him was, throughout the years that I was on the receiving end, in one way or another, of his speeches, his actions, or his inactions at various times, was that he was a very strong-willed, freewheeling individual with a heavy ego. All those I think are true. There might have been other virtues that I was unfamiliar with. But I was very much... con-cerned about his actions, and certainly they eventually led to his firing as the general controlling the army in that situation. But he was a man of considerable ego, considerable determination and the high will to be the central figure in any situation, and that was part of the problem.
INT: How did he actually come to be dismissed, what was the sort of process?
LB: General MacArthur was dismissed because he was going contrary to the instructions that he had with respect to what policy was. He was threatening the policy changes with respect to Formosa, with respect to possible use of nuclear bombs. He was talking about all sorts of things that led us to wonder, to be afraid of what he might do. And he had also been in touch with members of the Congress and the critics - he was stirring up criticisms down there of the President's policy, and he made a statement to the Veterans of Foreign Wars that was just outrageous in his criticism of the President, and he was... after all, the President was his commander-in-chief. So this led to a situation where he simply had to be dealt with, and I felt it was absolutely imperative, and I pushed Mr Acheson for all I was worth to get rid of him. He didn't take much pushing, and everybody agreed and everybody was concerned: the Joint Chiefs, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State all recommended to the President that he fire General MacArthur, and he did it. President Truman had a lot of courage. It was going to be a very uncertain political situation when he fired MacArthur, who had a huge following in this country; and there was a very difficult result immediately, but it all faded away.
INT: What was the fear that might happen when MacArthur was fired?
LB: No one knew what he would do. There were even those who said, "Well, he'll start a government in exile somewhere." Ridiculous idea, but nevertheless thawas seriously considered as one point of view. There were others that he would try to override the policy of the United States, that he would carry us into a more dangerous situation, that he would want to attack China, that he... all sorts of things that were possible, we felt. But the President of the United States decided he had to assert his role the commander-in-chief, that he could not put up with the insubordination of one of his generals, and a very key one it was, who had a huge political following in this country at that time - not as big as we thought it was, but it was pretty big.
INT: What was the overall impact on the Truman presidency of the Korean War?
LB: The Korean War had a very bad effect on the presidency, the last part of his career. He left office as a very unpopular president, very low ratings in the measurement of public esteem that we have and pay so much attention to. But it didn't take long for it to change, and within five years he was being selected by many historians as one of the greater presidents that we'd had, and today he's everybody's favourite president. But at the time we had a huge... it was the first time we had come anywhere close to losing a war, and we did not... at least not won that one and we had not resolved it, and then General Eisenhower in his campaign said he would go to Korea, which was a bit of a fake, it was a bit of a phoney. It was a perfectly all right, legitimate thing to do, but that people paid that much attention to the fact that he said he would go, was in itself, I thought, a little bit ridiculous. He probably would have won anyway; but nevertheless, that was, I thought, a distortion slightly of the importance of his presence out there. But the war was unpopular by that time. It had threatened to us the first major loss we'd ever had in a war, in any situation of that sort, and it was very unpopular, and it was carried over to the... particularly to Secretary Acheson and the Defense Department, and also to the President.
INT: Did the Republicans actively exploit both the Korean War and the Chinese communist take-over as an election issue?
LB: The whole area of the Pacific became a great issue during the campaign itself. The Korean War, the "I will go to Korea" statement reflected, I think, that a long debate had gone on as to the war and also the Korean situation, and the loss of China theory emerged at that point as a major political attitude. So that during the course of that campaign, Korea and the whole Far Eastern situation became a really rather key, one of the key foreign policy issues in the campaign. There was a great deal of talk about pro-communists in the State Department. The McCarthy period had been very, very devastating, and it was a terrible period in American history. But that all played into... it all merged into one: the proponents of criticism of the campaign in Korea, and those who were criticising Acheson and others for being what they called "pro-communist", in a period when had been particularly opposed, in some respects over-reacting to communism in some respects. It became a rather ridiculous but (.?.)... a point around which these groups formed, and it became a very dangerous political force.