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What does Gen. MacArthur have to say about those who would scrap ‘Duty, Honor, Country’?

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Gen. MacArthurMission

What does Gen. MacArthur have to say about those who would scrap ‘Duty, Honor, Country’?

By Capt. James Poplar, USN ret

By now I suspect many of you have heard that Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s call to the Corps of cadets in 1962 has been banished from the United States Military Academies (USMA) mission statement and exchanged for the more amorphous phase “Army Values.”

The new mission statement, according to a news release from the academy, is:

“To build, educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets to be commissioned leaders of character committed to the Army Values and ready for a lifetime of professional excellence and service to the Army and Nation.”

In a message to “West Point Teammates,” the Superintendent of the USMA “Supe” Gilland addressed the reason for the change.

“Duty, Honor, Country is foundational to the United States Military Academy’s culture and will always remain our motto,” he wrote. “It defines who we are as an institution and as graduates of West Point.”

Gilland went on to recount that the academy had engaged in an 18-month review of its purpose and strategy, working with West Point leaders and stakeholders. It then recommended the mission statement change to the Army’s top leadership.

He noted that both Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George approved the change. Gilland argued that Army values “include Duty and Honor and Country.”

Although I am not a graduate of West Point, I am a thirty-four-year member of the Profession of Arms and a graduate of the United States Army War College, I find this quite disturbing for a number of reasons.

All of the branches our military, be they the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Air Force are built on bedrock ideals that stand the test of time and serve as their north star, especially during armed combat.

The Marine Corps whose motto “Semper Fidelis” Always Faithful  has never wavered from its roots and consequently has not experienced the recruiting issues some of our more progressive military service are suffering from today.

Here is Duty, Honor, Country as laid out by Gen. Douglas MacArthur on May 12, 1962 at West Point:

Today I went back and listened to Gen. MacArthur’s entire speech given in 1962 and it is indeed prophetic. It was if he could see the handwriting on the wall.

“Duty, honor, country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. …

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase.

Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.”

In addition, in this farewell speech to the Corps of Cadets, MacArthur prophetically warned us to be wary of the expansion of the federal bureaucracy, our nation’s ever-increasing debt, and many of the other issues that are currently thwarting our leadership of the free world.

I suspect while fighting against the Chinese communists in Korea he saw the eventual rise of the Peoples Republic of China and its goal of world hegemony.

So yes, Gen. MacArthur, you were correct over sixty years ago.

We appear to now be a nation that unfortunately reviles its past, has lost its way, and is on the precipice of decline.

Perhaps we should have listened to your wisdom and clairvoyance more intently on the Plain of West Point.


One of the comments on the article from the comment section:

“So, to paraphrase USMA leadership: “…Duty, Honor, Country is still our motto, but those values don’t rise to the level of what we’re actually trying to inspire at the academy…”. They want cadets to internalize (if that’s even possible) a word salad of values to encourage them to be career officers of character.

And after all that, it took them 18 months to craft their new mission statement that closely mirrors the Air Force Academy mission statement “To educate, train and inspire men and women to become officers of character motivated to lead the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force in service to our Nation.”

As a USAFA graduate myself, I am disheartened at USMA’s misguided effort to set aside the iconic brevity of “Duty, Honor, Country” for the amorphous “Army Values” in their mission statement. It is sadly reminiscent of taking down the “Bring Me Men” ramp at USAFA nearly 20 years ago by those with clouded vision, of either sex, who could not possibly be inspired by Sam Walter Foss’s timeless poem.

How long until “Duty, Honor, Country” is chiseled off the walls of West Point?”

First published on American Thinker

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