ICAS Special Contribution


Remarks at MacArthur Wreath Laying

Henry J. Hyde

August 11, 2006
Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Email: icas@icasinc.org

Biographic Sketch & Links: Henry J. Hyde

[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge the special contribution of this speech with written permission to ICAS of Henry J. Hyde. sjk]

Remarks of The Honorable Henry J. Hyde
Following Wreath Laying
at Statue of General Douglas MacArthur
Incheon, Republic of Korea
August 11, 2006

Mayor Ahn [ ON ]; Citizens of the City of Incheon [ INN-CHUN]; the People of Korea, Ambassador Vershbow, Members of the Diplomatic Community, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me thank His Honor, the Mayor, and the citizens of Incheon for inviting our delegation here today. And let me also thank them for their efforts in restoring the statue of General MacArthur to its original state, a sign of their abiding friendship with America.

We have come here today to pay tribute to the memory of a great man, a man who, more than any other in military uniform, shaped the destiny of not only this peninsula, but of the entire East Asia/Pacific region during the century just passed. I had the honor to serve under his command in the Battle of Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines in early 1945.

I have also come here from the United States Congress where, on April 19th 1951, the General gave an address which represented a fond farewell to the American people. Today, over a half-century later, his immortal words still echo in the hearts of his countrymen: "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away."

Before this old Congressman joins his former Commander and also fades away, let me offer a few reflections on what General MacArthur's legacy means to the people of the United States, the people of Korea, and the people of the Asia/Pacific.

Douglas MacArthur came from a military family. His father, General Arthur MacArthur, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service to his country during the American Civil War. His son was to receive the same honor for his service here in Asia, for it was on this continent that Douglas MacArthur had his own rendezvous with destiny. As war clouds gathered over the Asian continent, Douglas MacArthur was sent to make preparations for the defense of the Philippines.

After that day of infamy -- December 7th 1941 -- MacArthur, with the U.S. and Filipino forces under his command, made a valiant attempt from the fortress island of Corregidor to repel the invaders against overwhelming odds. It was only a direct order from President Roosevelt that led MacArthur and his family to escape to Australia. There they were welcomed with warmth and gratitude. The great wartime Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin, facing an immediate threat of war and invasion, turned operational control of Australian forces over to General MacArthur, whom he dubbed as "Australia's savior."

From that successful defense of the Australian Continent, MacArthur moved forward to fulfill his pledge to the people of the Philippines, that "I shall return." I had the privilege of playing a small part in that victory. And we all know the end of the story. A few weeks from now, on September 2nd, we will commemorate the sixty-first Anniversary of the end of the greatest war in history, when General MacArthur accepted the surrender of Imperial Japan on the Battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Finally, after more than a decade of war in Asia, the guns fell silent. And the people of Korea joined those of Australia and the Philippines in breathing free without fear of militarist oppression. For, in Korea, thirty-five years of bitter colonial rule had at last come to an end.

But this was not the end of the already illustrious career of General MacArthur. Appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in the occupation of Japan, MacArthur, in five short years, transformed a medieval, militarist society into a democratic nation. General MacArthur is widely recognized as the chief architect of that strong, democratic system which led to the rebirth of a modern, peaceful and prosperous Japan.

Yet, even this achievement was not MacArthur's finest hour. No, it was here, in the harbor just beyond where this statue stands in lasting tribute, that General MacArthur reached the zenith of his distinguished career. On September 15, 1950, the General directed those U.S., Allied and South Korean forces, who rode the crest of the high tides for which Incheon is world famous, to victory once again.

Sixteen nations responded, under the UN banner, to South Korea's call for assistance by providing combat troops. Three of those nations -- Australia, the Philippines and the United Kingdom - are represented here today. Five other nations provided medical assistance. We express our thanks to all of these nations for their efforts in the common cause of Korean liberty.

For in this victory at Incheon, MacArthur, and the troops he commanded, delivered the people of South Korea from evil -- the evil of that oppressive regime which lies a mere few miles to the North, where children still starve and Christians still suffer martyrdom for mere utterance of the words, "Deliver us from evil."

And, so, I ask our good friends and allies in the Asia/Pacific -- in Australia, in the Philippines, in Japan, and, most importantly, here in the Republic of Korea -- to remember how the old soldier depicted in this statue touched their nations in his rendezvous with destiny.

I look at the gleaming office towers of Seoul, the modern highway which brought us here today, and this port city of Incheon, a transshipment point for that commerce which has made the Republic of Korea the eleventh largest economy in the world, and I say, "Thank God for General MacArthur."

I view today a democracy in full bloom, where every South Korean citizen feels empowered to publicly voice his or her opinion, and say, "Thank God for MacArthur's victory at Incheon." Such freedom was, of course, not free. The price of that freedom which South Koreans enjoy today was paid, not only by the blood shed here in the battle of Incheon, but also by the blood of patriots who died in the streets of Gwangju [KWANG-JEW]. Those who died in Kwangju [KWANG-JEW] are martyrs for liberty, just as were the American patriots who bled and died at Lexington and Concord. And, so, we salute them.

I am well aware that there are those in South Korea today who take a different view of this battle site and of this monument. There are those who even say that they wish General MacArthur had never come to Incheon, as Korea would then be united. My mother's family came from another divided country, Ireland, so I have some understanding of the pain caused by this tragic political separation. But at what price should unity be purchased? At the loss of peace and prosperity? At the loss of liberty?

In his farewell address back in 1951, General MacArthur said: "Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to now, is the sole one which has risked its all against communism. The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description. They have chosen to risk death rather than slavery."

I ask the people of South Korea to remember these words and also to recall what the statue here of General MacArthur symbolizes. This statue stands for more than just one man, great a man though he was. It stands for fidelity. In times of war and in times of peace, the American people have stood with you -- in times of tension and in times of calm -- in times of want and in times of plenty.

There have been sweeping changes in the world since the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended. Korea has found new friends. But there is an old American proverb which states, "Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver but the other is gold." General MacArthur's legacy is pure gold.

Now the time has come for this old Congressman, who, like MacArthur, "tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty," to offer his old Commander one last salute. [SALUTE IN DIRECTION OF STATUE]

And I join General MacArthur in bidding you all a fond farewell.

This page last updated 8/12/2006 jdb

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