General Douglas MacArthur passed away on April 5, 1964 of primary biliary cirrhosis, a disease of the liver. He was 84 years old.
MacArthur was born into the United States Army, his father being an officer, and Douglas followed in his father's footsteps. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and began what would be one of the most distinguished careers in American history. His career as a serving Army officer ended with a degree of ignomony, having been fired by then-President Truman for his perceived insubordination towards his commander-in-chief, but that did not diminish his star among most of the American public. Following his retirement from active military service, General MacArthur emerged as a respected elder statesman whose counsel was sought by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
General MacArthur's dismissal by President Truman and subsequent retirement was at variance with the career of a man spent entirely in the military commanding hundreds of thousands of troops in war. In his oft-quoted speech before a joint session of Congress on April 19, 1951, he reflected on his own experiences and observations and the path his life took with his unceremonious if warranted removal from his command in the Far East:
"The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that "old soldiers never die; they just fade away."
"And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty."
General MacArthur did, indeed, "fade away," his body ravaged by disease, but he left behind a legacy that few throughout American history could or would match.