Do you approve or disapprove of the way that Douglas MacArthur is handling his job as president?

  • Approve

    Votes: 154 75.1%
  • Disapprove

    Votes: 51 24.9%

  • Total voters
    205
Part VI, Chapter 41
  • PART VI: CAESAR

    CHAPTER 41


    December 8, 1954

    Thomas Dewey had not expected to ever be invited to MacArthur’s White House. MacArthur was a President who had become known for filling his government with people he had brought over from Tokyo or with yes-men who had little importance and often limited competence. Nepotism ruled there: that was the only explanation for why John Foster Dulles had been done away with before MacArthur had been in office for ten days, or why the hated and incompetent Ned Almond had become the President’s de facto deputy while the respected Vice President remained barely an afterthought.
    Dewey knew MacArthur would not want him around. He had backed Eisenhower during the primaries, indeed he had just about led Ike’s campaign. He had made a name for himself both as District Attorney and then as Governor of New York, and two Presidential campaigns hadn’t hurt his image either.
    That made it all the more surprising when Ned Almond called, summoning him to meet with the President.
    His apprehension was only increased when he was greeted not by the famous monologue delivered in full theatrical form, with MacArthur walking around a room, pipe in hand as he recited a grand speech entirely from memory, but by the sight of a President whose nearly seventy-five years looked to finally be catching up with him. Then, just when Dewey thought the meeting could not possibly surprise him any more, MacArthur asked him to keep the details of the meeting top secret. He didn’t say why, except to say that the meeting would not be “about politics” and that “the situation could have grave national security implications if not handled correctly”.

    Dewey thought about getting up and leaving the room. He was looking forward to his retirement from politics - he would leave the Governor’s office when his term expired on the 31st, and he wasn’t interested in getting dragged down into one of MacArthur’s mad ideas. Unlike the rest of the country, he still remembered the Inchon fiasco. If MacArthur insisted on doing another Inchon, it would not be because Tom Dewey pushed it through.
    Then he stopped himself. MacArthur wouldn’t have summoned him for some ordinary matter. Whatever it was, the President must have thought Dewey was the only person capable of getting the job done.
    “Very well,” he said finally. “What do you need, Mr President?”

    “Next week on Monday, I will relieve J Edgar Hoover from his position as Director of the FBI.” MacArthur said. “As I’m sure you’re aware, Hoover claims to have files on everyone in Washington, and has threatened to release them. If he catches the slightest whisper of our plans, he may act on that threat. What lies in those documents is not known to anyone but the Director, but it is possible that some of them could endanger the security of the United States.”
    Well, that explains the need for secrecy. Dewey thought. “I trust you have a plan for his removal?” he asked.
    “We do.” MacArthur said. “What I need is a replacement for Hoover. I will relieve the Associate Director, Clyde Tolson, at the same time as Hoover himself. Unfortunately, Hoover has doubtless planned for that eventuality, and will find some way to keep pulling the strings there. That must be prevented.”
    “You need me,” Dewey asked, “to be that replacement?”
    “That’s correct.” MacArthur said.
    “We’re going to do this before Congress returns for the ‘55 session.” Richard Nixon explained. “Hoover’s certainly got eyes and ears in Congress, so we can’t afford a vote on the matter until he’s gone and someone has stepped in to deal with those documents. Cleaning out the FBI like this is going to raise a stink in Congress no matter what we do, but it’ll be ten times worse if it looks like we’re putting another Tokyo man in.”
    Nixon didn’t even need to say it. Bricker and the conservatives hadn’t wanted MacArthur to have the power to even sign a treaty. If MacArthur looked to be seizing personal control of the FBI, there would be cries of ‘executive overreach’ or even ‘dictator’ from here to Seattle.
    “That’s why we need you. You’ve got no ties to this government, or to MacArthur, except when you opposed him in ‘52.” Nixon said. “You’ve got a good record - better than Hoover’s - at going after the mafia goons. Anyone else, the Senate will call it a political job and fight us at every turn. If it’s you, we might actually be able to get rid of that bastard for good.”
    Dewey leaned back in his chair and thought the request over. In 1948, he had considered firing Hoover himself if he won, and the FBI Director had only grown more powerful over the six years that had passed since. The country did not need a power behind the throne, much less an unelected one. He had looked forward to leaving public life, but he could see the President, and the country, needed him.
    “I’ll do it.” Dewey said eventually.

    ***

    Operation ‘Blackhearts’ had been more than six months in the making…

    On May 20th, 1954, Richard Nixon had received a call from the FBI Director, asking for what he described as ‘expanded authority’ to install illegal microphone surveillances in the homes of Americans he deemed to be dangerous. Nixon responded the same way he had to every such request, by saying he would discuss the matter with the President, knowing that MacArthur would refuse but also that Hoover would not come back to check. MacArthur had already told Nixon that he wanted to fire Hoover, but Hoover’s files hung like a Sword of Damocles over their heads.
    It was only after the call was over that Nixon realised the meaning of what Hoover had said. Expanded authority. Hoover either had, or decided he had, some authority to install them already. Nixon hadn’t given him any, this was the first time either of them had discussed microphone surveillances at all, so whatever authority Hoover thought he had must have come from a previous administration, or more accurately, in spite of it. Hoover did whatever he wanted under Nixon, and Nixon knew that he kept Hoover on a much tighter leash than any of his predecessors.

    By the time Nixon met with MacArthur in the early afternoon, he had devised a scheme that they both hoped would get the FBI boss to go quietly. Hoover had already admitted that the FBI had installed the microphones, and seeing as he was asking for expanded authority it was likely at least some of the old ones were still in place. Whoever had been Attorney General when Hoover started doing it would know where they were, and once he knew where to look, it wouldn’t be too hard to gather photographic evidence of the microphones themselves. Perhaps more importantly, Nixon wanted to find an instance where Hoover had installed them without authorisation from either Truman or the Attorney General, and if the last year of Hoover’s behaviour was anything to go by, there would be more than a few of them. “At that point, we’ve got proof he’s done all this shit illegally. Then we give him the choice: quiet retirement or prison.” Nixon said. “He’ll be out of the FBI anyway, and I don’t think he’d decide embarrassing us is worth a decade behind bars.”
    Nixon’s investigations would need to be kept as secret as possible. Hoover had eyes and ears everywhere, and if he caught word that anyone in the administration was coming after him, there was always the risk he would preemptively release his files. To ensure this secrecy was maintained, Nixon planned to recruit only a small number of people into the plan, and every one of them would be carefully checked before they were told anything.
    The idea of ‘Blackhearts’, which would be a code for Nixon’s investigative efforts, would be another layer of security. Officially, Blackhearts would be the name of a new plan drafted by the military to determine the force requirements for an invasion of Red Vietnam. It was deliberately chosen to be similar to ‘Bluehearts’, the name MacArthur had used for the first draft of the Inchon landing plan in June 1950. If Hoover caught wind of the Blackhearts code, hopefully he would investigate one of these false trails. Extreme secrecy was nothing new in military planning, and if the FBI did start snooping around, there was also the hope that the Army would find out and alert MacArthur.
    MacArthur had been uncharacteristically quiet as Nixon explained the scheme, and when the Attorney General was done, he approved it with just three words. “Find those devices.”

    ***

    October 3, 1954

    “Here it is.” Nixon said as he placed a large black briefcase on the Resolute Desk. “We’ve got him.”
    “Everything’s in here?” MacArthur asked. He trusted Nixon completely, but in this matter you could never be too careful.
    “Everything.” Nixon confirmed. “A list of every home, embassy and corporate building the FBI broke into and bugged between May of ‘50 and the middle of ‘51. Photographs of the bugs from a couple of the homes we swept. One’s from Pennsylvania, the other is here in Washington. Documents, maps, a few other papers. Our esteemed Director wouldn’t want any of this coming out in front of a judge. Especially not this.” Nixon opened up the briefcase and pulled out a reel of tape. “The smoking gun.” he announced.
    “What’s on it?” MacArthur asked.
    “A conversation I had six weeks ago with Truman’s AG, Howard McGrath.” Nixon explained. “Turns out that four years ago, Hoover made the same request about the surveillances that he made me in May, of course then he just wanted authority to install them, nothing expanded. McGrath told me that he told Hoover that he, I quote, ‘could not give that approval’, as it could violate the Fourth Amendment.”
    “And Hoover ignored him.” MacArthur finished.
    “Precisely.” Nixon said. “Because McGrath didn’t actually say ‘no’, Hoover decided he meant yes. What it actually means is that every one of those bugs is there illegally.”
    “Then the only thing we need now is a replacement for him.” MacArthur said.
    “One piece of advice, sir.” Nixon offered, knowing full well he was probably the only person in the government MacArthur was still willing to take advice from. “Wait until after the midterms. We’re fairly sure Hoover doesn’t know we’re onto him, I can’t imagine him letting me get that tape if he did, but if anything is going to attract his attention it will be us looking for an investigator - because he’ll know you’re not about to replace me or Willoughby. If there’s one time his files could damage us most, it’ll be right before the elections. Afterwards, there’s two months before Congress returns for the ‘55 session. Plenty of time. Pull the trigger then.”
    MacArthur stowed the briefcase under his desk - he’d need to find somewhere safe to keep it for a while.

    ***

    December 13, 1954

    This was only the second time J Edgar Hoover had entered the Oval Office since MacArthur had begun his presidency. Under Roosevelt and Truman, he had always been a welcome guest, offered an open invitation he had never hesitated to use. They had worked well together: the FBI made sure opponents to the President were inhibited, and in return the President did not interfere in the Bureau’s internal matters.
    On his first meeting with MacArthur, he had tried to explain to the former general the advantages that this system offered him. MacArthur didn’t just refuse to listen, he made a point of refusing to cooperate with the FBI. The stone-faced Almond stood guard in what had been a secretary’s office, refusing the Director any chance to encourage the President to reconsider his choices. Instead of appointing a compliant Attorney General who allowed the Bureau the authority it needed, MacArthur chose Nixon, whose sole purpose seemed to be interference at every turn. There was no secret about it: MacArthur wanted him gone, the FBI reduced to worthlessness just like the CIA had become under that idiot Willoughby. That was why, when he received the summons to the Oval Office, he had made sure to bring this briefcase with him.

    “Good morning, Director.” MacArthur said. “Take a seat.”
    “Please, call me Edgar.” Hoover said as he sat down. Although he was sure he already knew, he then asked “To what do I owe this meeting?”
    “Director, you have served the Bureau ably for the last thirty years. Is it not about time for someone else to take on the position?” MacArthur asked.
    “I do not believe that would be necessary at the present time.” Hoover replied, a touch of anger in his voice.
    “I’m afraid I must insist.” MacArthur said. “The functioning of a healthy democracy is not helped when one man occupies any single position for such an extended period of time, especially when he is not elected.”
    “How dare you!” Hoover snapped. “My long tenure has allowed the Bureau to become more efficient in its activities, and better positioned to keep this country and your government safe. I am no danger to democracy!”
    “My decision is final.” MacArthur said.
    “If you will not listen to reason, Mr President, then you leave me with no choice.” Hoover said, placing his briefcase on the Resolute Desk. “This briefcase contains hundreds of documents about senior members of your administration that you would not want getting out. I am sure that the Press, and especially one Mr Drew Pearson, would be particularly interested to see them. If you persist in asking for my removal, I would be more than happy to oblige him.”
    “Director, if you persist in your threat to release your files,” MacArthur pulled a briefcase of his own from out behind the Resolute Desk, “I will release mine. Your files might cause some people embarrassment. Know now that mine will ruin you.”
    Hoover gave a small chuckle - as if everything MacArthur was saying was part of some big joke. “Do you seriously believe that I did not already know about your conspiracies to remove me? That Blackhearts was more than just a mere military plan? No, Mr President, the Bureau is ready to respond to any threat. A fight with the Bureau would be the end of your administration, Mr President.” The only reason I haven’t yet released my files is because a gun is only threatening when it is loaded. He added, but only to himself.
    Hoover stared into MacArthur’s eyes. He didn’t just know about the President’s scheming, he knew how absolutely certain Nixon was that he didn’t know. He had expected the revelation would shock the President enough to convince him to back down.

    Instead, he saw the President looking straight back at him, eyes full of the same grim determination, the same lack of fear, that had led him to burn down the Bonus Camp in 1932. “If so much as one of your files is released to the public without the explicit approval of Director Dewey, I will have him investigate every instance of corruption and wrongdoing to have taken place under your watch, including dozens of illegal installations of microphone surveillances, which you conducted without the approval of Attorney General McGrath.” MacArthur growled.
    “Mr Dewey does not have that power!” Hoover exploded. He could see this fight was a losing one, but he had made sure long ago that the FBI would pass into the hands of his deputy even if he was removed. Clyde Tolson, who had served Hoover for twenty-five years, could be trusted not to let the infamous files fall into Dewey’s hands - or anyone else’s hands for that matter.
    “Actually he does.” MacArthur said flatly. “As it turns out, I relieved Mr Tolson of his duties three hours ago.” MacArthur pulled out a pair of signed documents. “I relieved you at the same time. Mr Dewey has been Director of the Bureau since 0730 this morning. Goodbye, Mr Hoover.”

    ***

    February 9, 1955

    “I can’t believe it.” Harry Truman said as he put down the evening paper, which said that a Congressional Committee had agreed to FBI Director Dewey’s recommendation that Hoover’s infamous files be destroyed in full. “The Big General got away with it.”
    “What’s the matter?” Bess asked, so obviously she had noticed the unhappiness in his voice. “You used to say all the time that Hoover needed to go.”
    “I did, and I’m glad the scoundrel’s gone.” The former President agreed. “Only problem is, now there’s no-one left who will tell His Majesty ‘no’. Hoover was the last one.”

    - BNC
     
    Part VI, Chapter 42
  • CHAPTER 42

    It had been fifty years since MacArthur had first travelled to Asia. At his father’s side, that nine month tour of the continent had taken him through Japan, China, Indochina, Siam, India, Afghanistan, and many more places besides. At every land he visited, he had been impressed by what he saw, from the beautiful landscapes to the determination of the people. Forever after that day, he had seen Asia as the land of opportunity, the place that would determine the future of the entire world.
    What might have seemed a fanciful prediction in 1905 was becoming a reality half a century later. The European empires were in decline, their hold on the Far East weakening with every year that passed. New states were taking their place: the Dutch had given way to Indonesia, the British ‘Crown Jewel’ had become the Republic of India, French Indochina had been split into three. Having achieved their independence, those new states would seek to develop their economies and improve the living standards of their people.

    The question of how best to achieve this would be the heart of the 1955 Bandung Conference. Organised by the Indonesian Prime Minister Sukarno, Bandung would see representatives of over twenty-five countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East discuss how best to handle the challenges of development while the Soviet Union and United States competed for influence in the region.
    MacArthur had been keen on attending such a conference long before Bandung was announced – what better way would there be to demonstrate his commitment to reorienting American foreign policy to the Far East? – but when Sukarno put out the call, several members of MacArthur’s government believed that his presence at the conference would be unwise. None was more notable than his UN Ambassador and former aide, Dwight Eisenhower, who warned that if MacArthur appeared in person, alongside the former colonies, he risked alienating America’s European allies. Eisenhower recommended an official of lesser importance – a senator, perhaps – be sent in his place. MacArthur was unconvinced: he had always been set on conducting his administration’s foreign policy himself, and he knew Asia better than anyone else in the government: he would go. The one concession he would make to Eisenhower’s concerns was that he would attend as merely an ‘observer’, and would not sign any policy declaration written at the conference.

    While MacArthur’s presence at the conference was well received by the nations in attendance, his would be far from the dominant voice at the conference that he envisioned: that title went to Red China’s foreign minister Zhou Enlai. Zhou would capture the world’s headlines with his sweeping denunciations of former Chairman Mao Tse-tung, promising that, with the reckless leader deposed, China would be a force of peace and conciliation, one that supported anti-colonialist movements, even if they resulted in the creation of a capitalist society. They were words directed not just at the West, but at the Soviet Union as well. With so much discussion at the conference table centred on the Middle East, few had any doubt that he was condemning Moscow’s support for the Radmanesh regime in Iran. They had good reason to: Radmanesh had recently welcomed Erich Mielke into his government, and the former leader of East Germany’s secret police was ready to begin his old job for a new master.
    While the world’s attention was on Zhou, MacArthur’s focus was on the Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser had seized control of Egypt as part of a military coup in 1952, declaring himself President two years later. Since taking power, he had been building himself up as the leader of a movement that he hoped would one day lead to the overthrow of the remaining colonial institutions in the Middle East and the creation of a great unified Arab state. Like Zhou, he had become increasingly wary about the increased power of the communists in Iran, and at Bandung he had time and again proven himself as the spokesman of the Arab world.
    MacArthur needed little time to become convinced that Nasser was bad news. His seizure of power, though understandable as the act of a nationalist seeking to remove British control over Egypt, reminded MacArthur of the Japanese militarists that had caused so much trouble before and during World War II, and Nasser’s belligerent tone on the world stage did nothing to lessen that impression. More recently, he had earned MacArthur’s ire by attempting to play the Americans and the Soviets against each other in negotiating arms deals. There was no doubt that he was dangerous, and when Churchill called him “a Hitler in the making” a month later, MacArthur agreed completely.

    ***

    Had the nations of Southeast Asia been asked who deserved such a title, they would have said not Nasser, but Ho Chi Minh.

    MacArthur’s insistence on an immediate French withdrawal from the region, followed by the breakdown of negotiations at Geneva, had created what became an all-consuming power vacuum, with implications for the entire French empire. In Paris, the stain of “surrender” had been the deathblow for the short lived Mayer cabinet in 1953. Algerian nationalists, encouraged by events in Indochina and the election of the anti-colonialist Pierre Mendès France, had made calls for their own independence. Though the Prime Minister favoured making some concessions, his insistence that the Algerian departments were “irrevocably French” and an increase in fighting between the nationalists and the pied-noirs quickly made war inevitable. A little more than a year later, Mendès France had become yet another casualty of the turbulent Fourth Republic, and the war effort was only going from bad to worse.
    To the anti-communist forces in the former Indochina, even a fiasco like the one unfolding in Algeria would have been an improvement. What little formal agreement had been made at Geneva had guaranteed the sovereignty of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, but that agreement rarely, if ever, bore any resemblance to the facts on the ground. What was on the ground were the boots of the Vietminh soldiers, and they paid little attention to mere borders. Some had been there since the earliest stages of the war against France, others had come fresh from their victory over Bao Dai in September 1954, and none showed any signs of going away.

    Less than a month after the Bandung meeting, MacArthur would return to Asia, and the success of the Vietnamese revolutionary was at the top of his mind. The first stop was Bangkok, where a long-awaited meeting with Marshal Phibun, the Thai prime minister and effective dictator, was to take place.
    Phibun was arguably MacArthur’s strongest ally in the region: although he had aligned Thailand with Japan in World War II, his return to power in 1947 had seen him seamlessly pivot from fascism to democracy (albeit a greatly flawed one), turning the former enemy into a staunch ally. He had committed Thai troops to the Korean War, and had since called for a greater American presence in the region as a deterrent against both the Vietnamese and Red China. Although the Vietminh armies had not yet spilled into Thailand, Phibun had good reason to fear that one day they would. He hoped this meeting with MacArthur would get him the resources he would need to keep them out.
    Unfortunately for Phibun, the growing strength of the Vietminh had only made MacArthur even more wary about increasing America’s ground strength in Asia: if he deployed the troops there, even in small numbers, and then a conflict broke out, those troops would demand reinforcements, which would eventually lead to an unwinnable land war against China’s practically infinite manpower. Instead of increasing America’s presence in Thailand, he believed it would be better to increase Thailand’s presence in Thailand, with American financial support. MacArthur would help fund an expansion of Thai defences, but they would be manned entirely by the Thais themselves. An economic alliance, rather than a military one, would be the proper approach to take: military agreements could be easily broken if the circumstances were not convenient (hadn’t Stalin abandoned North Korea just a few years ago?), but few leaders would ever abandon a key trading partner.

    While his meeting with Phibun was a great success, MacArthur could not easily say the same when he travelled to Phnom Penh to meet with the King-turned-Prime Minister of Cambodia, Sihanouk, for the simple reason that Sihanouk himself did not seem to know what he wanted out of MacArthur’s visit. On one hand, the Cambodian leader wanted to maintain some sort of neutrality in the ongoing Cold War, partly because he believed that America would eventually have to withdraw from Southeast Asia just like France, and partly because he did not want to alienate the Chinese or leftists at home. Making a major aid deal, or even an alliance, with America would jeopardise that policy. On the other hand, he needed someone to ensure that Cambodia was not again forced under Thai or Vietnamese domination. With China backing the Vietminh and the French driven out, the United States was perhaps the only nation that could offer him that security - even if they were allied with the Thais.
    It certainly looked like they would need it. Neighbouring Laos was embroiled in a civil war, where groups loyal to the Vietminh - whether comprised of ethnic Vietnamese or locally-recruited communists - controlled much of the country outside of the capital Vientiane, although they did not yet appear to have gathered the strength to overthrow the government outright. The situation in Cambodia was a less severe version of the same problem: Sihanouk’s forces might have controlled the most important parts of the country, but a third of his territory remained under varying forms of communist control: most under the banner of the United Issarak Front, a collection of Cambodian communist and other left-wing rebel groups as well as “volunteers” contributed by the Vietminh. Ho Chi Minh would never admit to the Vietnamese presence in Cambodia, but if the rebels looked to be losing ground there was no telling what he might do.
    Sihanouk also knew that MacArthur’s deal - an economic package similar to that offered to Thailand - was probably the best hope he had at maintaining Cambodia’s sovereignty and independence, at least as long as China insisted on supporting the Vietnamese. As he accepted it, he explained to MacArthur that the deal, while it would represent a good starting point for increased cooperation between the two nations, was not necessarily an agreement to align Cambodia with the United States. The President, understanding the complexity of the situation in Southeast Asia, replied that he was only seeking Cambodia’s friendship.

    Congress had a rather different interpretation. To many senators and representatives, MacArthur had bought an ally against Ho Chi Minh for forty million dollars.

    ***

    September 27, 1955

    “Sir, I just got off the phone with Eden.” Henry Luce said. “Churchill’s not happy any more than we are.”
    MacArthur put down the letter he had been reading - Ike had suffered a bad heart attack a few days ago, and one of the doctors had written to say that his recovery was going exactly to plan. “What’s London know that we don’t?” he asked.
    “They’ve got the details of the Czech deal.” Luce said. “Nasser’s buying from Malenkov - using Prague as a go-between - at least as much as we sold to that Thais and Cambodia put together. Eighty million dollars, that’s a lot of planes, tanks, fighters, artillery, small arms. I’m told there’s even a couple of small warships. Not quite destroyers, but a landing force would have to take them seriously.”
    “He’s thinking about Churchill.” MacArthur said. Churchill’s gut reaction to anyone that was either causing trouble now, or might in the future, was to call for war. Even after all these years, MacArthur wasn’t sure whether he should admire his courage or be wary of his recklessness.
    “Sir, Churchill’s not looking for a war right now.” Luce said. “Him and Eden agree that while Nasser is dangerous, this isn’t the time.”
    “That’s good.” MacArthur said. Patton’s portrait had been donated to the White House’s collection after Beatrice’s death last year, and now hung on the wall behind Luce. He knew Patton wouldn’t have hesitated to attack, even if the pretext was flimsy. “Get me a full report on the contents of that deal.” he ordered.
    No, it wasn’t the time now, but it might be in the future. Nasser could wait. There was another battle he had to win first. One where he looked not to Patton’s portrait on the wall, but the photograph of his father on his desk.

    - BNC
     
    Part VI, Chapter 43
  • CHAPTER 43

    September 5, 1955


    “This is Walter Cronkite, reporting from the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago, where the open-casket funeral and viewing of the body of fourteen year-old Emmett Till is now in its third day. As you can see from the crowds, Till’s murder last week has inspired thousands to come and pay their respects, recent counts estimating that more than fifty thousand have passed through these doors and there are no signs that the procession is slowing down. Till’s body was found last Wednesday having been beaten and shot before being dumped in the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi, and the brutality of this murder has sparked calls far and wide for change to racial laws in the South. President MacArthur campaigned on the issue of civil rights, but as yet there has been no word from either the President or any senior members of his administration...”

    The Morning Show hadn’t long cut back to host Dave Garroway when the mood inside the church suddenly shifted. A rumour was spreading through the crowd that the President had arrived to pay his respects personally. If it was true, it would certainly have been a surprise: MacArthur’s usual approach to the press was to announce, with as much fanfare as possible, anything he planned to do long before he did it. The entire country had known that he was flying to Indonesia or to Bangkok long in advance of either conference. The same had been true in the 1954 midterms. If MacArthur wanted to go somewhere, he made sure you knew about it. Cronkite had covered several of the President’s speeches, including the 1952 Conventions, and he had not heard so much as one word about MacArthur coming to Chicago.
    A moment later, he had no doubt that the rumours were true. At the back of the crowd, he could just see a faded ham-and-eggs cap that could only belong to one man. The people nearby were moving out of the way to let him pass. MacArthur had arrived.
    One of the filming crew had noticed him as well, and was now on the phone to the studio. “Mac’s here at the funeral, nobody’s got any idea what he’s doing but whatever it is it’ll be the biggest story of the year.” Less than a minute later, the red light on the camera was on again.

    “This is Walter Cronkite, still reporting from the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, where President MacArthur has just arrived to personally pay his respects to the late Emmett Till. His arrival here was completely unannounced, but it appears that the President has arrived here with the intention of making a statement on the topic of civil rights, as this is the first time since the campaigns in ‘52 where he has been seen wearing a military uniform in public.”
    The guy behind the camera was making a signal to stop talking - MacArthur had made it to the front of the crowd, and whatever he did next, the show wanted it on air. MacArthur’s speeches always drew in huge ratings, and right now CBS was the only TV network with a camera in the church.
    Then the President - or as he clearly wanted to be referred to in this moment, the General - stood silently in front of the casket, and saluted.

    ***

    Since the defeat of his civil rights bill in 1953, MacArthur had been looking for another chance to make good on his election promise and deliver some real progress for the cause. The lobbyists had called on him to install a liberal justice to replace Vinson in 1953, and when he did not they accused him of missing an opportunity. Drew Pearson, always the most vocal of his critics, slammed his decision to nominate Chief Justice Phillips even after the unanimous verdict on Brown v Board, declaring the ruling’s statement too weak at protecting civil rights. Although MacArthur despised Pearson, the annoying journalist had been at least partly correct in his claim: more than a year after the court ruled segregated schools unconstitutional, less than a dozen black children were attending white schools in the South.
    Brown, no matter what the lobbyists claimed, was not what MacArthur had been looking for. Intervening there would have meant politicising the courts, and any decision he forced upon it was one that would just by rolled back the next time the opposition was elected into office. So instead, he waited for the right time to come. While he waited, he allowed the Southerners to think that they had prevented desegregation for at least another four years, and concentrated on his other domestic priorities. Richard Russell might have voted ‘nay’ for the Labour Unions Act of 1954, but he hadn’t exactly stood in its way either. By the end of the 1955 Congressional session, everything that MacArthur wanted passed, and that Nixon said could be passed, had been passed. In all of his complaining, Drew Pearson never noticed MacArthur steadily weakening the South’s power: they had no more bills to hold hostage, no more elections where MacArthur could be thwarted. The only tool they had left was the filibuster. Defeating the filibuster meant getting sixty-five senators on his side, a tall order but a possible one. To get those senators, his best hope was a show of overwhelming public support, to light a fire in the country’s spirit and create a call for change.
    Emmett Till provided the spark. The announcement of his death, the pictures of his mutilated body, the open-casket funeral had shocked the country and created the movement that MacArthur had been hoping for, but that was just the beginning. He wanted not just a movement, but an irresistible call to arms that only a personal statement could provide. To accomplish this, he decided not to appear as the President, who received approval ratings in the mid-seventies percent, but as the General whose approval, had it been calculated, would have been nearly unanimous. He told virtually no-one his plan, outside of the men who would accompany him to Chicago, Ned Almond who would handle Washington while he was gone, and Pat Echols who would ensure someone from the press would be at the funeral. His appearance was kept secret until the last moment to catch the country off guard. He took no speech with him. He didn’t need to. The mere act said it all.

    ***

    When he returned to Washington that afternoon, he saw that the media storm he had touched off in Chicago had, in the words of one creative reporter, become a “media hurricane”. His salute was talked about on every radio station, printed in every paper fortunate enough to have a reporter in Chicago that morning, and had been played no fewer than six times on CBS’ news programs. Those papers and TV stations that could not show the salute directly made up for it with their commentary. Journalists rushed to greet the President when the Bataan III landed in the city, asking everything from what civil rights bill he planned to put to Congress next year to whether he knew he was dividing the country. At the impromptu press conference, he urged everyone who “believes in righting the wrongs of history, to write to your Senators and let them know how you feel”. When Richard Nixon met him in the White House, he remarked “Sir, you’ve just declared war on the South.”

    Nixon soon found himself tasked with preventing the ‘war’ that he thought MacArthur was starting. While the President began campaigning on TV (and, less frequently, in person as well) for progress on civil rights as a way to further drum up support, it would fall to his Attorney General to draft the bill that would turn that public support into a law. The 1953 bill would serve as a starting point, for while the Southerners had filibustered it in the Senate, the House had passed it. It contained guarantees of voting rights including an end to literacy tests, banned segregation in public places and included an anti-lynching provision.
    Even as he oversaw the writing of the bill, Nixon knew it had no hope of passing in its present state. MacArthur could fill every newspaper in the country with his speeches for the whole of the next year, but they weren’t just against the South. The conservatives of the Midwest, opposed to almost any increases in the federal government’s power, would fight it as well. Yet MacArthur remained insistent: the bill was not to be weakened while it remained on Nixon’s desk.

    ***

    February 7, 1956

    When Ned Almond informed Senator Richard Russell that the President was ready to see him, he was still surprised that he had received the invitation at all. Russell knew that he and MacArthur scarcely agreed on anything, and that the only people he ever welcomed into the Oval Office these days were the idiotic sycophants that made up the highest ranks of his government. The last person Russell could think of that had been invited to meet the President without their concerns going through Almond or Nixon or someone first was J Edgar Hoover, and that had ended in not just Hoover, but a good part of the FBI’s upper ranks, being thrown out of office. MacArthur couldn’t fire Russell - only the people of Georgia could do that - but he wasn’t sure this meeting was an honour he wanted.
    Like it or not, only he could meet the President in this way. He was the leader of the Southern bloc in the Senate, he was the representative of the Southern way of life. Lyndon Johnson had been adamant: only he could put an end to MacArthur’s ceaseless attacks on the people of the South. MacArthur’s rhetoric was threatening to destroy the relationships that had been carefully built up between whites and blacks over the past decades, and if those were destroyed the only thing that could follow would be chaos. There had been violent incidents already even despite MacArthur’s insistence on achieving civil rights using peaceful methods - though thankfully none had grown out of control - but enough was enough.

    “It is good to see you again, Mr President.” Russell said as MacArthur welcomed him into the Oval Office.
    “Sit down.” MacArthur said, waving to one of the chairs in front of the Resolute Desk. “I do hope today’s meeting will resolve our disagreements on the civil rights issue.”
    “So do I.” Russell said, as he unfolded a four page manifesto that had been prepared for this meeting. “Which is why I feel it would be best if I made the position of my constituents and that of a group of Congressmen clear from the very beginning. The ‘separate but equal’ philosophy, established by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Plessy v Ferguson in 1896, has allowed the black and white populations both to exist in harmony throughout the South. It has allowed for peace and prosperity, where there was once violence and tragedy, but it is built on a careful balance of interests. This balance has in recent months been endangered by the calls of liberals in the North. I ask you, Mr President, to please not endanger this balance any further.”
    “Might I ask, Senator, what the South finds so uniquely important about Plessy that cannot then be applied to Brown?” MacArthur asked. Russell had no answer, and could only sit mute while MacArthur let the question hang. Finally, judging the Senator to have sat there uncomfortably long enough, he continued. “Never mind that. I should tell you, Senator, that I have heard all of your arguments before. That the people you represent would never accept particular laws. When I was in Japan, there were many times when a minister or official would come to me urging me to reconsider the stance that the occupation was taking on a matter. The people would never accept women being granted the right to vote, or that the great zaibatsu monopolies could not be broken up, or that the Emperor could not be stripped of his godhood without catastrophic backlash. Every one of them has been proven wrong, Senator. People can be much more accepting of change than you give them credit for.”
    “That may have been true in Japan, Mr President, but society is very different in Georgia, or in Virginia, or in Texas, than it is in Japan.” Russell replied. “Japan has no Negroes. The South has millions. Besides, the South is just as much a part of this country as New York or Wisconsin,” he made sure to mention MacArthur’s home state to drive the point home. “You must realise that laws cannot be imposed on my state or the states of my fellow Senators the way you could impose changes on Japan.”
    “I am well aware of the situation, Senator, and let me be very clear that I do not hope to impose anything on the South.” MacArthur said.
    “I am sure a compromise could be worked out.” Russell offered.
    “I seek nothing more.” MacArthur said, raising Russell’s hopes that the famously stubborn President might finally back down. “Indeed, the greatest laws to be made have been the result of compromises. However, it remains the unfortunate truth that the South has a history of negotiating compromises in bad faith when it comes to matters of civil rights. I do not say that it will happen in the future, only that it has happened in the past. I will be more than happy to come to the table if a Southern proposal, with real protections, is put forward. But,” he held up a hand that now held his famous pipe, “those protections must be real, and they must be enforced. The open defiance of the laws of this republic, what Senator Byrd has called ‘massive resistance’, must end, or I will have no choice but to take action.”
    Russell was stunned. Would the President really order the Army into the South because some schools didn’t teach black kids? Then he looked at the picture on the President’s desk, of a man who had ordered the Army into the South. FDR’s description of the President, ‘the most dangerous man in America’, ran through his mind. “I believe you would,” he stammered.
    “Then we have nothing more to discuss.” MacArthur said. “Good day, Senator. Do find a compromise.”

    - BNC
     
    Part VI, Chapter 44
  • CHAPTER 44

    February 10, 1956

    “As I was leaving my office this morning, I was visited by a man who I had not seen in nearly forty years. A veteran of the Rainbow Division, he asked me, ‘So, General, how does it seem to be old?’ I told him that I liked it, and when he expressed amazement, I said, ‘With my date of birth, if I were not old, I would be dead.’ But he just scratched his head and walked away puzzled.
    “I stand here today with a deep sense of humility and honour, of having been fortunate enough to serve this country for the last fifty-seven years. It has been a time that has seen our ideals spread from our shores to the furthest reaches of the Pacific. We have brought justice, law and liberty as we guided the Philippines from the shackles of colonialism to become a steadfast brother in the community of nations. The opportunities offered by friendship with Asia, cloaked in darkness when my father speculated upon them, are now available to us. Through our allies in Europe, the ideals for which we have fought and struggled are now entrenched in the Old Continent.
    “At home, my lifetime has witnessed an enormous growth of American industrial potential, driven on by the hard work and enterprising spirit of the American labourer, artisan and industrialist alike. This success has made our nation the subject of great envy, and numerous forces have combined in an attempt to destroy our freedom, and despite our victories there are those, who call themselves Fascists, Socialists or Communists, that continue to make the capitalistic system a great target. These threats may be on the retreat, but it was the determination of American enterprise that built this republic, and that same determination will be required in order to maintain it. As my life enters its twilight years, the time has come to pass the torch to our next generation of leaders. Accordingly, I shall not seek another term as your President, and will instead ask the Republican Party to consider Senator Knowland of California to succeed me in this office, sure in the knowledge that he will continue to advance the causes for which I have served.
    “We have built for the American people a world of opportunity. Use it well.”

    ***

    For Richard Nixon, MacArthur’s announcement was akin to being thrown back into a political wilderness. MacArthur had told him about the deal with Knowland long ago, but he had held out the futile hope that MacArthur might go back on the agreement. No such luck. What he did have was a promise of MacArthur’s endorsement for any role he wanted, and a recommendation to either continue as Attorney General or gain some experience in the State Department (“You’re still a young man, Dick,” MacArthur had said, “You’ll get your chance, and the experience will serve you well when you do.”). Nixon was grateful, but he wondered how much good it would do. Knowland would get rid of the rest of MacArthur’s men as soon as he took office - he hated Willoughby and Almond as much as anyone - and the two Californians had been rivals for years. Perhaps he would be better off running for his old Senate seat again. He didn’t have to decide now - the election was still a good nine months away.

    A much more pressing issue for Nixon was MacArthur’s civil rights bill, which by the middle of February was still waiting on the Attorney General’s desk. Nixon had reminded the President several times of the importance of getting it off his desk and onto Congress’ legislative calendar as soon as possible. Every day that passed was a day less that the Southerners needed to obstruct the bill in the Senate committees or on the Senate floor. If the bill was to be passed, it had to be made as difficult as possible for the South to run down the clock. Congress would likely adjourn by August, and a bill as contentious as civil rights would take months to pass in the best of times.
    MacArthur had insisted Nixon wait. If the bill was put to Congress and was then followed by his announcement declining a second term, the Southerners might interpret that as the administration backing down on the issue. The President let January pass, all the while informing the press at every opportunity that his administration was working on a civil rights bill that would be introduced and continued making speeches urging senators, especially those from the conservative Midwest who had voted against the 1953 bill, to come out in its support. His withdrawal announcement for the 1956 election was scheduled for his seventy-sixth birthday, on January 26th. The civil rights bill would have soon followed.
    Then the tables turned. The Southern senators, upset by MacArthur’s constant speeches on civil rights, spent the month of January drafting their ‘Southern Manifesto’. MacArthur had dismissed it as “a list of petty complaints”, but Nixon saw it as a line in the sand. Whoever signed it would be against the administration’s efforts no matter what, whoever did not would be a potential vote. Knowing who might be for and who was against the bill would be more valuable than another couple of weeks of debate. As long as the prospect of MacArthur’s second term hung over their heads, a second term every poll predicted he would win handily, the Southerners would make their positions known not just for this vote, but as far out into the future as 1961. Signatures would not be based off short-term political gain: they would tell him who was in for the long haul. No-one but Nixon could have convinced MacArthur to delay his withdrawal announcement, but Nixon could, and he did. MacArthur waited until the Southern Manifesto was on his desk.
    And once it was, Nixon sprung his trap.

    Because the House had passed the 1953 civil rights bill, and every other recent civil rights bill for that matter, Nixon’s attention was fixed squarely on the Senate, and that meant squarely on one Senator in particular. Since MacArthur took office, Lyndon Johnson had not just been the Minority and then Majority Leader, he effectively was the Senate. Johnson could kill a bill with a shake of the head, or he could find votes where votes had never been before. Nixon had been waiting for the Manifesto not for the other twenty-one Southern senators, but for what Johnson would do. If Johnson signed it, civil rights would be dead in 1956 no matter what Nixon did. If Johnson signed it, he would be siding with the South in face of the overwhelming public demand for change that MacArthur had drummed up. If Johnson signed it, he would forever lose any hope of liberal support if he ever ran for President. Nixon knew Johnson wanted the Presidency: he had briefly campaigned in 1955 until a heart attack dashed his hopes for 1956. Because Johnson would likely try again in 1960, Nixon guessed that he would not sign it. He was right.
    Just because Johnson had not sided with the South, that did not necessarily mean he was prepared to stand against them either. When Nixon went to the Senate Office Building to meet with the Majority Leader, Johnson attempted to convince him that the bill would be better delayed until the following year, after the election. Though he did not tell Nixon, Johnson hoped to present himself as a candidate suitable both to the South - he was a Texan with a perfect record of opposing civil rights bills - and to the North - because he had not signed the Manifesto - and thereby revive his presidential hopes for 1956. It had to be after the election, and if MacArthur insisted on pressing forward this year regardless, he would eventually be forced to either back down or see his bill filibustered. After months of speeches and campaigns, either would be a humiliation for the President, and might give the Democrats a better chance in the election. Johnson believed he had put MacArthur, and by extension Nixon, into a zugzwang: whatever MacArthur did, his choice would work against him.
    A more apt description would have been that of a Gordian Knot. Nixon had realised that the same arguments that applied to the signing of the Southern Manifesto applied to the passage of a civil rights bill as well. If MacArthur and Nixon could get a bill on the table in 1956, the amount of public attention MacArthur was giving it would force there to be a vote sometime this year. Long before the election. Probably before the party conventions in July. When that vote happened, Johnson would have to take a side, and there was only one way that Johnson could vote and maintain his Presidential ambitions.
    “Lyndon,” Nixon said. “If you kill this bill, or waste so much time it never leaves committee, who do you think the people that the President has spent half the year rallying, are going to blame for its failure? Are they going to blame MacArthur, or are they going to blame you? Because I can guarantee you now, the President will be one of those people, and he will make sure everyone knows it.”
    “Is that a threat?” Johnson demanded.
    “Presidents don’t threaten.” Nixon said. “They don’t have to.”

    ***

    Johnson refused to concede the argument, and continued debating with Nixon for another two hours until the Attorney General walked out in frustration, but in the back of his mind he knew that Nixon was right. It hadn’t been that long ago that Richard Russell had said to him that “If you’re marked as a sectional candidate, you can’t win.” Trying to convince MacArthur to back down would do no good - the President wasn’t just stubborn, he was inconvincable, but despite Nixon’s threats it wasn’t MacArthur that Johnson was worried about. It was the liberals, that MacArthur had been rallying, that worried him. They knew who had the power in the Senate, and they had been told that 1956 would finally be the year that civil rights passed.
    So, Johnson decided, it would be.

    To have a hope of passing anything, and more importantly saving his own career from MacArthur’s wrath, Johnson knew he would have to strike a delicate balance. The bill could not be too strong, or the Southerners and conservatives would filibuster it in spite of his efforts. The bill could not be weakened to the point of impotence, or the liberals and likely the President would decry it as a sham. If it appealed too strongly to the wishes of the Northerners, he would be poisoning his base of support in the South. If he weakened the bill too much, the South would continue to trust him, but the North would become certain that he was a sectional candidate after all.
    One of the keys to finding that balance was held not by Johnson, but by Richard Russell, who had always been one of his strongest supporters. Russell would never support any form of civil rights no matter what, but he would have to be convinced to at least acquiesce to any bill that did get put to the Senate. Russell might not be able to run the Senate the way Johnson did, but he was more than capable of gathering the thirty-three Senators needed for a filibuster, so Russell became the first Senator that Johnson had to persuade.
    “We have to give the President and all those liberals something.” Johnson said. “Just to make the Negro issue go away.” The bill, Johnson promised, could be weakened to the point where it would hardly matter. The Southern way of life would not be affected. But if nothing was let through? MacArthur hadn’t so much as consulted Congress before he cleaned out the FBI. If Congress didn’t cooperate, wouldn’t he just bypass them again? Desegregation by way of executive order, even the bayonet...
    “He thinks he’s a king.” Russell said finally. “I know. I want him off our backs too. If you think you can get the bill down to something that preserves our ways, I’ll convince the others not to filibuster it.”

    ***

    May 25, 1956

    Lyndon Johnson looked out across the Senate floor. Minority Leader Knowland was there, and Johnson was not at all happy to see him. If MacArthur was bad to deal with, Knowland was even worse. MacArthur trumpeted what he wanted from the rooftops, and was completely obsessed with his own glory, but once he had someone doing his bidding he left them alone to finish the job - neither the President nor his lackey Nixon had so much as visited the Senate Office Building since February.
    Knowland, on the other hand, interfered with everything. Because he was MacArthur’s chosen successor, and MacArthur had made himself some sort of civil rights champion, Knowland’s presidential campaign had civil rights plastered all over it. He called for a repeal of poll taxes. He called for an end to literacy tests. He called for an end to segregation in all public places. And he was adamant that MacArthur’s bill would go through the Senate this year, with as few changes as possible. If that meant a filibuster, then too bad. Johnson was sure Knowland wanted one. After the fuss MacArthur had kicked up, the election was going to have civil rights as a major issue, and a filibuster would let Knowland call the Democrats the party of segregation. With that and MacArthur’s earlier endorsement, he’d be assured of victory. MacArthur wouldn’t blame the bullheaded Knowland’s stupidity for the bill’s failure. He’d blame Johnson.

    Johnson had worked too hard, had cut too many deals just to keep this bill alive, to let that happen.

    He wasn’t the only one. The moderate Democratic Senator from New Mexico, Clint Anderson, had made the same calculations. Anderson was a supporter of civil rights, though with far less ideological enthusiasm than his Northeastern counterparts, but he also saw the current bill from a far more pragmatic viewpoint. If Knowland put out the call for votes while the bill remained in its current form, the Californian would doom the bill to a filibuster, which would likely split the Democratic Party down the middle, and that split that could easily last through to Election Day. Knowland either hadn’t noticed the opportunity or wasn’t yet willing to kill his President’s treasured bill, but there was no guarantee he wouldn’t do so in the future. Anderson knew he had to act quickly, so for four days he had stayed at his desk tinkering with a copy of the bill - crossing out a word here, changing a phrase there.
    Then, just as Johnson was walking past him, he crossed out three whole pages of the bill. “Lyndon,” he said quietly, “this might work.”
    Johnson looked over the changes. Most of the sweeping civil rights protections had been struck out. What was left was hardly the grand piece of legislation MacArthur hoped for and Knowland boasted about, but it was equally less likely to inspire rage - and a filibuster - from the South. “Clint, it just might.”

    - BNC
     
    Last edited:
    Part VI, Chapter 45
  • CHAPTER 45

    May 30, 1956

    “...Hungarian President Imre Nagy has announced that the police have restored order in Budapest.” The BBC announcer said. “This marks the end of four days of protests and riots in the city that are believed to have claimed the lives of several demonstrators. Meanwhile in France, the political crisis brought on by disputes between the government and the army over the war in Algeria may also be nearing an end. Famed war hero Charles de Gaulle has recently announced that he will come out of retirement to restore stability to the government and work towards a resolution of the Algerian crisis...”
    Click.
    Winston Churchill turned off the radio. He’d had to listen to De Gaulle all through the war, and hadn’t been sorry to see the back of him since. Now, ten years later, that man was back.
    “Bloody hell.”

    ***

    Senator Knowland’s nomination as the Republican presidential candidate for 1956 was never in doubt. He had emerged as the successor to Robert Taft as leader of the party’s conservative wing, and he had the endorsement of a popular President. The only contest of note was offered by John Bricker of Ohio, who won only the primary in his home state. With the exception of New Hampshire, where hundreds of voters wrote in MacArthur’s name in a last-chance effort to convince him to run for a second term, every other primary returned a nearly unanimous win for Knowland.
    When the Republican National Convention came, Knowland was sure that he would be able to pick his Vice President and take his ‘Continue Success’ message all the way to the White House. MacArthur remained as popular as ever, and he was the chosen successor. The economy was good, and the nation was at peace. There had hardly been a better time to be the incumbent party’s candidate.
    At the Convention, Knowland was quickly confirmed as the nominee, but when he proposed the strongly conservative Representative Walter Judd of Minnesota as his running mate, the party bosses overruled him. Throughout the campaign, Knowland had been even more vocal than MacArthur had ever been about the need to concentrate America’s diplomacy in Asia, but Judd put the both of them to shame on that front. If Judd was picked, the ticket would be made up of two conservatives, leaving the party’s liberal wing off the ticket entirely. Judd was unlikely to help pick up electoral votes that Knowland would need: the Northeast had decided 1952 in MacArthur’s favour, and with the South certain to oppose the Republican stance on civil rights, the Northeast would be critical again. Nor could Knowland rely on his status as MacArthur’s chosen heir to push for Judd either: MacArthur’s face might be on the campaign posters, but the President had not campaigned for Knowland since the initial endorsement. Although it was not made public, the party bosses knew that MacArthur was privately angered by Knowland’s proposal to subject labour unions to antitrust laws, and as if to prove the point, when MacArthur had travelled to California in May, he had gone there not for Knowland, but for Nixon’s Senate campaign.
    The convention’s choice was Connecticut’s moderate Senator Prescott Bush, who could offer ideological balance and support in the Northeast. Bush, not Judd, would go on the ticket.

    Knowland was furious. He was furious at the party bosses for thwarting his choice of running mate. He was furious at MacArthur for not doing more to help his campaign. He was furious at Lyndon Johnson for ripping out line after line, and then whole pages, of the civil rights bill. He couldn’t do much about Bush, not after Vice President Lodge announced that he would be honoured to be succeeded by Bush, but he could do something about the other two. Or at least, he thought he could.
    On the morning of July 9th, the Monday after the Convention, Knowland announced that he would be putting the civil rights bill to a vote - immediately. Even after Clint Anderson’s amendments had passed at the end of May and the expansive bill was reduced to one purely concerning voting rights, it had still been in a state of gridlock. It might have had a majority of votes, but not the two-thirds needed to beat a filibuster. Knowland knew that by calling for a vote, he was inviting a filibuster, and by inviting a filibuster he was dooming the bill. Earlier, Knowland had wanted to help his President’s bill, and had followed Nixon’s recommendations that it not be forced through too quickly, but now his President had failed him. Once he was President, he would push for a civil rights bill - a real civil rights bill - in 1957. This weak one could be left to die, and he could blame the Democrats for killing it. He would have succeeded too, had he been in the Senate over the past two weeks.

    While Knowland was busy on a campaign trip through the Mountain States, Lyndon Johnson had been on the Senate floor, and in the cloakrooms and offices, desperately trying to save the bill. He knew time was running out: Knowland had been getting impatient, and if he wanted to use a filibuster to split the Democratic Party ahead of the election, it would have to be before the Democratic Convention in the third week of July. Likely weeks before. All throughout June, he had been looking for something he could use.
    He found it, of all places, in MacArthur’s Labour Unions Act. That was another bill that MacArthur had talked about incessantly, but in reality was rather disappointing. The only thing of note it had accomplished was to guarantee strikers the right to a jury trial. A similar guarantee for those accused of civil rights offences, Johnson realised, would be just the sort of provision that would weaken this bill enough to appease the South: Blacks could not serve on Southern juries, so no White man had to fear one, and MacArthur couldn’t well oppose the provision without looking hypocritical.
    The Northern liberals, who hadn’t spent months talking up the bill, would see through that amendment immediately, and would oppose it if he didn’t give them something too. Again he returned to MacArthur’s jury idea: Blacks could not serve on Southern juries, but if this bill allowed them to, he could pass it off as another civil right being granted to them. In practice, it would not matter: as long as there was at least one White on a jury, they would be able to prevent the unanimous verdict required for conviction. The Southerners knew they would have nothing to fear from the amendment. The liberals wouldn’t be given a chance to realise their mistake. Johnson called for votes on the amendment on July 6th, and had enough to pass it. Knowland was off at the Convention in California. He found out that the amendment passed in the Saturday morning paper, but never realised what it meant.
    When he called for votes on Monday, he received seventy-one ‘yea’s. MacArthur’s civil rights bill had passed.

    But it had become a hollow shell in the process.

    The ink of the newspapers announcing the bill’s passage was hardly dry before the bill was proving divisive. Some civil rights activists celebrated the fact that a bill - any bill - had passed the Senate for the first time in eighty years. Others denounced it as a pathetic effort, and argued that MacArthur should veto the bill as a waste of time and allow Knowland to work for a stronger bill in 1957. Johnson was given credit for navigating the competing and often contradictory demands of the Senate, and was lambasted for acting as a pawn of the segregationists. MacArthur had either fulfilled his promise to deliver a civil rights bill, or had failed to deliver the great civil rights package that he had campaigned on.
    Inside the Oval Office, the question was just as difficult as it was proving to be outside. MacArthur still had the power to veto it, and if he did there would be plenty of senators willing to uphold his veto. Richard Nixon, who for months had been pushing for the bill’s passage, had been disgusted by the end result. Johnson had made the administration look foolish, the jury amendment was a disgrace. He suggested MacArthur “scrap the damned thing”. Knowland’s election was practically a sure thing, and now that the President had riled up the civil rights crowd, he was confident that a stronger bill, one much more similar to the 1953 one, could be passed in 1957.
    MacArthur had many reservations about the bill. It was far weaker than he would have liked, and was an almost pitiful end to a year of campaigning. It didn’t do anything to resolve the underlying issue of segregation in the South, and now that the South had offered the compromise he had demanded from Russell, it would be much harder to justify using the Army to enforce Brown whether he signed it or not. But Nixon was wrong. There was no guarantee that a 1957 bill would be any better than the 1956 one, or even that there would be a 1957 bill at all. For all its flaws, and it had many, this was a bill, one that had passed. Knowland could try to get something better next year, but the progress that had been made could now be made certain. Cameras were called into the Oval Office: the world would see him sign this bill.

    ***

    While the press debated whether the Civil Rights Act of 1956 was a breakthrough or a bill “worse than nothing”, and MacArthur considered whether to sign or veto it, Lyndon Johnson was looking to capitalise on his greatest legislative accomplishment yet. Although he wanted to be selected as the Democratic nominee, he had stubbornly refused to officially announce his candidacy, convinced that he would have the South behind him at the Convention and would be able to somehow leverage that into the party nomination.
    When the Democratic National Convention began on Monday July 23rd, he soon found out that he was mistaken. Adlai Stevenson had won the majority of the primaries, and had already gained the support of most of the convention delegates, who blamed his loss in 1952 on the personal popularity of MacArthur. His most promising challenger, and his former running mate, Estes Kefauver, had begun with a strong campaign only to suffer several defeats against Stevenson. Kefauver, knowing he would ultimately lose and unwilling to repeat the ticket that had failed four years earlier, withdrew from the race shortly before the convention. Averell Harriman, who had the public backing of former President Truman, was Stevenson’s only other serious competition, but his campaign had struggled to gain support. Even if Johnson could get the South behind him, and that was far from being a sure thing, it wouldn’t matter. Stevenson had, and received, enough votes without them. It would be Stevenson, not Johnson, who would face Knowland in November.
    As had been the case in the Republican Convention two weeks earlier, the more contentious choice would not be who was on the top of the ticket, but who would be their running mate. Kefauver was the favoured choice, but he reiterated his desire not to repeat the exact ticket that had failed against MacArthur. The next choice was the young, charismatic, and until-now relatively unknown Senator John F. Kennedy from Massachusetts, but while Kennedy captured the attention of the party’s liberals, the prospect of two liberals on the ticket (and Kennedy a Catholic at that) alarmed the Democratic conservatives just as a Knowland-Judd ticket had alarmed the Republican liberals. Stevenson’s campaign was including a civil rights plank, if only to prevent Knowland from using the issue against him, but if Kennedy was his running mate, the Southerners feared they would have no voice in the executive branch and that integration would be imposed on them without any way to resist, a fear that only grew with MacArthur’s recent signing of the Civil Rights Act. The demand was made: a Southerner would serve as Stevenson’s running mate, or the South would leave the convention and run their own ticket, in the same manner as the Dixiecrats of 1948.
    Without Kefauver, there were only two prominent Southerners who hadn’t signed the Southern Manifesto and would thus be acceptable to the whole party: Al Gore of Tennessee, and Lyndon Johnson. As Stevenson refused to endorse either, preferring to let the convention decide, the party bosses turned to Johnson, who had just seized the national spotlight by passing a civil rights bill after eighty years of gridlock and filibusters. The only problem was, Johnson didn’t want to be number two. He turned them down. Gore, in the name of party unity, accepted.

    When Johnson opened the newspaper on Friday morning, he wondered if he hadn’t just dodged a bullet. On one topic much more than any other, the public had always trusted MacArthur’s judgement. After the story on the front page, Johnson was certain that that topic would decide the 1956 election. Now, if MacArthur said to vote for Knowland, the people would. Because that topic wasn’t civil rights.

    It was war.

    - BNC
     
    Part VI, Chapter 46
  • CHAPTER 46

    On July 27th, 1956, Dwight Eisenhower became the last person in the government to offer an objection to the decision of President Douglas MacArthur. At this late stage in his Presidency, few would have dared consider it. The reassignment of John Foster Dulles had set the tone for MacArthur’s cabinet, the purge of Hoover and the FBI had confirmed it. MacArthur wanted a staff that would carry out his orders without question, and one by one his cabinet members found themselves so entranced by MacArthur’s greatness that they became his willing lackeys, or they were replaced with someone who would.
    But when Eisenhower heard the news that Egyptian President Nasser was nationalising the Suez Canal, he felt he had no other choice. He knew MacArthur better than anyone else, possibly better than MacArthur even knew himself. He had known MacArthur for twenty-five years, been his military aide for seven and his UN Ambassador for nearly four. Like MacArthur, he had risen through the ranks to become a theatre commander, he had been the head of an occupation of a defeated country, and had even run for President, and never before had he been so sure that MacArthur was about to make a mistake.

    Ever since he met Nasser at the Bandung Conference in 1955, MacArthur had grown increasingly suspicious of the Egyptian leader. He perceived Nasser’s open willingness to play the Americans and Soviets off each other as humiliating, and Nasser’s aggressive nationalist rhetoric as dangerous. There was also the possibility that Nasser was working with, or under the influence of, communist agents: the unification of Germany had put an end to the ideology’s expansion in Europe, and the development of America’s allies were restricting its spread in Asia, so the last axis of advance would be Africa and the Middle East.
    Iran was just the first step, and nothing made that more obvious than the events of the previous three days: Reza Radmanesh’s regime, never popular with the people, had fallen into a state of near-civil war after a belated election was rigged and conservatives resisted the creation of a centrally planned economy. Radmanesh lacked the troops to put down the revolts on his own, and had found himself forced to ask Malenkov for help. A quarter of a million Red Army troops were now marching into Iran. Egypt, the crossroads of the world, could be next.

    MacArthur had scarcely received the news that Nasser was nationalising the canal when the White House received a call from Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and for one of the rare times in his entire term, the President answered it himself. Churchill said that he favoured immediate and decisive action to reclaim the canal, but only if such an action had MacArthur’s approval.
    MacArthur needed no convincing. The canal was a vital trade route, with half of Europe’s oil passing through it. As long as the canal was in Nasser’s hands, he held a knife at the throat of America’s strongest allies. Nasser had long proven that he could not be trusted. Nor was MacArthur willing to consider the possibility of backing down. Drew Pearson had criticised his administration repeatedly for any sign of weakness: the loss of Iran, the loss of Vietnam, the abandonment of West Germany, even his inability to repeal Taft-Hartley. MacArthur would not allow his legacy to be one of weakness. He would not back down. This was the time to thwart the spread of communism into Africa. There was no alternative. Nasser had to go.

    Eisenhower was not so convinced. Nasser, he told MacArthur, was not acting as part of any communist plot, but was seizing the canal merely as an act to put an end to the legacy of colonialism in his country. The Egyptian people, and for that matter the rest of the Arab world and probably Africa as well, would not see American intervention as a justified response to the abrogation of the treaty that guaranteed British control of the Canal Zone until 1968. They would see that treaty as having been unfairly forced upon them, enforcing it could only mean a return of the colonial policies. “Doug,” he said, “you have built up considerable goodwill with the people of the Third World, while Malenkov is destroying Russia’s image with his invasion of Iran. This is exactly the opportunity you have spoken of for decades. Don’t waste it all on one of Churchill’s silly schemes. I was dragooned into a few of them in the war, and they never end well.”
    MacArthur was certain that the Egyptian people would instead greet him as a liberator upon Nasser’s defeat. He had proven before that he was no coloniser. The Third World knew that it could trust him. Like the Japanese in 1945, once the leadership was removed the people would see him as their friend.
    “This is different.” Eisenhower warned. “There’s no Emperor this time, and someone is going to have to lead the country at the end of it all. Four years ago, when Harry Truman was sitting in that chair, and Nasser was about to take power, he faced the same dilemma you do now. He could either tolerate Nasser, who we cannot trust and we do not like, or he could replace him. In Egypt, there’s two alternatives to Nasser and the Army strong enough to take power and hold onto it: the Muslim Brotherhood, and the communists, and they’ve both sworn themselves to our destruction. Nasser might be bad. Your alternatives are worse.”
    MacArthur remained as defiant as ever. “Harry Truman made a mistake,” he said.

    Eisenhower submitted his resignation the following morning.

    ***

    MacArthur believed that his predecessor had made many mistakes, but one of his gravest had been during the first days of the Korean War. ‘Too late’. Two words that summed up the very history of failure. MacArthur thought back to that grim morning six years earlier, when again he had asked himself “What is the United States’ policy in Asia”. The answer, he had soon realised, was the appalling fact that Truman’s administration had no policy in Asia. Truman had delayed too long, and his delays invited the communists to strike at South Korea. Only his own bold and decisive action - the rapid deployment of Task Force Smith as an initial show of force, and then the transport of whole divisions from Japan - had prevented what had looked like certain, ignominious defeat.
    MacArthur would not repeat Truman’s mistakes. His policy on the Egyptian matter would not be left uncertain, or subject to bureaucratic delays and the unclear language of UN resolutions. Before Nasser seized it, the Suez Canal had been mostly owned by both the British and the French. Churchill was already informed, and was just as committed to swift action as he was, but three powers in the coalition would be better than two. Ned Almond was ordered to ring De Gaulle and find out the French position on the matter.
    Much to MacArthur’s surprise, De Gaulle wanted no part of the intervention. After the disaster in Algeria, France was seeking to extricate itself from military commitments in North Africa and bring peace to the region, not get involved in another colonial mess. When Almond, in a final act of persuasion, urged De Gaulle to consider the intervention an act of solidarity on behalf of the Western alliance, the French leader responded with an impressive tirade:
    “What did that solidarity mean to Monsieur MacArthur when he trampled all over France’s honour at Glasgow? What did it mean when he ordered us to abandon the fight in Indochina? No! I will not stand for this nonsense! We will not fight in Egypt! France is not your puppet!
    Almond, taken aback, asked the interpreter, “did he actually say that?”
    “Actually he shouted it,” the interpreter said.
    Despite De Gaulle’s refusal to support the intervention, MacArthur insisted on pushing ahead regardless. Less than an hour after De Gaulle refused to fight, MacArthur ordered twenty-four brand-new B-52 bombers to fly to the Wheelus Air Base in Libya, where they would be ready to bomb Egypt.

    Another mistake that Truman had made in the June of 1950 was his failure to seek Congressional approval. By calling Korea a “police action” among other terms that only minimised the severity of the situation, Truman had bypassed that most fundamental tenet of the American government, the voice of the people. The President was no dictator, and Truman’s actions set a dangerous precedent. MacArthur, staring down the barrel of the next war, was determined to reverse that precedent and allow Congress to once again do its duty. He could order the movements of troops, ships and planes in his role as Commander-in-chief, but despite what Truman believed, he could not declare war.
    Even as the bombers lifted off bound for Libya, MacArthur still hoped that war could be avoided. He knew the difficulties that soldiers endured on campaign, he had seen young men give their lives, he knew the terrible toll that battle wrought. Sometimes the price had to be paid, and a short war with Egypt would be a relatively small price to avoid the communist subjugation of all of Africa. However, sometimes it did not. Nasser backing down, in the same manner that Red China had two years prior, would be preferable to the deaths of hundreds of soldiers, and would thwart communist plans almost as effectively as a war would. Although he doubted it was possible, MacArthur hoped for a peaceful resolution to the Suez Crisis: when he called an emergency meeting of Congress, he asked not for an immediate declaration of war, but for an ultimatum to be sent to Cairo. Nasser could return the canal to its previous owners, or he would face war with three of the strongest nations in the world.
    Communism might have been a worldwide threat, but MacArthur had always seen a distinction between the foreign policies of individual communist states, and the cornerstone of his own diplomatic efforts had always been his exploitation of the divisions between them. When he had confronted Red China over Quemoy, he had done so confident that the Soviets would not risk nuclear war over a nation whose leadership ceaselessly accused it of ideological deviance, and had been proven right. The same would hold true in his handling of the Suez Crisis. China had already been cowed, but he still had to separate Egypt from the Soviet Union, and the key to doing so lay in Iran. The Soviet Union shared few borders with MacArthur and his allies, and had no way to send aid directly to Egypt without going through Turkey or British Iraq, so MacArthur doubted they would go to war directly, but a Soviet condemnation of the intervention in Egypt would still be politically damaging to the Allies. Yet it had been Malenkov, not MacArthur, who had first moved troops into the Middle East, when he answered Radmanesh’s call for assistance. To ensure Malenkov stayed out, MacArthur sent a secret message to his Soviet counterpart: the United States would stay silent about the tanks rolling down the streets of Tehran if the Soviet Union stayed silent on Egypt.
    If war came, Nasser would be forced to fight alone.

    ***

    Keeping his own side united was just as important as keeping his enemies divided, but if anything it proved to be more difficult. With De Gaulle out of the picture, creating a unified plan with the British would be absolutely essential. Willoughby’s estimates, while describing the Egyptian Army as a “paperweight” that was incapable of offensive action and riddled with corruption, put its strength at 150,000 men. Woeful underestimate as it was, a force of that size was more than large enough to be dangerous. Sending in units regiment by regiment, as he had done in those early desperate days in Korea, would be inviting disaster. The American and British general staffs were ordered to develop a plan over the phone and the teleprinter. MacArthur would fly to London.
    When he arrived on July 31st, he was presented with Operation Musketeer. Musketeer posited a paratrooper force (predominantly British troops operating out of Cyprus) be landed at Port Said, at the northern end of the Suez Canal. Once Port Said had been captured, it would be used to unload the main body of the invasion force - around 35,000 British and 100,000 Americans (currently based in France), which would overrun the canal zone. Bombers based in Malta, Crete and Cyprus (the latter of which having recently been ceded to Greece in return for permanent basing rights), would provide air support that would paralyse Nasser’s army and prevent them from interfering with the operation. If all went well, the recapture of the canal would be enough to bring about Nasser’s overthrow.
    MacArthur thought that idea too optimistic. His father hadn’t beaten Aguinaldo merely by winning a battle: it had taken the capture of the revolutionary to bring an end to the fighting in the Philippines. Kim Il-sung hadn’t surrendered following the fall of Pyongyang: he had hidden out in a mountain cave, then escaped across the Yalu and ended up in Moscow where he had likely been shot by Stalin. Nasser wouldn’t be deposed unless the Allies deposed him. The target couldn’t be the canal. That would be useless as long as the war was on anyway. It had to be Cairo, and Nasser.
    MacArthur’s alternative proposal suggested that the full weight of the Allied armies be used in a massive amphibious offensive that would land at Alexandria and then march down the Nile. While Churchill was supportive, his declining health ensured that his position at the conference, and indeed as prime minister, was largely ceremonial. Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, Churchill’s deputy and the power behind the throne, was adamantly opposed. Alexandria would be a waste of time and a waste of lives, the latter especially important if the war was to be the quick affair everyone hoped it would be: with National Service finished in Britain and American reinforcements needing a month to cross the Atlantic, the Allies would be short on manpower. Eden refused to allow British troops to be used at Alexandria, but while MacArthur had given overall command of the war to British General Charles Keightley (owing to the Canal Zone’s previous status as a British possession), the Americans were contributing the overwhelming majority of the troops, and so he insisted on having the final say on where they were committed.

    The impasse between the two stubborn leaders was only resolved when a third nation joined the coalition: Israel. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, fearing that the Arab League would eventually come together and attempt to wipe his nation off the map as they had tried in 1948, believed that the Suez Crisis presented the perfect opportunity for a pre-emptive strike to secure Israel’s western border. Though he would have preferred to move with the help of his closest ally, France, Ben-Gurion knew he might not have another chance.
    Israel greatly changed the strategic balance: Ben-Gurion offered 175,000 troops, which would more than double the allies’ strength currently marked for action against Egypt, and an attack in the Sinai would prevent Egyptian troops there from attacking the eastern flank of the column that would capture the canal. Port Said, with Israeli support nearby, had suddenly become the far less risky plan. Under the new circumstances, Churchill gave what should have been the deciding vote in favour of the Port Said plan.
    MacArthur, fixated on Alexandria, refused to budge. If his allies would not land their forces there, then Alexandria would be a wholly American affair. Musketeer was rewritten as a two-pronged attack: landings at both Port Said and Alexandria, followed by a pincer movement on Cairo. Israel’s forces would provide a diversion, and would stop ten miles east of the canal.

    Three weeks after it was issued, the ultimatum to Nasser expired, dismissed as a bluff by the Egyptian leadership. On August 17th, the order was given. The Egyptian War, “the encore of an era”, had begun.

    - BNC
     
    Last edited:
    Part VI, Chapter 47
  • CHAPTER 47

    August 17, 1956

    “Good evening my fellow Americans,
    “Today I bear the most unfortunate news. President Nasser, and the Government of Egypt, have ignored our requests to reverse their ill-conceived decision to seize the Suez Canal. The canal is a vital part of the trade network of Europe, with more than half of the continent’s oil passing through its waters. In the hands of a rogue leader, it represents nothing less than a knife at the very throat of our British allies. The British have always stood by our side in the most difficult parts of our history, and now it is we who must meet that time-honoured call for assistance. With the approval of Congress, I have offered President Nasser every warning, but regrettably these have gone unanswered. In accordance with the statement of Congress on the twenty-eighth of July, a phase of hostilities must now begin. We are at war.
    “I did not seek this responsibility, but now that it has been thrust upon me I shall not avoid it. I may be more familiar with the toll of war than any leader to ever occupy this office, and I will not treat this matter lightly. War’s very object is victory, and every action this government takes from now until the end of the war will be directed towards a swift achievement of that end.
    “Some of my critics have attempted to describe these actions as motivated by a desire to reimpose the colonial system on the people of Egypt. This could not be more false. I seek no dispute with the Egyptian people, only with a leadership that has led them onto a dangerous and irresponsible course.
    “In 1898, when the war with Spain expanded our nation’s interests beyond our shores for the first time in our history, President McKinley made a statement that has resonated with me throughout my long career. ‘No imperial designs lurk in the American mind. They are alien to American sentiment, thought and purpose. Our priceless principles undergo no change under a tropical sun. They go with a fiat: ‘Why read ye not the changeless truth, the free can conquer but to save.’’
    “Such is our purpose in entering this war. I am sure all Americans, whether soldier or civilian, will do your duty as you always have.”

    ***

    The first strike in the Egyptian War was not launched by the Americans or the British, but by Israel. The Israeli attack plan, Operation Kadesh, was as bold as anything MacArthur had ever attempted. Beginning with a paratrooper operation to capture the crucial Mitla Pass, Kadesh proposed that the Israeli forces seize the entire Sinai peninsula up to a line ten miles east of the Suez Canal, in just five days. In seizing the Mitla Pass, Israel would cut off all of the interior roads connecting Sinai to the rest of the country, while Allied warships ensured the coast road would be equally unusable. A large part of the Egyptian Army would be cut off before they could retreat over the canal, and would then be destroyed or forced to surrender. The Allied operations against Port Said and Alexandria would then follow, facing a weakened enemy, and the British would have the Israelis guarding their eastern flank.
    While the Israelis led the effort on the ground, the British would fight the war in the skies. Eden and some of his generals had developed what they called an “aero-psychological campaign”, which had the twin aims of eliminating Nasser’s air forces and weakening his peoples’ morale in the hopes of prompting a surrender. In preparation for the attack, Malta, Crete and Cyprus had been packed with fighters and bombers. Ten aircraft carriers were operating in the eastern Mediterranean, and still yet more planes were based in Israel. Their targets were a range of Egyptian airfields, the transmitter of Radio Cairo, and a few other targets of significance.
    What Eden had described as an “aerial attack of grand proportions” soon proved to be far less than the comprehensive program of destruction that MacArthur had imagined. MacArthur’s prized B-52 bombers were given no targets, and were instead to remain on the ground in Libya. Eden said they were not necessary for the mission, and went so far as to say that the comparatively lower accuracy of a B-52 strike, as opposed to the British Canberras, would have a detrimental impact on its success. This mission was supposed to be a precise strike against Egyptian airfields and communications, and civilian deaths had to be kept to an absolute minimum, even if that meant some potential targets were left standing.
    To MacArthur, Eden’s statements reeked of the same “limited war” nonsense that Harry Truman had imposed upon him in Korea. Those policies had done nothing to help win the war, in fact they had helped drag it out six months longer than it had needed to be. George Stratemeyer had flattened half of North Korea in three weeks, and the B-52 was far more powerful than the B-29 had ever dreamed of being. If the aim was intimidation via a great show of force, the complete annihilation of Cairo’s industrial districts would send a far more effective message than the silencing of a few radio towers.
    Against his own better judgement, MacArthur allowed the B-52s to remain on the ground for the time being. If Eden’s limited attack was sufficient to bring about an Egyptian surrender, those industries would be able to be used to drive the country’s rebuilding efforts. For now, few American lives would be in danger if Eden proved wrong. The B-52s could still serve as a warning, and would be ready to fly at a few minutes’ notice should they be needed. In the meantime, Eden would be allowed to attempt his strategy.
    America’s initial contribution to the war would instead be at sea. Two US fleets were committed to the Egyptian War: the Sixth, in the Mediterranean, and the Fifth (which had once been a part of the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific until MacArthur gave it its own command), normally based in the Indian Ocean but now assigned to the Red Sea. While the Sixth Fleet concerned itself with the final preparations for the Alexandria landing, the Fifth Fleet had orders to break the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran, and open the Israeli port of Eilat to shipping. Nasser’s puny Navy, made up of a few gunboats each smaller than a destroyer, was no match for the airstrikes sent to destroy them, and the only thing that prevented MacArthur’s forces from destroying the Egyptian shore guns was that the Israelis captured them first. The Straits of Tiran were soon opened.
    On August 22nd, the White House received a call from Prime Minister Ben-Gurion. Kadesh was a mission accomplished. In one of those rare times in war, everything was going almost exactly to plan.

    Almost.

    Operation Telescope, the British plan to land paratroopers at Gamil airfield and Port Fuad in preparation for the Port Said landing on the 23rd, began well. Five days of continual airstrikes had crippled Egyptian defences in the area, and although the landing at Gamil was contested, the fire of the Egyptian infantry proved inaccurate. After a dawn landing, both objectives were taken by noon. The Egyptian infantry retreated, some southwest towards Cairo, others into Port Said. Port Said itself was isolated by the end of the day, as the British forces captured the city water works and all routes into, or out of, the city. The heavily fortified Barracks building remained a problem, but one that would not last much longer.
    Contrary to the expectations of Anthony Eden, and indeed much of the British General Staff, the ‘aero-psychological campaign’ and subsequent arrival of British troops did nothing to weaken the Egyptian resolve. Nasser responded not with a surrender, but with a declaration of what he called “people’s war”. The Egyptian authorities would distribute weapons to the civilian population, allowing them to take up the fight against “colonialist oppression”. No longer was this a war between armies. In Nasser’s eyes, it was a fight for the very existence of the Egyptian nation.

    ***

    August 22, 1956

    To Douglas MacArthur, Nasser’s “people’s war” was an unmistakable sign that Eden’s policy of restraint - appeasement even - had failed. Nasser would not be defeated by the mere loss of his air force any more than North Korea, or Japan before it, had. MacArthur had tolerated Eden’s strategy only because it placed few Americans in danger - only his sailors and pilots had yet entered the battle - and the opportunities it offered if the war was miraculously concluded quickly. Plainly, Nasser wasn’t going to conclude the war quickly. Like his father’s war in the Philippines, “people’s war” meant this wasn’t going to be over until Nasser was captured or dead. Tomorrow American troops under General Clark Ruffner would land at Alexandria. Eden might be willing to sacrifice British soldiers for the sake of enemy civilians. MacArthur was not going to do the same. This briefing of the Joint Chiefs had been called for one reason: MacArthur, not Eden, decided American military policy.
    “Sir, latest cable from the front.” Ned Almond said, brandishing a small piece of paper. “New orders from General Keightley.”
    “Let me see.” MacArthur said, taking the note from his chief of staff. Reading aloud, he said:
    “In light of the declaration made by President Nasser, all ground personnel in combat zones are hereby ordered to confirm the hostile identity of apparent Egyptian civilians before treating them as enemy combatants…”
    Crumpling the note into a small ball before he even finished reading it, MacArthur interpreted the order. “Soldiers are being ordered to knock on doors and ask ‘friend or foe’?”
    “Sir, are we to consider American troops bound by this instruction?” General Ridgway asked.
    “Absolutely not!” MacArthur announced. “In the winter of 1950, when Chinese troops were streaming across the Yalu by the tens of thousands, I asked President Truman for permission to bomb the Yalu bridges. He replied that I could only bomb the Korean halves of the bridges. Never, in my long career, have I ever been taught how to bomb half a bridge. From that day forward, I have believed it impossible for a more imbecilic order to be written, yet somehow Eden has managed to write one.” He turned to his chief of staff, “Ned, I need you to send a message - no scratch that, call London. Inform Eden that if my father had attempted such a misguided policy when he was hunting the Apaches down in New Mexico, the only result would have been the slitting of his throat. The only way he will be able to truly prevent civilian losses is by allowing the generals to win this war as quickly as possible, and they cannot do so if they are bound by these idiotic policies of appeasement. I will not stand for it. There is no substitute for victory.”
    Then the President turned to his former air commander in Tokyo, who now served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “How soon will the B-52s be ready for action following the Alexandrian operation?”
    “Tomorrow afternoon, local time, if weather permits.” General Stratemeyer said. “What do you have in mind, sir?”
    “I’d like to reply to President Nasser’s declaration with one of my own. Launch the largest raid you can possibly assemble without compromising Alexandria. The target is Cairo’s industrial district. Factories, warehouses, everything that could offer military advantage.” MacArthur said.
    “Sir, what about the refineries? Mr Eden has insisted they be avoided for fear of retaliation against British oil interests in Iraq.” Stratemeyer said.
    “Level them.” MacArthur said, with steel in his voice. “Eden’s policy has already failed. Effective immediately, we will fight this war the way Korea should have been fought, without arbitrary limitation.”

    ***

    The following morning, Alexandria bore witness to MacArthur’s war ‘without arbitrary limitation’. A last-minute order to the commanders of the landings warned that the Egyptians could resist as fiercely as the Japanese had twelve years earlier. No-one could be sure what “peoples’ war” would mean for the invasion, but MacArthur remembered hearing of a Japanese plan to organise something similar had the Allies attempted a landing on the Home Islands. He would leave nothing to chance: every military resource he had in the theatre would be committed to Alexandria.
    The bombardment had been delayed until 0200 on the morning of the landing, in the hopes that Nasser would believe Port Said was the location of the Allies’ main effort and thus divert his troops away from Alexandria, but when it began it was immediately devastating. The British were using mere destroyers to support the landing at Port Said. At Alexandria, American landing craft were backed up not just by destroyers or cruisers, but also the battleship Iowa, whose guns had once been trained in the bloody battle of Peleliu. Now, the hellish fire that had destroyed kilometres of Japan’s fortress caverns was directed into Egypt’s second largest city. Within minutes, Alexandria was in flames. Korean War veterans storming ashore were soon reminded of the ghastly scenes of Seoul and Pyongyang.
    Fighting inside the city was just as awful. Nasser hadn’t had long to distribute weapons to Alexandria’s population, but the “peoples’ war” was alive and well in the city. Two Egyptian divisions joined the defenders, and became the targets of a round-the-clock air and naval bombardment. Yet one thing soon became clear: while the individual Egyptian soldier was brave, their leadership was weak, or at the very least, had been crushed under the weight of America’s overwhelming material superiority.

    Alexandria was taken in four days.

    - BNC
     
    Part VI, Chapter 48
  • CHAPTER 48

    September 3, 1956


    “It’s your turn now, Anthony.” Winston Churchill said. “Tomorrow, I will offer my resignation to the Queen. We’re due for an election next month, and at my age… well I imagine the world is well and truly sick of hearing my voice.”
    “Winston, the world will never be sick of your voice.” Eden replied, to which the two men laughed. “Before you do go, do you think you could do something for me?”
    “What is it?” Churchill asked.
    “Could you ask MacArthur to stop his air attacks in Egypt?” Eden asked. “For the love of God, they’ve already counted past 5,000 casualties in Alexandria. We’re not even in Cairo yet but there’s got to be thousands more there.”
    “Haven’t you asked him yourself?” Churchill asked. “He knows full well you’ve been in charge of the war since day one.”
    “I have. Many times.” Eden said. “Most of the time I just get that dunce Almond, who would be a better listener if he went completely deaf. The two times I’ve actually reached MacArthur he went on and on about there being no substitute for victory. He doesn’t realise, or just doesn’t care, that every civilian he bombs is causing us more trouble with the Arabs everywhere else. I tried to tell him about those bombs they found in Iraq, but he won’t listen to me. Please, it has to come from you.”
    Churchill sighed. “I just don’t think it is a good idea.”
    “Why not?” Eden said.
    “Because MacArthur has been fighting wars since the beginning of the century. Few men have ever enjoyed a history as long, or as successful, as his military career. I’m sure he believes the bombings of sound military importance, and I would recommend against urging their interruption.” Before he finished, Churchill paused, as if he did not want to utter the sad words that followed, for fear of disappointing his friend, and perhaps himself. “Anthony, you are the leader now. I trust you will do what is right for the country. But remember that our best days are behind us. The Empire, much as I regret it, is leaving us, and without it, what will be our place in the world? Alone, we will look like a relic next to the Americans and Russians. With the United States beside us, we may yet stand proudly as an ally.”

    ***

    Charles de Gaulle held exactly the opposite view.

    Since taking power in May, the French leader’s attention had been wholly focused on the many domestic issues troubling his nation, from the budget deficits to the war in Algeria to the writing of the new French constitution. With the exception of his three trips to Africa, and an initial press conference shortly after the National Assembly granted him the effective right to rule by decree for six months, he had maintained little media presence. The Anglo-American ultimatum to Egypt, and the Soviet intervention in Iran, had been met only with short statements from his office, condemning both actions. MacArthur and Malenkov had both ignored him. Egypt descended into war, which by September 4th saw Allied forces reach the outskirts of Cairo, while Iran saw the deaths of thousands of protestors and the anti-communist rebellions crushed. Yet De Gaulle was no man to be ignored, and when he gave his first press conference in more than three months, he was announcing not just the creation of a new constitution, but a new path forward for his nation:

    “...It should be known that in three years in Algeria, more than one thousand French civilians have been killed. More than eight thousand Muslims, men, women and children, have been massacred by the rebels, almost always by throat cutting. What a hecatomb that country would know if we were stupid or cowardly enough to abandon it!
    “What is our policy? Our policy is peace. The rebels have fought courageously, but continued fighting will accomplish nothing more than continued death and devastation. The time has come for the peace of the brave. The rebels have proclaimed their desire for peace, and the door to negotiation is open. I ask them now to come to Paris. Stop this absurd fighting. What I seek, as surely as the men and women of Algeria seek, is a transformation of this country. If the French people give their blessing to the new constitution, my intention is nothing less than the greatest practical measures: to raise the living standards of Algeria so that they are equal to those of Metropolitan France. These are lofty goals, and they are goals that will only be achieved by a close solidarity with France. Why gamble on the spirit of revolt when France already has the will and the means to accomplish these goals?
    “Beyond our shores, our policy is peace. The path to peace, the path to prosperity, lies not in conflict but in negotiation. We can all see the results when this path is ignored. On the matter of the Suez Canal, a business deal conducted in the usual manner and with a proper offer of compensation by the Egyptian government, there was no attempt to negotiate. Only the presentation of a list of demands, followed by the merciless bombardment of the ancient cities of Alexandria and Cairo. In Iran, when the people asked for change, they were not granted an audience, only the invasion of Russian tanks by the hundred, and Russian soldiers by the thousand. Is this how civilised peoples behave? I say No!
    “Where can these incitements, where can this cycle of violence lead, but to a universal cataclysm? Only two paths lie open to the human race today: war or brotherhood. In Algeria as everywhere, France, for her part, has chosen brotherhood. Long live the Republic! Long live Algeria and long live France!”

    ***

    De Gaulle’s speech suffered the same fate any other unwelcome news did in the MacArthur White House. Like the reports that the Democratic Party was using his refusal to campaign for Knowland in the Stevenson ads, or the anti-war announcements made by Drew Pearson, the French leader’s criticism of MacArthur’s war went ignored. Pushing his remaining domestic responsibilities onto his subordinates, the President concentrated entirely on the war effort. Even after nearly four years in civilian office, MacArthur’s long history as a General had never been far from his mind. His nation was at war, and as the Commander-in-Chief, it was his duty to command the armies. He outranked the Joint Chiefs, so he had no problem with overruling them, especially after he had peacefully resolved the Formosa Crisis of 1954 over their nearly-unanimous objections. He had worn stars on his shoulders longer than most of them had worn the uniform, so he didn’t feel the need to consult them for advice. Most of the time they were simply bypassed, as he gave orders directly to his two corps commanders in Egypt (despite what he had said about giving General Keightley the overall field authority). George Stratemeyer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was the only exception, but as a MacArthur crony whose loyalty was matched only by Willoughby and Almond, he rarely so much as considered a dissenting opinion to any of the President’s ideas, and voiced none.
    It should have been the recipe for a total military disaster, but astonishingly, the result had been quite the opposite. The battle of Alexandria had met the most optimistic of predictions when it was won in just four days, and little more than a week later the American column had reached the outskirts of Cairo. Some of this success was the product of MacArthur’s experience: amphibious landings had been a key part of soldiers’ training since he took office, and the President had a keen eye for promoting talented officers, giving Clark Ruffner a corps and Creighton Abrams a division. Yet much of MacArthur’s success was also the failure of the Egyptian commander Abdel Hakim Amer.
    Field Marshal Amer had proven himself to be a man of limited military talent, who owed his rank more to his close association with Nasser than to any great competence. His latest blunder had been to order the bulk of the Egyptian Army, which still outnumbered (if only slightly) the British and American forces now that Israel had ceased its advance, to assemble halfway between Alexandria and Cairo for a grand battle, only to witness the Allies’ superior mobility allow them to outmaneuver the Egyptians and their bombers destroy everything in sight. Amer’s army was quickly broken.

    Not that it mattered a bit.

    Unlike MacArthur, Nasser had not ignored De Gaulle’s speech, and instead recognised it as possibly the most powerful weapon he had to use against the Allies. The combination of MacArthur’s invasion of Egypt and Malenkov’s invasion of Iran had created a feeling throughout amongst Arab peoples that the Great Powers had turned against them, but now France was on their side. Egypt was not alone. The legitimacy of their struggle was assured.
    Nasser quickly had De Gaulle’s speech translated into Arabic and English, printed on leaflets and distributed throughout Cairo. His regular army had been shattered, but the peoples’ war was more alive than it had ever been. Alexandria had been taken before the strategy had been able to be used to full effect there, but the people of Cairo had more than two weeks to prepare. Weapons were distributed, supplies were hoarded and hidden, and thousands of Egyptians readied themselves for what would be the greatest battle of their history.

    ***

    That battle began with the encirclement of the city, completed on September 7th as the British and Americans linked up at the Nile to the city’s south. Surrounding Cairo would prevent the “peoples’ warriors” from acquiring more weapons, and trap Nasser inside. It would allow the Allies to attack Nasser’s remaining forces from every direction, with the full weight of their superior firepower. Yet MacArthur knew the fighting would be difficult - Alexandria, Port Said, Ismailia had all been warnings - and when he gave the order to storm Cairo, he chose a code word that evoked memories of carnage to anyone who had been there in 1945.
    “Manila.”

    True to the warning, over the next four weeks Cairo became a charnel house. The B-52 raids ended as Allied troops pushed into the city, but smaller bombers and artillery fire remained a common sight as each group of “peoples’ warriors” were found and killed. Property was rarely spared: his efforts to save Manila’s old buildings had been faced with a grim warning of two divisions dead, and he needed no such warning eleven years later. Civilians were caught in the crossfire by the thousand, never the targets but indistinguishable from Nasser’s fanatics. Even ‘captured’ districts were rarely free from the scenes of battle, as “peoples’ warriors” hid in the rubble while the armies passed, only to strike from the rear. General Keightley would declare the battle over with Field Marshal Amer’s surrender on October 6th, but many would never lay down their arms. Peoples’ War was no longer the name of a strategy. It had become the name of a movement.

    ***

    October 15, 1956

    Douglas MacArthur stood silently as he looked out the Oval Office window at the city of Washington. The report on his desk could wait. Charles de Gaulle, in what could only have been a fit of shortsightedness, had announced France’s immediate withdrawal from the NATO command structure. All he had done for France, fighting to defend them in the Great War, his efforts to protect them against communism as President, meant nothing to the French leader, who was ordering all American troops to leave the country. Most of what had been the French garrison was in Egypt, the rest would be redeployed to Italy as a temporary measure. The election was three weeks away. It would be up to the next President to determine America’s future position in Europe, and in the world.
    “Sir?” Ned Almond asked, presumably standing in the doorway.
    “What is it?” MacArthur asked, without turning to face his loyal chief of staff.
    “President Naguib, sir.” Almond said. “Nasser has been found dead in the wreckage of Asyut. He must have slipped out of Cairo before the battle, and they think one of our B-52s got him.”
    “I have a statement prepared.” MacArthur said. Two weeks earlier, he had been in Egypt to announce Naguib’s restoration as Egypt’s leader - as Nasser’s predecessor, and the only prominent figure not associated with either the communists, the Muslim Brotherhood or the Peoples’ Warriors (as Nasser’s supporters now called themselves), he had been the only alternative to the hated monarchy, the only leader who would be acceptable to both the Allies and the Egyptian people. But MacArthur’s thoughts were elsewhere. “How the city has changed.” he said distantly.
    “Sir?” Ned Almond asked.
    “The city of Washington,” MacArthur explained. “I remember the day I first came here as a schoolboy, all the way back in 1889. Back then, this had not been a big city. It seemed so quiet, so peaceful compared to the forts in the West where I had grown up. How naive we are when we are young.”
    “Sir, there is peace now, here and in Egypt.” Almond said. “We’ve won. With Nasser gone, the war is over.”
    MacArthur shook his head. He had seen too much, of both the very best and the very worst the world had to offer, and it was never that simple. Cairo had brought victory, it had ended the threat to the canal, but it had cost 150,000 lives that would not soon be forgotten. Perhaps, if his successor continued his efforts to rebuild Egypt, that country might see peace. But across the world…
    “It is like Plato once said. Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

    THE END
     
    Top