Old Generals and Prophets Don’t Die – They Just Fade Away

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Jan 042015

The last words of great men are often significant.  Often when a man comes to the end of his life, wisdom is distilled and challenging comments are made.  Perhaps one of the most moving illustrations of such a final exhortation came from the lips of General Douglas MacArthur before the corps of cadets at West Point in 1961.  MacArthur was, perhaps, the greatest military strategist military genius in history.  He was without a doubt the greatest military strategist and fighting general the United States has ever produced.  His brilliant “island-hopping” strategy enabled him to overcome superior Japanese forces in the Pacific war.  With enlightened statemenship and compassion he single-handedly created the new Japan.  He is the author of the Japaneses Constitution.  During his tour there he ruled for many years as an American caesar.  His final military contribution was in the Korean War where his military maneuvers are still studied as classical examples of battlefield genius.

MacArthur went to West Point and once served as commandant of the corp of cadets.  His last and most memorable good-bye was given there.  Addresssing the corps of cadets, he took as his text the academy’s motto: “Duty, Honor and Country”.  Speaking without notes, striding back and forth, he closed his message with a passage that no one who was on that plain that noon will ever forget.  There was not a dry eye in the corps as he said:

“The shadows are lengthening for me.  The twilight is here.  My days of old have vanished, tone and tint; they have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were.  Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed b the smiles of yesterday.  I listen vainly, but with thirsty ear, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll.  In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange mournful mutter of the battlefield.  But in the evening of my memory, I always come back to West Point.  Always there echoes and re-echoes in my ears–Duty, Honor, Country.  Today marks my final roll call with you.  But I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thought will be of the Corps, and the Corps and the Corps.  I bid you farewell”.

He later addressed Congress to bid farewell, after completing his final service in the Korean conflict:

“Efforts have been made to distort my position. It has been said, in effect, that I was a warmonger. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes. Indeed, on the second day of September, nineteen hundred and forty-five, just following the surrender of the Japanese nation on the Battleship Missouri, I formally cautioned as follows:

Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have been attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found in so far as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter  destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past 2000 years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.

But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end.

War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war there is no substitute for victory. There are some who, for varying reasons, would appease Red China. They are blind to history’s clear lesson, for history teaches with unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but begets new and bloodier war. It points to no single instance where this end has justified that means, where appeasement has led to more than a sham peace. Like blackmail, it lays the basis for new and successively greater demands until, as in blackmail, violence becomes the only other alternative

“Why,” my soldiers asked of me, “surrender military advantages to an enemy in the field?” I could not answer.

Some may say: to avoid spread of the conflict into an all-out war with China; others, to avoid Soviet intervention. Neither explanation seems valid, for China is already engaging with the maximum power it can commit, and the Soviet will not necessarily mesh its actions with our moves. Like a cobra, any new enemy will more likely strike whenever it feels that the relativity in military or other potential is in its favor on a world-wide basis.

The tragedy of Korea is further heightened by the fact that its military action is confined to its territorial limits. It condemns that nation, which it is our purpose to save, to suffer the devastating impact of full naval and air bombardment while the enemy’s sanctuaries are fully protected from such attack and devastation. Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to now, is the sole one which has risked its all against communism. The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description. They have chosen to risk death rather than slavery. Their last words to me were: “Don’t scuttle the Pacific!”

I have just left your fighting sons in Korea. They have met all tests there, and I can report to you without reservation that they are splendid in every way. It was my constant effort to preserve them and end this savage conflict honorably and with the least loss of time and a minimum sacrifice of life. Its growing bloodshed has caused me the deepest anguish and anxiety.  Those gallant men will remain often in my thoughts and in my prayers always.

I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the Army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all of my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that “old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”

And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty.

Good Bye”.

Nearly 4,000 years ago another battle-worn general who had spent 40 years in the finest military academy in the ancient world-the military training corp of ancient Egypt.  Then he spent an second 40 years of field manuevers on the back side of the Midian desert shepherding the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro.  Then he spent the last 40 years of his life delivering the Children of God from the slavery of Pharoah, and leading them for forty years of wandering while one generation passed away, and the new generation prepared to cross the river to the long awaited inheritance of Yahweh -the Promised Land.  Moses bid farewell to the people he had shepherded as he spoke the farewell addresses of Deuteronomy to them, and transferring their allegiance to a new Deliverer-Joshua.  We are going to spend the next several weeks studying Moses words to God’s people who were so very ready to experience the fullness of all that God willed for them to experience.  Those words were the favorite words of our Savior, and very edifying to us as we prepare to experience the fullness that God desires for our generation. Come study the Book of Deuteronomy beginning this morning and extending through the next several months on Sunday mornings at 9:30 A.M.

 Posted by at 2:45 am