Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Happy Birthday General MacArthur

Really General Douglas MacArthur's birthday was a couple of months ago - January 26. A family in this area - a family with lots of books and other good stuff recently transferred to riverrun bookstore - this family sent MacArthur birthday greetings during the 1950s. He sent back a gracious reply each time.

MacArthur was part of a distinguished military family. He was born on a base. Douglas, the third son, graduated from high school with awards for outstanding scholarship and deportment.
Young Douglas MacArthur's award for scholarship doesn't amaze me, but the one for deportment does. Slightly.

MacArthur went to West Point. Ulysses S. Grant III was a classmate. Both were offspring of famous generals and therefore, in some kind of twisted logic, both were victims of unusually brutal hazing by upper class men. They survived. (Not everyone did.) MacArthur graduated from West Point the same year my grandmother was born: 1903. He was sent to the Philippines.

MacArthur was not burdened with racial prejudices. In that time and in that place, he was one of the very few in the army not so burdened. Army policy and everyday social actions were shaped by it. MacArthur followed his own vision in this matter. In all matters. Although out of step with his peers and superiors in his attitude toward Filipinos, through other strengths and various heroic deeds, he was recognized with the Medal of Honor.

Douglas MacArthur spent some time serving in Japan under his father, General Arthur MacArthur. A little later he was assigned to the Army Engineer School in Washington DC as part of the training for promising officers. President Theodore Roosevelt requested his services as an aide in the White House from time to time.

In 1914 MacArthur was part of an advance guard scouting in Mexico for armaments possibly being shipped to Germany. He was assigned to help arrange transportation for U.S. soldiers, in case war broke out between Mexico and USA.

As far as transportation went, MacArthur found plenty of rail cars for the men, but insufficient locomotives to drag those cars down the track to wherever the action might be. He sniffed out a lead and followed it to adventure fraught with peril. In the end it was successful. He found 3 locomotives. He found trouble too, but with brilliant courage and impressive marksmanship, he escaped it whole.

Many thought Douglas MacArthur deserved more medals. The Big Brass Higher-Ups decided No. The single key fact that the adventure, however ultimately successful and valuable in the end, had been undertaken without permission from MacArthur's superior officer, was more than sufficient reason, they thought, to make official recognition a poor idea.

MacArthur distinguished himself with bravery, intelligence, dedication and independent thinking in World War I.

When that war was over, he served as the Superintendent of West Point. He devoted himself to widening the scope of the education the young officers received. He went back to Philippines. He served as president of the United States Olympic Committee for the Amsterdam Olympics of 1928. He continued to live a colorful and interesting life both in and out of the military.

MacArthur had been retired from the army when FDR recalled him to active service in 1941. He carried his trademark characteristics - cool hard intellect, fervent patriotism, exceptional abilities, and supreme confidence in his own perceptions and conclusions - into World War II. A famous highlight was his promise to return to Bataan in 1942 and the return itself in 1944.

In the end, General Douglas MacArthur was the United States representative to whom Japan surrendered in 1945.

MacArthur oversaw the occupation of Japan after the WWII and was on the spot during the Korean War. His continued extreme independence finally tangled up with the United States Constitution.
He disregarded President Truman's determination to limit the scope of the Korean War. Truman wished to avoid possible collisions with China or USSR. MacArthur was convinced Truman was making a mistake. Truman dismissed MacArthur.

Whatever the right or wrong of the strategy in Korea, I value civilian leadership of the military so much that I think MacArthur was in the wrong to challenge it. Many disagree.

During the last years of his life, there was an annual shin-dig at the Waldorf to celebrate his birthday. More to the point, hundreds or thousands of ordinary citizens sent him birthday cards.

To many Americans, MacArthur was a perfect hero.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Great post, Louisa! I didn't know any of this (little of it, anyway).

    Jim Nolan