April 11, 2014

“I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was…”


Two famous quotes by President Harry S. Truman are linked to the date April 11.

The first is something Truman said about a historic announcement he made on April 11, 1951.

On that date, Truman announced his decision to fire General Douglas MacArthur, the “Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers” in Korea, for disagreeing with his policy of limiting the expansion of the Korean War.

It was the culmination of a dispute that started the previous year.

In November and December of 1950, Mao Tse-tung (a.k.a. Mao Zedong), the new leader of the Communist People’s Republic of China, sent hundreds of thousands of Red Chinese troops to fight alongside North Koreans against American and South Korean forces.

MacArthur wanted to respond by attacking China, possibly with nuclear weapons.

Truman firmly squelched that idea.

But MacArthur, who’d enjoyed great popularity with the public since World War II and had a huge ego, decided to try to play a game of political chicken with Truman.

In late March, he wrote a letter to Republican Congressman Joseph W. Martin in which he clearly criticized the President’s policy and slyly played the Red scare card.

His letter suggested that China’s intervention in Korea should be met with “maximum counterforce” and said, in an obvious reference to Truman: “It seems strangely difficult for some to realize that here in Asia is where the Communist conspirators have elected to make their play for global conquest.”

As MacArthur expected, Martin made the letter public.

Truman was furious. And, after a series of discussions with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he decided to relieve MacArthur of his command.

On the night of April 11, 1951, Truman officially announced his firing of MacArthur in a special broadcast to the American people.

Truman’s famous quote about that decision came to light years later, in 1974, with the publication of the best-selling book Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman.

The book, by Merle Miller, was based on taped-recorded interviews made with Truman in the 1960s.

In one chapter, Miller provided Truman’s response when asked why he decided to fire General MacArthur.

Truman’s salty answer soon became a famous quote

“I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President…I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the laws for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”

Of course, there’s another, even better-known quote that’s associated with Truman’s firing of MacArthur.

On April 19, 1951, eight days after he was relieved of duty, MacArthur made a high-profile “farewell address” to a joint meeting of Congress. That speech included the familiar line: “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”

There’s also a second Truman quotation that’s linked to the date April 11th, but it’s not about MacArthur. It’s Truman’s humorous, oft-cited explanation of the difference between a politician and a statesman.

On April 11, 1958, speaking to the Reciprocity Club in Washington, D.C., the retired president said:

“A statesman is a politician who’s been dead ten or fifteen years.”

To read the background on that famous quotation, see this previous post on This Day in Quotes.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Questions? Corrections? Post them on the Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Further reading about President Harry Truman and General Douglas MacArthur

April 07, 2014

The origins of the “falling domino principle” and “The Domino Effect”…


Contrary to what many sites on the Internet say, President Dwight D. Eisenhower did not coin the famous Cold War term “the Domino Effect.” 

He did use the phrase “falling domino principle” in a famous press conference on April 7, 1954.

Journalists at the time dubbed this “The Domino Theory,” which later came to be referred to as “the Domino Effect.”

The political concept encapsulated by those terms — the idea that if one country fell to the control of Communists, then nearby countries could follow — was a major foundation of America’s foreign policy during the Cold War years, which lasted from 1947 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

This concern was initially raised by President Truman’s Undersecretary of State, Dean Acheson.

In 1947, the government of Greece faced threats from Communist insurgents and Turkey seemed to be falling under the sway of the Soviet Union. Acheson warned in various public statements that, if the “Reds” took over in Greece and Turkey, Communism would likely spread south to Iran and as far east as India.

To counter this threat, President Truman asked Congress to approve $400 million in military and economic assistance for Greece and Turkey and proposed an anti-Communist policy eventually referred to as “The Truman Doctrine.” 

“It must be the policy of the United States,” Truman explained in a high-profile speech to Congress, “to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”

President Eisenhower, Truman’s successor, agreed with the Truman Doctrine’s goal of containing the spread of Communism. And, early  in his first term in office, he was forced to consider the need to apply that doctrine to Southeast Asia.

By 1954, France was on the verge of losing control of its colony Indochina (later called Vietnam) to Communist insurgents led by Ho Chi Minh. Eisenhower and his administration worried that if Indochina fell to Communist control, other Southeast Asian countries would follow.

During a White House press conference on April 7, 1954, reporter Robert Richards of the Copley Press asked Eisenhower: “Mr. President, would you mind commenting on the strategic importance of Indochina for the free world? I think there has been, across the country, some lack of understanding on just what it means to us.”

Eisenhower famously responded:

“You have, of course, both the specific and the general when you talk about such things. First of all, you have the specific value of a locality in its production of materials that the world needs.

Then you have the possibility that many human beings pass under a dictatorship that is inimical to the free world.

Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call ‘the falling domino principle.’ You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences.”

Eisenhower said this disintegration would lead to the “loss of Indochina, of Burma, of Thailand, of the Peninsula, and Indonesia following.”

In many news stories, reporters referred to Eisenhower’s falling domino principle as “the Domino Theory” or as “the Domino Effect.” The latter was a term that journalists Joseph and Stewart Alsop used in their popular syndicated newspaper column and claimed to have coined.

A month after Eisenhower made his famous remarks in 1954, Vietminh forces under General Vo Nguyen Giap defeated French troops at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

France soon ceded control of its former colony. And, under an agreement hammered out in Geneva, Indochina was partitioned into Communist-controlled North Vietnam and non-Communist South Vietnam.

In the following years, Eisenhower provided economic assistance and weapons to the fledgling South Vietnamese government and sent in a small number of American military advisors.

During the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy significantly expanded U.S. economic and military assistance to South Vietnam and increased the number of military advisors there to more than 16,000.

These decisions by Eisenhower and Kennedy set in motion a political and military domino effect that ultimately led to the Vietnam War.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Questions? Corrections? Post them on the Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Related reading…

April 06, 2014

“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”


On today’s date in 1968, director Stanley Kubrick’s trippy science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey was released to movie theaters nationwide in the United States.

The film, based on a novel and an earlier short story by Arthur C. Clarke, had its initial premiere in Washington, D.C. on April 2nd, followed by local premieres in New York and Los Angeles.

On April 6, 1968, with the film’s general release, movie audiences throughout the country first heard several memorable lines in the film that that are now commonly cited as famous movie quotes.

One is spoken by astronaut David Bowman (actor Kier Dullea), to HAL, the treacherous, sentient HAL 9000 space ship computer. (HAL is short for “the H-euristically programmed AL-gorithmic computer.”)

Toward the end of the movie, as HAL begins killing off the ship’s crew, Bowman takes a small space pod outside to retrieve the body of fellow astronaut Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood).

As Bowman returns to the ship, he utters the oft-quoted and oft-spoofed line:

       “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

HAL responds chillingly:

       “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Bowman manages to get back into the ship and heads to the room that houses HAL’s “brain,” determined to shut it down.

During the shutdown process, HAL senses what’s happening and says the famous lines:

       “Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it.”

As HAL’s mind goes, he begins singing the old song “Daisy Bell,” which he was taught by his programmers:

       “Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer do.
        I’m half crazy, all for the love of you.”

After HAL’s mind is fully gone, the audiences’ minds get blown by the final sequences of the movie, which show Bowman aging, dying, and then being reborn as a shining “space baby.”

What does it all mean?

I’m sorry, folks, I’m afraid I can’t tell you that…

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Famous Quotations Facebook page.

Further reading and viewing:

Copyrights, Disclaimers & Privacy Policy


Copyright © Subtropic Productions LLC

All original text written for the This Day in Quotes quotations blog is copyrighted by the Subtropic Productions LLC and may not be used without permission, except for short "fair use" excerpts or quotes which, if used, must be attributed to ThisDayinQuotes.com and, if online, must include a link to http://www.ThisDayinQuotes.com/.

To the best of our knowledge, the non-original content posted here is used in a way that is allowed under the fair use doctrine. If you own the copyright to something posted here and believe we may have violated fair use standards, please let us know.

Subtropic Productions LLC and ThisDayinQuotes.com is committed to protecting your privacy. For more details, read this blog's full Privacy Policy.