General MacArthur’s Honor Guard
We are indebted to the MacArthur Memorial staff for compiling this exhaustive study of the Honor Guard.
Many quotes from military and civilian personnel are included.
Comprised of men hand-picked for the assignment, General Douglas MacArthur’s Honor Guard was one of the most important and visible parts of the General’s official family during the closing months of World War II and the Occupation of Japan. The members of this elite unit were selected based on their military bearing, intelligence and physical stature. Every combat Division of the U.S. Army in the Pacific was represented in its ranks. They were the best of the best. They had to be – General MacArthur would accept no less than the best for the men entrusted to provide security not only for himself and his Headquarters but for his family as well.
MacArthur made very good use of “image” and his Honor Guard was a particularly visible part of that image.
— Maurice Howe, Honor Guard Company, 1949-1951
French military historian Henri Lachouque once wrote, “An old adage runs ‘There is no Temple without a God and no Throne without a Guard.’ But there are guards and Guards.” Lachouque was making reference specifically to Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, an elite unit which served as the French Emperor’s personal bodyguard and also as his “shock troops” to whom he turned for the most difficult assignments on the battlefield. However, Lachouque’s words could be applied to several other guard units.
Throughout history some of the world’s most colorful and charismatic military and political leaders have surrounded themselves with a personal guard composed of hand-picked men. This practice goes back thousands of years to King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan warriors at Thermopylae and several centuries later Julius Caesar’s famed Tenth Legion. Napoleon’s Imperial Guard was one of the largest such guard units, numbering at its height nearly 100,000 men.
During the Civil War, one newspaper stated that serving as headquarters guard was “an honor…the highest they can bestow.” Uniforms for Guard units were usually – but not always – colorful and distinguished the wearer from other military personnel. Being attached to headquarters brought with it benefits not available to other troops in the field, such as better living quarters, better rations and increased pay, as well as prestige. But assignment to headquarters did not always take the men out of harm’s way. Sometimes being the closest troops to the commander meant they were the ones to be used in an emergency.
The reasons a soldier found himself standing guard over his commander varied. Some commanders wanted the task of guarding headquarters to go to a unit in which they had served before attaining higher command, such as U.S. Grant or William T. Sherman, who both selected their former regiments for the duty. Other units received the assignment because they had sustained severe losses in battle and were considered too under-strength to be an effective combat unit. In a few cases it was merely a matter of convenience – whatever unit happened to be closest to headquarters was to provide the guard. But in other cases some individual men were selected because they were the soldierly ideal – they possessed the perfect military physique and character. In this latter case the men were picked from their units and assigned to a special headquarters guard unit, formed just for that purpose.
“The Honor Guard made it possible for the masses to observe a mighty warrior, a great leader, a powerful dignitary from just a few feet away, and on a daily basis. The General’s confidence in the company commanders…made it possible for the Honor Guard to present a seamless unit of protection coupled with a dignified display of power and authority for not only the people of Japan, but also the world.”
— Bernard Sammon
The origins of a specialized guard unit for General of the Army Douglas MacArthur begin in early 1945. However, the Commander in Chief of the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) had been provided a security detail since his arrival in Australia in early 1942.
His guard at SWPA Headquarters in downtown Brisbane is made up of various General Headquarters (GHQ) personnel, including combat veterans drawn from the local replacement depot.
One of these men is Vincent Riddle, of the 128th Infantry, 32nd Division. Riddle is a veteran of the fighting on New Guinea. In March 1943 his unit is sent to Australia to rest and refit. While there, Riddle breaks his arm in a fall. He later calls this accident “the most significant thing to happen to me in my service overseas,” for he spends the next several months recuperating in a hospital in Australia while his unit is sent back to the front. He will spend the remainder of the war attached to Gen. MacArthur’s headquarters.
After his arm heals Riddle is sent to a replacement depot in Brisbane. In November 1943 orders arrive assigning Riddle to Gen. MacArthur’s guard. “Our guard posts were at the elevators, at the entrance and in the halls near the various offices,” Riddle recalls. “My stay in Brisbane was most enjoyable…I pulled guard duty on schedule; I loved the city, and felt fortunate to have such a lush assignment.”
In October 1944, after almost a year with Gen. MacArthur in Brisbane, Riddle and the rest of the GHQ staff board the SS Contessa, bound for New Guinea. From there, they board the British Colonial Express and join the armada supporting the landings at Leyte, Philippines. Along the way, gunners aboard the BCE shoot down several Japanese aircraft. “When I saw those planes, I was sure we were going down,” Riddle recalled.
On his first night in the Philippines, Riddle stands guard on the sidewalk in front of the Price House, Gen. MacArthur’s new headquarters in Tacloban. “I often observed General MacArthur pacing the veranda or conferring with distinguished visitors,” Riddle recalled.
Riddle and his comrades soon are loaded on a landing craft and make their way to the main island of Luzon for the campaign to retake the capital city of Manila. Initially headquarters is established in the Admiralty Apartments, on the shores of Manila Bay, before being moved to City Hall. “When we first arrived in Manila there were flies, mosquitoes and insects everywhere. On the second day aircraft sprayed the city with DDT. After that I never saw another insect; or for that matter any birds, dogs or cats.”
By this time, other units are responsible for the security of the Commander in Chief. Riddle is still attached to GHQ but as a clerk rather than a guard for General MacArthur.
After clearing the Japanese out of Manila, the rebuilding of the city begins. Riddle remembers with no small understatement that “one of the first businesses to get set up was the San Miguel Brewery. Beer became available. Troop morale picked up.”
Shortly after the liberation of Manila, Riddle’s war is over. Having been in the Army since February 1942, nearly all of that time spent overseas, Riddle is sent back to the United States in July 1945 to be discharged.
Decades after the war, Vincent Riddle, who had served for years a firefighter in the Oakland, California, Fire Department, was made an honorary member of the General MacArthur Honor Guard Association. He died in August 2005.
While Riddle and others are responsible for the security of headquarters and other buildings, the personal safety of General MacArthur, his family and staff are entrusted to a select few from the 813th Military Police Company.
The 813th MP Company arrives in Australia in April 1942 and a detail is assigned to guard Gen. MacArthur’s headquarters at Menzies Hotel in Melbourne. Two MPs are constantly on guard at the door to Menzies.
In October 1942, MacArthur moves his headquarters to Brisbane on the northern coast of Australia. Stemming from rumors of an assassination attempt on Gen. MacArthur, George Woltman and five other MPs are detailed as the General’s personal bodyguards. Two of them, armed with Thompson submachine guns and .45 pistols, are with him and his family at all times. “Our instructions were safety off, finger on the trigger,” Woltman remembers.
The 6’ 4” tall Woltman – a former boxer – had been selected for the duty because of his imposing size. His stature prompts one Admiral, who has come to confer with MacArthur, to remark “Tell that guy I’m on HIS side!”
These six men come to see the MacArthurs up close, yet they keep a respectful distance. Woltman describes the General as “a gentleman of the old school, but anyone who served under him thought he was the greatest of them all… [but] we never got too close to him because he observed the old Army tradition where enlisted men and officers did not mix.”
Gen. MacArthur always gives a cordial greeting to them when returning a salute. The General’s young son Arthur however has a special greeting for Woltman whenever he is standing guard – a good swift kick in the shins. Woltman takes Arthur’s “greeting” in stride, but one time decides to give chase. “I almost caught up with him, but he ducked in with a lot of high-ranking brass and I had to give up.” Arthur does not learn from the experience and the very next day proceeds to give Woltman his customary greeting.
When MacArthur wades ashore in his famous return to the Philippines at Leyte in October 1944, Woltman is sent onto the beach ahead of the General to make sure there are no Japanese snipers lying in wait.
While in the Philippines, Woltman also serves a bodyguard for Philippine President Sergio Osmena. Woltman rotates back to the U.S. in April 1945 and is discharged from the Army the following month.
However, in 1948 he joins the National Guard, and is attached to the 42nd Division – the same 42nd Division which had been commanded by Douglas MacArthur in World War I. Because of his earlier association with Gen. MacArthur, Woltman is selected to carry the U.S. Army flag during a memorial service for the General after his death in April 1964. Woltman retires in 1983 with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer.
After moving headquarters to Brisbane, the 814th Military Police Company takes over security from their sister unit, the 813th MP Co.
At night Gen. MacArthur leaves his shoes outside his room at Lennon’s Hotel to be shined. Several of the guards decide that this provides the perfect opportunity to see what it is like “to be in MacArthur’s shoes” and switch their footwear for his temporarily.
The men of the 814th are also responsible for other areas around the city in addition to Lennon’s Hotel, including the city docks. One pair of MPs decides to requisition for themselves any crates arriving by ship which they find lacking an addressee by stenciling the 814th as the intended recipient. Their new-found care packages contain anything from tracer bullets to even the MacArthur family’s Thanksgiving turkey.
In a memo dated January 28, 1945, Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, Gen. MacArthur’s military secretary, addresses the organization of a “Guard of Honor” for the Commander in Chief. According to Fellers’ recommendations, each Army division in the Southwest Pacific Theater should be represented and the officers and men comprising the guard to be combat veterans “selected for bearing, neatness, thoroughness, character, and loyalty.” Fellers recommends that the “Guard of Honor…be organized immediately upon the liberation of Manila.” Gen. MacArthur likes the idea, but prefers to wait to implement it “until we are settled to some extent in Manila.”
For a brief time in Manila, guards for Gen. MacArthur’s headquarters, residence and other important buildings are provided by the 350th Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion. Guard posts are manned around the clock to check visitors for proper passes, to control both vehicular and pedestrian traffic around headquarters, and to protect military property and personnel. The initial orders identify 86 individual guard posts around the premises. However, weapons are not to be loaded “except in emergencies.”
Co E, HQ & Svc Group
In early May 1945 orders go out from SWPA headquarters for the formation of an Honor Guard for Gen. MacArthur. Every combat division in the Sixth and Eighth Armies is to provide 10 men for the Honor Guard. The selection criteria set the bar high: scores on the Army General Classification Test are the same as the requirements for Officer Candidate School; they must have an impeccable record as a combat soldier; and they also must be between 5’10” and 6’2” tall.
In late May, Captain Raymond H. Richards reports to GHQ to assume command of the Honor Guard Company, which is officially designated as Company A, Headquarters Battalion, General Headquarters. Of the men who will comprise the Honor Guard, only 10 men from the 158th Regimental Combat Team are on hand when Richards takes command.
“Having been selected to organize and lead this most elite organization during its first year has always been a matter of great pride for me…There is ample reason for all of us to be proud of the part we played.”
— Capt. Raymond Richards
In mid-June, the Honor Guard Company is redesignated Company E, Headquarters & Service Group, General Headquarters, U.S. Army Forces, Pacific. By the end of the month, most of the men who will comprise the initial Honor Guard have reported for duty in Manila. The roughly 200 men and four officers are responsible for guarding the Manila Hotel, where the officers of GHQ are housed; City Hall, where Gen. MacArthur’s headquarters is located; and “Casa Blanca,” the MacArthur family residence.
In addition to the honor of being selected for the Honor Guard, the assignment also brings with it a return to a more civilized and “normal” routine than being on the front lines in the hills and jungles of the Pacific islands. George Covner, of the 112th Regimental Combat Team spoke for many when he said the assignment to guard Gen. MacArthur’s residence “was like Heaven compared to where we had been.”
“I really got a good break here – there aren’t more than 150 of these guards and look at all the other guys who could have been picked…What a life! I have heard that there were outfits in the Army like this but never dreamed I would see one.”
— Frank Reed
Despite its specialized mission to guard General MacArthur, the newly-formed Honor Guard has competition for the task in the beginning. The Honor Guard (“Company E”), the 350th Antiaircraft Artillery, and a Philippine Scout battalion all are providing guards for headquarters. Capt. Philip Seaver, a GHQ staff officer and later commander of the Honor Guard, is given the task of straightening out the issue of providing for the personal security of Gen. MacArthur and headquarters. “I found all three units guarding the same buildings and no communication among them,” Seaver later remembered. Within a week the mess is straightened out, with Company E alone being responsible for guarding Gen. MacArthur’s headquarters and residence.
Guardsman George Covner is standing guard at the MacArthur residence in Manila when word arrives that the war in the Pacific is over. “My first notice of the surrender was when Mrs. MacArthur came out on the balcony and called down to us and told us that Japan had surrendered.”
When arrangements for the actual surrender begin in August, the men of Company E are called upon to guard the Japanese delegation during discussions with MacArthur’s staff. This “was the first time that many members of Company E had ever looked upon a Japanese except over gun sites,” the official Honor Guard history records.
Capt. Richards personally escorts the Japanese to the office of Gen. MacArthur’s Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Richard Sutherland. Richards then is ordered to take care of security during the actual conference. He “worked it out so that every man in my outfit got a chance to be in the conference room during the night. It was one historic occasion that I didn’t want to miss and feel honored to be in on it,” he writes to his wife several days later.
Providing for the safety of the headquarters personnel and the Japanese delegation are not the only problems. Capt. Richards writes later that a crowd of about 4,000 onlookers gathers outside headquarters, many of them reporters and photographers who want to gain access to the conference. “I had a terrible time with the reporters and photographers because they were all trying to get in…They are persistent cusses,” Richards writes.
Guardsmen Henry McGuigan and Howard Bierweiler have personal encounters with the Japanese when they arrive at City Hall:
“I will never forget the night of August 19, 1945, as I was on guard at City Hall door when the Japanese delegation came to accept a draft of the terms of surrender. They arrived in Cadillac limousines and the sergeant in charge was not a bit happy playing doorman for them. After shutting the door of one of the limousines he found that there was still one inside. Even at serious times like this a little laughter was mighty good medicine.”
— Henry McGuigan
“I had the personal satisfaction of relieving the Japanese Delegation of their sabers in Manila and holding same until the surrender negotiations were completed.”
— Howard Bierweiler
As the generals and dignitaries gather for the actual surrender ceremony to be held on board the U.S.S. Missouri, Company E is given the task of guarding the high ranking officers, both U.S. and foreign, and to prepare for the move to Japan. Just as the gathered officers represent the various Allied countries at the ceremony, the members of Company E represent the American soldiers of the Pacific War.
With the Japanese surrender September 2, the occupation and rebuilding of Japan begins. Gen. MacArthur and his staff arrive at Atsugi Air Base near Yokohama to begin this long and daunting task. A detail of 66 men and two officers from the 11th Airborne Division, led by Lieutenant Ralph Ermatinger, 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, serves as the General’s guard at Atsugi.
After his plane lands, MacArthur sets up temporary headquarters at the New Grand Hotel in Yokohama.
“Upon arrival at the New Grand Hotel, the Honor Guard took up positions at all points of entry to the building. In addition two men were posted for two-hour intervals, 24 hours a day, outside the door of the General’s suite.”
— Ralph Ermatinger, 11th Airborne Division
There are shades of the early competition with the 350th Antiaircraft Artillery in Manila to guard General MacArthur during the first few weeks in Japan. One Honor Guard recalled “it was during this period that the 11th Airborne and First Cavalry…were usurping our duties of attending Mac. It gave us a spell in which we could explore Yokohama.”
The men of Company E stay in Yokohama for several days after their arrival. They are housed in a silk factory before moving on to Tokyo. The silk mill had previously been used as an embarkation center for Japanese troops and thus is fitted up as a barracks. “Their bunks were still there…the mattresses were about six inches deep and filled with rice husks, the best description you can find for uncomfortable,” remembers Guardsman Robert Babson.
General MacArthur establishes his headquarters in the former Dai Ichi Insurance Company offices in downtown Tokyo. The building is one of the finest in the city and is located directly opposite the Imperial Palace. The eight-story office building contains more than 250 rooms. Because of its sturdy concrete construction, it survived Allied bombing of Tokyo, and actually had Japanese radar and anti-aircraft guns on its roof.
“MacArthur became not only the symbol of the Occupation; to the Japanese he was the Occupation.”
— Ambassador William J. Sebald
Upon their arrival in Tokyo, the men of Company E are billeted in the Finance Building. The building has 500 rooms and boasts a mess hall that can seat more than 1,000 people. Despite being quartered there, the Honor Guard does not provide security for the Finance Building itself – that duty falls to the GHQ Guard Company.
“We are living in a huge modern building right down town. Elevators and the like. The food is good and I hardly knew what to do when I went to eat breakfast this morning…sat down to a table with a regular chair and even Japanese waiters to hold your chair for you.”
— Frank Reed
Soon after arriving in Tokyo, the Guard is split in half. One half resides at the Finance Building and provides guards for GHQ at the Dai Ichi building. The other half is quartered at the American embassy, where the MacArthur family and high-ranking officials reside, and is responsible for the security of Gen. MacArthur’s family.
“Anyone visiting those places during the Occupation could not fail to notice the presence and outstanding appearance of the Honor Guard.”
— David Valley
“Things are getting better and better all the time out here at the Embassy. We have our own barbers, cleaners, pressers, PX and post office – each man has his own mail box now. And we have a very nice day room…it has a nice carpet on the floor, the lights are all covered with Japanese lanterns, plenty of big chairs and sofas, hot coffee any time and sandwiches at night. It all is almost too good to be true.”
— Frank Reed
The guards who are stationed at the Embassy see General MacArthur’s wife Jean and their son Arthur as well as Loh Cheu, Arthur’s amah or nanny better known as “Ah Choo,” on a regular basis.
“Arthur, who was about 12, had just received a bicycle for his birthday. Our orders at the main gate were that he was not to go outside the compound. How we were to keep him inside was not explicit, just do it. He approached us one day on his bike and seemed determined to go through the gate. I pondered the possibilities of an immediate Court Martial if we laid a hand on him. Fortunately for us, his Chinese nanny gave a yell for him to return and he did.”
— Charles Johnson
Mrs. MacArthur often provides refreshments to the guards at the Embassy, even those on duty. Guardsman Robert Lehman remembers “being at the General’s front door…on a very humid and hot summer day, when Mrs. MacArthur herself came out and gave us a glass of cool milk and a piece of chocolate cake.”
“I spent the summer as lifeguard [and] worked with…little Arthur MacArthur, polished up his swimming and diving style. Mrs. MacArthur and his personal maid “Ah Choo” would drop by the pool on occasions…One day, little Arthur and some other kids about his age were playing with water guns while in the pool. One of the Honor Guard officers…walked by the edge of the Embassy pool before making his rounds of the guards. He stopped and said, ‘You sure have good duty, Abeln.’ No sooner did he finish talking when the kids saw him and they all fired their water pistols, hitting his clean, immaculate uniform.”
— Harry Abeln
“Honor Guard Company”
“Our company was gifted by our company commanders. They were the type that anyone would be glad to go into battle with. They instilled their qualities back into their men.”
— Sgt. Norman Smith
By the end of 1945, the Honor Guard’s routine is established. Guards are on duty for four hours, then 12 hours off, and every fifth day have off all day; when each platoon is at full strength, that is. The members of the company are particularly proud of the fact that they have no KP details or any other such details that they had been subject to in their old units. Because guards are required to stand at attention for hours on end when on duty, speakers are mounted nearby and play music round the clock to help break the monotony.
“Of course we are expected to keep up well in our personal appearance…We have free laundry service and 24-hour pressing service. During our off hours we can do just as we please, we have passes to go anywhere within Tokyo, any time we aren’t on duty. We are sleeping on spring beds with mattresses and even sheets now…If you aren’t on duty in the mornings, you can sleep until eight, no reveille, retreat or drill call.”
— Frank Reed
“We have three 4-hour shifts: 0700-1100, 1100-1500, 1500-1900, and then the other halves of these shifts, staffed by another crew, 1900-2300, 2300-0300 and 0300-0700 the next morning. When we are on the 7 to 11, we have to get up at about 4:30 or 4:45 to get ready and have our areas cleaned up. At 6:30 every morning we have…guard mount. Here our names are called off from the roster as we are officially posted – notified of duty – for the next 24 hours, and can be court-martialed if we fail to show. At 20 minutes before every shift-posting time, the “relief” – new shift of guards – starts marching around the Compound. The new shift needs to be posted at all post on the hour…The new relief is marched around to all the posts, letting off the new men and picking up the old men. By the time it gets to the last post, there are only the guards of old relief.”
— Maurice Howe
The Honor Guard is under the direction of Gen. MacArthur’s Chief of Staff, but its orders come from the commander of the Headquarters and Service Group. About 7,000 men comprise the Headquarters and Service Group, making it somewhat larger than two regiments.
One of the Honor Guard describes in a letter to his wife what guard duty at Gen. MacArthur’s office entailed: “All you have to do is stand at parade rest just outside the door and keep everyone below the rank of a three star [general] out.”
“There is no other group of people as large as the Honor Guard Company, except White House personnel, who see so many world dignitaries. We see so many, in fact, that we have a tendency to ignore them. Imagine seeing Presidents of other nations, their representatives and every other kind of VIP on a daily basis.”
— Maurice Howe
There is almost a constant parade of “big shots” to see Gen. MacArthur – on the fourth anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the guard at MacArthur’s office door salutes Admirals Chester Nimitz and Raymond Spruance, General Albert Wedemeyer “and of course Mac, who greeted us with his usual ‘good afternoon.’”
“There was quite a to-do in Tokyo yesterday when Emperor Hirohito in an unprecedented move called on General MacArthur. Up until now foreign emissaries have paid visits to him, but the role was reversed this time. He came in an old car, conferred with the General, and was off again before our reporters knew what had happened.”
— Capt. James Salango, Fifth Air Force
Other notables who visit Gen. MacArthur in Tokyo include former President Herbert Hoover, General of the Army George C. Marshall, Secretary of War Robert Patterson, and General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower. The visits of dignitaries “mean extra work for us. As well as being responsible for the security of the grounds…we have to direct traffic, escort people here and there and do a dozen other things besides our guard,” one Sergeant writes home.
“Whenever some officer comes in [to the Embassy grounds], we have to telephone in to the guard office. Today the 2nd and 4th platoons had a retreat inspection. The same officers went in and out of Gate 5 like flies. I guess I drove the switchboard man nuts with calls! All kinds of brass swarm in and out all day, every day.”
— Maurice Howe
“Neatness is one of the prime requisites for staying in the Honor Guard. Uniforms, shoes and arms must be spotless. Buttons and ornaments must shine and hair must be kept just so. Several men in the company have been observed even shining the eyelets in their shoes.”
— Stars and Stripes
Although most of the members of the Guard, particularly the early ones who were combat veterans, were quite pleased to be selected to the Honor Guard, the newness soon wore off for some. This was more the case with the replacements that had not been in action during the war. One Guard, who serves from late 1949 to early 1951, remembers the “monotony and isolation” of being in the Honor Guard. He also finds it very hard to sleep because of the irregular hours the round-the-clock guard schedule necessitates. But, “we never tire of pulling gags on each other – it helps pass the time,” one Guard writes.
Guard member Maurice Howe escapes the sometimes hectic atmosphere at the Embassy by renting a room several blocks away, which he basically sets up as his office for writing letters home, studying for educational classes taken offered by the Army, and entertaining Japanese friends.
The Guard fields several sports teams which compete against other Occupation units. The 720th Military Police Company is the Honor Guard’s most-heated rival for military drill competitions.
General MacArthur keeps a very regimented schedule and usually is in his office at the Dai Ichi Building seven days a week. He would come to the office about 9 or 10 a.m. and leave for lunch about 1 p.m. After lunch and a short nap, he returns about 4 p.m. and works until 8 or 9 p.m.
“Four times a day a crowd gathers to witness his arrivals and departures. His schedule is so rigid that one knows ahead of time approximately when he’ll appear, so the wait isn’t long. General MacArthur never disappoints the crowd. He pauses dramatically at the entrance, salutes and with great military bearing strides toward his limousine.”
— Lorena Treadway, Facilities Office, Headquarters & Service Group
Unlike the General, his wife is often about the streets of Tokyo. One civilian Army employee writes that “Jean is everywhere, usually accompanied only by a Filipino woman. She presents her identification card like everyone else on entering the PX, though the MP on duty has the door open when he sees her coming.” Jean later admits that despite her travels around the city, she never once saw her husband’s office at the Dai Ichi Building.
Dale Cooksey has a very personal encounter with Gen. MacArthur one afternoon in 1946. The mess hall is located on the seventh floor of the Dai Ichi, one floor above Gen. MacArthur’s office. Seeking to save some time in returning to his desk on the first floor, Cooksey decided to take a short cut by way of the sixth floor elevator – the one used by the General.
“The door opened up and as I was walking into the elevator I bumped into the General! I immediately excused myself and backed out and drew myself to attention and barked out ‘Good Afternoon, Sir.’…He just grumbled, ‘Humph.’ I looked down the hall and the Honor Guard that was stationed in front of his office was probably having a heart attack as it was his job to guard that floor and the General…I worried all that day the MPs would come and get me but nothing ever came of it.”
In March 1946, almost a year after its formation, Company E, Headquarters & Service Group, is officially renamed the “Honor Guard Company.” Many of its original members have been returned to the United States and civilian life as their enlistments are up. Replacements are drawn from the divisions still remaining in the Pacific as well as from new recruits arriving from the U.S. who meet the requirements. Guard Gerald Huff remembers that “when we got a new man we would take him in and show him the General’s pipes in his office.”
By mid-1946 some of the new Guards coming in have never seen combat and re coming straight out of basic training in the United States. “The unit lived on after the combat boys went home,” Donald Price remembers. However, some less than desirable candidates slip through into the ranks of the Honor Guard, including one who falsely claims to have received a Medal of Honor – he is later court-martialed.
One Sergeant complains in June 1946 that “we have been getting so many new guys in the company that just don’t care that I am afraid that it is going to the dogs. These young kids who have had eight weeks training are coming and they don’t appreciate what we have here…They seem to be the dumbest bunch of guys I ever ran into. So far, they have messed up all of our parades.”
“I was assigned to the 7th Infantry Division in Sendai, Japan. When the ship stopped in Yokohama, three or four supply sergeants, including me, were pulled off for interviews. There was an opening in the Honor Guard Company supply because their supply sergeant was rotating. None of the other supply sergeants wanted the job b/c of the ‘spit and polish.’ I wasn’t excited about the ‘spit and polish,’ but for me it was better than life in an infantry company. The company commander, Capt. Groom, let me know right away that I was too short and ugly to stand guard. I wasn’t disappointed with that either. However, I was frequently assigned to keep photographers away from the ends of the formations at big parades.”
— Ernest Faulconer
To one of the newcomers to the Guard, Frank Hillman, the “spit and polish” of Gen. MacArthur’s Honor Guard is nothing new. Hillman had been a member of President Harry Truman’s Honor Guard prior to being sent to Japan with the 1st Cavalry Division.
“When we arrived in Tokyo proper, we pulled up to a gigantic building – six stories covering about a city block. It is called the Finance Building. We thought we had it made…We have a city within the building here. There are recreational jeeps at our disposal…The food is fit for kings.”
— Maurice Howe
Despite being responsible for Gen. MacArthur’s personal security, the General does not travel with any of the Honor Guard as escorts in his vehicle. The Guards are present when he gets in his limousine and they are present when he gets out, but they do not travel with him, despite the crowds which usually gather to see him pass. One Guardsman notes that MacArthur’s driver “has plenty of responsibility… [and] has to act as a personal guard as well as a driver.”
A jeep with several armed Honor Guard personnel precedes MacArthur’s limousine, but at a considerable distance. The Guards refer to this as “Riding Shotgun” for the General.
In one incident in June 1946, two Buddhist priestesses try repeatedly to gain entrance to Gen. MacArthur’s headquarters, but are turned away by the Honor Guard. After several days they try a new approach, and wait for Gen. MacArthur’s car near the Embassy. As the car approaches, one of the women throws herself in front of the vehicle. When the driver stops, the other woman opens the door and gets into the car with Gen. MacArthur. The driver very quickly removes her from the vehicle. The women merely want to pray for MacArthur and thus it is more or less an innocent incident.
Another incident in January 1947 is not as innocent. A Japanese man approaches the Dai Ichi building carrying a suspicious package. The Honor Guard at the door immediately takes the man into custody. His package contains a wooden sword and a letter which declares that the man is “determined to commit suicide by a shot from the rifle of a United States soldier while I make a show to molest him.” By his actions, the man wishes to draw attention to the fact that much of the Japanese population “are in a miserable condition” and “to petition the aid of the United States for these unfortunate people.”
The individual talents of the Guard members are sometimes put to good use. One example is Pete Fesovich, who serves in the Guard briefly in the fall of 1946. His parents had immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1896. “Being that I spoke Russian I was told to manage the snack bar in the Finance Building and listen to Russian soldiers when they spoke to each other,” Fesovich remembers.
Another Guard whose talents earn him special duty is Norman Smith. When Smith receives a large package from his parents, he is surprised to find that it contains all the letters he had written them since going overseas, along with a note explaining that, because his handwriting is so poor, they can’t read a word – could he please type them all? When Smith’s sergeant hears him typing – at some 80 words per minute – Smith is almost instantly picked to be a clerk at company headquarters. He is eventually promoted to Sergeant and made Chief Clerk for the Honor Guard Company.
The snack bar at the Embassy is a popular destination for off-duty personnel. Although run by American servicemen, it is staffed by Japanese. Tatsumi Ishikawa is one of the young Japanese men working there. Known to many of the Honor Guard as “Sleepy” because of his going to night school while working days at the Embassy, he recalls getting the job at the Embassy as “a lucky break for me. Working at the Embassy was considered a top-notch job.” Ishikawa is also one of a handful of staff who remained at the Embassy the entire time the Honor Guard was stationed there.
MacArthur is often noted for his being aloof or distant from the common soldier, which is in stark contrast to other commanders such as Dwight Eisenhower who often mingled with the troops. The men of the Honor Guard, who come into contact with MacArthur almost daily, find that while MacArthur makes it is clear who is in charge, he does not ignore the common soldier. A relationship of mutual respect develops between MacArthur and the Guard. “The General and Mrs. Mac…treat us swell,” one Guard writes.
“I never met a Guard who presented arms to him, who not only received a prompt return salute but a spoken sincere ‘thank you sentry’ or ‘soldier’, and his eyes met yours squarely…and he did it every time, every place.”
— Robert Fisher
The Embassy features a private movie theater and MacArthur often spends the evening watching the latest films – he is particularly fond of Westerns. The men of the Honor Guard have a standing invitation to attend, which many do. Jean MacArthur is in no small part responsible for this amenity and many others, such as guard shacks to provide shelter from the elements and brief rest stations.
“Movies were shown every Wednesday for the General and his guests. His rocking chair, flanked by several easy chairs, made up the front row. Rows of folding chairs were set up behind, which we were expected to fill. When nobody wanted to see the movie, volunteers were picked to fill up the chairs. One night the movie was Hamlet…I got the chair directly behind the General. Shortly the General arrived, lit up a huge cigar, and settled down in his rocker. In the darkness, I tried to stay awake. I fidgeted from one side to the other…my foot struck the rocker of the General’s chair. I just knew that I was in trouble! I believe I held my breath for the rest of the movie, just waiting to be led away in chains for the misdeed I had done. When the lights came on, I sat quietly for a moment, fully expecting to be chastised. Nothing happened! The General said good night to all of us and promptly strode out of the room.”
— Charles Johnson
“He treated the guard like we were part of his family. Anything we needed [Jean MacArthur] told us to tell her. And she would get it – no red tape.”
— Charles Tillison
An impromptu gesture by the Honor Guard in January 1946 began what became a tradition each year on Gen. MacArthur’s birthday – a personal inspection by the General of the Guard. In honor of the General’s 66th birthday, as Guardsman Frank Reed writes:
“The Guard decided it would be kind of nice if we wished him a Happy Birthday. So 12 of us…met him at his door tonight when he came out to go to his office. When he came out to get in his car we gave him the rifle salute. Guess it kind of surprised him and instead of getting right in his car, he came to where we were standing, thanked us all for our thoughtfulness.”
Although the Japanese Imperial Palace is across from the Dai Ichi Building, the Honor Guard is not responsible for providing security there. One of the first units to stand guard at the Palace is Company B, 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The 511th PIR had provided the original guard for Gen. MacArthur upon his arrival at Atsugi the previous year. Later this system of rotation is expanded to include one American unit and one British Commonwealth unit. In early 1947, the Palace guard consists of Company G, 188th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and 66th Australian Infantry Battalion. Each guard post consists of one American and one Australian soldier.
After a few years of the Occupation, the Japanese police have guard posts set up near the Embassy compound. In the late night and early morning guard shifts, Honor Guard personnel and policemen discover that they have a common enemy – their respective Sergeant of the Guard, who makes inspection rounds of the guard posts. When they see their counterpart’s inspector coming, they covertly pass the word along so that everyone is at their post at the proper time. One Honor Guard writes home to his parents in 1950 that a favorite past-time “in the wee-hour shifts” at the more isolated guard posts at the Embassy was “chasing the Japanese cops around and under rocks, all sorts of humorous but near-capitol offenses.”
Another of the perks of serving in the Honor Guard was the chance to ride in the General’s personal aircraft. While this usually consisted of test flights around the Tokyo area conducted by the General’s pilot, Major Tony Story, the planes were also used to carry Honor Guard personnel back to the United States at the end of their term of duty.
“We had a chance to go out to Haneda Air Force Base to go up in General MacArthur’s private plane, the Bataan. We were instructed of the safety devices…and then seated in palatial chairs. The entire interior of the plane is covered with matted cloth to protect the passengers, and the seats were swivel/half-bed affairs. The plane itself is a C-54 Douglas 4-motor. The General has 3 such planes at his disposal at all times for himself and his staff. It has a kitchen and all of the conventional accessories of a modern home. You could live on this plane for a month and never miss a thing.”
— Maurice Howe
In June 1950 North Korea invades South Korea. Quickly the United Nations revolves to defend South Korea against this communist invasion. General Douglas MacArthur is given the supreme UN command.
“When General J. Lawton Collins, who was army Chief of Staff, brought to the Far East the first ever United Nations flag. At a ceremony on the roof of the Dai Ichi Building, General Collins formally presented the flag, in front of international media, to General MacArthur who in turn handed the flag to me for raising on the flag pole – the very first UN flag in the Far East. I was impressed.”
— Robert Lehman
One clerk attached to GHQ, J. E. “Buck” Ballow, recalls the day the Korean War began:
“Sunday, June 25, 1950, was a bright and sunny day in Tokyo…I didn’t quite catch the first newscast reporting the invasion of South Korea…but the next one certainly got my attention. I didn’t have the slightest idea of where Korea was but it sounded Oriental and I certainly hoped it wasn’t a part of Japan.”
Honor Guard personnel are among the troops sent to Korea. Some voluntarily leave the Honor Guard and transfer to combat commands. In addition, one platoon of the Guard is sent to Korea to guard Gen. MacArthur after the Inchon landing.
Eventually the Headquarters and Service Group becomes a source for replacements to be sent to Korea. Men slightly wounded in Korea who are unfit for field service but are able to do desk work or stand guard are reassigned to GHQ and one of the 7,000 men in the HQ & S Group is sent to the front in Korea. One of the Guards who is transferred to combat duty in Korea writes home, “Honor Guard was never like this!”
“This morning at 5:15, General MacArthur went to Korea to win the war. This morning, we of the Honor Guard Company drew full field equipment in anticipation of having to go to Korea or the Asian mainland. Since the Embassy would be too good a target, General MacArthur’s Headquarters will probably be moved.”
— Maurice Howe
Security at the Embassy is increased as a result of hostilities in Korea. Many of the guards are given Thompson sub-machine guns to carry while on duty, replacing their M-1 rifles or .45 caliber pistols. Also, more patrols of the compound are ordered.
One former Guard, William Adney, had been discharged from the Army in 1946. However, when the Korean War erupts, Adney is one of the many World War II veterans recalled to active duty. He is sent to Korea with the 25th Infantry Division as an intelligence sergeant. “When the General visited Korea during the winter of 1950-51, he visited the battalion I was in and I had the privilege of briefing him. He claimed to have remembered me,” Adney recalls years later.
One of the former Honor Guard members who served in a combat unit in Korea is Lt. John Merrill. Merrill is killed in action in Korea in late 1950 serving with the 25th Division. He posthumously receives a Silver Star. In a letter to Gen. MacArthur after receiving word of his death, Merrill’s parents tell the General that their son had counted 187 times that he saluted the General while serving on the Honor Guard.
In July 1950 MacArthur authorizes the formation of an elite “Raider” company for use in Korea. In a somewhat unusual move, the company is to be formed from volunteers from the various units attached to General Headquarters – including the Honor Guard. The newly-formed unit becomes known as the 1st GHQ Raider Company. The Army’s famed “Green Berets” are a descendent of the GHQ Raiders.
“They were the best the Occupation forces had to offer, the cream of the crop. They were primarily clerks, medics, mechanics, drivers, supply, Honor Guard, military police, and engineer personnel. Some were airborne qualified and some had combat experience in World War II; most did not.”
— Buck Ballow
The Raiders originally consist of 125 men and seven officers, led by Major James H. Wear. One of the officers is Lieutenant Daryl Robb, a former platoon leader in the Honor Guard. Five others from the Honor Guard are accepted into the original Raiders: Wilbert Maples, William Seavey, Jamie Lee, Tyrus Lovelace and Robert Bach. One of the Honor Guard not selected for the Raiders writes “We all wanted to go but they took only a select few.”
After undergoing extensive training at Camp McGill, Yokohama, the Raiders first go into combat September 12, 1950, three days before the Inchon invasion. They land at Kunsan, about 100 miles south of Inchon, to draw attention away from the main landing site at Inchon. They lose three men killed at Kunsan and are shortly withdrawn to join the main landing force at Inchon.
“I was a 19-year-old driver ferrying a General around. You didn’t really appreciate the duty you had in Japan until you got into combat. We were living in the lap of luxury and we traded that for running up and down…mountains and getting shot at.”
— Cecil Kimrey
The Raiders are later redesignated the 8245th Army Unit, but are more commonly still referred to as the 1st GHQ Raiders. A portion of the company is later detached to form the 2nd Raider Company. The Raiders participate in various reconnaissance missions and mop-up operations on the eastern coast of Korea. They are engaged in part of the Chosin Reservoir fighting in December 1950. The Raiders are disbanded in April 1951 along with all other Ranger/Raider Army units. The 1st Raider Company receives the Navy Presidential Unit Citation in recognition of its service during the Inchon landings.
“It’s strange: nobody on your right; nobody on your left; every night. The troops were three miles back. We were used as their eyes and ears. We went on patrols at night, and we were stealthy about it. A sentry would be half asleep. We’d hit him over the head and take him back, and a Korean interpreter would interrogate him.”
— Lee Broussard
As preparations are being made for the Inchon invasion, 40 men and two officers of the Honor Guard are sent to Korea to provide security for MacArthur and South Korean President Syngman Rhee when the capital city of Seoul is retaken. One of the officers is wounded the second night they are in Korea when they come under sniper fire. He is the only casualty they sustain, although several others of the Guard mistakenly venture too far forward and narrowly miss an engagement with several North Korean tanks. The Guard is in Korea for about one month before returning to Tokyo.
“Once all the beaches had been secured and Seoul retaken, it became our job to fill guard positions for Gen. MacArthur and Syngman Rhee upon turnover of Seoul to the South Koreans. We were billeted…near Kimpo Air Base. I recall that someone discovered a Korean brewery nearby so the rush was on to fill every container that could be found with beer. As it turned out, we learned that a couple of dead Koreans were in the beer vats, so all that wonderful beer was poured on the ground.”
— Max Harrell
“As we went into the palace, marines were on the outer perimeter of the palace, surrounding the whole area…We changed into our Class A uniforms with the shiny helmets and all, and with our Honor Guard patches on….While I was out front there, this older woman reporter came up to me. I don’t know why she was on the front lines, but there she was. She asked, ‘Oh, you boys just come in from Tokyo?’ She knew who we were with our uniforms.”
— Gerald Huff
Other Honor Guard members request transfer to combat command to fight in Korea. This leaves vacancies on their roster, many of which are filled by veterans of the fighting in Korea.
“It seems some men from the Honor Guard in Tokyo wanted to come to Korea to fight, and the Honor Guard was looking for replacements…The lieutenant met me at Headquarters and interviewed me for about 30 minutes. The next thing I knew I was on my way to Tokyo…After the hell of Korea, Japan was like Shangri-La.”
— David Valley
Celebrities often call on MacArthur when making rounds of the bases in the Far East. During the Korean War, actor Paul Douglas and his wife Jan Sterling were to visit the General. Several boxes of Whitman’s Chocolate had been purchased for the General to present to his guests. The night before their visit, one of the Guards finds the chocolates and empties them of a portion of their contents for himself and his buddies. When the culprit is identified he is confined to quarters as punishment. When word of the incident leaks to the media stateside, it is portrayed as the high-up General picking on the lowly soldier. As a result, Whitman’s sends hundreds of boxes of chocolate to the Honor Guard in appreciation of the free advertising the incident had brought.
In April 1951 Gen. MacArthur is relieved of his commands in Korea and Tokyo by President Harry Truman. Before the General and his family leave Tokyo, the Honor Guard pay their respects to their commander at Haneda Air Base. Many of the Guard present remember this farewell parade as being the most memorable formation they participate in during their service in the Honor Guard. Gen. MacArthur tells the Honor Guard commander, Capt. James Andrews, that the Guard that day looks the best he had ever seen them.
“I was Sergeant of the Guard at the American Embassy the day General MacArthur was fired by the President. I remember the crowd of reporters that caused us to close the main gate of the Embassy. I can certainly attest that the General’s official relief from command was leaked to the press before he received the message of relief because Col. Bunker called me that day, after all the reporters were around, telling me that he was expecting an important message and to let the messenger in as soon as the messenger arrived.”
— Clarence Michalski
“The day that General MacArthur was recalled we were asked not to talk to any reporters. The day after, we were asked to come to the ‘Big House.’ Only five of us showed up. While we were up there Mrs. MacArthur came in the room and apologized that the General couldn’t see us because he had an unexpected visit from a Navy Admiral. She thanked us on behalf of the General and said how much she appreciated us. She also thanked us especially for coming to say good-bye.”
— Gerald Huff
“They were there to say goodbye that final day at Haneda Airport, when he ended his military career and returned to America. That day was also the official end of the General MacArthur Honor Guard, but the unit continued its traditions and duty.”
— David Valley
After the MacArthurs depart Japan, the Honor Guard is charged with guarding their possessions still at the Embassy until they can be shipped to the United States.
Although General Douglas MacArthur leaves Japan in April 1951, the Honor Guard Company continues on with his successors.
“It is not clear just yet what will become of Honor Guard Company, and the only inkling we have is that Gen. Ridgway is mighty hard on his headquarters staff…We are all very anxious to see what he will be like.”
— Maurice Howe
MacArthur’s immediate replacement at Far East Command is Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway. Almost immediately, Ridgway is not as popular with the Guard as MacArthur had been.
“After General Ridgway took over, a guard got court martialed for taking a piece of candy from a bowl outside of Ridgway’s office. We had always eaten candy from the bowl when MacArthur was there. Ridgway was never as popular with the men as MacArthur was.”
— Ernest Faulconer
Gen. Ridgway begins his mornings at the Embassy with a jog around the compound, followed by calisthenics in the yard. This routine confounds the Guards at the Embassy as it makes him a highly visible target.
In addition to MacArthur’s absence, the early 1950s are a period of drastic change for the Honor Guard Company.
In January 1953 the Honor Guard – which to date has been an Army unit – becomes an all-encompassing multi-service unit. Where it previously had been four platoons – two at the Dai Ichi Building, two at the Embassy – it now expands to have two platoons of Army personnel, one platoon from the newly-created Air Force, and one platoon of Navy and Marine personnel. The unit remains under Army control, however.
The Finance Building becomes the primary barracks for the Honor Guard, with almost the entire fifth floor being living space and offices for the Guard. Close order drill is conducted on the roof of the building. Security at Far East Command and United Nations Headquarters on Pershing Heights across Tokyo becomes their main mission.
Guard details are formed at the Finance Building and then board busses which have had the seats removed for a 15-minute ride to FEC and UN headquarters.
“No complaints come from the men who stand guard over the top military offices in the Far East. They’d rather stand for the short ride than wrinkle their razor-sharp trousers.”
— Leatherneck magazine
“I got to Tokyo and the Honor Guard just after General MacArthur left. I served with General Matthew Ridgway and later under General Mark Clark. I was the guide-on bearer for Gen. Clark as we both were tall and stringy. I loved the duty, arriving from Korea as a Corporal and serving guard duty at the Dai Ichi Building and then later when we moved a bit further out of town.”
— Charles Brady
Guards are posted 24-hours a day, with each man serving a six-hour watch. A small foam rubber mat is provided to give some relief to the men who must stand – either at attention or at ease – for hours at a time. A guard shack is nearby for their relaxation during their break periods. However, many of the guards who must return to their post choose either to stand while in the shack or to shed their trousers to sit down rather than risk wrinkles or marring the perfect creases.
With the Honor Guard now being an all-branch unit, a friendly rivalry develops between the branches to see which is the sharpest in appearance. This leads to an official monthly competition within the Guard to be “Serviceman of the Month.” Uniforms must be impeccable, brass must shine, and of course excellence in the performance of duty is a must. Since these are all prerequisites for joining the Guard, the inspecting officers must look further – candidates are put through the manual of arms; questions are asked regarding current world affairs and leaders; and each man’s living quarters are put through the white glove test. The winner receives $10, two 8” x 10” color portraits of himself and more importantly to the men 72-hour passes. The Marines won four of the first seven such competitions.
About 1953, the Honor Guard becomes racially integrated. Its ranks had previously been restricted to whites only.
The FEC Chief’s residence is moved from the American Embassy in Tokyo to a small mansion, officially known as “House #142.” Just as at the Embassy, the Honor Guard – now officially the 8233rd Army Unit – provides security at this residence. In May 1954, a surprise birthday party is thrown for FEC Commander General John Hull at his residence.
In February 1955 the Honor Guard billets are moved from the Finance Building to Pershing Heights, where FEC and UN command are located. A farewell party is thrown for the Honor Guard at the NCO Service Club in the Finance Building.
In 1956 the Honor Guard is merged with the Eighth Army Honor Guard in Korea. In July 1957, what had been the Guard of Honor for General Douglas MacArthur is disbanded.
The current United Nations Honor Guard in Korea carries on the tradition of the men who provided for the security of Gen. Douglas MacArthur during World War II, the Occupation of Japan, the Korean War and the officers who succeeded MacArthur in the Far East Command.
“The Honor Guard was a unique organization, in my opinion never to be duplicated. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to command such an organization.”
— Major General Warren D. Hodges
Many of the men of the Honor Guard, once their term of service is up, return to civilian life. Others choose to make a career of the military. Nearly all of them look back on their Honor Guard service as one of the highlights not just of their military service, but of their entire lives.
Warren Hodges, Honor Guard Company Commander November 1946 – January 1949, has a military career spanning three wars – World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He leads a brigade in Vietnam and retires in 1980 as a Major General.
Thomas Hirschberg, a platoon leader March 1949 – October 1949, had graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1946 and is assigned to Japan. After serving in the Honor Guard he is sent to Korea where he serves with the Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG). After his retirement from the Army in 1953, he joins Sperry Corporation which in 1955 merges with Remington-Rand Corporation. The Chairman of Remington Rand at the time is Douglas MacArthur. Despite a 35-year career with Sperry-Rand, Hirschberg apparently never crosses paths with his former boss.
Howard Cooksey, platoon leader June 1946 – December 1946, stays in the Army and retires after 34 years as a Lieutenant General. He is the highest ranking former Honor Guard member.
Otha Walters, January 1949 – October 1951, is assigned to a reserve training office in Arkansas after his time in the Honor Guard. When the MacArthurs visit Little Rock, where the General was born, in April 1952, Walters is assigned as aide to the General during the visit.
Eldin Fender, January 1950 – December 1951, is assigned to a testing range in Nevada in 1953 where he observes eight atomic bomb tests. He later assists scientists at the California Institute of Technology with the Mariner space programs.
William Scott, March 1949 – June 1951, serves as driver for not only General MacArthur but his successor General Matt Ridgway as well. Upon Scott’s return to the United States, he was assigned as driver for Major General Harry Bolen, commander of the 44th Infantry Division.
Charles Haase, platoon leader December 1945 – May 1946, retires as a Brigadier General after nearly three decades of service in the Army, Army Reserve and National Guard. In 1982 President Ronald Reagan appoints Haase as director of the Louisiana Selective Service System.
General Douglas MacArthur Honor Guard Association
In 1980 two veterans of the Honor Guard, Henry Doyel and Robert Marko, who have not been in contact with one another for more than 30 years, plan to get together. They were soon joined by Joe Fisher, Charles Tillison and GN Casto. From their plans emerged the General Douglas MacArthur Honor Guard Association.
“We feel that we have an obligation to preserve his legacy. We want people to remember MacArthur”
— David Valley
The Association holds its first reunion in Kansas City, MO, in 1981 – 34 Honor Guard veterans attend. Since the men had, for the most part, not seen each other in decades, it is decided to try and find more of their former comrades from the Guard. A second reunion is planned for 1983 in St. Louis. By the time of that reunion, nearly 400 former Guard members have been found, about ¾ of them still living.
The members plan a third reunion to be held in two years, in 1985, in Norfolk, VA – home of the MacArthur Memorial and final resting place of the General whom they had served. Attendance at the Norfolk reunion is 150 veterans.
Reunions are held every two years thereafter and are well attended both by Guard veterans and their families.
Jean and Arthur MacArthur are invited to several of the reunions but are unable to attend. However, Jean is always very complimentary of the men of the Guard.
“The Honor Guard was very important to General MacArthur both from the ceremonial aspect as well as those functions which related to security. As you know, only the finest were chosen and you never let him down…I became very attached to those of you who were in regular contact with the household staff and with me. The little courtesies extended were greatly appreciated and have never been forgotten.”
— Jean MacArthur
In April 2001, the Association commemorates the 50th anniversary of the General’s departure from Japan by having a mini-reunion in Tokyo.
The Association’s research has identified some 1,959 service men who served in General MacArthur’s Honor Guard – this figure includes only those who served during the time Douglas MacArthur served as Far East Commander. Of that figure, all but about 100 of them (or their next of kin) have been found. As of May 2007, just under 400 Honor Guard veterans remain; about 300 of them are members of the Honor Guard Association.
Off Duty Hours
When not on duty, the men of the Honor Guard – like most of the Occupation troops in Japan – take time to see Tokyo and the surrounding country. Favorite tourist destinations like Kamakura, Mount Fuji and others are among the first places most visit.
“I’m one of the first girls to work in the Finance Building and will soon become a particularly popular one, as one of my duties is to handle the recreation jeep pool. Those officers who want jeeps after hours or on weekends submit their names to me. It doesn’t take long to figure out that there are more officers than there are jeeps, so I hold a drawing once a week.”
— Lorena Treadway, Facilities Office, Headquarters & Service Group
Shopping along the Ginza, Tokyo’s main shopping district, is also popular as nearly every serviceman wants a “real” kimono, geisha doll or samurai sword to send home as a souvenir of their time in Japan. However, after only three months of occupation by American troops, many of the shelves in Tokyo have been picked clean. Troops quickly learn that the best souvenirs are to be found in outer-lying villages or purchased directly from family homes.
“Did more walking than I did shopping. The only way you can get anything decent around here is take off for the outlying districts and hope that you might come across some little shop that every GI in town hasn’t ransacked. The downtown stores have long ago sold what little stuff they had that was any good.”
— Frank Reed
“Tokyo has all the recreation spots, night clubs, entertainment, and athletic events that you could find in Chicago…There are many lodges and resorts maintained by the Army for the use of occupation personnel.”
— Leatherneck magazine
“Except for pennies, we can’t have US currency in our possession because it may get into the black market. We’re issued paper money in denominations ranging from 5 cents to $10. It doesn’t seem real, because in appearance and size it resembles the funny money used in a Monopoly game…We use the funny money to pay for items in the PX, commissary and the few other American installations.”
— Lorena Treadway, Facilities Office, Headquarters & Service Group
“One US dollar is worth 360 yen. A sen is 1/100th of a yen (like our cent) but is essentially useless to GIs. Each 100 Yen note is worth only 27 cents, so a seen isn’t worth bother with. The Armed Forces personnel use Script, which is paper that represents US coins and bills. To purchase from the Japanese, we have to use yen because they are not allowed to have US money.”
— Maurice Howe
While the Honor Guard is stationed in Yokohama before moving to Tokyo, they discover a warehouse behind their barracks filled with kimonos. Several of the Guard are able to turn quite a profit on these, taking duffle bags full of kimonos to the docks and selling them for as much as $50 apiece to sailors who are unable to go ashore souvenir hunting. One former Guard remembers: “A barracks bag would hold 30 or 40 kimonos; they would peddle 60 or 80 for a haul of $3,000 to $4,000 per day. That was more than spending money!”
Some enterprising Japanese take advantage of the souvenir market as well as the American taste for familiar items from home. Many items produced in the small town of Usa are stamped “Made in USA,” which makes them best sellers until Occupation authorities caught on. Other items include Japanese cigarettes which come in packaging identical to the popular American “Lucky Strike” cigarettes, but the Japanese ones read only “Lucky,” and “American” whiskey with a label reading “Famous in Philadelphia Since 1486.”
For those who don’t wish to venture into the big city, the Finance Building has plenty of recreation of its own, including its own PX, a theatre and a Red Cross facility.
“We have a very nice Red Cross here, plenty of writing desks, big easy chairs and reading material, ping-pong tables and pool tables, and coffee and doughnuts anytime you want them.”
— Frank Reed
Armed Forces Radio airs popular stateside programming, albeit months after its original airdate. On one occasion the station broadcasts a “report” that a sea monster has emerged from Tokyo Harbor and is advancing on the heart of the city, despite the best efforts of the Military Police to halt it. Like Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast years earlier, causes some panic.
The Takarazuka Theater, pre-war home to the Girls Opera, is taken over by the Army and converted to a movie theater for Occupation personnel. It is renamed the Ernie Pyle Theatre after the famous war correspondent who was killed on Okinawa in 1945. It features two theatres with rotating stage, a library, and a restaurant. There are live shows and movies shown multiple times a day.
The GHQ Officers Club is housed in a former Japanese club, the Mitsui Club. It sits amid a private park and features a marble staircase.
“As you go along the modern sidewalks of this modern city [Kyoto], you hear the clop-clop of the wooden shoes of the people. They are…not the wooden shoes of the Dutch. These are simply a little board against which two cleats or clogs have been nailed to raise it from the walk a little. They are kept on by a band attached to the foot between the great and first toes.”
— Lt. Henry Zylstra, Sixth Army
Kyoto is considered the cultural center of Japan. Because of the many historic and cultural institutions located in the city, it was spared from Allied bombing during the war. It is a short train ride away from Tokyo and many of the Occupation personnel visit the city.
“This is the travel and tourist center even for Japan and the people of Tokyo. Tokyo is much more westernized. And here the people have not been so scared, dislocated, or made hungry by the war and I really get a kind of peace-time look at the country…It has all the features: culture, color, entertainment, history, shrines, business and comfort. I can get a lot of Japan here.”
— Lt. Henry Zylstra, Sixth Army
Sight-seeing trips are not limited just to the big cities. Many servicemen take day trips out into the countryside and outer-lying small towns.
“It’s cute to watch the little children curtsy or bow to us as we passed by in our jeep. About 10 of them would line up on one side of the street and as we went by they’d bow about one-quarter of the way down to the waist. The boys would salute. A few would raise the familiar Victory sign with their two fingers.”
— Capt. James Salango, Fifth Air Force
“This Japan is a civilization; it is full of human achievement as contrasted with natural wealth…a country so densely populated, only one-fifth of it arable. Hence the terraced mountainsides, tier-like steps from the river plains up to the peaks, each so much precious land snatched from nature. Not by an engineering project, this, but by hand through the centuries. There are waterwheels in the creeks to irrigate the rice, and in the bends of the fast streams are stakes to prevent erosion of the banks. Never a fence, for a fence takes room, and no room can be spared from the growing.”
— Lt. Henry Zylstra, Sixth Army
The weather in Japan is something most of the Americans are not familiar with. The two most extreme cases are typhoons – the Pacific version of a hurricane – and earthquakes.
“We had a slight sample of Japan’s famous earthquakes last night, which lasted about a minute. The tremor shook this building and rattled the windows. It was mild enough that it was almost unnoticeable however. But I understand that tremors strong enough to be recorded on delicate instruments take place in Japan about four times each day.”
— Capt. James Salango, Fifth Air Force
The U.S.S. General S.D. Sturgis, the ship which had brought the men of the Honor Guard to Japan, has an encounter with a typhoon not long after delivering the Guard to Yokohama. The Sturgis is loaded with troops bound for the United States in late September when a typhoon hits, tossing the ship about considerably. A Naval officer on board remembers that a movie was being shown on deck, when a strong wind gust carried the screen away ending the performance early.