BioFile - The Third MacArthur
Anyone remotely familiar with American military history has heard of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. And the somewhat more knowledgeable have probably heard of the general’s father, Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, Jr., who entered the service as a very, very young volunteer during the Civil War and retired in 1909. But there was a third member of the MacArthur family who also had a distinguished military career, albeit in the Navy, who is today largely forgotten.
Arthur MacArthur III (1876-1923), the elder brother of Douglas, having grown up on isolated Army posts on the frontier, and apparently preferring to “See the World” rather than the prairie, entered the United States Naval Academy. Graduating with honors in 1896, he served two years as “Passed Midshipmen” before being commissioned an ensign in time to see action in the gunboat USS Vixen at the Battle of Santiago (July 3, 1898), during the Spanish-American War. MacArthur later took part in the Philippine Insurrection and the Boxer Rebellion, while making a career-enhancing marriage to the daughter of Rear Adm. Bowman McCalla in 1901.
In 1902, MacArthur took command of Grampus (SS-4), and was later given command of a submarine division. Over the next few years he served variously as an aide to the Superintendent of the Naval Academy, in the battleship Louisiana (BB-19), and, in 1911, was given command of the new USS McCall (DD-28). A year later he began a series of staff assignments, serving variously with the General Board of the Navy, as Superintendent of the State, War, and Navy Building, in Washington, and so forth.
Making commander in 1915, over the next two years MacArthur commanded successively a minesweeper and the armored cruiser South Dakota (CA-9). After the U.S. entered World War I he commanded the old protected cruiser Chattanooga (C-15) on convoy duty in the Atlantic, earning a Navy Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal, along with a promotion to captain by war’s end.
After the war, MacArthur commanded the San Diego Naval Training Center, and in 1921 the transport Henderson. Two years later he was transferred to staff duties in Washington, where he died from an appendicitis attack on December 2, 1923, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. One of the best middle ranking officers of the Navy at the time, had he not died when he did, MacArthur might well have seen service in World War II, along with his Academy classmates William D. Leahy and Thomas Hart.