top of page

Funeral Procession for MacArthur

Apr. 8, 1964 - The Government of the United States, led by President Johnson and joined by thousands of ordinary citizens, rendered impressive state funeral honors today to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. A steady rain added to the somberness of the elaborate mourning procession, in which the flag-draped coffin of the general was carried with military ritual to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. The coffin was brought to Washington by train from New York today.

The President, who had met the funeral train at Union Station, placed a wreath of red, white and blue flowers at the foot of the coffin directly beneath the high Capitol dome. He accompanied the general’s widow, Mrs. Jean MacArthur, and her son, Arthur, out of the Rotunda at the close of the day’s ceremonies.

Before the public was admitted, the coffin was opened, with a flag draped over the lower half. Capitol officials estimated that the mourners were moving past the bier at a rate of about 8,000 an hour this afternoon.

The tribute of the nation’s capital to General MacArthur, who died at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington last Sunday, would have been filled with emotion under any circumstances. The solemnity of the ceremonies was heightened, however, by the memories of the funeral of President Kennedy less than five months ago.

Once again, marching ranks of servicemen escorted a horse-drawn caisson along the broad avenues and past the mourning gaze of the city’s population. Once again, Blackjack, the spirited black gelding that was led riderless behind the Kennedy coffin, followed the funeral caisson to the sound of muffled drums and intermittent marches and dirges played by service bands. Behind the caisson, Pfc. Arthur Carlson, who had served in a similar role in President Kennedy’s funeral, held fast to Blackjack. The gelding, as it did at President Kennedy’s funeral, bucked and pranced. Once again, a gun salute — this time 19 volleys in honor of a five-star officer — rolled at slow-paced intervals over the Potomac Valley.

In the first eulogy inside the Rotunda, the Rev. Bernard Braskamp, chaplain of the House of Representatives, recalled “how our hearts thrilled when he addressed the joint session of Congress.”

He went on: “He was never a prophet of doom and defeat, but of courage and faith. He closed that memorable speech with these words in a clear and clarion voice: ‘An old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Goodbye.’”

The Rev. Frederick Brown Harris, chaplain of the Senate, stressed the general’s role as occupation commander after World War II, in which he sponsored a program of reform and recovery for Japan.

“His true greatness,” Rev. Harris said, “was revealed in what he proposed to do with the victory of arms as he faced the titanic task after the peace treaty was signed.”

Support this project at


bottom of page