The Honor Guard was formed in May 1945 for the purpose of guarding General MacArthur’s headquarters and residence, and served the General and his family until MacArthur’s relief during the Korean War in April 1951. The original members of the Honor Guard were chosen from each of the Divisions of the U.S. Army in the Pacific theater, many of them decorated combat veterans. For acceptance into the Honor Guard, the men had to meet criteria very similar to the requirements for Officer Candidate School.
The unit maintained a strength of about 200 officers and men. Half
of that number guarded the General’s headquarters, the other half
MacArthur family residence at the United States Embassy compound.
Because of their proximity to MacArthur, the men of the Honor Guard were
only witnesses to major events in history, but in some instances
were themselves actually a part of those historical events. Members of
Honor Guard are visible in many of the hundreds of photographs taken
of General MacArthur during the Occupation of Japan.
When General MacArthur was removed from command during the Korean War by President Harry Truman, one of his final acts before boarding the plane that would take him from Japan was a review of the Honor Guard. The General told the Honor Guard commander that the unit had never looked finer than they did that day.
The Honor Guard continued on after General MacArthur’s departure, although with some changes. In 1953 the Guard expanded from an Army unit to include representatives from all four branches of the U.S. armed forces. In 1957 the Guard was disbanded.
Nearly 2,000 men served in General MacArthur’s Honor Guard during its six-year existence. Of that number, fewer than 400 are left today. Thirty years after their boss’ departure from Japan, several former Honor Guard members formed what is now the General MacArthur Honor Guard Association, an organization comprised of Honor Guard veterans, their families and others with an interest in this elite organization. The Honor Guard Association will hold its 2007 reunion in Norfolk and will officially dedicate Only the Finest: General MacArthur’s Honor Guard on Tuesday October 2, 2007, when its members visit the MacArthur Memorial.