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Major General Courtney Whitney (May 20, 1897 - March 21, 1969) was a lawyer and US Army commander during World War II who later served as a senior official during the US occupation of Japan (1945-1951). He played a major role in the liberalization of Japanese government, society, and economy during the occupation.

Courtney Whitney
Whitney, at left holding binoculars, with MacArthur, seated center, observing the shelling of Incheon, Korea
Born(1897-05-20)20 May 1897
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Died21 March 1969(1969-03-21) (aged 71)
Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branchEmblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
RankUS-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
Korean War
AwardsDistinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Merit (2)
Other workLawyer

Early lifeEdit

Born in Washington, DC, Whitney enlisted in the US Army in 1917 and became a pursuit pilot. He received his law degree from George Washington University in 1927 and left the army to open a private practice in Manila.

World War IIEdit

In 1940, Whitney returned to active duty. He worked in intelligence in Washington, DC, and was assigned to serve as the intelligence officer to the 14th Air Force in China when General Douglas MacArthur requested for him to be assigned to the Southwest Pacific Theater. Whitney returned to Leyte Gulf alongside MacArthur in 1944.[1]

In his biography of MacArthur, William Manchester states that Lieutenant Colonel Whitney, a "ultraconservative Manila corporation lawyer," was assigned to MacArthur's staff, promoted, and assigned responsibility for Philippine civil affairs.[2] Manchester states:

from the standpoint of the guerrillas he was a disastrous choice. Undiplomatic and belligerent, he was condescending toward all Filipinos, except those who, like himself, had substantial investments in the Philippines... and by the time MacArthur was ready to land on Leyte, Whitney had converted most of the staff to reactionaryism. At his urging the General (MacArthur) barred OSS agents from the Southwest Pacific, because Whitney suspected they would aid leftwing guerrillas.[2]

Occupation of JapanEdit

After Japan surrendered, Whitney accompanied MacArthur to Atsugi Air Base and became Chief of the Government Section at GHQ. With Lt. Col. Milo Rowell, he drafted the Constitution of Japan and sent it to the Diet for approval. Historians emphasize the similarity of occupation policies to the US New Deal programs of the 1930s.[3] Moore and Robinson note that "New Deal liberalism seemed natural, even to conservative Republicans such as MacArthur and Whitney."[4]

Whitney remained close to MacArthur throughout the occupation and served as Chief of Government Section at his headquarters. He accompanied MacArthur, during the Korean War and received Silver Star and second Legion of Merit for his visits on the front. Whitney resigned from the army after MacArthur was removed from command in 1951. He was decorated with Army Distinguished Service Medal at his retirement ceremony. In 1956, Whitney's biography of his commander, MacArthur: His Rendezvous With History, was published.



Whitney is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

In popular cultureEdit

Whitney was played by Dick O'Neill in the 1977 film MacArthur


  1. ^ Dunn, William J. (September 2009). "Pacific Microphone". Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 9781603441575. Retrieved September 27, 2014. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ a b Manchester W. American Caesar. 1978. pp 378-379.
  3. ^ Theodore Cohen and Herbert Passin, Remaking Japan: The American Occupation as New Deal (1987)
  4. ^ Ray A. Moore and Donald L. Robinson, Partners for democracy: Crafting the new Japanese state under Macarthur (Oxford University Press, 2004) p 98


  • James, D. Clayton. The Years of MacArthur 1941-45 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975), vol 2
  • James, D. Clayton. The years of MacArthur: Triumph and disaster, 1945-1964 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985), vol 3
  • Manchester, W. 1978. American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964. Little, Brown and Company, Boston. ISBN 0-316-54498-1
  • Whitney, Courtney. MacArthur: His Rendezvous with Destiny (New York: Alfred E. Knopf 1956)
  • Williams, Justin. "Completing Japan's Political Reorientation, 1947-1952: Crucial Phase of the Allied Occupation." American Historical Review (1968): 1454-1469. in JSTOR