As archivist at the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia, I receive materials concerning General Douglas MacArthur almost daily. More often than not they are items related to World War I, World War II, or the Korean War, yet there are rare occasions when someone will turn up with items of great significance to the biographical history of one of America's more famous generals.
In November 2000 I was asked to look at four letters believed to have been written by MacArthur between May 1919 and January 1920. The owner wondered if they were indeed penned by the General. One look at the letters was enough to enable verification. Having read nearly all of the General's correspondence at the archives over the past ten years, his distinct style of handwriting was easily recognizable to me. Because the majority of MacArthur's pre-World War II correspondence was destroyed during the battle for Manila in 1945, these letters from the WWI era were of immediate interest. I was unprepared, however, for the content of the letters. Written to a German fraulein named Herta Heuser, the four letters revealed a heretofore unknown chapter in the life of MacArthur.
The owner of the letters explained that they had belonged to his father and been found among his papers upon his death in April 2000. The father had discussed the letters with his son only half a dozen times. His explanation for possessing them was that he had found them during World War II when he served as a sergeant with the 518th Military Police Battalion. The 518th landed with allied forces at Normandy and were in Leipzig, Germany, at war's end on 8 May 1945. Not understanding the importance of the letters, the son never asked for more information about them. The father, therefore, took the secret of how, where, and why he came into their possession to his grave.
Where the letters were found was easily discernible?they were addressed to Fraulein Herta Heuser at "Haus Schonberg, Sinzig, Germany." Following the Armistice that ended World War I in November 1918, allied forces began occupation duty in the western sectors of Germany. One of the American units selected was the 42nd Infantry or "Rainbow" Division. As commander of one of the Division's two brigades, MacArthur and his 84th Brigade were assigned to occupy the area surrounding Sinzig on the Rhine River. From December 1918 to April 1919, Haus Schonberg served as headquarters for the 84th Brigade. MacArthur also lived there, spending most of his time recuperating from the after effects of the gassing he received during the war. The Haus Schonberg estate was again occupied and served as a headquarters for military police units of the American Army in the closing months of World War II. More importantly for our story, it was on the 518th Battalion's route to Leipzig. Obviously, the letters were obtained somehow at Sinzig. The how and why, however, remain a mystery.
The letters to Fraulein Heuser offer valuable insight into the personal life and personality of Douglas MacArthur. There is an unlimited amount of material available about his public life. But, it is the exact opposite in connection with his private life, especially in the years preceding World War II. A bachelor until the age of 42, and a much sought after one at that, there has always been some question as to why MacArthur did not marry until late in life. As these letters show, sometimes love is confronted by insurmountable obstacles. More than anything, however, they show that among the many qualities MacArthur possessed, at the core of the man was a complete romantic.
The first letter to Fraulein Heuser was penned on 16 May 1919, shortly after MacArthur's return to the United States from service in France and Germany. In it he admits that he cannot speak all the emotions he is feeling because he knows all mail between the United States and Germany is under censorship. He tells of his trip back home, the whereabouts of his staff, and the new job he has been assigned at West Point. Most importantly, he tells Herta that he has told his mother all about her. MacArthur's mother was his greatest confidant and supporter and his telling her about Herta reveals a great deal about the young general's affections.
Fraulein Herta Heuser
Reg. Bez. Coblenz
Herta Dear Lady,
I am trying to get this note to you through General Craig, the Chief of Staff of the Army of Occupation at Coblenz. It may never reach your hands but I am taking the chance. Due to censorship I am unable to tell you many things that I know you will understand I feel. I can only say that all I have said in the past I repeat?a thousand times oftener and a thousand times stronger.
I wrote you from Brest of my trip overland and sent the note to you by the driver of my car. We sailed on the Leviathan?your Vaterland?on April 18 and reached New
York on the 25th. The boat is a wonderful one and I had what is known as the Kaiser's suite of four rooms and three baths. The trip over was without special incident?very different indeed from the one to France in 1917. [Bonn] did not go with us and just as I surmised we never saw him again after he left Sinzig.
On arrival I found Mother looking splendidly and apparently very happy to have me back. I told her how much I owed to you and she said to send you all her love and thanks. She said that God would certainly watch over you and bless you for the beautiful qualities of soul you had shown. After this war is over she hopes you will come to visit her as I visited you in our beautiful home on the Rhine.
The Division was mustered out in New York and I was ordered to Washington for temporary duty until June. I then go to take command of our big military college at West Point. It is a splendid command usually reserved for higher ranking officers than myself and I regard the assignment as an honor indeed. West Point is a beautiful place on the Hudson River about an hour's ride north of New York. It is very much like the Rhine and you must certainly come there when peace returns to this scarred old world. The Superintendent's house is very much like Schonberg which doubly endears it to me.
All of my staff have now gone. Wolf to Chicago, Bayard to Indiana, Wright to New York, Hill I know not where. Poor Dr. Bunch who tended me so faithfully when I was ill was killed the night after we arrived in New York. He was run down by an automobile and his skull was fractured. He died witihout recovering consciousness. It was a great shock to all of us.
I opened your dear note on Easter morning and found the beautiful case. I thank you more than I can say. It is my most prized possession and I shall always cherish it as I do the donor until the last day of my life.
These are terrible days for you and yours and my heart goes out to you. I wish I could be there to try and help you bear up. Have faith and hope and keep your eyes high and do not despair. Someway, somehow I am sure it will all come right in the end.
Tell your father that Wolf carried out his mission shortly after arrival.
I am very anxious to hear from you. When you receive this letter, if you are still at Sinzig, write me and ask the officer billeted with you or with the Brothers if he will not send it to me. My address will be
United States Military Academy
Do not fail to do this as I am distressed at not hearing from you. Tell me all the news and above all how you are. Send me a little picture if you can.
Keep well that which you have of mine. It stays with you a contented prisoner and longs to help you in this your terrible hour. God be with you till we meet again.
At the time the second letter of 17 July 1919 was written, censorship had ended and MacArthur was able to express all the emotions he was prohibited from saying in the 16 May letter. This letter makes it clear that he was in love with Herta, the young Red Cross worker who nursed him back to health at Haus Schonberg.
Fraulein Herta Heuser
Reg. Bez. Coblenz
My darling Girl,
The mail today brought me your post card of June 24, and I cannot tell you how delighted I was to at last receive some tangible word from you. Mail service between Germany and the United States has at last been resumed and the censorship entirely removed which gives me once again the opportunity to tell you of my love. I love you?with all my heart and soul, I love you.
For me the world begins and ends with you. The span of my life has been contained between the day I entered and the day I left Sinzig. My thoughts, my prayers, my devotion, cluster in the curls of your brown head. My hands grope blindly for yours?my lips are pale and cold seeking the red warmth of yours. In my dreams my soul flies back and holds you close to my heart in the tender embraces of all my love. There can be no Heaven for me without you?Sweet-Essence-of-old-Fashioned-Roses.
Write and tell me everthing that has happened at dear old Sinzig since I left. Did any American officers billet at Schonberg? Who is there now? How are my turtle doves? And the poor old cow, does she still mourne? And our roses?our beautiful roses? Does their perfume creep on the still night air up to my old room? And are you in it? Does your brother still keep his position with the government? And how goes your Father's business? How is Sergeant Brother and his brother the Lieutenant? But above and beyond all how fares it with the Beautiful Red Cross Nurse? For Sinzig, the Rhine, all they border or contain, spells for me one word?Herta.
I am settled here at West Point working hard to reconstruct it and once more make it a truly great Military Academy. It is very beautiful here, the Hudson being much like the Rhine. Were you with me it would be quite perfect. I tried to take a leave to go back to Europe but it was refused. I shall try again next summer. I wish you could come and visit us. Mother would be so glad to have you to say nothing of Mother's son.
Yesterday to my great astonishment I was presented with the Italian War Cross by the King of Italy. This makes the eleventh ribbon so I am now going to take them all off.
Please write me when you receive this letter and tell about yourself. Go and have a picture taken too.
I hold you close in the warm embrace of my tenderest love?and pray that God may be with you until we meet again.
The third letter of 12 September 1919 was again written to Haus Schonberg, but this time it was forwarded to an address in the Hessen region of Germany. MacArthur's mother had received a letter from Herta asking the whereabouts of her son. The General's response was short and to the point. The curtness of the third letter makes it appear that he had come to the realization that their love was doomed to failure. However, as is evidenced by the fourth letter, maybe MacArthur believed his letters were still being censored and thus the reason for his brevity. If he meant this to be his last letter to Herta, it was not the case.
Fraulein Herta Heuser
Reg. Bez. Coblenz
My Dear Herta,
Mother has asked me to write you saying she had received a letter from you asking my whereabouts. I fear my letters have either miscarried or been censored or stolen. I am taking every precaution to see that this note goes through without being tampered with by the secret services.
The difficulties of our respective positions are so great as to be impossible to overcome. I have realized this lately and believe we had best face it frankly. My Army command makes me a servant of the Republic and I feel that I am no longer a free agent. My respect, my admiration, my reverence for you will be with me always, and there will ever be a niche in my heart marked with your name. But together we can only look backwards, not forwards.
May God be with you until we meet in another and kinder world.
The final surviving letter of the MacArthur-Heuser correspondence was postmarked 30 January 1920. From this letter it is obvious that MacArthur's rationalization of their love had "gone out the window." Pictures received from Herta opened his heart once again. Also evident in this final letter is his pride in his work at West Point. His reference to "The Tiger," is to France's war time leader Clemenceau.
Fraulein Herta Heuser
My dearest Herta,
I have just received the pictures and I cannot tell you how pleased I was to see your good looking face smiling back at me just as in the old days of Sinzig. I miss you more than I can say and find myself longing and sighing for you.
I am well again and hard at work. West Point was very much run down when I took over the command and it has been very interesting to build it up again. It is in splendid shape now and I naturally take pride in all the nice things that are said of it. Nothing, however, can take the place of the Rainbow Division in my affection.
Mother lives with me and I lead a very quiet and retired life. My duty keeps me busy all day and with evening's I just lie around and wish you were here.
I hear from Wolf occasionally. He has resumed the practice of law in Chicago. The others that were with me have disappeared and I see and hear of them no more.
I am glad that something of the gayety that belongs to youth is yours again. You have earned it and I only hope that you may find a bit of pleasure and recreation in such affairs.
I am glad there is no longer a censorship on ordinary mail. Up till now I have had the feeling that my letters were opened and scrutinized. I hope it is no longer so.
The winter here is a very bitter one?quite unlike the mild one we had on the Rhine. You would enjoy the skating and sledding we have.
I see the French finally kicked out the old Tiger. If you remember I predicted this nearly a year ago. We are going to see other startling things before long.
I am glad your father has recovered. Give him and to your mother my most cordial greetings. I hold you close in my arms, my darling girl, and kiss you with the tenderness and love of all my days. God knows what betides us, but you will know that always my love for you will burn as steadily as the beam of the sun's rays.
There the correspondence ends leaving many unanswered questions. Nothing else is known to exist concerning the relationship between Douglas MacArthur and Herta Heuser. At this point in time even the fate of Fraulein Heuser is unknown. MacArthur made no mention of her in his memoirs and never mentioned her in any manner to anyone that left any record of it. Even the extent of their romance is unclear. Was it an example of what is called the Florence Nightingale effect? Was it a romance that could exist only in the atmosphere of Haus Schonberg? Douglas and Herta would never get to find out and neither will we. History is a fickle thing often leaving us half-told tales.
Nearly two years after the fourth letter to Herta, MacArthur married Louise Cromwell Brooks. She was one of the richest women in America who liked to party and have fun. Not many could fathom his marriage to Louise. He was a man dedicated to his duty as a soldier. Louise was the epitome of the roaring twenties. It was another whirlwind love relationship that was doomed to failure. The letters from MacArthur to Herta Heuser may provide some insight as to the reason he was so attracted to Louise. MacArthur's first years at West Point were filled with sadness, loneliness, and thoughts of Herta. When he met Louise in October 1921, she must have been like a breath of fresh air. After the horrors he witnessed in World War I, and the doomed romance with Herta, the vibrancy of Louise was perhaps what he craved.
In January 1964, only months before MacArthur died, a veteran of the U.S. Army 10th Criminal Investigation Detachment sent MacArthur some snapshots of Haus Schonberg. The veteran had been one of the troops that occupied Haus Schonberg in World War II. He said if the General was interested he could keep the photos, if not he could just send them back. On the letter MacArthur wrote in pencil to his secretary, "send him a letter of thanks, I'll keep the photos." _
James Zobel is the archivist at the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia.