Even with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington in Brisbane this week, General Douglas MacArthur’s historic World War Two apartments, in a quiet residential tower in the city centre, remain a relative secret.
I visited the MacArthur Museum there this week, and it was a step back in time. Through a side entrance of the renaissance style sandstone building, I walked past the doorman, and relied on a resident with a pass to let me out of the elevator and onto the eighth floor. The smell, lighting, décor, and even the volunteer staff who greeted me, came straight from the 1940’s. Down on the busy street below, no one would guess that the room from which the War in the Pacific was won, remains unchanged to this day.
The American general MacArthur was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific, and he set up his General Headquarters in Brisbane, the northern most city in Australia with the infrastructure to feed the war effort.
Brisbane’s population doubled overnight to six hundred thousand, and the strain of American servicemen swarming in the streets and bars resulted in trouble, including the Battle of Brisbane in which Americans fired on and killed Australians; it raged for days. The news of the battle was censored at the time of course, but from his eighth floor office, MacArthur looked down and saw it all, plotted victory over the Japanese, and planned his own next media appearance.
There’s no battle in the streets this week with the five and a half thousand serviceman of the USS George Washington ashore, but it’s a shame that more people don’t know the timeless and incredibly historic room that saved Australia.