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In March 1951, at the age of 21, U.S. soldier David Valley was ordered to immediately leave the Korean Peninsula — where the war was raging — and go to Tokyo to serve on the Honor Guard of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of the allied powers.

The unit, established in 1945, consisted of 200 select combat veterans who performed the formal honor guard functions for the general, his family, staff and visiting dignitaries during the Allied Occupation.

“I was very honored to join the unit, because it was the army’s most elite unit at the time,” Valley, 70, said in an interview.

He was one of the last to join the unit because MacArthur left on April 16, 1951, after being relieved of his command, only 11/2 months after Valley’s arrival in Tokyo. In total, some 1,800 men served on the guard.

As the 50th anniversary of the general’s departure from Tokyo nears, members of the Gen. MacArthur Honor Guard Association plan to return to Tokyo to commemorate the anniversary. The group was formed by former members of the honor guard to preserve the general’s legacy.

“I believe the general’s contribution to Japan’s postwar prosperity, including the establishment of the pacifist and humanitarian Constitution, should be remembered among the people here through such events,” said Valley, who is currently visiting Japan to arrange the commemoration.

The association has arranged a ceremony for April 16 at the Atsugi Naval Air Station in Kanagawa Prefecture — where MacArthur first set foot on Japanese soil on Aug. 30, 1945 — and public ceremonies on April 17 and 18 in Tokyo. Around 50 former members of the unit, U.S military brass, Self-Defense Forces officers and Japanese government officials are expected to join the ceremonies, Valley said.

Valley, author of “Gaijin Shogun, Gen. Douglas, Stepfather of Postwar Japan,” also said MacArthur deserves to be remembered by more people for his traits as a statesman, philosopher and humanitarian, as well as a family man. The general, Valley said, devoted much of his time to family activities during his busy days as supreme commander.

Valley, who is now retired and lives in California after many years working in the laser industry in Japan, said he regrets that today’s young people, both in America and here, are not well-informed about past wars and subsequent events.

“As veterans, we should talk more openly about past wars to younger generations without glorifying them, because they are an indispensable part of human history,” he said. “Especially, very inspiring stories, like MacArthur’s contribution to Japan’s postwar prosperity, should be remembered.”

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