The man who won 24 Olympic gold medals for the United States isn’t Michael Phelps or Mark Spitz or even Jesse Owens. In fact, he didn’t compete in any Olympic sport. Yet he swung America’s attention to the importance of the Olympic Games as no other American had ever done — and turned Olympic gold into a rebirth of the American spirit.
He was General Douglas MacArthur.
We usually think of MacArthur as one of the supreme commanders of World War II, liberator of the Philippines and rebuilder of a shattered postwar Japan — and the genius behind one of the greatest military master strokes in history: the landing at Inchon during the Korean War.
But in 1928 MacArthur was president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and led his country’s team to some of its most glorious moments — and laid the foundations for America’s love affair with the Olympics ever since.