Gen. Douglas MacArthur, unable to win the war, settled for a brief truce, never to return. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy threw his hands up in disgust and walked out of the negotiating room. Labor arbitrator Theodore Kheel, who had tackled the toughest of union disputes, said it was one of the most frustrating tasks he had ever taken on.

Despite their ability to forge difficult compromises and devise successful strategies in other areas, none of these three men, for all their trying, could end the fighting in the amateur sports community that hindered domestic and international competition.

Dozens of others have tried - mostly U.S. Senators and Representatives - to find a solution. But the incohesive, uncoordinated and nearly self-destructive nature of the amateur sports system defied repeated attempts to reform it.

Until now.

Since the first jurisdictional dispute in 1928 over the "rights" to athletes in their programs, the nation's two most powerful amateur sports groups have carried on that battle to the point that U.S. participation in international competition was sometimes second - best and other times non-existent as athletes sat out meets rather than risk suspensions.

The turf fights between the Amateur Union and the National Collegiate Athletic Association hampered the U.S. Olympic movement, particularly because the AAU had effectively controlled the U.S. Olympic Committee for decades.

In 1972, the NCAA withdrew from the USOC in protest. But today, the NCAA is back in a newly reorganized USOC as the result of one of the most carefully researched and sensitively orchestrated overhauls of a strifetorn body the USOC.

As a result, the 1978 Amateur Athletic Act - the product of that work - has received the support of every major amateur sports organization in the country. the athletes most directly involved. Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the White House.

None of these groups is completely satisfied with the bill; the White House, for example, has reservations about part of the one-time, $30 million appropriation included in the Senate-passed version. The athletes, in a significant gesture to assure the bill's passage and the return of the NCAA to the USOC, agreed to have a bill of athletes' rights deleted from the legislation and incorporated incorporated instead in the USOC constitution.

The only objection left to the bill is the AAU's request that the definition of international competition be clarified to reflect the interpretation various sports groups have already agreed upon. This is essentially a matter of getting the definition in black and white.

All sides have made concessions and banded together in an unprecedented spirit of cooperation to get the bill passed, and passed this year. There is apprehension among many sectors of the amateur sports community that if the bill is not passed by Oct. 1 when Congress adjourns, it will not be resurrected in future congressional sessions.

The passage of this bill, many in the amateur sports community believe, represents the most crucial juncture for the success of the U.S. Olympic movement. Several have also expressed concern that the bill may flounder in the House for possible lack of interest or understanding of its effect.

The legislation is the result of extensive research here and abroad by the President's Commission on Olympic Sports and is noteworthy for what it does not do as well as what it does.

It does not, for example, encroach upon the school-college community's domestic competitions or allow the federal government to call the shots in amateur sports by decreeing how money may be disbursed. It also does not create an East Germany-type system where elite athletes are trained dawn to dusk in special schools. Nor does it force non-Olympic and Pan American sports, like golf, to join the USOC.

What it does is strengthen the USOC as the central coordinating agency for the nation's amateur sports groups in Olympic and pan American Games Competitions.

Most of the PCOS' recommendations have been adopted voluntarily by the USOC, but their effective implementation is tied very much to the $30 million request.

The crux of the USOC reorganization is the establishment of criteria for becoming a national governing body (NGB) in a particular sport. The requirements provide, among other things, for athletes to comprise 20 percent of the NGB's membership and for the reasonable representation of other U.S. sports groups (and individuals) which operate active programs in the NGB's sport.

But most important, the bill requires that the NGBs be self-incorporated and completely autonomous in the governance of their sport. An NGB cannot be a member of more than one international sports federation which governs a Pan Ann or Olympic sport.

It is the latter provisions that spell the end to power-bloc control of the USOC and helps assure that decisions affecting the sport will be made by people active in or knowledgeable about it.

The provisions have a direct impact on the AAU which will have to divest itself - and officials say they began the process years ago - of its eight Olympic franchises. Officials have indicated, however, that the AAU may seek the track and field franchise.

The NGBs are charged with developing interest and participation in their sport, from the grass-roots level of barely athletic to potential Olympians. Expanded participation by women, the military and the handicapped are urged.

Because of these NGB responsbilities, as well as administrative duties, the $30 million is viewed as essential to help the sports get organized. Some of the minor sports have literally been run out of a volunteer's kitchen. Now, under the autonomy provisions, they will be self-incorporated organizations with a full-time director. They, most of all, will need federal assistance.

The USOC, which would administer any federal aid, has earmarked $18 million to help finance the development and operation of these sports. As the reorganization of the USOC continues to take effect, those in the amateur sports community firmly believe that the private sector will provide the financial resources for the future.

The White House objects in principle to funds for amateur sports, but has left the door open for federal aid if Congress so wishes. The administration believes the $18 million for the reorganization would not set a precedent, but has reservations about the $12 million proposed for ongoing USOC programs, such as permanent training centers and research and sports medicine programs.

It is through the training centers and the programs, however, that the largest number of Americans may eventually be served, USOC officials say.

The training centers at Squaw Valley and Colorado Springs (three to four more are planned) test athletes selected to attend by their NGBs. They represent a diversity of Americans, from teen-agres to senior citizens, talented and untalented athletes.

The sports medicine programs at the centers involve the study of nutrition, exercise physiology, sports psychology, injury treatment, research and the new field of biomechanics. Through biomechanics, which involves tracking an athletes moves on a computer and comparing that to what is considered the "perfect" motions in the sports, the athlete learns how to improve his performance.

And from the test results of athletes and nonathletes in these programs, the average American, the man recovering from surgery and the woman with a dislocated shoulder may ultimately be the beneficiaries.