Monday, October 8, 2007

First, a llttle about Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Buter

To understand where these vets are coming from, you need to understand what Smedley stood for.

From :

Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881June 21, 1940), nicknamed "The Fighting Quaker" and "Old Gimlet Eye," was a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps and, at the time of his death, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.

Butler was awarded the brevet medal (the highest Marine medal at its time), and subsequently the Medal of Honor twice during his career, one of only 19 people to be twice awarded the Medal of Honor. He was noted for his outspoken anti-interventionist views, and his book War Is a Racket was one of the first works describing the workings of the military-industrial complex. After retiring from service, Butler became a popular speaker at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists and church groups in the 1930s. Butler came forward in 1934 and informed Congress that a group of wealthy industrialists had plotted a military coup to overthrow the government of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Early life

Butler was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the oldest in a family of three sons. His parents were Thomas Stalker Butler and Maud (Darlington) Butler, both members of distinguished Quaker families. His father was a lawyer, judge, and, for 31 years, a Congressman. During his time in Congress, Thomas S. Butler was chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee during the Harding and Coolidge administrations.

Butler was educated at the West Chester Friends Graded High School and later at The Haverford School, a secondary school for sons of upper-class Quaker families near Philadelphia.[1] He dropped out to join the Marines. [2]

Military career

Despite his father's desire that he remain in school, Smedley Butler dropped out when the United States declared war against Spain in 1898. As he was only 16 years old, Butler lied about his age to secure a second lieutenant's commission in the Marines.

After three weeks of basic training, Second Lieutenant Butler was sent to Guantanamo, Cuba, in July 1898. The bay was already secured, but a Spanish sniper's bullet barely missed Butler's head one night.

Butler was twice wounded during the Boxer Rebellion. During the Battle of Tientsin on July 13, 1900, Butler climbed out of a trench to retrieve a wounded officer for medical attention, whereupon he was shot in the thigh. Another Marine helped the wounded Butler to safety but was himself shot; Butler continued to assist the first man to the rear. Four enlisted men received the Medal of Honor; though officers were not eligible to receive the award, in recognition of his bravery in the incident, Butler was commissioned a captain by brevet. Butler received his promotion while in the hospital recovering, two weeks before his nineteenth birthday. Butler was also shot in the chest at San Tan Pating.[3]

In 1903, Butler fought to protect the U.S. Consulate in Honduras from rebels. An incident during that expedition allegedly earned him the first of several colorful nicknames, "Old Gimlet Eye," attributed to the feverish, bloodshot eyes which enhanced his habitually penetrating and bellicose stare.

Butler was married in 1905 to Ethel C. Peters, of Philadelphia. They had a daughter, Ethel Peters, and two sons, Smedley Darlington and Thomas Richard.[1] He was then posted to garrison duty in the Philippines. Even in garrison, he managed to distinguish himself, launching a resupply mission across the stormy waters of Subic Bay after his isolated outpost ran out of rations. He was eventually diagnosed with "nervous breakdown" in 1908 and he was given 9 months sick leave. He returned home and spent a successful time in the West Virginia coal mining business. Despite an offer of permanent employment from the owners, he returned to the Corps.[4]

From 1909 to 1912, he served in Nicaragua.

First Medal of Honor

Between the Spanish-American War and the American entry into the first World War in 1917, Butler achieved the distinction, shared with only one other Marine (Dan Daly) since that time, of being twice awarded the Medal of Honor for outstanding gallantry in action.

The first award was for his activities in the U.S. occupation of Veracruz, Mexico in 1914. But the large number of Medals of Honor awarded during that campaign — one for the Army, nine for Marines and 46 to Navy personnel — diminished the medal's prestige. During World War I, Butler, then a major, attempted to return his Medal of Honor, explaining that he had done nothing to deserve it. It was returned with orders that not only would he keep it, but that he would wear it as well.

Second Medal of Honor, Haiti (1915)

Capture of Fort Riviere, Haiti, 1915, by D. J. Neary; illustrations of Maj Smedley Butler, Sgt Iams, and Pvt Gross (USMC art collection)
Capture of Fort Riviere, Haiti, 1915, by D. J. Neary; illustrations of Maj Smedley Butler, Sgt Iams, and Pvt Gross (USMC art collection)

The Marines tried to secure Haiti against the "Cacos" rebels in 1915. On October 24, 1915, a patrol of forty-four mounted Marines led by Butler was ambushed by some 400 Cacos. The Marines maintained their perimeter throughout the night, and early the next morning they charged the much larger enemy force from three directions. The startled Haitians fled. Sergeant Major Dan Daly received a Medal of Honor for his gallantry in the battle.

By mid-November 1915, most of the Cacos had been dispersed from the Haitian region. The remainder took refuge at Fort Rivière, an old French-built stronghold deep within the country. Fort Rivière sat atop Montagne Noire, the front reachable by a steep, rocky slope. The other three sides fell away so steeply that an approach from those directions was impossible. Some Marine officers argued that it should be assaulted by a regiment supported by artillery, but Butler convinced his colonel to allow him to attack with just four companies of 24 men each, plus two machine gun detachments. Butler and his men took the rebel stronghold on November 17, 1915, in which he received his second Medal of Honor, for which he also received the Haitian Medal of Honor. Major Butler recalled that his troops "hunted the Cacos like pigs." His exploits impressed FDR, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, who awarded the medal for an engagement in which 200 Cacos were killed and no prisoners taken, while one Marine was struck by a rock and lost two teeth.

Later, as the initial organizer and commanding officer of the Haitian Gendarmerie, the native police force, Butler established a record as a capable administrator. Under his supervision, order was largely restored, and many vital public works projects were successfully completed.

It is conceivable Butler might have become the only three-time recipient of the Medal of Honor. However, at the time of the Boxer Rebellion, Marine Corps regulations did not allow officers to receive this decoration. For his bravery he received the Marine Corps Brevet Medal. Only 20 men have ever earned this award, and only three men have received both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor.

World War I

During World War I, Butler, much to his disappointment, was not assigned to a combat command on the Western Front. While his superiors considered him brave and brilliant, they also described him as "unreliable." He was, however, promoted to the rank of brigadier general at the age of 37 and placed in command of Camp Pontanezen at Brest, France. In October 1918, a debarkation depot near Brest funneled troops of the American Expeditionary Force to the battlefields. The camp was plagued by horribly unsanitary, overcrowded and disorganized conditions. U.S. Secretary of War Newton Baker sent novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart to report on the camp. She later described how Butler began by solving the mud problem: "[T]he ground under the tents was nothing but mud, [so] he had raided the wharf at Brest of the duckboards no longer needed for the trenches, carted the first one himself up that four-mile hill to the camp, and thus provided something in the way of protection for the men to sleep on." General John J. Pershing authorized a duckboard shoulder patch for the units. This won Butler another nickname, "Old Duckboard." For his services, Butler earned not only the Distinguished Service Medal of both the Army and the Navy but also the French Order of the Black Star.

Following the war, Butler transformed the wartime training camp at Quantico, Virginia into a permanent Marine post.

Director of Public Safety

On official leave of absence from the Marine Corps from January 1924 to December 1925, Butler briefly became the Director of Public Safety in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Due to the influence of Butler's father, the congressman, the newly elected mayor of Philadelphia, W. Freeland Kendrick, asked Butler to leave the Marines to become Director of Public Safety, the official in charge of running the police and fire departments. Philadelphia's municipal government was notoriously corrupt. Butler refused at first, but when Kendrick asked President Calvin Coolidge to intervene, and Coolidge contacted Butler to say that he could take the necessary leave from the Corps, Butler agreed.

Within days, Butler ordered raids on more than 900 speakeasies. Butler also went after bootleggers, prostitutes, gamblers and corrupt police officers. He had roofs removed from police cars so that the officers could not sleep during their shifts, which had apparently been a fairly common practice prior to his appointment. Butler was more zealous than politic in his duties; in addition to going after gangsters and the working-class joints, Butler raided the social elites' favorite speakeasies, the Ritz-Carlton and the Union League. A week later, Kendrick fired Butler. Butler later said "cleaning up Philadelphia was worse than any battle I was ever in."[5]

China and stateside service

From 1927 to 1929, Butler was commander of the Marine Expeditionary Force in China. He cleverly parlayed among various nationalist generals and warlords in order to protect American lives and property, and ultimately won the public acclaim of contending Chinese leaders.

When Butler returned to the United States, in 1929, he was promoted. At 48, he became the Marine Corps' youngest major general. Butler helped to preserve the Marine Corps' existence against critics in the Army and the Congress who, during budget fights, argued that the Army could do the work of the Marines. He directed the Quantico camp's growth until it became the "showplace" of the Corps. He also set about vigorously to keep the Marines in the public limelight. In four years, his Quantico Marines football team amassed a record of 38-2-2 against powerful service teams as well as civilian schools, and bulldog mascot "Sergeant Major Jiggs" became a national symbol of Marine tenacity and aggressiveness. Butler also won national attention by taking thousands of his men on long field marches, many of which he led from the front, to Gettysburg and other Civil War battle sites, where they conducted large-scale re-enactments before crowds of often distinguished spectators.

In 1931, Butler publicly recounted gossip about Benito Mussolini in which the dictator allegedly struck a child with his automobile in a hit-and-run accident. The Italian government protested, and President Hoover, who strongly disliked Butler, forced Secretary of the Navy Adams to court-martial Butler. Butler became the first general officer to be placed under arrest since the Civil War. Butler apologized (to Adams) and the court martial was cancelled with only a reprimand.

Military retirement

When Major General Wendell C. Neville died in July 1930, many expected Butler to succeed him as Commandant of the Marine Corps. Butler, however, had criticized too many things too often, and the recent death of his father, the congressman, had removed some of his protection from the hostility of his civilian superiors. Butler failed to receive the appointment, although he was then the senior major general on the active list. The position went instead to Major General Ben H. Fuller. At his own request, Butler retired from active duty on October 1, 1931.

Claims of the Business Plot

Main article: Business Plot

In 1934, Butler came forward and reported to the U.S. Congress that a group of wealthy pro-Fascist industrialists had been plotting to overthrow the government of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a military coup. Even though the congressional investigating committee corroborated most of the specifics of his testimony, no further action was taken.

Speaking and writing career

Butler took up a lucrative career on the lecture circuit. He also was part of a commission established by Oregon Governor Julius L. Meier that helped form the Oregon State Police.[2] In 1932, he ran for the U.S. Senate in the Republican primary in Pennsylvania, allied with Gifford Pinchot, but was defeated by Senator James J. Davis.

Butler was known for his outspoken lectures against war profiteering and what he viewed as nascent fascism in the United States. During the 1930s, he gave many such speeches to pacifist groups. Between 1935 and 1937, he served as a spokesman for the American League Against War and Fascism (which some considered communist-dominated).[6]

In his 1935 book, War Is a Racket, Butler presented an exposé and trenchant condemnation of the profit motive behind warfare. His views on the subject are well summarized in the following passage from a 1935 issue of "the non-Marxist, socialist" magazine, Common Sense — one of Butler's most widely quoted statements:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints.

Smedley Butler died at Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, June 21, 1940. He was buried at West Chester. His doctor had described his illness as an incurable condition of the upper gastro-intestinal tract, probably cancer.

Legacy and honours

  • Since Butler's death no man has earned more than one Medal of Honor.

You should also read "The Plot to Seize the White House" by Jules Archer. The book was originally published in 1973 and was republished in October 2006. If you don't have the funds to purchase it, try your local library.

The final line of the book:

"If we remember Major General Smedley Darlington Butler for nothing else, we owe him an eternal debt of gratitude for spurning the chance to become dictator of the United States-and for making damned sure no one else did either."

- "The Plot To Seize The White House" by Jules Archer, 1973

. . . . . .

Maj. Gen. Butler penned a small booklet in 1935 titled "War is a Racket." It's now available online:

Read it. Smedley Butler set the tone for much of what the Boston chapter of the Veterans For Peace does.

Peace Out, Brothers and Sisters!


peacemonger said...

I am a Korean war vet who served from PFC to Captain, USMC, from 1952-62.
I resigned my regular commission shortly after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. I am now a doctor, civil rights attorney, and Eastern Orthodox archbishop, devoted to advocating for peace. The development of this blog will be of considerable interest to me.

unhappycamper said...

Thank you Brother, and a belated Welcome home.

It is our intention to make this a Veterans blog. Feel free to post any articles you may have written. We want the world to hear what we have to say.