General Smedley Darlington Butler

Smedley Darlington Butler (1881–1940), nicknamed “The Fighting Quaker” and “Old Gimlet Eye,” was a Major General in the US Marine Corps and was the most decorated Marine in US history. Butler was awarded the Medal of Honor twice during his career, one of only 19 people to be awarded the medal twice. 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, communists, pacifists and church groups in the 1930s. Butler was known for his outspoken lectures against war profiteering and what he viewed as fascism in America. General 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. Even though the congressional investigating committee corroborated most of the specifics of his testimony, no further action was taken. Documentation was found in the National Archives (2003) by John Buchanan, that the conspirators were DuPont, Remmington, & Prescott Bush.

Between 1935 and 1937, he served as a spokesman for the American League Against War and Fascism. In his 1935 book, War Is a Racket, Butler presented condemnation of the profit motive behind warfare. His views on the subject are well summarized in the following passage from a 1935 issue of Common Sense :

“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.”

General Butler played an important role during the Bonus Army veteran protests. He was on the side of the veterans, and MacArthur and Eisenhower were on the side of Congress who refused to pay, and violently attacked the Bonus Army camps. It is amazing that few people ever mention that part of their distinguished portfolios.

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.

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2 Responses to “General Smedley Darlington Butler”

  1. Thanks for highlighting Beneral Butler. I look forward to findhing his book if in print.

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