United States Marine Corps, General, World War I war hero, twice the winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, racketeer for capitalism, patriot.
In 1933, Roosevelt's polio became so severe that he had to leave the day-to-day running of the country to someone else. He added a new member to his cabinet - Secretary of General Affairs - to do this. At least, this is what the American people were told.

What had happened behind the scenes was that Butler had told Roosevelt that either he could withdraw from office voluntarily or be forced out by 500,000 veterans from the American Legion there to "protect Roosevelt from plotters". Roosevelt gave in.

One of Butler's advisors, Gerald MacGuire from the Connecticut American Legion had this to say:

We need a fascist government in this country… to save the nation from the communists who want to tear it down and wreck all that we have built in America. The only men who have the patriotism to do it are the soldiers, and Smedley Butler is the ideal leader. He could organize a million men overnight...

You know the American people will swallow that. We have got the newspapers. We will start a campaign that the President's health is failing. Everyone can tell that by looking at him.

The new Secretary of General Affairs began to take direction from various famous Wall Street investors. The gold standard that Roosevelt had abandoned was reinstated. Roosevelt continued to be active, but only as a figurehead - making appearances to shake hands and kiss babies. America was well on its way to joining the fascist dictatorships around the world.
"What?!" you say, "America never became a fascist dictatorship!!"

You're right. Smedley Butler had more integrity than the plotters of the coup gave him credit for. Instead of making the ultimatum to Roosevelt, he went public and revealed details of the coup to the McCormack-Dickstein Committee.

The plot unraveled. However, the final report of the committee covered up the incident. Names of plotters who were powerful businessmen were deleted. The media did not report it because the plotters included executives from Du Pont (John J. Raskob), Goodyear (Grayson Murphy), J.P. Morgan (John Davis), and a former governor (Al Smith). Butler had his own friends in the press and in Congress, but not enough. He was ridiculed by Time magazine. The New York Times reported it as a minor story.

Butler gave this speech in 1933:

War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses... the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

...I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

...Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

Butler is without a doubt one of the most impressive figures in American history.

Butler received his commission at the age of 16. How many people do you know who could have commanded a platoon of Marines two years before they could buy cigarettes?

At the age of 18 Butler was awarded a Brevet promotion to Captain for actions in Tientsin, China during the Boxer Rebellion. The Brevet promotion (and the Brevet Medal created in 1921 and given to the medal's recipients retroactively) was at that time the highest honor a Commissioned officer could receive (Officers were not eligible to be awarded the Medal of Honor). Later, in San Tan Pating, China Butler was shot in the chest, piercing Central America on the large Eagle, Globe, and Anchor tattoo that covered his torso.

As a Major, Butler was awarded the Medal of Honor (now authorized for Officers) during the occupation of Veracruz, Mexico in 1914. He attempted to return the medal, protesting that he did not deserve it, but the medal was returned to him with orders stating that he would not only keep it, but also wear it.

First Medal of Honor Citation:

"For distinguished conduct in battle, engagement of Vera Cruz, April 22, 1914. Maj. Butler was eminent and conspicuous in command of his battalion. He exhibited courage and skill in leading his men through the action of the 22d and in the final occupation of the city".

In 1915 Butler led an assault on a rebel stronghold in Cuba resulting in 200 rebels killed, no prisoners taken, 2 teeth lost (the result of a Marine being struck in the face with a rock). Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, awarded Butler his second Medal of Honor for the action.

Second Medal of Honor Citation:

"As Commanding Officer of detachments from the 5th, 13th, 23d Companies and the marine and sailor detachment from the U.S.S. Connecticut, Maj. Butler led the attack on Fort Riviere, Haiti, November 17, 1915. Following a concentrated drive, several different detachments of marines gradually closed in on the old French bastion fort in an effort to cut off all avenues of retreat for the Caco bandits. Reaching the fort on the southern side where there was a small opening in the wall, Maj. Butler gave the signal to attack and marines from the 15th Company poured through the breach, engaged the Cacos in hand-to-hand combat, took the bastion and crushed the Caco resistance. Throughout this perilous action, Maj. Butler was conspicuous for his bravery and forceful leadership".

Regardless of his personal views, Butler always served with honor. As detailed in seeya's excellent post Butler went on to become very outspoken about a number of issues, but after the dues he paid he could have choked babies for a living and still been remembered as one of the greatest fighting men of all time.

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