Smedley D Butler, part 2
Smedley was born on the 30th of July, 1881, in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and if you've been a listener of this podcast for a while you know that there was an episode for Smedley already. This was episode 133 and I strongly encourage you to go back and give that one a listen (EPISODE 133). I don't want to rehash too much of his history in this episode since I already covered his early life, second Medal of Honor actions, and his later life in that episode.
This part of Smedley's story picks up in 1914 when he was living in Panama with his family. He was ordered to report as the Marine officer of a battleship squadron to monitor a revolutionary movement off the coast of Mexico. He didn't feel he was needed for this mission and had intended on requesting orders home since he did not like leaving his family and home. This didn't happened and Smedley and Lieutenant Frank J Fletcher set off on what was a spy mission to develop a plan for an invasion. He was posing as a railroad official named Mr Johnson and he, along with the chief railroad inspector, went through Puebla saying they were looking for a lost railroad employee. There was no such employee but this time was used to find locations of weapons in use by the Mexican Army and to determine their readiness.
All the information Smedley had gathered for this invasion would end up being scrapped with the invasion when a small American Naval landing party that had gone into Tampico for fuel had been detained by authorities. This became known as the Tampico Affair and the detained Naval party was released shortly after being detained. The detainment was purely out of each side not understanding the others' language during the fuel transaction but the Mexican President refused to apologize and allow the US flag to be raised in order to provide a 21 gun salute. President Wilson sent down additional troops and gave orders to Marines and sailors to intercept an arms shipment in Veracruz. This broke out into several days of street fighting within Veracruz and it was Smedley's actions that would earn him the Medal of Honor. The citation reads:
For distinguished conduct in battle, engagement of Vera Cruz, 22 April 1914. Major 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.
Smedley's force had gone door-to-door and rooted out the resistance, which led to an occupation of the city of Veracruz. Of the 5,800 troops that secured the city, 17 had been reported dead and 63 wounded. Nine Medals of Honor were presented to Marines and 46 were presented to the Navy, which had somewhat diminished the value of the Medal. Smedley had later tried to give it back and had said that he did nothing to deserve it but was given orders to keep it and wear it. The following year he would earn it a second time in Haiti, making him one of only two people to have received the Medal of Honor twice and have a third award be received as something lesser. Smedley had two Medals of Honor and a Marine Corps Brevet Medal (since officers weren't eligible for the Medal of Honor at the time) and Dan Daly also received the Medal of Honor twice and had his third recommendation was downgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross.
Let's now fast forward to November of 1934, after Smedley had retired and had run for a senate seat. He spoke to a special committee of the House of Representatives about a political conspiracy by business leaders to overthrow President Roosevelt. This became known as the Business Plot and that he had been told that the group of businessmen were supposedly backed by a large private army with the intention of establishing a fascist dictatorship. Smedley learned of this because he was asked to lead this coup and all parties that were alleged to be involved called it a joke and a fantasy to his story. Since no attempts were ever made, the accusations could not actually be confirmed. The New York Times called it a gigantic hoax. After a two month investigation, the final report from the special committee revealed that some of Smedley's statements were confirmed as being true.
Smedley wrote short book in 1935 called, War is a Racket. It started out as a speech that he had given during a nationwide tour in the early 1930s and since it was so well received, it was written into a longer version and published as a 51 page book. This book showed how wars were the most profitable scheme and gave examples from mostly World War 1, as well as three ways to disrupt the racket. Today, it is available pretty much everywhere on the internet.
Smedley Darlington Butler died on the 21st of June, 1940, at the age of 58 years old and is buried in the Oaklands Cemetery in West Chester, Pennsylvania; Section B, Lot 1.