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Reply #9: Gen. Butler was a real maverick. [View All]

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Octafish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-25-09 06:14 PM
Response to Reply #4
9. Gen. Butler was a real maverick.
The guy didn't want to see the Corps "ruined."

Maverick Marine:

General Smedley D. Butler and the Contradictions of American Military History

(excerpt from chapter called "To Hell with the Admirals")

By Hans Schmidt

Denied the commandancy, Butler did not dig in for a prolonged sulk as major general manqu. In the letter in which he vowed to block Naval Academy rivals for the next fifteen years, he also alluded to a resilience that precluded anything like General Barnett's last stand as commander of the Pacific: "We must keep our faces to the Sun and out of the shadow. Keep our tails up and go on and what ever comes of this, it will be for the best in the end." Several months later he was making up his mind to retire. He met with Arthur Burks for advice, after which Burks wrote him thoughtfully summarizing the pros and cons. Burks observed that "the mental uncertainty which prompted you to ask me to that conference was totally unlike you, and came down in favor of early retirement and an offer fromJoseph Alber's lecture bureau. Smedley had said that now he would never be commandant, and that the Corps was being ruined. Burks argued that he might stay in to try and save it. But there was the prospect of "leaping" from the "top of the heap" in the marines to "a neighboring heap which may be higher, if your legs are springy enough-which they won't be at sixty four." And if Smedley were to succeed his father in Congress, he would "be back in the driver~s seat," with no military regulations to hamper him.'8

With what he thought was almost half his life ahead of him, Butler decided to retire. The decision preceded the Mussolini incident. Being beaten at the top rung of command politics did not, however, mean he would go out quietly. Now definitely an outsider in Corps and navy politics, he continued in command at Quantico and resumed his extracurricular public speeches. Recent developments freed him from careerist constraints and from any need to defer meticulously to superiors. Despite not going out of his way to foment trouble, this fragile situation soon broke down, and he again ran afoul of brittle and maladroit chiefs in the Hoover administration.

In a speech on "how to prevent war" delivered to the Philadelphia Contemporary Club in January 1931, Butler related an anecdote about Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini while making the point that "mad-dog nations" could not be trusted to honor disarmament agreements. Butler recounted a story told him by an unnamed friend who had been taken by Mussolini for a high-speed automobile ride through the Italian countryside, in the course of which the dictator ran down a child and did not bother even to slow down: "My friend screamed as the child's body was crushed under the wheels of the machine. Mussolini put a hand on my friend's knee. 'It was only one life,' he told my friend. 'What is one life in the affairs of a State.'" '~

The Italian government protested, Rome newspapers denounced the speech as "insolent and ridiculous," and Mussolini issued a categorical denial: "I have never taken an American on a motor-car trip around Italy, neither have I run over a child, man or woman." Secretary of State Stimson issued a formal apology to Mussolini for "discourteous and unwarranted utterances by a commissioned officer of this government on active duty." Smedley was placed under arrest and ordered court-martialed by President Hoover. 20

The New York Times, in its lead story, characterized this as surprisingly severe and as yet another instance of the State Department dominating the navy. It was the first time a general officer in the U.S. services had been court-martialed since Major General Fitz John Porter was cashiered for disobedience of orders following a Union Army battle loss in 1862. More recently there had been the famous 1925 prosecution of Colonel Billy Mitchell, and the upcoming Butler trial promised similar fireworks. A cabinet officer warned Hoover that he could "see no profit in putting the Admirals up against a dashing Marine with a unique flair for publicity." And in a bizarre non sequitur, the Navy Department released a brochure, "The United States Navy in Peace Time," which included the commendation:

"Probably no finer example of successful arbitration by American officers has been demonstrated in recent years than the peacemaking achievements that crowned General Butler's efforts in China in 1927 and 1928." 21


The man who wrote "War Is a Racket" was a peace maker. A man of Integrity. A true Hero.
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