A few years ago I read "War is a Racket" by Smedley Butler. He was a leader in my Grandfather Holte's and Great Grandfather Carpenter's generation, A Marine General, and a great human being. I remember people from his generation, they were patriotic, no nonsense, and many of them were extremely honest. Of course there are always the aristocrats, but the tradition of the USA military derives from Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, more the legends about him than entirely the reality and our own militia tradition.
For most career military, military service was about serving the country. Of course for aristocrats serving the country was also about seeking honor and glory, often in service to a future business and politics career, but for many of our people service came first and personal profit a distant second. Smedley Butler was of that sort. As were both my Grandfathers. My Grandfather Holte served in WWI and my other Grandfather died in a plane crash in 1938, the same year that Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific. They didn't serve in the military to get rich, to get famous, or to steal from others. They did it to serve the country. My Grandfather told me that he joined the Army because his Uncles and cousins, who had served in the Army in the Spanish American War convinced him that it was the right thing to do. But as a Flag Officer Smedley Butler and others learned that not everyone connected with the USA military felt that way.
The Example of Cincinnatus
George Washington and many of the people who fought our rebellion against the East India Company, the Crown and Parliament tyranny saw themselves in the model of Cincinnatus. The ancienthistory.about.com describes the story of Cincinnatus as so:
"Cincinnatus was plowing his field, when he learned he had been appointed dictator. The Romans had appointed Cincinnatus dictator for 6 months so he could defend the Romans against the neighboring Aequi, who had surrounded the Roman army and the consul Minucius, in the Alban Hills. Cincinnatus rose to the occasion, defeated the Aequi, made them pass under the yoke to show their subjugation, gave up the title of dictator 16 days after it had been granted, and promptly returned to his farm." [ancienthistory.about.com]
Smedley Butler as a Modern Cincinnatus
Smedley Butler didn't serve as briefly as Cincinnatus did, but his attitude was influenced by the Cincinnatus myth.
The Military History Page describes how he got into the military:
"Smedley Butler was born in West Chester, PA on July 30, 1881, to Thomas and Maud Butler. Raised in the area, Butler initially attended West Chester Friends Graded High School before moving on to the prestigious Haverford School. While enrolled at Haverford, Butler's father was elected to the US House of Representatives. Serving in Washington for thirty-one years, Thomas Butler would later provide political cover for his son's military career. A gifted athlete and a good student,... " [Smedley Butler Bio]
His father's power as a US Legislator meant that he could avoid service easily but instead:
..."the younger Butler elected to leave Haverford in mid-1898 to take part in the Spanish-American War"....and "Butler was able to obtain a direct commission as a second lieutenant in the US Marine Corps" ... and "took part in operations around Guantánamo Bay, Cuba." [Military History Bio]
Butler then left the service in February 1899 but reenlisted in April. He served in the Philippine American war which took place when the USA decided to make the Philippines a colony rather than honoring promises to free them from colonial rule. There he led troops:
"against the Insurrecto-held town of Noveleta in October, he succeeded in driving off the enemy and securing the area. In the wake of this action, Butler was tattooed with a large "Eagle, Globe, and Anchor" which covered his entire chest. Befriending Major Littleton Waller, Butler was selected to join him as part of a Marine company on Guam." [Military History Bio]
Next Butler took part in putting down the Boxer Rebellion in 1900:
"En route, Waller's force was detoured to China to aid in putting down the Boxer Rebellion. Butler took part in the Battle of Tientsin on July 13, 1900. In the fighting, he was hit in the leg while trying to rescue another officer. Despite his wound, Butler assisted the officer to the hospital. For his performance at Tientsin, Butler received a brevet promotion to captain. Returning to action, he was grazed in the chest during fighting near San Tan Pating." [Military History Bio]
Banana Republic Wars
Butler returned to the USA in 1901 and eventually in 1903 was stationed in Puerto Rico where:
"while stationed in Puerto Rico, he was ordered to aid in protecting American interests during a revolt in Honduras." [Military History Bio]
He served a number of assignments, married, was sent back into the Philippines, temporarily leaving the military in 1908 he left the military briefly, apparently suffering Post Traumatic Stress. But by 1909 he was back in uniform and given command of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment:
"on the Isthmus of Panama in 1909." ... "until being ordered to Nicaragua in August 1912. Commanding a battalion, he took part in the bombardment, assault, and capture of Coyotepe in October." [Military History Bio]
Mexican Intervention during World War I
While World War I was breaking out in Europe. Mexico had it's own issues, as a nasty and violent revolution occurred in the country, largely due to previous European invasions of the French and resulting bad Government and corruption:
"In January 1914, Butler was directed to join Rear Admiral Frank Fletcher off the coast of Mexico to monitor military activities during the Mexican Revolution. In March, Butler, posing as a railroad executive, landed in Mexico and scouted the interior."...."As the situation continued to worsen, American forces landed at Veracruz on April 21. Leading the Marine contingent, Butler directed their operations through two days of fighting before the city was secured. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor." [Military History Bio]
In 1915 the United States was invading Haiti to intervene in an internal revolution:
"The following year , Butler led a force from USS Connecticut ashore on Haiti after a revolution threw the country into chaos. Winning several engagements with the Haitian rebels, Butler won a second Medal of Honor for his capture of Fort Rivière. In doing so, he became one of only two Marines to win the medal twice, the other being Dan Daly." [Military History Bio]
World War I and Military Politics
It was in regards to World War I that Smedley Butler started to run into political enemies. "some of his key superiors deemed him "unreliable" despite his stellar record." Even so "On July 1, 1918, Butler received a promotion to colonel and command of the 13th Marine Regiment in France. In France he never saw combat, but he did train his Units, improve camp conditions, and when he returned to the United States in peacetime he developed a reputation for being a transformational leader. It is he who turned Quantico from a temporary camp to a permanent base between 1919 and 1924. He then took a hiatus from the military to clean up the Philadelphia Police Force and enforce Prohibition. [Military History Bio]
Politics and Retirement
In 1925 he rejoined the Marines. There he served in China again from 1927 to 1929 where he mainly found himself working with Chinese Warlords successfully. In 1929 he returned to Quantico. In 1930 he was passed over for Commandant of the Marine Corps because of comments on Benito Mussolini. For this portion of his bio I have to quote a blog because ALL the websites I looked at glossed over what happened as if it detracted from his character. Moreover each version of the story I read put the date of the incident different. One account says he did it while still in China and it was why he returned to Quantico in 1929, that one claims it was the excuse for passing him over for the job of Commandant of the Marines in 1930. But this article puts the date of the incident in 1931 and actually gives details.
Butler was already getting outspoken about the behavior of our Military Machine when he decided to retire. That probably dates back to before he was sent to France in World War I. So when he criticized Mussolini publicly doesn't really matter so much. But what he said was typical Butlerian honesty:
“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.'” [http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/53/butler02-by_schmidt.html]
Whether the story was true or false, doesn't matter. In retrospect it probably was true. But this was 1930 and the Right Wing in the United States, and not just the Italian Community, were in love with Mussolini. Moreover, he'd caused an "international incident". It is as if a US General publicly criticized the Saudis for Planning, Funding and Arming the Hijackers who delivered those Airplanes to the Twin Towers. Imagine such a thing. Not too many Generals like that around anymore.
“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.” [butler02-by_schmidt.html]
So Butler retired in 1931, and avoided court martial, and became a gadfly to the Republicans and to war-mongers there-after. The article notes there is a "rest of the story:
"Years later Vanderbilt substantially confirmed Smedley's version in Farewell to F~/I/I Avenue (1935) and Man of the World: My Lfe on Five Continents (1959). In the latter he related a four-day boisterous rip with Mussolini through northern Italy: "A small child standing on the right tried to beat the Fiat across the road. The car shuddered, and I felt the car wheels go up, then come down. I turned quickly to look. I can still see the little crumpled-up body lying in the road. Then I felt a hand on my right knee and I heard a voice saying, 'Never look back, Mr. Vanderbilt, never look back in life." In effect, Butler's version was essentially correct, although based upon a somewhat shifty source. All this, however, was irrelevant to the court-martial, which focused on Smedley's deportment as an officer and gentleman, not on Mussolini's driving habits." [butler02-by_schmidt.html]
Smedley Butler turns on his masters
So Smedley Butler, the teetotalling, brave, strait arrow was court martialled by the military. Think that is exceptional? Think again. They didn't dare court martial him, but he "retired." And became a thorn in Herbert Hoover and the USA Right Wings side for the rest of his life. In a speech on August 21, 1931 to the American Legion, recounting the aforementioned history he said:
"I spent 33 years...being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism...." [http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/02/27/95580/-The-Real-Plot-to-Overthrow-FDR-s-America]
"I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1916. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City [Bank] boys to collect revenue in. I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street...." [http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/02/27/95580/-The-Real-Plot-to-Overthrow-FDR-s-America]
"In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested....I had...a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotions....I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate a racket in three cities. The Marines operated on three continents..." [Daily Kos Article]
In 1932, shortly after he retired:
"Retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, one of the most popular military figures of the time, visited their camp to back the effort and encourage them. On July 28, U.S. Attorney General William D. Mitchell ordered the veterans removed from all government property. Washington police met with resistance, shots were fired and two veterans were wounded and later died. Veterans were also shot dead at other locations during the demonstration. President Herbert Hoover then ordered the army to clear the veterans' campsite. Army Chief of Staff General Douglas MacArthur commanded the infantry and cavalry supported by six tanks. The Bonus Army marchers with their wives and children were driven out, and their shelters and belongings burned." [Bonus Army: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonus_Army]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in November 1932 and took office the following spring in March 1933. And Smedley Butler's life was about to go into the Twilight Zone again.
You would think that the Wealthy people who ran our big businesses and who loved Hoover would have had more sense than to pick Smedley Butler for their champion. But the rich soon came to absolutely abhor Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In his first 100 Days FDR used his new majority to pass a bevvy of new laws. Some of these policies even benefited the rich. But many did not. And many of the rich new that their swindles during the previous 10 years had played a role in bringing down the economy in the first place and feared that they'd go down with it. But worst of all, Roosevelt took the country off the Gold Standard, which threatened their ability to hoard and store wealth. MacArthur was put in charge of the Civilian Conservation Corps to get him out of the way and had angered potential enlisted veterans the previous years. There might have been someone else, but for some inexplicable reason In 1933 they picked on the wrong "fearless leader." NPR reports
"The conspirators had several million dollars, a stockpile of weapons and had even reached out to a retired Marine general, Smedley Darlington Butler, to lead their forces." [http://www.npr.org/2012/02/12/145472726/when-the-bankers-plotted-to-overthrow-fdr]
The Daily Kos reports that the plot consisted of:
- * Irenee Du Pont - Right-wing chemical industrialist and founder of the American Liberty League, the organization assigned to execute the plot.
- * Grayson Murphy - Director of Goodyear, Bethlehem Steel and a group of J.P. Morgan banks.
- * William Doyle - Former state commander of the American Legion and a central plotter of the coup.
- * John Davis - Former Democratic presidential candidate and a senior attorney for J.P. Morgan.
- * Al Smith - Roosevelt's bitter political foe from New York. Smith was a former governor of New York and a co-director of the American Liberty League.
- * John J. Raskob - A high-ranking Du Pont officer and a former chairman of the Democratic Party. In later decades, Raskob would become a "Knight of Malta," a Roman Catholic Religious Order with a high percentage of CIA spies, including CIA Directors William Casey, William Colby and John McCone.
- * Robert Clark - One of Wall Street's richest bankers and stockbrokers.
- * Gerald MacGuire - Bond salesman for Clark, and a former commander of the Connecticut American Legion. MacGuire was the key recruiter to General Butler. [Daily Kos Article]
"They chose MacGuire as the point man to approach Butler with their proposal. The plot would be funded by Dupont and Morgan money funneled through an organization they had recently created to oppose Roosevelt, the American Liberty League. The League was funded by donations from US Steel, General Motors, Chase Manhattan Bank, Standard Oil, Goodyear and the Dupont family, among others." [Daily Kos Article]
The American Liberty League as usual with Right Wing organizations was ostensibly founded to protect the liberty of the people, but was actually a front organization for the richest and most ambitious people in the Country. Like the Tea Party it's stated missions and claims were at odds to it's real purpose -- which was to get rid of the New Deal. So, not surprisingly, after the failure to organize a coup the League would later actively oppose almost every major piece of New Deal legislation, including, but not limited to Social Security.
The American Legion was one of two rival Veterans Organizations but already had a reputation as a champion of Fascism and an instrument of the powerful corporations. Among their earliest actions had been an attack on the "Wobblies" in Centralia Washington. But "In 1923, American Legion Commander Alvin Owsley cited Italian Fascism as a model for defending the nation against the forces of the left." Owsley said:
"If ever needed, the American Legion stands ready to protect our country's institutions and ideals as the Fascisti dealt with the destructionists who menaced Italy!... The American Legion is fighting every element that threatens our democratic government — Soviets, anarchists, IWW, revolutionary socialists and every other red.... Do not forget that the Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the United States." [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Legion]
Mussolini was admired by many veterans, officers, Industrialists and Wealthy people (as well as Italians of course). And the American Legion had a hook for trying to recruit Smedley Butler:
"In the spring of 1933, at the very beginning of his presidency, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought to balance the federal budget by sharp reductions in veterans benefits, which constituted one quarter of the federal budget. The Economy Act of 1933 cut disability pensions and established strict new guidelines for proving disabilities." [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Legion]
The Hook that the leaders used was that Butler would be seeking to get Veterans their Bonuses and restore their veterans benefits. In the first meeting Two men, MacGuire and Bill Doyle approached G. Butler on the 1st of July on 1933 and pitched him to attend their next American Legion Convention using that hook:
"they were absolute strangers. The substance of the conversation, which lasted about 2 hours, was this: That they were very desirous of unseating the royal family in control of the American Legion, at the convention to be held in Chicago, and very anxious to have me take part in it. They said that they were not in sympathy with the then administration—that is, the present administration's treatment of the soldiers." [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/McCormack-Dickstein_Committee]
Smedley's testimony continues:
"Then MacGuire said that he was the chairman of the distinguished-guest committee of the American Legion, on Louis Johnson's staff; that Louis Johnson had, at MacGuire's suggestion, put my name down to be invited as a distinguished guest of the Chicago convention. that Johnson had then taken this list, presented by MacGuire, of distinguished guests, to the White House for approval; that Louis Howe, one of the secretaries to the President, had crossed my name off and said that I was not to be invited—that the President would not have it.I thought I smelled a rat, right away—that they were trying to get me mad—to get my goat. I said nothing." [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/McCormack-Dickstein_Committee]
They thought that by telling Butler that Roosevelt didn't want him at the American Legion Convention they could recruit him. But Butler wasn't hooked.
"They said, "We represent the plain soldiers, and we want you to come to this convention." They said, "We want you to come there and stampede the convention in a speech and help us in our fight to dislodge the royal family."
At this point Butler saw that the "royal family" they were talking about was FDR. The Committee Chairman asked:
"When you say you smelled a rat, you mean you had an idea that they were not telling the truth?" [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/McCormack-Dickstein_Committee]
And Butler Responded:
General BUTLER. "I could not reconcile and from the very beginning I was never able to reconcile their desire to serve the ordinary man in the ranks, with their other aims. They did not seem to be the same. It looked to me us if they were trying to embarrass the administration in some way. They had not gone far enough yet but I could not reconcile the two objectives; they seemed to be diametrically opposed. One was to embarrass the administration of the American Legion, when I did not want to go anyhow, and the other object will appear here in a little while. I do not know that at that moment I had formed any particular opinion. I was just fishing to see what they had in mind. So many queer people come to my house all the time and I like to feel them all out." http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/McCormack-Dickstein_Committee
So they wanted him to pose as a delegate from Hawaii.
"Yes; because they have been selling out the common soldier in this Legion for years. These fellows have been getting political plums and jobs and cheating the enlisted man in the Army, and I am for putting them out. But I cannot do it by going in through the back door."
So He agreed with the goal of "unhorsing the royal family" but not by entering the back door. And he had them hooked enough so they came back 3 days later. Butler says:
"The substance of the second talk was this, that they had given up this delegate idea, and I was to get two or three hundred legionnaires from around that part of the country and bring them on a special train to Chicago with me; that they would sit around in the audience, be planted here and there, and I was to be nothing but an ordinary legionnaire, going to my own convention as an onlooker; not as a participant at all. I was to appear in the gallery. These planted fellows were to begin to cheer and start a stampede and yell for a speech. Then I was to go to the platform and make a speech."
Then he asked them:
"Make a speech about what?" 
They had a prepared speech they wanted him to give.
"Oh," they said, “we have one here."
And after a couple of hours of talking they pulled out a speech and said:
"We will leave it here with you to read over, and you see if you can get these follows to come."
And Butler said:
"Listen. These friends of mine that I know around here, even if they wanted to go, could not afford to go. It would cost them a hundred to a hundred and fifty dollars to go out there and stay for 5 days and come back."
"Well, we will pay that."
"How can you pay it? You are disabled soldiers. How do you get the money to do that?”
And they answered:
"Oh, we have friends. We will get the money."
Butler says during his testimony:
"Then I began to smell a rat for fair. I said, "I do not believe you have got this money."
He follows up by noting that "either then or the next time, or one of the times, they hauled out a bank-deposit book and showed me, I think it was $42,000 in deposits on that occasion, and on another occasion it was $64,000." He couldn't say which bank it was drawn off of. But he then told them:
"Now, I have had some experience as a policeman in Philadelphia. I wanted to get to the bottom of this thing and not scare them off, because I felt then that they had something real. They had so much money and a limousine. Wounded soldiers do not have limousines or that kind of money. They said, "We will pay the bill. Look around and see if you cannot get two or three hundred men and we we’ll bring them out there and we will have accommodations for them."
The Daily Kos article notes that "Butler was supposed to be the "famous name" who would recruit an army of out of work war veterans to march on Washington. It was thought that his popularity with the troops would make it easy for him to rally them to the cause of supplanting Roosevelt as the effective head of government." [Daily Kos Article]
"They wanted General Butler to deliver an ultimatum to Roosevelt. Roosevelt would pretend to become sick and incapacitated from his polio, and allow a newly created cabinet officer, a "Secretary of General Affairs," to run things in his stead. The secretary, of course, would be carrying out the orders of Wall Street. If Roosevelt refused, then General Butler would force him out with an army of 500,000 war veterans from the American Legion." [Daily Kos Article]
But Butler Wasn't biting. He made no efforts to recruit 300 men and when MacQuire showed up in August he says that this time MacGuire came with a backstory about funding. When Challenged he eventually admitted:
"He gave me the names of two men; Colonel Murphy, Grayson M.-P. Murphy, for whom he worked, was one. He said, "I work for him. I am in his office."
"How did you happen to be associated with that kind of people if you are for the ordinary soldier and his bonus and his proper care? You know damn well that these bankers are not going to swallow that. There is something in this, Jerry MacGuire, besides what you have told me. I can see that."
At this point MacGuire admitted his real source of funding:
He said, "Well, I am a business man. I have got a wife and family to keep, and they took good care of them, and if you would take my advice, you would be a business man, too." I said, "What has Murphy got to do with this?"
Now Grayson Murphy wasn't just a Colonel but rather the Director of Goodyear, Bethlehem Steel and a group of J.P. Morgan banks. And he appears to have been a leader in the Business Plot.
"Well," he said " he is the man who underwrote the formation of the American Legion for $125,000. He underwrote it, paid for the field work of organizing it, and had not gotten all of it back yet."
Smedley challenged him:
"That is the reason he makes the kings, is it? He has still got a club over their heads."
And like all plots he claimed that the funds were for the good:
"He is on our side, though. He wants to see the soldiers cared for."
But Smedley was having none of it:
"Is he responsible, too, for making the Legion a strike breaking outfit?"
MacGuire Denied direct control:
"No, no. He does not control anything in the Legion now."
Smedley didn't despite the American Legion for nothing:
"You know very well that it is nothing but a strike breaking outfit used by capital for that purpose and that is, the reason they have all those big club-houses and that is the reasons I pulled out from it. They have been using these dumb soldiers-to break strikes."
"Murphy hasn't anything to do with that. He is a 'very fine fellow."
And Smedley nest said:
"I do not doubt that, but there is some reason for him putting $125,000 into this"
The next meeting was on the first of September 1933. At that meeting MacGuire tried to give Smedley 18,000$. After that they sent a fellow named R. S. Clark. who was a banker but had been in the Army during the Boxer Rebellion. Smedley says about him that he was
"known as the "millionaire lieutenant" and was sort of batty, sort of queer, did all sorts of extravagant things. He used to go exploring around China and wrote a book on it, on explorations. He was never taken seriously by anybody. But he had a lot of money. An aunt and an uncle died and left him $10,000,000."
A Week later Clark calls him up "and asked if he might spend Sunday with me. I said, “Yes", and he said, “I will take the 9 o'clock train from New York." I said, "All right; I will meet you at the station." In their meeting Clark asked him about the speech. And Butler reiterated the reason he was willing to give it:
"The speech has nothing to do with what I am going to Chicago for. The speech urges the convention to adopt the resolution that the United States shall return to the gold standard." MacGuire had said, "We want to see the soldiers' bonus paid in gold. We do not want the soldier to have rubber money or paper money. We want the gold. That is the reason for this speech."
Clark wanted him to:
"Well, you are to sit next to each other [Al Smith] at dinner and you are both going to make speeches. You will speak for, the soldiers without assaulting the' Administration, because this Administration has cut their throats. Al Smith will make a speech, and they will both be very much alike" [Redacted from original testimony]
He and Clark argued about the reasons for this speech. He told Clark he wasn't enthusiastic about going to Chicago and why:
"I do not want to be mixed up in this thing at all. I tell you very frankly, Mr. Clark, I have got one interest and that is the maintenance of a democracy. That is the only thing. I took an oath to sustain the democracy, and that is what I am going to do and nothing else. I am not going to get these soldiers marching around and stirred up over the gold standard. What the hell does a soldier know about the gold standard? You are just working them, using them, just as they have been used right along, and I am going to be one of those to see that they do not use them any more except to maintain a democracy. And then I will go out with them any time to do that."
But MacGuire wouldn't give up. In November 1933 he went to Europe and when he came back, that is when he pitched his plan to deposte the President. Meanwhile:
"In December 1933, retired General Smedley Butler, a popular and colorful speaker, toured the country on behalf of the VFW, calling on veterans to organize politically to win their benefits. Butler believed the American Legion was controlled by banking interests. On December 8, 1933, explaining why he believed veterans' interests were better served by the VFW than the American Legion, he said: "I said I have never known one leader of the American Legion who had never sold them out–and I mean it." [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Legion]
In August of 1934 MacGuire finally pitched his plan. He claimed:
"I went abroad to study the part that the veteran plays in the various set-ups of the governments that they have abroad. I went to Italy for 2 or 3 months and studied the position that the veterans of Italy occupy in the Fascist set-up of government, and I discovered that they are the background of Mussolini. They keep them on the pay rolls in various ways and keep them contented and happy; and they are his real backbone, the force on which he may depend, in case of trouble, to sustain him. But that set-up would not suit us at all. The soldiers of America would not like that. I then went to Germany to see what Hitler was doing, and his whole strength lies in organizations of soldiers, too. But that would not do. I looked into the Russian business. I found that the use of the Soldiers over there would never appeal to our men. Then I went to France, and I found just exactly the organization we are going to have. It is an organization of supersoldiers." [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/McCormack-Dickstein_Committee]
Then he pitched his plans for a private Army of 500,000 men. Now we don't get the information from MacGuire. MacGuire denied almost everything. Though had to backtrack when shown bank receipts that showed his denials were false. We get our information from interviews MacGuire had with Paul Comley French, most of whose testimony was redacted from the public record but still available in documents provided years later. French's redacted Testimony goes:
"During my conversation with him I did not of course, commit the General to any-thing, I was just feeling him along, letter we discussed the question of arms and equipment, and he suggested that they could be obtained from the Remington Arms Co., on credit through the duPonts, I do not think at that time he mentioned the connections of duPont with the American Liberty League, but he skirted all around it. That is, I do not think he mentioned the Liberty League, but he skirted all around the idea that that was the back door, and that this 'was the front door; one of the duPonts is on the board of directors of the American Liberty League and they own a controlling interest in the Remington Arms Co. In other words he suggested that Roosevelt would be in sympathy with us and proposed the idea that Butler would be named as the head of the C.C.C. camps by the President as a means of building up this organization. He would then have 300,000 men. Then he said that if that did not work the General would not have any trouble enlisting 500,000 men."
So MacGuires dreams hinged on Roosevelt appointing Butler to head the C.C.C. instead of MacArthur. But as already noted Congress refused to give military training to the C.C.C. So his dreams were pie. The Daily Kos article has MacGuire saying:
"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, and the dumb American people will fall for it in a second..." [http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/02/27/95580/-The-Real-Plot-to-Overthrow-FDR-s-America]
But that must be paraphrase because what Butler testified he actually said wasn't much better:
"You know, the President is weak. He will come right along with us. He was born in this class. He was raised in this class, and he will come back. He will run true to form. In the end he will come around. But we have got to be prepared to sustain him when he does."
But we know that FDR would never have agreed to such a plan. Had the Business Plot leaders chosen someone more ambitious and with a more aristocratic disposition they might have succeeded. They would have had to kill FDR however. And choosing Smedley Butler was choosing the wrong person. He'd already stated publicly he wanted no part of a Fascist dictatorship. He ratted them out. And they knew that Butler was their only hope, because the General Rank and File hated MacArthur for attacking the Bonus Marchers. Another section of the redacted testimony goes as follows:
"I said, "I do not think that you will get the soldiers to follow him, Jerry. He is in bad odor, because he put on a uniform with medals to march down the street in Washington. I know the soldiers."
They pitched Butler because they had no other choice in the matter.
"Well, then, we will get Hanford MacNider. They want either MacArthur or MacNider. They do not want you. But our group tells them that you are the only fellow in America who can get the soldiers together. "
Hanford MacNider was kind of the Eisenhower of the Pre-World War II period. He too had fought with distinction, and the Republicans had tried to make him the candidate for Vice President in the 1932 election. But he too had opposed the Bonus Marchers. [http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/53/macnider.html]
Lesson learned, if you are going to plot a coup, don't attack your potential recruits.
War Is a Racket
Smedley Butler wrote "War is a Racket" about what he'd learned about the Sordid underbelly of European-American Expeditionary Imperial Power. He died in 1940 and so never saw the war actually start. His book is in plain English, still worth reading and has numerous lessons worth paying attention to. His predictions on Mussolini and Hitler came true. They weren't to be trusted. His book is available on several websites and in PDF.
- War is A Racket Reading sources:
- The PDF Can be gotten here: [http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.pdf]
- An Online version is here: [https://archive.org/details/WarIsARacket]
I've got several copies and I recommend folks read it at every opportunity. He says his case a lot better than I can. He was a genuine hero in the mold of Cincinnatus, but at the same time he did battle with the dark uses that the myths of Patriotism, honor, courage and self sacrifice were put to by war-mongers, war-profiteers, and yes, bankers. Whether or not the Business Plot was serious or not, it is thanks to him that it fell apart. And his compassion for his fellow soldiers endears him to them to this day.
I have my own reasons for not liking MacNider. He was part of the Anti-Semitic Cabal that prevented immigration of Jews from Europe:
"Between 1930 and 1932, MacNider was President Herbert Hoover’s envoy to Canada. He presented himself for duty in full-dress Army uniform. While here, he set the groundwork for the St. Lawrence Seaway Treaty. In the process, he became a close confidant of MacKenzie King, Canada’s anti-Semitic, Liberal Prime Minister. King, who confided in his diary that “We must seek to keep this part of the continent free from unrest and from too great an intermixture of foreign strains of blood,” had pleasant meetings with Adolph Hitler, and his henchman Hermann Goering, in 1937. Deeply impressed by Hitler, King wrote in his diary: “he [Hitler]…truly loves his fellow-men, and his country….a man of deep sincerity and a genuine patriot…. distinctly a mystic” (Diary, June 29, 1937). King’s Minister of Immigration, Frederick Blair, bragged about his efficiency in keeping Jewish refugees, that were fleeing genocide in Germany, from entering Canada." [http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/53/macnider.html]
Of Course that has nothing to do with Butler, but I have another Book that details the role of the Army War College in helping Hitler in his extermination project prior to and during WWII and I believe he's in it.
Sources and Further Reading
- War Is a Racket Org Page dedicated to butler [http://www.warisaracket.org/index.html]
- Military History Bio [http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/1900s/p/Banana-Wars-Major-General-Smedley-Butler.htm]
- Cincinnatus Page at ancienthistory.about.com
- This blog entry is very personal From POV of a "grunt"
- Bonus Army
- Bonus Army: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonus_Army
- The RW has articles that try to discredit Butler's role in the Business Plot
- Business Plot: You Tube Documentary on the Business Plot [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTdx6vEUtIA]
- NPR books [http://www.npr.org/2012/02/12/145472726/when-the-bankers-plotted-to-overthrow-fdr]
- McCormack-Dickstein Committee [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/McCormack-Dickstein_Committee]
- American Legion Citations from Wikipedia, but double checked
- Alec Campbell, "Where Do All the Soldiers Go?: Veterans and the Politics of Demobilization," in Diane E. Davis, Anthony W. Pereira, eds., Irregular Armed Forces and their Role in Politics and State Formation. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003; pp. 110-111.
- Hanford MacNider [http://coat.ncf.ca/our_magazine/links/53/macnider.html]
- War is a Racket
- War Is a Racket at Amazon