In , he became involved in a controversy known as the Business Plot , when he told a congressional committee that a group of wealthy industrialists were planning a military coup to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt , with Butler selected to lead a march of veterans to become dictator, similar to Fascist regimes at that time. The individuals involved all denied the existence of a plot and the media ridiculed the allegations, but a final report by a special House of Representatives Committee confirmed some of Butler's testimony.
In , Butler wrote a book titled War Is a Racket , where he described and criticized the workings of the United States in its foreign actions and wars, such as those in which he had been involved, including the American corporations and other imperialist motivations behind them. After retiring from service, he became a popular advocate, speaking at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists , and church groups in the s.
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Both of his parents were of entirely English ancestry , all of whom had been in what is now the United States since the s. His maternal grandfather was Smedley Darlington , a Republican congressman from to Nevertheless, Haverford awarded him his high school diploma on June 6, , before the end of his final year.
His transcript stated that he completed the scientific course "with Credit". In the Spanish war fervor of , Butler lied about his age to receive a direct commission as a Marine second lieutenant. The Marine Corps sent him to Manila , Philippines. He once became drunk and was temporarily relieved of command after an unspecified incident in his room.
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In October , he saw his first combat action when he led Marines to take the town of Noveleta from Filipino rebels known as Insurrectos. In the initial moments of the assault his first sergeant was wounded. Butler briefly panicked, but quickly regained his composure and led his Marines in pursuit of the fleeing enemy. One Marine had been killed and ten were wounded. Another 50 Marines had been incapacitated by the humid tropical heat. After the excitement of this combat, garrison duty again became routine. Butler had a very large Eagle, Globe, and Anchor tattoo made which started at his throat and extended to his waist.
He also met Littleton Waller , a fellow Marine with whom he maintained a lifelong friendship. When Waller received command of a company in Guam , he was allowed to select five officers to take with him. He chose Butler. Once in China, Butler was initially deployed at Tientsin. He took part in the Battle of Tientsin on July 13, , and in the subsequent Gaselee Expedition , during which he saw the mutilated remains of Japanese soldiers. When he saw another Marine officer fall wounded, he climbed out of a trench to rescue him.
Butler was then himself shot in the thigh. Another Marine helped him get to safety, but also was shot. Despite his leg wound, Butler assisted the wounded officer to the rear.
Four enlisted men would receive the Medal of Honor in the battle. Butler's commanding officer, Maj. Littleton W.
Waller, personally commended him and wrote that "for such reward as you may deem proper the following officers: Lieutenant Smedley D. Butler, for the admirable control of his men in all the fights of the week, for saving a wounded man at the risk of his own life, and under a very severe fire. He was eligible for the Marine Corps Brevet Medal when it was created in , and was one of only 20 Marines to receive it. Butler participated in a series of occupations, "police actions" and interventions by the United States in Central America and the Caribbean , commonly called the Banana Wars because their goal was to protect American commercial interests in the region, particularly those of the United Fruit Co.
This company had significant financial stakes in the production of bananas, tobacco, sugar cane and other products throughout the Caribbean, Central America and the northern portions of South America. The U. These interventions started with the Spanish—American War in and ended with the withdrawal of troops from Haiti and President Franklin D.
Roosevelt 's Good Neighbor Policy in Consulate there. In a letter home, he described the action: they were "prepared to land and shoot everybody and everything that was breaking the peace",  but instead found a quiet town. The Marines re-boarded the Panther and continued up the coast line, looking for rebels at several towns, but found none. When they arrived at Trujillo , however, they heard gunfire, and came upon a battle in progress that had been waged for 55 hours between rebels called Bonillista and Honduran government soldiers at a local fort. At the sight of the Marines, the fighting ceased and Butler led a detachment of Marines to the American consulate, where he found the consul, wrapped in an American flag, hiding among the floor beams.
As soon as the Marines left the area with the shaken consul, the battle resumed and the Bonillistas soon controlled the government. It was attributed to his feverish, bloodshot eyes—he was suffering from some unnamed tropical fever at the time—that enhanced his penetrating and bellicose stare.
After the Honduran campaign Butler returned to Philadelphia. Littleton Waller. John Wehle , and two sons, Smedley Darlington Jr. Butler was next assigned to garrison duty in the Philippines , where he once launched a resupply mission across the stormy waters of Subic Bay after his isolated outpost ran out of rations.
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In he was diagnosed as having a nervous breakdown and received nine months sick leave, which he spent at home. He successfully managed a coal mine in West Virginia , but returned to active duty in the Marine Corps at the first opportunity. From to Butler served in Nicaragua enforcing U. With a degree fever he led his battalion to the relief of a rebel-besieged city, Granada. On August 11, , he was temporarily detached to command an expeditionary battalion he led in the Battle of Masaya on September 19, , and the bombardment, assault and capture of Coyotepe Hill , Nicaragua, in October Butler and his family were living in Panama in January when he was ordered to report as the Marine officer of a battleship squadron massing off the coast of Mexico , near Veracruz , to monitor a revolutionary movement.
He did not like leaving his family and the home they had established in Panama and intended to request orders home as soon as he determined he was not needed. On 1 March , Butler and Navy Lt. Frank J. Fletcher not to be confused with his uncle, who was then Rear Adm. Frank F. Fletcher "went ashore at Veracruz, where they met the American superintendent of the Inter-Oceanic Railway and surreptitiously rode in his private car [a railway car] up the line 75 miles to Jalapa and back".
Fletcher's plan required Butler to make his way into the country and develop a more detailed invasion plan while inside its borders. It was a spy mission and Butler was enthusiastic to get started. When Adm. Fletcher explained the plan to the commanders in Washington, DC, they agreed to it. Butler was given the go-ahead. A few days later he set out by train on his spy mission to Mexico City, with a stopover at Puebla.
He made his way to the U. Consulate in Mexico City , posing as a railroad official named "Mr. He and the chief railroad inspector scoured the city, saying they were searching for a lost railroad employee; there was no lost employee, and in fact the employee they said was lost never existed.
The ruse gave Butler access to various areas of the city. In the process of the so-called search, they located weapons in use by the Mexican army and determined the size of units and states of readiness. They updated maps and verified the railroad lines for use in an impending US invasion. On March 7, , he returned to Veracruz with the information he had gathered and presented it to his commanders. The invasion plan was eventually scrapped when authorities loyal to Mexican Gen. Victoriano Huerta detained a small American naval landing party that had gone ashore to buy gasoline in Tampico, Mexico , which led to what became known as the Tampico Affair.
When President Woodrow Wilson discovered that an arms shipment was about to arrive in Mexico, he sent a contingent of Marines and sailors to Veracruz to intercept it on April 21, Over the next few days street fighting and sniper fire posed a threat to Butler's force, but a door-to-door search rooted out most of the resistance.
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By April 26 the landing force of 5, Marines and sailors secured the city, which they held for the next six months. By the end of the conflict the Americans reported 17 dead and 63 wounded and the Mexican forces had dead and wounded. After the actions at Veracruz, the US decided to minimize the bloodshed and changed their plans from a full invasion of Mexico to simply maintaining the city of Veracruz.
For distinguished conduct in battle, engagement of Vera Cruz, 22 April 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. After the occupation of Veracruz, many military personnel received the Medal of Honor, an unusually high number that somewhat diminished the prestige of the award.
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The army presented one, nine went to Marines and 46 were bestowed upon naval personnel. During World War I Butler, then a major , attempted to return his medal, explaining he had done nothing to deserve it. The medal was returned to him with orders to keep it and to wear it as well. Butler and a group of Marines on board. On October 24, , an estimated Cacos ambushed Butler's patrol of 44 mounted Marines when they approached Fort Dipitie. Surrounded by Cacos , the Marines maintained their perimeter throughout the night.
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The next morning they charged the much larger enemy force by breaking out in three directions. The startled Haitians fled. At their temporary headquarters base at Le Trou they fought off an attack by about Cacos. For the operation Butler was given three companies of Marines and some sailors from the USS Connecticut , about men. They encircled the fort and gradually closed in on it. Butler reached the fort from the southern side with the 15th Company and found a small opening in the wall.
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The Marines entered through the opening and engaged the Cacos in hand-to-hand combat. Butler and the Marines took the rebel stronghold on November 17, an action for which he received his second Medal of Honor, as well as the Haitian Medal of Honor. Only one Marine was injured in the assault; he was struck by a rock and lost two teeth.