Famous Marines: Smedley Butler
Marine Corps legend Smedley Butler battled enemy soldiers, career diplomats and his own superiors.
by Edward L. Bimberg The annals of the United States Marine Corps are filled with the names of mavericks known not only for their fighting skills, but for their offbeat personalities as well. Not the least of these was Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler, who in the course of a contentious, adventure-filled 33-year career in the Corps garnered 16 decorations, including two Medals of Honor, while also gaining a well-earned reputation for battling higher authority—often in public. [text_ad] A Young Start to a Long Career Butler was born into a prominent West Chester, Pa., Quaker family on July 30, 1881. His father, Thomas S. Butler, was a U.S. congressman and chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee. While there is no evidence to suggest that the elder Butler ever used his considerable influence to promote his son’s career, the Navy Department was certainly aware of his powerful position and may well have taken steps to protect the headstrong Smedley in his many future altercations with his superiors. When war was declared with Spain in 1898, Butler was just 16 and still in school. Determined to take part in the great adventure, he heard that the Marine Corps had openings for a few new second lieutenants. Since he was still under age (although he looked older), he asked his father to help him enlist. When his father refused, he went directly to Marine Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he introduced himself to Colonel Charles Heywood, the commandant of the Co
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