Thursday, 18 of October of 2018

Against the Odds Series / Major General Smedley Butler – The Plot Thickens

Wealth Biz Buzz’s fascination with those obscure folks, who truly made a difference in the world, continues.  Seldom lauded, history typically relegates these heroes to living in the shadows of their more celebrated counterparts.  And, Smedley Butler is no different.  While Grant and Lee, Patton and Eisenhower, McArthur and, of course, the iconic George Washington, are each household names, Major General Smedley Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940) likely didn’t make your list of top American generals.

Major General Smedley Darlington Butler

Yet, at the time of his death, General Butler was the most decorated Marine in the history of the United States.

During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I.  By the end of his career, he had received 16 medals, five for heroism. He is one of 19 men to twice receive the Medal of Honor, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor, and the only man to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.

And, while these most deserved commendations are impressive, what captured my attention was his involvement in the seldom discussed and highly controversial plot to overthrow the U.S. government in the 1930’s.


In 1933, men representing multi-millionaire industrialists and bankers approached Butler.  They hated Franklin D. Roosevelt with a passion and saw his “New Deal” policies as the start of a communist take-over that threatened their interests.

Butler feigned interest in a proposed military coup, known as the “Business Plot”, which was purportedly backed by the American Liberty League, a group comprised of some of America’s wealthiest bankers, financiers and corporate executives.  Names such as Hearst, Heinz, Hutton (E.F.) and Hawkes were among, Duponts, Mellons and Pitcairns.

This group was said to have over $3 million and 500,000 ex-soldiers committed to a fascist march on Washington DC to overthrow Roosevelt and install a dictator in his place.

In November 1934, Butler blew the whistle on the group to a special committee of the House of Representatives called the McCormack-Dickstein committee, which was a precursor to the famed House Committee on Un-American Activities.

The powerful fascists plotters behind the coup were never questioned, let alone arrested or charged with sedition or treason.  While the committee redacted the names of the wealthy bankers and financiers whom Butler identified, the mainstream media either ignored or played down the story.  In fact, many of the journalists went to great lengths to ridicule General Butler.

Although Butler’s patriotic efforts did thwart this fascist coup plot, those who sponsored it continued to conspire behind the scenes to rid America of FDR and to smash the “New Deal”.  Evidence of the continued effort to regain control of the White House is illustrated in a 1936 statement by William Dodd, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany.  In a letter to Roosevelt, he stated:

“A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. I have had plenty of opportunity in my post in Berlin to witness how close some of our American ruling families are to the Nazi regime…. A prominent executive of one of the largest corporations told me point blank that he would be ready to take definite action to bring fascism into America if President Roosevelt continued his progressive policies. Certain American industrialists had a great deal to do with bringing fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy. They extended aid to help Fascism occupy the seat of power, and they are helping to keep it there.”

 Many of the plotters exposed by Butler, had been boosting their fortunes by investing in the fascist experiments of Mussolini and Hitler. Some of them even amassed great profits by arming the Nazis, both before and during WWII.

So, to General Smedley Darlington Butler, we say thanks for exposing a plot to seize the White House and for protecting our nation against treason and subversion at the personal cost of ridicule, disbelief and controversy.

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