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Smedley Butler and Herbert Hoover. Fact or fiction?



The indispensable Eric Heath of the Stanford Information Center provides this information:

"There are 3 mentions of the Hoover-as-coward story in the most recent scholarly biography of Smedley Butler: Maverick Marine : General Smedley D. Butler and the contradictions of American military history, by Hans Schmidt, U. Press of Kentucky, 1987.

  1. p.18: Hoover is quoted from his Memoirs [p.53] that he was "completely scared, especially when some of the Marines next to me were hit...".
  2. p.210: that Hoover "hid with the women" during the 1900 rebellion, related in the Marine Corps Oral History Collection, 1966, by Lt. Gen. Pedro A. del Valle, which he said he overheard when Butler was under house arrest for insulting Mussolini in a speech in Philadelphia, January 1931.
  3. p.219: draft document in the Hoover Presidential Library, West Branch, Iowa: 1932 Presidential Campaign, unsigned, which says: "I have observed General Butler's reckless and malicious statements as to Mr. Hoover's conduct during the siege" with an eye-witness account of "Mr. Hoover's courage and devotion." This is when Butler, although an avowed Republican, was campaigning for the Democrats and Roosevelt. Schmidt says that it isn't clear whether Butler had been relating such a story, or if the Hoover campaign was simply getting ready in case he did.

    There is no mention anywhere of any lawsuit or court decisions. The tale seems never to have gotten beyond the gossip stage. Schmidt gives no examples of Butler relating the tale in a public setting or in a speech".

    My comment: Politics! Butler under house arrest for insulting Mussolini? Don't members of the armed forces not have freedom of speech? Apparently not. My impression is that, however brave Butler may have been, his judgment was erratic. Of course, he was not in China at the time of the Boxer rebellion. He makes me feel uneasy.

    Ronald Hilton - 2/13/02


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