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Smedley Butler and Herbert Hoover - fact or fiction?



Tim Walch, director of the Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa, sends us this definitive statement on the subject:

"Eric Heath of Green Library is quite correct in his assessment of the facts of the matter regarding Smedley Butler and Herbert Hoover. The best source is the Schmidt biography, Maverick Marine. I asked one of our archivists to search holdings for any evidence that might corroborate Butler's claim that Hoover was a coward during the Boxer Rebellion. There is no such evidence. In fact, to the contrary, when Butler began to spread the rumor that Hoover was a coward, a number of people who were with Hoover in China rushed to his defense and proclaimed his bravery under fire. It is telling that the file that Eric refers to at the Hoover Library is titled "Misrepresentations." Butler was just one of a number of people who leveled false charges at Hoover.

The unanswered question is why Butler would spread such stories. In truth, Butler was reckless. He repeated a false rumor during the political campaign of 1932. Apparently he was bitter that Hoover had not defended him when he was tried for his statements about Mussolini. Hoover allow Butler to retire. After that Butler changed parties from Republican to Democrat in the 1932 campaign with the hope that Roosevelt would give him a commission as commandant of the Marine Corps. It didn't happen.

In truth, Butler never met Hoover and Hoover made no mention of Butler save one at a 1931 press conference when Butler retired. Hoover referred to Butler as a "gallant" soldier. That's it. No truth to the rumor and no court case".

My comment: This confirms my assessment of Smedley Butler. Can Elena Danielson tell us anything about the "Misrepresentations" file in the Hoover Archives? I was at Stanford during Hoover's lifetime, and campus members enjoyed making nasty remarks about him. In retrospect it seems horribly unkind. No wonder Hoover was bitter.

Ronald Hilton - 2/16/02


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