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84 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2002
It's somewhat ironic that someone as plain-spoken and hard-headed as Old Gimlet Eye would have a book written about him by an intellectual like Dr. Schmidt, but it says a lot about the relevance of Butler, his life in the Marines and in politics.

The book displays how Butler served as both a Marine in endless campaigns for the United States, and how he later came, not to renounce the military or the Marines, but the use of US Military forces overseas as, what he believed them to be, tools of Big Business, and not serving in either the interest of the United States Constitution or its citizens.

This book lead me to Butler's own small book "War is a Racket," which was highly influential in my own opinions about use of military force outside our country's borders. Butler would never consider himself an intellectual, but he had heaps of common sense - a quality which is sometimes lacking from those with sky-high IQs. Marines are sworn to the duty of protecting the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and they take this duty to heart. Once Butler realized that some of his fighting may not have served this interest, he became a very politically charged and controversial figure and speaker. How the hell could the former Commandant of the United States Marine Corps declare himself against war? Well, he didn't go against war, but advocated the prudent use of our military strength in the defense of the homeland. Sometimes he went a little far in supporting his points, but his intentions - to look out for both our country and those who serve it - are admirable traits in any career politician or general (there's little difference between the two once someone picks up that first star).

The other things you'll pick up from this book are that Butler was one tough son-of-a-gun. He's one of the most fearless fighting men this country has ever had. I hope they kept some DNA from this guy so we can clone him enough times to fill the manpower requirements of at least one Marine Expeditionary Unit.

I get the feeling that the author admired Butler's political career more than his military one. But, he successfully shows how Butler's intellect benefits from civilian life. In Butler's own book he said that, as a military man, he didn't have the capacity to question the ethics or motivations of his missions overseas. This is true, as the military's communal, self-sufficient environment isn't good for expanding one's intellectual sphere. Anyway, this is a good book about an American legend.

-- JJ Timmins
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137 of 155 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2000
Most Marines know that Major General Smedley Darlington Butler was the only officer in the Corps to win two Medals of Honor. Most non-Marines, like Dr. Hans Schmidt, identify Butler with his 1935 diatribe of Wall Street and Big Business:
"I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long.... Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three CONTINENTS" [p. 231].
Dr. Schmidt is a fan of Butler--the "patriotic warrior hero whose courage, physical command presence, and vernacular coarseness epitomized the popular ideal of a soldier's general" (p. 1). This is easily understandable; Butler's distinguished combat record and blunt, extroverted style of leadership endeared him to the mass media and earned him a legion of followers. Schmidt became a Butler disciple after writing the UNITED STATES OCCUPATION OF HAITI, 1915-1934 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1971).
MAVERICK MARINE uses sixteen chapters to interweave two subjects: (1) The life and times of Smedley Butler and (2) The Marine Corps's role as the strong arm of American foreign policy in the early twentieth century. Schmidt's coverage of the former is nonpareil; his treatment of the latter, however, does not hold up as well under scrutiny.
Butler's career in the Marine Corps began in 1898 at age sixteen. During the war with Spain, Second Lieutenant Butler deployed with the 1st Marine Battalion to the Caribbean. There, he found his niche in life fighting along side the men of the "Old Corps"; after the war, Butler opted to align himself with the "uneducated, roughneck tendencies within the marines" (p. 10) rather than return to civilian life and school.
During the next thirty years, Butler battled bandits and insurrectionists around the globe in a series of armed interventions. He served under Major Littleton W. T. "Tony" Waller during the Philippine Insurrection of 1899 and came to idolize the racist, bombastic, hard-nosed campaigner--calling Waller "the greatest soldier" he ever knew (p. 12). Waller, incidentally, earned the nickname "Butcher of Samar" for his exploits in the Philippines. Years later, in 1910 and 1914, Waller was in line for the commandancy; and Butler, of course, was one of his most vociferous supporters. Unfortunately, Waller's alleged atrocities in the Philippines tarnished his reputation; both times, he failed to rise to Corps's top position. Both times, Butler grew incensed at the "highbrow professionalism and Annapolis elitism" he perceived to be responsible for Waller's slighting (p. 121).
In 1900, Smedley marched on Tientsin and Peking to relieve the Legation Quarter during the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. After distinguishing himself in China (and being wounded), Butler transferred to Panama to command one of the companies in the newly formed Advance Base Force battalion. Butler won both his Medals of Honor serving in subsequent expeditions to Nicaragua (1910-1912), Veracruz (1914), and Haiti (1915-1917). It was during Nicaragua, Schmidt asserts, that Butler "clearly established his preeminence in the tactics of colonial warfare--bold imperious leadership of small units so as to bluff the natives into submission, thereby avoiding the escalating costs, perils, and embitterments attendant to massive violence" (p. 47).
Towards the end of his Marine career, Butler led a brigade to Shanghai in response to the Nanking Incident of March 1927. His most successful and least controversial mission, Butler returned from China in 1929 to his formerly held position as commander of Quantico. Now one of the ranking generals in the Corps, he was in line for the commandancy--but it was not to be. After Commandant Wendell C. Neville died in office, the low-key Ben Fuller ascended to the Corps's top post over Butler. In 1931, Butler retired from the Corps after an off-color anecdote about Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini landed him a court-martial (later reduced to a reprimand; see pp. 208-212).
Butler made one last appearance in Marine Corps circles four years after retirement. In 1935, he contested General John Russell's confirmation as Commandant. Russell stood for everything Butler opposed: He was an intellectual, graduating the Naval Academy and War College; he embraced reform; and he saw little combat during his career, serving a long stint in Haiti--where, while on a diplomatic mission for the State Department, he befriended Franklin D. Roosevelt. Schmidt clearly sides with Butler by calling the occasion "a last hurrah for warrior standards that were diminishing in importance at marine headquarters and as a factor in congressional politics" (p. 214). Yet, Russell was able to reform officer promotions, create the Fleet Marine Force (still the backbone of the operating forces today), and nurture the development of amphibious doctrine--the mission that would elevate the Marine Corps to elite status in the Pacific during World War II. This begs the question: If Butler had his way, would the Marines ever have grown from international policemen to the six-division amphibious assault force of the Pacific during the 1940s? Sadly, this question is beyond Schmidt's grasp. Simply put, Butler was an anachronism.
In sum, approach this book with caution. As simply a chronicle of Butler's life, Schmidt succeeds. However, MAVERICK MARINE has limited utility as an operational history of the "Colonial Infantry" Marine Corps. Although amply footnoted and richly illustrated, MAVERICK MARINE lacks depth and perspective. For example, there are no maps. How can you write of campaigns in half a dozen countries without one map? Likewise, there is a difference between a marine and a Marine; pedantic, to be sure, but irritating for the educated reader. Although I enjoyed the book and highly recommend it, it is not the final word on Smedley Butler. As a counterbalance to MAVERICK MARINE, I recommend reading Bartlett's "Old Gimlet Eye." The truth lies somewhere in between.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2006
Smedley Butler was a great American, a two-time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, a General in the Marine Corps, and, in retirement, an articulate and famous pacifist, who could not be dismissed as effeminate or ignorant. His life is worth examining, particularly by anyone in the military.

Butler was also a skein of contradictions: a Marine from a Quaker family, a general who joined the Marines as a private, a critic of politics in the military whose congressman father just happened to oversee the department of the Navy, a soldier who spent most of his days maintaining order in America's colonies, official and otherwise, who then went to vehemently condemn the deployment of American troops overseas, and perhaps most importantly, a soldier who inspired fierce loyalty. This list could go on and on.

Unfortunately this biography reads like a police report and not like a measured and analytical examination of a truly fascinating American. Butler was a great man who deserves a much better biography. (Un)fortunately court historians who write popular political hagiographies seem to eschew the lives of quixotic Marines, however impressive, interesting, and instructive their lives may have been.

As there are not that many biographies of Butler extant, this one may well be worth reading for the facts, but do not expect greatness from this book.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2002
This book is about an American patriot and career Marine Corps officer who had the ability to see through the motivation of many of the U.S. military adventures in which he played a leading role. It would be interesting if he were still living and able to share his insights and convictions about our current military entanglements beyond our nation's borders. His views are reminiscent of the warnings our first President, George Washington, gave in his Farewell Address.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 1998
This is a compelling story about a forgotten and fascinating patriot. A much decorated hero, when he retired, he supported the bonus marchers and was there at their rally when the marchers were dispersed by General MacArthur, with whom General Butler shared an intense mutual dislike. Butler was also notable for expressing his regrets over his leadingtroops into the "Banana Republics" at the behest of banks and the United Fruit Company. At the end of his life, he urged AMericans not to enter the war in Europe.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2010
This quote is absurd, "officer-warrior who lost his way as he advanced in rank" - Journal of American History. HA! MajGen Smedley Butler FOUND his way during these years. Conscience must sometimes be developed through experience, and for warriors often times at the expense of their own naive view of the infallibility and benevolent intentions of their own government and leaders. I can't help but shudder to think of the propaganda that the JAH rag is putting out if this is their comment on Old Gimlet Eye's expose on truth. God help us all! My recommendation is to read every bit of the Butler story in order to pull the truth back into America's jaded and blatantly obscured past. Study this story from all directions and in depth, and wake up to reality that's been going on since day one in America over 235 years ago. Check out "War is a Racket" and "The Plot to Seize the White House" too.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2010
I first heard about General Butler through references on the History Channel or a documentary TV program by Allister Cooke
about the Depression and the 1930's. The person being interviewed had to be reminded about the Army plot to take over the
U. S. governemnt in crisis mode. It was Henry Wallace or somebody. (They thought FDR would be weak. Good luck on that one.) Anyway there was newsreel footage
of General Butler discussing the plot and his refusal to take part. He was supposed to be the front man for a column of Bonus Marchers.
I heard somewhere that Oliver Stone wanted to make a movie about the incident. Great! Finally there is constiracy movie from Oliver Stone that
I can believe in. I suppose the film projet fizzled as happens so frequenly in Hollywood. Too bad if so. I wonder who would have portrayed
General Butler? Bruce Willis maybe. The imagination flies.

As far as Hans Schmidt's book goes, one could not make up a story of this man's life. He was involved in EVERYTHING. Boxer Rebellion, the "Banana Wars", the occupation of Haiti, the fight against Chaing-Kai-Shek in 1927. He fought bootleggers in Philadelphia as the Police Chief. Ultimately, he was court marshalled
by President Hoover; a celebrity military trial much like Billy Mitchel's.

The narrative sheds some light upon the politics of the Marine Corps leadership of the time between the World Wars. It is very informative about this colorful figure.

I read this book in kindle format. Even the kindle edition has photographs from Butler's life. It was a very satisfying read.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2001
The book has a scholarly flavor and is well researched. I felt the author, at times, utilized a somewhat stilted approach to describe the life of a plain spoken Marine. One who "set himself apart from his better-educated peers and aligned instead with uneducated, roughneck tendencies within the marines." We read on as the author qualifies General Butler as "a ranking major general manque'." He next challenges the reader with such descriptive terms as "unctious Babbitry," and "presidential apotheosis." Still, the book is informative, and will appeal to the serious reader of military history.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2009
It appears to be a well-researched and through investigation, a full biography on the man who is a fierce warrior, as well as an outspoken war critic, and a history denied from the world. Every intellectual on earth needs a copy. Trust me, you have no better way to spend this money on. It's a life long example, not just in military and politics, but also in personal development.

I thank Amazon for this international shipping, great packaging and reasonable delivery time even for the cheapest shipping option.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2013
Very few men win one Congressional Medals of Honor (CMH). Most Medal of Honor winners die in the act of earning the award. There was one officer who has two CMHs, Marine General Smedley D. Butler. His biography should be one that lifts the reader, this is not that biography. It is a workman like product, relatively complete and thoughtful. In the end it is dry and lacks spark.
The contradictions that made this man unlikely; the historic events that he figured in and commented upon; should leave a reader spellbound and eager to get to the next page. Instead the events and comments are reported as classroom recitation.

Coming from a Quaker family, he should not have been a warrior, much less a respected leader of men. He would become an exemplar of both. He would lead many successful military operations, sometimes heroically but in this book his two CMH's seem like political payoffs rather than battle changing efforts.
His organization, operations and command during the relief of Peking in 1900 is another case of contradictions. Gen. Butler enforced rigorous discipline on his men demanding that they perform huge amounts of manual labor and accept 10PM curfews. Indeed "old Gimlet Eye" as he was called became fierce on the subjects of respect for the locals and sobriety. For this his men would criticize him as forgetting that Marines were men and needed to let off steam.

What would keep Gen. Butler from being Marine Corps Commandant would be his refusal to stay a passive participant in American imperialism. He would make it know and ultimately publish that he was sick of the Marines being used as a private army for American business interests. For an American military man to be this critical of his country he has to retire. Gen. Butler would always place his duty and honor above other concerns. He retired and went public describing some of his ordered duties as comparable to Al Capone mobsterism. The title of his most famous book: "War is a Racket" pretty much tells it all.

One of the last dramas of Gen. Butler's life was an attempt to recruit him in a plot to overthrow President Roosevelt, end the new deal and place the KKK and corporate interests in front of a new government. From this book it is unclear just how real this threat was, or how unique such plots were. Ol' Gimlet Eye had none of it and promptly reported the plot and insured its swift end.

The point of this review is to emphasize that Gen. Smedly D. Butler was as the title suggests a Maverick Marine. His story is worthy, important and vital to understanding not just the history of the Marine Corps, but how the modern use by American of its' military is understood by the nations who are on the receiving end. This biography could serve to tell much that is powerful. Instead Hans Schmidt tells a story that favors the academic and assumes that you can interpret incompletely detailed discussions.

Ultimately I liked learning about a man worthy of respect and deserving of having his story told. I kept waiting for the narrative to match the man or to fully explain his significance. I never felt that this book achieved the potential of its subject.
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