Most Marines are aware that only one Leatherneck officer has ever earned a second Medal of Honor. Smedley Darlington Butler earned his awards of the nation’s highest decoration for heroism at Veracruz in 1914 and in Haiti a year later. But had a second recommendation been sent forward correctly at the time, another Leatherneck officer might have claimed that distinction. And ironically, the two off-beat Marines served together and came to loggerheads in an encounter that characterized the colorful nature of the Old Corps during the era of the Banana Wars.
Born on 2 November 1880 in Brooklyn, John Arthur Hughes was the son of William H. T. Hughes, the director of the Ward Steamship Line, and his wife, Olive. His parents sent him to the prestigious Berkeley School (where Colonel John A. Lejeune sent his daughters in 1910), and he graduated in 1900. Although he secured a congressional nomination to the U.S. Military Academy, Hughes failed the entrance examination. By then, his father had died, and apparently higher education at a civilian college or university appeared out of the question.
Note on sources: Hughes’ service files are found in enlisted records, Entry 75, records of the U. S. Marine Corps, Record Group (RG) 127, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and Entry 62, Records of Marine Corps Examining Boards, RG 120, NARA; he left no personal papers. Butler’s personal papers are found at the Marine Corps Research Center, Quantico and those of John A. Lejeune in the Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress (MD, LC). Congressman Butler’s papers were destroyed after his death, but the voluminous collection of correspondence from and to Secretary Daniels is at the MD, LC.