In the pantheon of U.S. Marine Corps icons, Major General Smedley Darlington Butler (1881–1940) is arguably the most complex and paradoxical of them all. At the time of his death, he was the most highly decorated Marine in U.S. history, a man who had garnered 17 military awards, including two Medals of Honor.
Yet he was also the man who wrote, “War is a racket. . . . It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.” And he rued having been “a high-class muscle-man for big business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. . . . I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”