Medal Monday: Honoring Major Smedley Butler
Rank: Major General, Major at the time of actions described below
Organization: U.S. Marine Corps
Company: 5th, 13th, 23rd
Conflict: Vera Cruz & Haiti 1915
Date of Action: 04/22/1914 and 11/17/1915
Major General Smedley Butler, a native Pennsylvanian, was one of 19 Medal of Honor recipients to receive the award twice for separate actions. Butler had a long military career, serving in the Spanish-American War in Cuba, the Philippine-American War in Manila, the Boxer Rebellion in China, the Banana Wars in the Caribbean and Central America and World War I.
In April of 1914, the then-Major courageously led his comrades through a firefight in Vera Cruz, Mexico, facing street fights and sniper fire. The forces led a door-to-door search to root out any remaining members of the resistance and were able to successfully occupy the city and maintain the position for six months as the final occupation of Vera Cruz during the Mexican Revolution. For his unwavering leadership and courage, Butler was presented with his first Medal of Honor.
Major General Butler’s second Medal recognized his unparalleled courage and bravery during the American occupation of Haiti in 1915. During the occupation Butler led the attack on Fort Riviere in order to seize an escape of the Caco resistance, an unorganized, rugged resistance that thrived off of the lower castes of society in Haiti. After signaling the attack, Marines forced entry and battled the Cacos in hand-to-hand combat. For his valiant actions that aided in the security of the city, Assistant Secretary to the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt recommended Butler for the Medal of honor; Major Butler received his second Medal from President Wilson in 1917.
In addition to his impressive military career, Major General Butler is credited with the creation of the unofficial mascot for the Marine Corps: the bulldog. Major General Butler enlisted the first bulldog, King Bulwark – later renamed Jiggs – for official Marine duties in 1922, where Jiggs was enlisted during a formal ceremony in October.
During the ceremony, Major General Butler signed enlistment papers, noting that the term of Private Jiggs’ contract was “life” and his duties included “sit, stay and lie down.” The Marine Corps has upheld the tradition of a bulldog mascot and recently introduced Chesty XV as its newest recruit.
Smedley Butler is one of the 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients whose combat valor and civic heroics will be enshrined in the National Medal of Honor Museum at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, SC. These heroes deserve a home for their legacy to be shared with the next generations.
As the only military museum to recognize all branches of the armed services, it will highlight the fact that the recipients of our nation’s highest military award not only defended our country, they were instrumental in developing, designing, and enriching it.
The museum will be a vault for the values embodied in the Medal of Honor: courage, sacrifice and patriotism. It will showcase the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation Character Development Program including living histories of over 100 recipients. It will also house the Citizens Heroes Program honoring ordinary citizens who have epitomized the concept of “service above self”.
Americans will walk out of that museum with the conviction that they too can be a hero, inspired by the values of courage and sacrifice that the Medal of Honor recipients used to excel in combat and in civilian life. Learn more at mohmuseum.org.