It’s October 1899 during the Philippine-American War, and Smedley Butler, a first lieutenant of the U.S. Marine Corps, is about to get his first taste of combat. In fact, Butler – who’s responsible for 300 men – has orders to capture the town of Noveleta from Filipino insurgents. And fortunately for him, the lieutenant and his troops soon put the rebels to flight. Yet while this becomes the officer’s first military success, it will be far from his last.
But let’s go right back to the beginning. You see, Smedley Darlington Butler came into the world in July 1881 in the Pennsylvanian borough of West Chester. His father, Thomas, and his mother, Maud, were actually both from Quaker backgrounds and members of the state’s elite. As a matter of fact, Thomas was elected to Congress in 1897 and served there as a Republican representative until his death in 1928.
So Butler started his schooling at the West Chester Friends Graded High School. He then moved on to the Haverford School, which is an institution favored by Pennsylvania’s moneyed upper classes. And while there, Butler proved to be an accomplished sportsman. In fact, the future Marine played quarterback for Haverford’s football team and also captained the baseball team.