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. As the head of 300 men, he has orders to capture the town of Noveleta from Filipino insurgents. Butler and his men put the rebels to flight. It’s his first military success but, as we’ll see, it’s far from his last.
Smedley Darlington Butler was born in July 1881 in the Pennsylvanian city of West Chester. His father Thomas and his mother Maud were both Quakers and members of Pennsylvania’s elite. Thomas was elected to Congress in 1897 and served there as a Republican representative until his death in 1928.
Butler started his schooling at the West Chester Friends Graded High School. He then moved on to the Haverford School, an institution favored by Pennsylvania’s moneyed upper classes. An accomplished sportsman, he played quarterback for Haverford’s football team and captained the baseball team.