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Published on Apr 26, 2012
Smedley Darlington Butler (1881, 1940) was a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps, an outspoken critic of U.S. military adventurism, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.
In his 1935 book War is a Racket, he described the workings of the military-industrial complex and, after retiring from service, became a popular speaker at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists and church groups in the 1930s.
In November 1934, Butler alleged the existence of a political conspiracy of Wall Street interests to overthrow President Roosevelt, a series of allegations that came to be known in the media as the Business Plot.
Butler told the investigative committee that a group of businessmen, saying they were backed by a private army of 500,000 ex-soldiers, government officials and others, intended to establish a fascist dictatorship. Butler had been asked to lead it, he said, by Gerald P. MacGuire, a bond salesman with Grayson M--P Murphy & Co. The New York Times reported that Butler had told friends that General Hugh S. Johnson, a former official with the National Recovery Administration, was to be installed as dictator. Butler said MacGuire had told him the attempted coup was backed by three million dollars, and that the 500,000 men were probably to be assembled in Washington, D.C. the following year. All the parties alleged to be involved, including Johnson, said there was no truth in the story, calling it a joke and a fantasy.
No prosecutions or further investigations followed, and historians have questioned whether or not a coup was actually close to execution, although most agree that some sort of "wild scheme" was contemplated and discussed. The news media initially dismissed the plot, with a New York Times editorial characterizing it as a "gigantic hoax".
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