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Smedley Butler's Error in His "War is a Racket" Pamphlet

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Author Topic: Smedley Butler's Error in His "War is a Racket" Pamphlet  (Read 267 times)
Bad Penny
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« on: May 12, 2011, 02:21:36 am »

Here's the text of a letter I sent to the American Friends' Service Committee:

I am a long-time antiwar activist, who, although neither a Quaker nor an ideological pacifist, have frequently worked with Quakers in the past in opposing various unjust military actions, including all of the many wars (way more than the two that are currently being publicized) that the US is currently imposing upon the world.

In the course of my studies in support of my activity, I (of course!) came upon the famous pamphlet by the great Friend (do people still use the term "Mighty Quake?") Smedley Butler, entitled "War is a Racket!", which pamphlet (available at:

contains the statement:

"There was still lots of leather left. So the leather people sold your Uncle Sam hundreds of
thousands of McClellan saddles for the cavalry. But there wasn’t any American cavalry
overseas! Somebody had to get rid of this leather, however. Somebody had to make a profit
in it -- so we had a lot of McClellan saddles. And we probably have those yet. "


Having conducted extensive research into the US intervention in the World War (the war's official designation, as the Second World War obviously hadn't happened yet), I am aware of an error commonly made by researchers who confuse the forces known as the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), commanded by General John J. Pershing, with the entire US effort in France.  Such an error is easily understandable, as much has been written concerning the AEF, while little has been written concerning the various units which deployed to France under the command of the US Army General Staff, outside of General Pershing's AEF chain of command.  I believe General Butler's statement concerning the absence of US horse cavalry in France to be properly interperable in the light of this pitfall.  (Mind you, I am much less generous with modern historians who fall into this trap, as one of the non-AEF units in France was the First US Tank Brigade, commanded by (the now ultra-famous) Brigadier General George Smith Patton, Jr.  At the time General Butler wrote his pamphlet, General Patton, like the Second World War, hadn't "happened" yet, so I understand General Butler's statement to be the consequence of simple research error, rather than evidence of total academic incompetence.)

Anyways, here's my evidence for the presence of US horse cavalry in France during the World War:

5th Squadron - 15th Cavalry Regiment

"When the United States entered World War I, the Regiment sailed for France as one of the four horse mounted Regiments on duty with the Allied Expeditionary Force. The fighting had already bogged down into trench warfare and the role of horse Cavalry was nearly over. The 15th was called upon to dismount and relieve exhausted infantry units in the trenches. It was the tank that finally broke the trench lines to end both the war and the role of the horse soldier. The 15th served occupation duty after the war until June 1919 when it returned to the United States."
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