Hello everyone,
my interest in the Society of Friends probably comes from a different direction than most. Three days after I graduated high school I was off to Marine Recruit Depot Sand Diego, CA. My parents where career military and really I never even thought of another job. So off to the infantry i went to prove my "manhood". Looking back I am thankfully that I never had to go to war, but even without having to experience that horror my time weighed heavy on me after I got out.

I've spent a lot of time getting over my disillusionment and rediscovering myself in the last decade. And it was during this time that I rediscovered Smedley Butler. Smedley is one of only two Marines to even win the Medal of Honor twice. His name is memorized by every recruit that joins the Corps. And so imagine my surprise when I discovered he was a Quaker and a man who was extremely disillusioned with actions over his long career. Ultimately feeling he had been nothing, but a pawn for big business and the industry of war. Honestly his history after the service is fascinating.

Which brings me to this post. First I am curious if modern Quakers even know who the man is? Is he acknowledged and known as a Quaker by current generations? And next I am curious if anyone could give me a little more understanding about Quakers going against the peace testimony in times of war.

I had hoped to get a little more in detail about this disparity reading his biography, but Smedley's biographer seems to just skip over this sort of yin and yang duality that existed within the man and religion. Outside of that the only thing I have really found that even discusses the subject of Friends and war was Robert Lawrence Smith's, A Quaker Book of Wisdom.

Anyway I appreciate any help you folks can give and hope that I am not offending anyone with my questions. Thank you, Jeremy

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I have had several friends whose parents served in WWII, who were Quakers. Like Jeremy, I served many years in the Marine Corps infantry. Butler was an icon to all of us. The Marines even twisted his anti-imperialist statements into a praise of what we did.

I have often searched for the same answer, but never found an answer. It's as if, along with Richard Nixon, the Quaker connection has been forgotten.
Micheal
I know of Smedley Butler but not because of the Quaker connection. He's often quoted by anti-interventionists because of a great quote about how the marine invasion of Cuba made it "safe for U.S. Sugar." My father liked to tell the story of Butler's very short-lived stint as Philadelphia police commissioner where he tried to tried to reform a corrupt department by making the obese officers jog around City Hall.

Pick any Quaker belief or testimony and you'll find Friends who will argue that it's outmoded. I doubt Butler was an active Friend in his adult life but he might well have still traveled in the Philadelphia area Friends community. It's certainly arguable that his anti-interventionist and anti-corruption views were inspired by Quaker values. I'm sure he makes for an entertaining biography!
Jeremy,

You might try the Quaker Information Center. You can find their contact information at http://www.quakerinfo.org/contact.html.

Good luck, and if you find out anything more, let us know!

David
and I found this Wikipedia article,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smedley_Butler

David
I know of Smedley Butler and his Quaker connection... but then again, I'm from his hometown so I had an unfair advantage. ;-) Our local historical society might be able to fill in some more of the gaps you're finding in his biography: http://www.cchs-pa.org/index.php

I remember as a kid asking my mother how he could have become a decorated soldier if he was a Quaker, and she just shrugged, which seemed to be the common reaction.

--Bridget
Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for introducing me to Smedley Butler. I thought I knew a bit about Friends and war from the 1600's to the present, but I don't remember ever reading about Butler!

I am curious whether he was an active Friend who followed Jesus Christ and at least some of the testimonies or
if he was more of a cultural-background Quaker like Nixon.

I googled his name and found out some fascinating things, but the site didn't deal with his own religious views.

As for Friends and war, you might check out First Friends by Larry Ingle. He deals a little bit with the early Friends in the New Model Army during the English Civil War.

There have been artilces written about fighting Quakers in the American Revolution and the American Civil War, but I don't remember the titles. I will try and send them to you later.

By the way, it is encouraging to see a former Marine who is spiritually and ethicaly focused. Most of my encounters and readings by and of Marines have been the opposite such as one Marine's autobiography book Jarhead about the first Iraq War. Great book from a secular literary perspective, but the ethics are appalling.

Thanks again for introducing Butler to us.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox
http://infiniteoceanoflightandlove.blogspot.com/
http://seaquaker.com/poetry
Thanks everyone for the replies so far. I will definitely follow up on the links provided and keep you all posted on what I find out.

Daniel, I will definitely have to check out First Friends. Funny enough I was checking out the coming events at my local bookstore and saw they had John P. Irwin visiting this Friday. He wrote A Quaker Soldier in the Civil War. The timing of it all!!

I appreciate the kind words to. After reading them I wanted to write a little about Jarhead, the Marines, my experiences, the war, ect, but there is just so much there. And honestly I know I am not near enough the writer to do the subjects the justice they deserve. I will say I found a lot of truth in Jarhead that most books about the service don't want to address.
Thanks for the reference to A Quaker soldier in the Civil War. I'll have to check it out.

As for Jarhead, what troubled me most about the book was his treating women as objects and the way he used the f-word
for everything he disliked and then used it for what he did to his girlfriend, etc.

Very troubling to me.

Daniel Wilcox

Jeremy Frost said:
Thanks everyone for the replies so far. I will definitely follow up on the links provided and keep you all posted on what I find out.

Daniel, I will definitely have to check out First Friends. Funny enough I was checking out the coming events at my local bookstore and saw they had John P. Irwin visiting this Friday. He wrote A Quaker Soldier in the Civil War. The timing of it all!!

I appreciate the kind words to. After reading them I wanted to write a little about Jarhead, the Marines, my experiences, the war, ect, but there is just so much there. And honestly I know I am not near enough the writer to do the subjects the justice they deserve. I will say I found a lot of truth in Jarhead that most books about the service don't want to address.
Hi Jeremy--I'm joining the conversation a bit late, I know, but it's an interesting topic, both for historical reasons and because of the implications of what the peace testimony can mean today.

I've identified as a pacifist for years, even as a teen, but I will admit now that there was a lot about the world I didn't understand then. Still don't, in fact! And while I still am essentially a pacifist,....I teach in an inner city high school. I completely believe that relationships and love change lives, and that justice is not the same as might = right. BUT, I've seen situations where strength was required to protect those who couldn't protect themselves. Sometimes moral and spiritual strength was enough, but there have been rare occasions when physical strength was needed immediately so that the process of changing lives--both perp and victim, really--could begin.

So...could it be that Smedley found some of those paradoxes in his own life, and felt called to to be the arm of God in a different sense than traditional Quaker witness calls for while still believing that he was following the Light? I don't know anything about him or his story, but I've found that there even with the most pure of intentions, there are rare, extreme times where non-violence may not be the most loving and just response. But that's one I'm still struggling to understand, so I wouldn't presume to suggest what anyone else should believe or do!
Multiple things... Another former Marine you may not know about is Stephen Gaskin of The Farm, one of the more articulate and cogent spokesfolks for the hippie spirituality of my formative days.

I gather that there has always been a disconnect between the Peace Testimony and what individual Friends have felt personally called to. After the Civil War, in which many young men had joined out of abolitionist sentiments, Meetings became much more open to simply accepting members back from military stints, if not approving, at least not censuring.

I think I may have actually heard Butler talk, at a peace demonstration in the mid-60's (?) He was pretty old by then, but still making considerable sense.
Smedley Butler a marine who won the Medal of Honor twice! Wow that must be some story. One of which I am unaware, but then I was army and concidered Marines to be embassey guards with good PR.
I came to quakerism fifteen or so years after Vietnam and this is the first I've heard the name, would be intresting to learn more.
Peace
Glenn
MajGen Smedley Butler died in 1940. You may have heard former Marine Commandant General David Shoup, who demonstrated strongly against America's conduct in Viet Nam after he retired from the Corps in 1964.
He was another Medal of Honor winner, for his command of the 2nd Marine Division at the "victorious debacle" at Tawara in 1943.

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