A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 20, 2015
“War is a racket”

"War is a racket” and “Is war a racket?” became the topic of national conversation in 1933-35. “Arming for war is a racket of international proportions” was cited in September 1933. “Is War a Racket?” was a tagline for the film Forgetten Men, released in October and November 1933.

Smedley Darlington Butler (1881-1940), a retired United States Marine Corps major general, lectured on “War Is a Racket” in 1934 and published a book under that title in 1935. Butler wrote:

“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”


Wikipedia: Smedley Butler
Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940) was a United States Marine Corps major general, the highest rank authorized at that time, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I. Butler is well known for having later become an outspoken critic of U.S. wars and their consequences, as well as exposing the Business Plot, an alleged plan to overthrow the U.S. government.

By the end of his career, Butler had received 16 medals, five for heroism. He is one of 19 men to receive the Medal of Honor twice, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor, and the only Marine to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.
(...)
In 1935, Butler wrote a book entitled War Is a Racket, where he described and criticized the workings of the United States in its foreign actions and wars, such as those he was a part of, including the American corporations and other imperialist motivations behind them. After retiring from service, he became a popular activist, speaking at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists, and church groups in the 1930s.

Wikipedia: War Is a Racket
War Is a Racket is the title of two works, a speech and a booklet, by retired United States Marine Corps Major General and two time Medal of Honor recipient Smedley D. Butler. In them, Butler frankly discusses from his experience as a career military officer how business interests commercially benefit (including war profiteering) from warfare.

After his retirement from the Marine Corps, Butler made a nationwide tour in the early 1930s giving his speech “War is a Racket”. The speech was so well received that he wrote a longer version as a small book with the same title that was published in 1935 by Round Table Press, Inc., of New York. The booklet was also condensed in Reader’s Digest as a book supplement which helped popularize his message. In an introduction to the Reader’s Digest version, Lowell Thomas, the “as told to” author of Butler’s oral autobiographical adventures, praised Butler’s “moral as well as physical courage”.
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It contains this key summary:

“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

IMDb (The Internet Movie Database)
Forgotten Men (1933)
60 min | Documentary, War | 14 May 1933 (USA)
Several World War I veterans relate their experiences during the war and discuss current (in the middle of the Great Depression) economic conditions.
Taglines: Is war a racket? See the whole unvarnished truth!

9 September 1933, The Tribune-Republican (Greeley, CO), pg. 6, col. 1:
When you remember that Krupp cannon killed German soldiers during the world war, and that Vickers cannon slaughtered the British in the ill-starred Gallipoli campaign you realize that arming for war is a racket of international proportions. That is why limitation of armament conferences accomplish so little.

12 October 1933, Amarillo (TX) Daily News, pg. 21, col. 5 ad:
IS WAR A RACKET?
Forgotten Men

25 November 1933, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. 4, col. 3 ad:
IS WAR A RACKET? See the Whole Unvarnished TRUTH!
IT COST 9,000,000 LIVES AND UNBELIEVABLE BILLIONS TO MAKE
FORGOTTEN MEN

13 February 1934, Lowell (MA) Sun, “Man About Town,” pg. 8, col. 6:
We are prompted to a new outburst by a film now current at a local movie house, entitled “Forgotten Men.” The ballyhoo in advance of its showing indicated that its chief purpose was pacifistic—to inculcate in the minds of the youth of today the idea hat war is a “racket.”

4 March 1934, Cleveland )OH) Plain Dealer, “Future Has Little Sweetness and Light for W. R. U. Writers,” pg. 5-A, col. 7:
William B. Silverman of the class of 1936 at Adelbert College has discovered that war is a racket, concludes: “War clouds are gathering on the horizon. The future will reveal whether intelligent beings will again fall victim to the artful deceits of big business and participate in a human butchery involving patriotism for profits.”

17 April 1934, Charleston (WV) Gazette, “Militarism’s Profits” (editorial), pg. 6, col. 1:
War is a racket, and the biggest racketeers in it are the munitions manufacturers.

1 May 1934, Evening World-Herald (Omaha, NE), pg. 15, col. 5:
Says War Is a Racket
Critic Believes Influence of Munitions Story Will Be Far-Reaching.

“MERCHANTS OF DEATH,” the story of the munition makers, which Frank C. Hanighen of Omaha, and H. C. Engelbrecht have jointly authored, is to have its review here Wednesday at 2 p. m. under the auspices of the Woman’s club at its residence 206 South Thirty-second avenue.
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Said Henry S. Canby, editor of the Saturday Review, and in consequence spokesman for the entire school of literary critics:

“I think that ‘Merchants of Death’ is a sincere and accurate and entirely reliable statement of facts of one of the most dangerous rackets in the world. I do not believe that reforming munitions makers will stop war, for the causes of war lie in ourselves, and especially in our unwillingness to give up nationalistic ambitions and prejudices in order to begin the making of a world state.”

3 May 1934, Springfield (MA) Daily Republican, “Maj-Gen Butler Assails Critics of War Veteran,” pg. 12, col. 3:
Calls War a “Racket”
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“War is a racket engineered by a few wealthy people. The United States joined with the Allies in the World war because the Allies owed us more money than the Germans did. President Wilson was elected as a peace-time executive, yet the country was engaged in war four months after his election. The average American does not know what it is all about.”

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
23 August 1934, Ballston Spa (NY) Daily Journal, pg. 4, col. 1:
WAR IS A RACKET
SAYS GEN. BUTLER
Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler, U.S. Marine Corps retired, denounces war as “the most vicious racket,” in the September Forum. Of late there ha been a general tendency to speak of war as a “racket,” and there have been evidences enough that it is just that and those who engender wars are the worst of racketeers.
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General Butler would conscript all capital in the event of another war. He says this war “racket” cannot be smashed by disarmament conferences or peace parlays and the only way to smash it is t otake the profit out of war. This i not a new idea but it will bear emphasis again and again. he believes that if officers and directors of armament factories, munitions makers and shipbuilders are all conscripted at $30 a month, like the soldiers, there will be no more war.

Some day perhaps the nations will learn that war is a racket, that it does not pay and that whatever dividends it may give go to the few.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Wednesday, May 20, 2015 • Permalink