An excerpt from "Faith and Country: A Delicate Balance"
Sunday, February 15, 2015
To order a copy ... firstname.lastname@example.org
An excerpt from "Faith and Country: A Delicate Balance"
An excerpt from "Faith and Country: A Delicate Balance"
(Lights up on BUTLER.)
BUTLER: Waller drew a line in the jungles of the Philippines, and no Marine would dare cross it: until the black and grey suits in Washington and the newspapers intervened. “Hell-Roaring” Smith was court-martialed into retirement. Waller was acquitted. But the press undeservedly called him “The Butcher of Samar”. But we Marines knew what and how he’d suffered in those jungles! From then on, until they all passed away, when a veteran survivor of Samar entered a garrison billet, every Marine, in chorus, would raise a toast,
(Lights down on BUTLER. Lights up on stage with table and chairs with three officers. One officer rises.)
OFFICER: A—TEN—SHUN! Stand, gentlemen, he served on Samar.
MARINES: (Standing to attention. All salute toast and cheer.)
(Lights down on Marines and up on BUTLER.)
Honduras, nineteen-ought-three, was a turning point in my life. We were aboard the Panther, a banana freighter, when the ship’s commander called all hands to the quarterdeck. The tip of this boot (Pointing to boot.) that had rushed the sand beaches of Cuba and Mexico, plowed through the muck, mud and mire of China, trudged through the jungles of the Philippines, and kicked the rocks of Culebra came very close to finding that skinny little peacock’s ass and sending him flying off his goddamned quarterdeck.
(Lights down on BUTLER. Lights up on quarterdeck. The Captain is speaking to his shipmen and BUTLER’s Marines.)
BUTLER: CAPTAIN ON DECK! A—TEN—SHUN!
CAPTAIN: Gentlemen! You too, Captain Butler, and your Marines. I know the guilty party using profane language near my cabin this morning cannot be one of these fine seamen. (Pointing to the seamen assembled opposite the Marines. Two of each branch is sufficient to symbolize the entire contingent.) (Snidely.) Therefore (Turning to the Marines.) it must have been one of these enlisted men from the slums of our big cities. (With authority.) I am hereby ordering all Marines confined to their quarters below deck until we reach our destination.
(Lights down on quarterdeck and up on BUTLER.)
BUTLER: At that time I swore an oath to my Marines that I would protect my foul-mouthed, crude, rude and often dirty warriors from the slums as well as the fine homes of our United States, from the hounding, the harassment and the maltreatment by the Navy brass. Let me tell you, I had a man in my troop that spoke Latin, Greek, Spanish, four Chinese dialects, Italian and French. With my help through letters, my father took on the task of fighting Navy hostility toward the Marine Corps. (Pause.) While I was home on leave, I had the very good fortune to meet a beautiful woman in Philadelphia in nineteen-ought-five: Ethel Conway Peters. (He retrieves a photo of her from his breast pocket and shows it to the audience.) We were married on the last day of June that same year, in a military wedding. My lovely bride has been my stalwart companion and the mother of our three children all these momentous years. Ethel and I had our first “Marine brat” at Subic Bay, Philippines. We named her Ethel. Two days after her birth she was the guest of honor at a dinner where I presented her to my Marines on a pillow. They adopted her. Years later, keeping the Corps in the family, she married Lieutenant John Wehle. (Pause.) Despite my reputation with the Navy, my comrades, and Marine Corps brass, overwhelmingly recommended my promotion to Major. “Outstanding, …a strict disciplinarian… impatient of inefficiency, laziness, or cowardice.” I loved my men: my Marines. I was devoted to them. I was concerned for their physical and emotional welfare. These fine men had my back, because I was proud to lead them wherever I was sent. I was proud to roll up my sleeves and work beside them. I was proud of their accomplishments. If I didn’t believe in them, how could they believe in me? Their response to my order to jump was “Yes, Sir”. (Pause.) Smedley Junior, our first son, was born 12 July 19-ought-9. He was a strapping young man. Had the fierce growl from the moment of birth and the piercing eyes of his father. I was sent back to Panama. Then to Nicaragua. Back to Panama. Back to Nicaragua. Back to Panama. Each time with the order “to protect American lives and property”. I soon realized that my Marines and I were nothing but pawns used to prop up the fledgling Nicaraguan and Panamanian governments, whether conservative or liberal, despotic or benevolent, whoever was in power, for American business interests. One hot, humid afternoon, two liberal generals were poised to take the town of Bluefields, Nicaragua, held by conservative Adolfo Diaz. As commander of the Marines at Bluefield, I issued an order banning all weapons from the town. We Marines would collect all weapons before their entry. With a little skullduggery they did just that. However, the local merchants came to me with a little problem. They wanted me to find General George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John D. Rockefeller and Yankee Doodle Dandy. It appeared that my Marines were not paying for the goods they supposedly purchased from these good people. Damn! Just when you think these men can do no wrong. THEY WILL PAY! THEY WILL PAY THEIR DEBTS! HOW DARE THEY DARKEN THE HONOR OF THE CORPS! Damn! This is what they do! From the handwriting I determined who the scoundrels were and convinced them to square their accounts with the shopkeepers. They were also lectured on the importance of the good name of the United States Marine Corps and the honor of the men who make up the Corps! (Pause.) Nicaragua proved to be a melting pot of revolutionaries sitting on a fiercely flaming Spanish and native Nicarguan blood. Conservative General Luis Mena overthrew Juan Estrada who in turn was overthrown by Adolfo Diaz. American banking interests had taken over the national railroad as security for a loan to the Diaz government. With Diaz out chasing Mena in the jungle, I took command of his government forces at Bluefields, to protect American property. Mena’s troops captured a train outside of Managua and held it against a small Marine force that failed to recapture it. I was ordered to lead another Marine force to retake the train. Feeling that a Marine Officer had made a laughing stock of the Marine Corps’ ability to fight, I confronted one of Mena’s Generals at the train with two heavy bags, one in each hand. My translator told the General that the bags I was carrying contained dynamite. And that if he didn’t back off and let me take the train back to Managua, I would blow him and his men to bits. Needless to say the General backed off. As the train moved I ran toward it, dumping the bags of sand at the General’s feet. As I turned to hop on the train, I disarmed the GENERAL, pulled my weapon told the general “You are now my hostage, General. Come with me.”
(Lights down on the battlefield and up on BUTLER, as he re-enters. He sits to read and finish writing a letter to his wife, Ethel.)
My dearest Ethel. I close tonight’s letter with one thought. I expect a whole lot more rot from the politicians in Washington about the property of citizens of ours, …which has been stolen by the rebels and which I must see restored to their owners. The Washington politicians and Navy brass have changed the Marine Corps’ status in Nicaragua, from neutral… to partisanship with Nicaraguan government forces, depending on who is in power. The cynicism of the American presence in Nicaragua is becoming depressingly more obvious to me. (Pauses, in thought.) I hope this letter finds you and the children well. Good night, dear wife. Your loving husband, Smedley.
(Pause as BUTLER seals the envelope and places in his breast pocket.)
I was ordered to open the railroad south to Grenada, but another malaria attack delayed my expedition. I held ice in my mouth to drive down my temperature until a reluctant doctor released me for duty. But I suffered a relapse with a one hundred four degree temperature. On my command my Marines rigged a cot in a railroad boxcar. My troop train pulled out of Managua. With sweat pouring over me from the effects of a high fever, and in a constant daze, I tried desperately to respond to my friends, but they saw the glare of my fiery blood-shot piercing eyes. From then on I was affectionately nicknamed “Old Gimlet Eye”. (Pause. He laughs as he speaks.) Your audaciousness and impudence, Butler, will someday, when you are too old to fight, make a book. As newly appointed temporary governor of the District of Granada, I ordered all political prisoners released and stolen or confiscated property returned to it’s rightful owner. I was hailed as a ‘liberator’ by the Granadian people. What a hoot!
(Pause as he prepares to write a letter to Ethel, his wife.)
6 October 19 ‘n’12. Just a short letter tonight, dear wife. Today I received orders from the Secretary of the Navy, George von L. Meyer, to openly side with the Adolpho Diaz regime. I hate my job like the devil. But orders are orders, and of course, must be carried out. Tomorrow I am leading my men on an expedition to rid this country of the final rebel force: on top of Coyatepe Mountain. It will be a victory gained by us for them. I hope not at the expense of my good Marine’s lives. I get so terribly homesick and miss you and our children at times that I just don’t see how I can stand it. This separation can’t last forever. Good night, my love and my children.(Pause. BUTLER continues, to the audience.) The charge up Coyatepe Mountain lasted forty minutes. (Pause.) I lost two good Marines. (Pause.) All because Brown Brothers, Wall Street bankers, have money invested in this country. In nineteen-ought-nine, in Panama I met my Commander in Chief, President Taft. Three years later I received orders from him to rig the Nicaraguan election to assure Diaz would return to power. Obviously Diaz would be amenable to whatever American politicians and Wall Street asked him to do. Inventive as I am, I researched the Nicaraguan election laws and found that the polling places had to be open “sufficient amount of time”. Well, what is a “sufficient amount of time”? Two hours? Two days? How about forty-four minutes? Voters had to be registered before they could vote. Well, that was easy. I sent my Marines out to find four hundred Nicaraguans who I could depend upon to vote for Diaz. As temporary governor, with my registered voters lined up, I ordered the polls open. When they finished voting, I closed the polls. Forty-four minutes. There were no disorders by the Nicaraguans. Let me tell you why. Ya’ see, the trouble in Nicaragua was not with the people themselves. The trouble was with the rascals who tried to overthrow the rascals who threw them out of government. I had a high regard for the people of Nicaragua and a genuine compassion for their suffering at the hands of these rascal opportunists. (Pause.) On a beautiful day in October, Ethel gave birth to our third child son, Thomas Richard. I had reached a point in my life when, with all the realities of politics, economics and the prospects of my future,… my destiny,… I asked Ethel to be sure to keep all my letters, as they are a diary of my life, and may be useful sometime in the future. (Pause.) I was so successful at pacifying Nicaragua that the populace turned out a fiesta for me, complete with fireworks. They wanted to hire me as their Chief of Police! Needless to say, I declined in favor of my service to the Corps. (Pause. Smiling.) I never thought of myself as a spy, but the idea was intriguing. Upon reporting to Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher aboard the fleet flagship Florida, he offered me the job, cautioning me that, if I accept, and were caught, the Navy would deny any knowledge of me, or my mission. I had learned enough Spanish to get me by. I was to gather information on the whereabouts and capabilities of the bandit Huerta in case war was declared. These damned bandits! They think themselves so imperious that they give themselves the rank of General. Generalissimo Victoriano Huerta sounds better than bandito Huerta. But this guy was not just any bandit. Huerta was a native Huichol from the tribe in northern Jalisco. He was an able and competent professional soldier… far from being an illiterate brute. He studied Napoleon's campaigns at the Military College, where he graduated. He was a skilled engineer, cartographer, surveyor and railroad specialist. As a native, he did not hesitate suppressing local indigenous uprisings with the utmost ruthlessness, especially the Yaqui Indians in Sinaloa and the Maya in Yucatan. (Pause.) Armed with a fraudulent British passport, I slipped out of my cabin port window into a small boat. I was listed officially on the ship’s rolls as (using his fingers for emphasis) “deserter”. Dressed in a veddy British tweed suit, down to a pair of gold-rimmed glasses with a black ribbon, spats, a deerstalker hat,… and (laughing) a butterfly net…. there were many Brits in Mexico traveling on business…They thought I was some crazy Brit…. This one ... (tapping his chest) a little more crazy,… they thought I was nuts…. To continue…with the secret help of the superintendent of the railroad, I boarded his private railroad and headed for Mexico City.
(Lights down on BUTLER.)