Congressional Medal of Honor Society

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Haitian Campaign 1915 - U.S. Marine Corps

Smedley Darlington Butler

  • Rank: Major (Highest Rank: Major General)
  • Conflict/Era: Haitian Campaign 1915
  • Unit/Command:
    2d Marines,
    U.S.S. Connecticut
  • Military Service Branch: U.S. Marine Corps
  • Medal of Honor Action Date: November 17, 1915
  • Medal of Honor Action Place: Fort Riviere, Haiti

Second Award: As commanding officer of detachments from the 5th, 13th, 23d Companies and the marine and sailor detachment from the U.S.S. Connecticut, Maj. Butler led the attack on Fort Riviere, Haiti, 17 November 1915. Following a concentrated drive, several different detachments of marines gradually closed in on the old French bastion fort in an effort to cut off all avenues of retreat for the Caco bandits. Reaching the fort on the southern side where there was a small opening in the wall, Maj. Butler gave the signal to attack and marines from the 15th Company poured through the breach, engaged the Cacos in hand-to-hand combat, took the bastion and crushed the Caco resistance. Throughout this perilous action, Maj. Butler was conspicuous for his bravery and forceful leadership.

Medal of Honor Recipient Smedley D. Butler
Medal of Honor Recipient Smedley D. Butler
Additional Details
  • Awarded Posthumously: No
  • Presentation Date & Details: June 17, 1916
  • Born: July 30, 1881, West Chester, Chester County, PA, United States
  • Died: June 21, 1940, Philadelphia, PA, United States
  • Buried: Oakland Cemetery (PMH) (B-1), West Chester, PA, United States
  • Location of Medal: National Museum of the US Marine Corps (Medals for both actions), Quantico, VA
From the CMOHS Archives

Additional information on his action comes from U.S. Navy General Order No. 319, dated August 25, 1917:

“On November 17, 1915, it was planned to attack Fort Riviere, Haiti, with a force made up of detachments from the Fifth, Thirteenth, and Twenty-third Companies, and the marine detachment and sailors from the Connecticut. Fort Riviere was on old French bastion fort, about 200 feet on the side, with thick walls of brick and stone, the walls being loopholed. The original entrance had been in the northern side but had been blocked, a small breech in the southern wall being used in its stead. As this breach in the wall was the only entrance to the fort it was naturally covered by the defenders on the inside making passage through it into the fort a most hazardous undertaking for the leading men. Notwithstanding the fact that the fire of the Cacos was constantly passing through this hole in the wall, Sergt. Ross L. Iams, Fifth Company, unhesitatingly jumped through, closely followed by Pvt. Samuel Gross of the Twenty-third Company. A melee then ensued inside of the fort for about 10 minutes, the Cacos fighting desperately with rifles, clubs, stonce, etc., during which several jumped from the walls in an effort to escape, but were shot by the automatic guns of the Fifth Company and by the Thirteenth Company advancing to the attack.

Gunnery Sergt. Daniel Daly, Fifteenth Company, during the operations was the most conspicuous figure among the enlisted personnel.

Sergt. Ross L. Iams, Fifth Company, is recommended for a medal of honor for coolness and bravery in entering Fort Riviere at the head of the attacking force, when such action on his part seemed almost certain to result in his being killed or wounded.

Pvt. Samuel Gross, Twenty-third Company, to receive a medal of honor for his coolness and bravery in entering Fort Riviere immediately behind Sergt. Iams, when such action on his part seemed almost certain to result in his being killed or wounded.

It is urged that Maj. Smedley D. Butler be given a medal of honor for his conspicuous bravery during the assault on Fort Riviere. Two men entered ahead of him, doing so to prevent him from being the first. Theirs was devotion to him, while his action was devotion to duty. The assault inside the fort was made by 23 men with the knowledge that no quarter would be given them."


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