Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, is one of a number of famous fighting Marine Generals. This graphic novel begins in 1932 one year after he has retired and has already failed in an attempt to become a US senator to support the cause of WWI veterans who are asking to have their promised bonuses paid to them. He is invited to give a speech to the “Bonus Army” encampment in the streets of Washington, DC and arrives to meet the men.
The veterans are immediately enthusiastic about their famous visitor and ask to hear his accounts of how he won multiple Medals of Honor. The general is equally delighted to once again be in his rightful place surrounded by fighting men, and even some of their wives and children. He describes his first time in a combat zone in Santiago Bay Cuba as a 17-year-old (!) Second Lieutenant. He tells the veterans he had no idea what he was doing and leapt to the ground the first time he heard a gunshot. Not an auspicious start for a war hero, and the audience appreciates his candor. Smedley goes on to relate his experiences in conflicts all over the world including the Philippines, China in the Boxer Rebellion, espionage in Mexico, and then WW1 in Haiti and later Europe.
Readers should not be put off by the graphic novel format, as this is still a genuine account of a historical perspective. Some of the language may be a bit rough for younger readers, but this is authentic to the story. I like historical books of any type where I learn new things, and Smedley didn’t disappoint. Recommended.