Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, the Marines, and the Making and Breaking of America’s Empire

St. Martin’s. Jan. 2022. 432p. ISBN 9781250135582. $29.99. HIST
The heart of reporter Katz's (The Big Truck That Went By) book is a biography of Smedley Butler (1881–1940), one of the most celebrated American war heroes of his time. Before retiring as major general in 1931, Butler won Medals of Honor while soldiering on in several military operations, including the Spanish-American War and the Banana Wars of Central America as well as many years in China and the Philippines. Three years after retiring, Butler testified before Congress on an alleged plot by businessmen to topple the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration in favor of a pro–big business regime; less than four months after that testimony, Butler published his book War Is a Racket, about the military–industrial complex. Sandwiched into this narrative is a second, in which Katz describes his own visits to the sites of these wars and delivers a general indictment of U.S. military imperialism.
VERDICT This book is really two books mashed into one, and not as successfully as they might have been. Katz's account of his own visits intrudes on his account of Smedley's life, and his indictment of military policy is interrupted by the constant return to biography. Only for military history completists.
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