Violence and robbery brought a new and entirely different role for
Marines as the year 1926 progressed. In Elizabeth, New Jersey, on 14 October 1926, the brutal
robbery and killing of a U.S.
Mail truck driver forced President Calvin Coolidge to turn to the
for assistance in the civilian community. By Presidential Order, 2,500
proceeded on duty to form the Western Mail Guards. The Commandant,
the Presidential Order, on 18 October had directed the Commanding
Headquarters, Department of the Pacific, located in San Francisco to:
“[O]rganize a force from the 4th Regiment, to be
the Western Mail Guards, under the command of Brigadier-General Smedley
Mail Guards in Action
Brigadier-General Smedley D. Butler, known as "Ol' Gimlet Eye" to
fellow Marines, brought a long record of combat leadership and two
Congressional Medals of Honor to the Western Mail Guards. A veteran of
World War I and the Guerilla Wars of Central America, Butler's
easy-going manner hid his cold,
methodical approach to the task given to the Marines. As the primary
personnel for the Western Mail Guard, the 4th Marines initially would
throughout eleven states. Part of a twelfth state, Texas would be added later. General
fully armed Marines soon became sobering influences throughout Post
mail trains, and mail trucks in those areas. While Marines carried out
mail guard assignment, only one attempted robbery was recorded. That
robbery involved an unguarded mail train carrying no mail at the time.
Meanwhile, in San Diego,
the base stood relatively empty with a reduced level of caretaker
awaiting the return of the 4th Regiment.
When normal operations returned to the U.S. Mail system as a result
Marine guards, the need for continued assignment of such forces became
less justified and by February 1927 the Western Mail Guards had been
That same year, American interests and lives in China
once again been endangered by internal unrest and civil war. The
received the call to conduct expeditionary protective operations in
countries to protect Americans and their property. The east coast based
Brigade sailed for Nicaragua while the 4th Marines reinforced, becoming
Brigade under Brigadier-General Butler in San Diego, prepared for China
and yet another proud chapter in Marine Corps history.
New York Times Article
12 November 1921
201 More Marines Guard Mail Today
Force Now on Duty to Be Augmented by Detachment
Quartered in Post Office
Sack of Newspaper Mail Found on Street – Probably
The sixty four marines under Captain Norman C.
reported yesterday to Postmaster Edward M. Morgan for guard duty on
and at post offices and railroad terminals proved to be sufficient for
decreased amount of valuable mails transported through the streets
owing to it
being Armistice Day. Word was received by Postmaster Morgan at
the General Post
Office, Eight Avenueand Thirty-second Street,
that the additional 201 Marines who are to make up the full complement
as mail guards for this territory, would arrive from Quantico, N.C.
early this morning.
The marines will be joined here by Second
C. Battin, from the Naval Station at Newport, R.I.,
and two other lieutenants
from distant marine units.The marines
who guarded mails yesterday were drawn from the unit at the Brooklyn
and those of them who were not on duty were quartered last night on the
floor of the General Post Office building.
Postmaster Morgan, Captain Bates and Post Office
Collis and Schwab and Superintendent Kieley of the Grand Central
Office had a conference on plans for stationing the full contingent of
this morning.Mr. Morgan announced later
that the armed guards were assigned in the morning to accompany
distributing registered mails in the city, relieving the marines of
Shortly after ,
Lieutenant Colver of the Mercer Street Station report that Hal Stern of
Avenue A had turned over to him a sack of mail which he said he had
the pavement at Lafayette
and Houston Street
and bore a tag showing that it had been consigned to Indianapolis, Ind.
On a train which left the Grand Central Terminal at in the morning.The sack was filled with copies of the
Italian newspaper Progresso.Post
officials said they believed the sack fell from a wagon.