JOHN A. BUTLER, LTCOL, USMC

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

John Butler '34

Date of birth: September 30, 1910

Date of death: April 5, 1945

Age: 34

Lucky Bag

From the 1934 Lucky Bag:


Loss

1934 Butler 1.jpg

John was killed March 5, 1945 on Iwo Jima. He was Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 27th Marines.

His wife was listed as next of kin.

From LtCol John Butler and 1st Battalion, 27th Marines:

THE DEATH OF LTCOL BUTLER

About 1300, LtCol Butler mounted his jeep to head back to the regimental command post. With him were his driver, Pfc Stanley Barnett, and his radio operator. As the jeep bounced across country just west of the road junction, a Japanese 47mm antitank gun in the 3rd Marine Division sector fired. Struck by a direct hit, the jeep was destroyed, wounding the two enlisted Marines. LtCol John Butler was killed instantly. For his heroism leading LT 1/27 during the Iwo Jima campaign, the skipper would receive a posthumous Navy Cross.

Pfc Chuck Tatum, B 1/27, remembered the reaction: "The word about [LtCol Butler’s] death swept through the ranks of the 1st Battalion like a wildfire. It was whispered from position to position. Those bastards got the Colonel! The news was a shock. A stillness fell on the battalion. The loss of LtCol Butler was hard to take. If the leader has fallen, who will be next? Morale was affected. LtCol Butler was an admired and respected officer and leader of men."

Doctor James Vedder, battalion surgeon of 3/27, related the following conversation with his commander, LtCol Donn Robertson, about LtCol Butler's death: "While the coffee was brewing on our Coleman stove, Colonel Robertson stopped in for one of his routine visits. As he settled slowly to the ground to accept a cup of hot coffee, he appeared both weary and worried. His usual calm self-assurance seemed shaken for the first time.

"What's gone wrong, Colonel?"
"Plenty, the Nips bagged Butler's jeep at a road junction southwest of here."
"How bad is he hurt?"
"Killed instantly."
"Who'll take over the 1st Battalion?"
"Wornham is sending up Colonel Duryea from regimental headquarters."
"I hope he can fill Butler's shoes…"

After the skipper died, LtCol Duryea, regimental operations officer, was sent to take over LT 1/27. On 6 March, the battalion spent the day in the assembly area. The line companies reorganized as well as they could. The next two days, companies and platoons were deployed individually to support other elements of the 27th Marines. Able went to LT 2/27, and remained there during the next several days. The objective was to push toward Kitano Point to Iwo Jima’s north coast.

This blurb is from a very long, multi-page story; it discusses John throughout.

Navy Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Colonel John Augustus Butler (MCSN: 0-4987), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism as Commanding Officer of the First Battalion, attached to the Twenty-Seventh Marines, FIFTH Marine Division, during operations against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, from 19 February to 5 March 1945. Landing with his battalion in the fourth wave on D-Day, Lieutenant Colonel Butler quickly advanced his men over ground swept by heavy hostile mortar and artillery fire to a position approximately 150 yards inland from the beach, where he promptly established his command post on top of an enemy occupied blockhouse. Directing his troops from this dangerous position as they made their tortuous way over the shifting, volcanic sands and gun-studded terraces toward Motoyama Airfield Number One, he repeatedly exposed himself to the smashing bombardment of powerful Japanese gun-batteries and, subsequently unable to obtain satisfactory information regarding the progress of battle, unhesitatingly moved forward to the base of the airfield. With observation masked from this point, he fearlessly advanced to the top of the field, moved out under the unabated fury of hostile fire, and making a personal reconnaissance of the area, observed that his left assault company had circled the southern edge of the field but his right assault unit had been stopped in its advance by the overwhelming volume of Japanese dire. Disregarding all personal danger, he returned across the contested area under the direct fire of enemy riflemen concealed in the debris of wrecked planes and directed his right assault company forward. Cool and indomitable as the intrepid unit surged across the field in the face of savage resistance, Lieutenant Colonel Butler, by his daring combat tactics, outstanding valor and determined aggressiveness in the early critical stages of battle, had inspired his men to heroic performance during the final phase of this assault which culminated in the seizure of the entire southern end of the vital Japanese position before the close of D-plus-2. His dynamic leadership and astute military acumen throughout reflect the highest credit upon Lieutenant Colonel Butler and upon the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

General Orders: Commander in Chief Pacific Forces: Serial 35224 (September 24, 1945)
Action Date: February 19 - March 5, 1945
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Battalion: 1st Battalion
Regiment: 27th Marines
Division: 5th Marine Division

Family

He was survived by his mother, Emily; his sister Emile; his brother Clinton; his wife, Emma; and their "four young children."


Class of 1934

John is one of 41 members of the Class of 1934 in Memorial Hall.