Second Lieutenant John Munroe Butler

John Butler, University of Colorado sophomore, 1939.
John Butler, University of Colorado sophomore, 1939.


Insignia of VMF-221, The Fighting Falcons

Service Number: O-007078

Birth and Early Life:
John Butler was born on July 31, 1919. He was raised in Sugar City, Colorado by his parents Thomas and Agnes. With his older siblings working for the town sugar mill, John elected to go to college; he attended the University of Colorado in Boulder, intending to graduate with the class of 1941. He was active in the Mortar & Pestle Pharmacy club and may have wanted to become a doctor, but abandoned his studies after his junior year.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Butler joined the Reserves on April 29, 1940, and was immediately appointed a Private First Class. He attended the Western Platoon Leaders junior course in California before being selected for aviation training at Long Beach. He passed his elimination training and was offered a place as a cadet at the Pensacola, Florida aviation training station in December, 1940. Butler learned quickly, and on October 10, 1941 was awarded his wings and a commission as a second lieutenant – naval aviator.

Wartime Service:
Butler was serving with Headquarters squadron, Second Marine Aircraft Wing when the war broke out; within weeks, he and a handful of other new pilots had been transferred to Marine Air Group 21 for distribution among the new squadrons that were quickly forming to defend American bases in the Pacific.

On March 28, 1942, Second Lieutenant Butler debarked from USS Curtiss along with a handful of equally green pilots, and surveyed his new duty station: Midway Island. As a qualified fighter pilot, Butler was placed at the controls of a F2A-3 Brewster Buffalo (Bureau Number 01537) with the newly formed squadron VMF-222. Butler was barely out of training, and spent the next two months were refining his skills and preparing to defend the tiny island against a Japanese attack. He was transferred to VMF-221 on Midway Island effective April 12, 1942, and became wingman to Captain John Alvord.

Date Of Loss:
On the morning of June 4, 1942, Butler was in the cockpit of Buffalo MF-4 when the order came to warm up the engines. Reports of enemy air activity were coming in thick and fast to the Midway radio station, and every man on the island knew that this was the day for which they had been preparing.

Once in the air, Butler formed up with the leader of First Division, Major Floyd Parks. He knew he was flying an obsolete machine, and that he and his comrades would be outnumbered in the fight to come. His shock at seeing a Japanese air armada roughly five times the size of his own force must have shocked him to the core, but like a good Marine he charged his guns and followed his leader into the fray.

Noone will ever know what happened to John Butler. His entire division, save one lieutenant whose faulty engine kept him grounded, was wiped out in the dogfight that followed.

Lieutenant Butler was awarded a Navy Cross for his part in the battle.

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Second Lieutenant John Munroe Butler, United States Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession while serving as a Pilot in Marine Fighting Squadron TWO HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE (VMF-221), Marine Air Group TWENTY-TWO (MAG-22), Naval Air Station, Midway, during operations of the U.S. Naval and Marine Forces against the invading Japanese Fleet during the Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942. Delivering a dauntless and aggressive attack against a vastly superior number of Japanese bomber and fighter planes, Second Lieutenant Butler aided in the disrupting the plans of the enemy and lessening the effectiveness of their attack, thereby contributing materially to the success of our forces. As a result of his courageous and daring tactics and because of the circumstances attendant upon this engagement, there can be little doubt that Second Lieutenant Butler gallantly gave up his life in the service of his country. He displayed the characteristics of an excellent airman in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Agnes Butler

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Tablets of the Missing, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
Lakeview Cemetery, Sugar City, Colorado