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John C. Butler (DE-339)


John Clarence Butler--born in Liberty, Ariz., on 2 February 1921, to Walter and Irene Butler -- enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a seaman second class on 19 February 1941, at the age of 20, at Long Beach, California. Reporting for active duty at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base at Long Beach, Butler transferred to Naval Air Station (NAS), Pensacola, Fl., on 27 March. On 3 April, after termination of his enlisted service, he accepted an appointment as an aviation cadet in the Naval Reserve.

Butler received flight training at Pensacola from 4 April-29–July 1941, and reported to the Naval Air Station, Miami, Fl., for further instruction (1 August). Designated a Naval Aviator (29 August), Butler accepted an appointment as ensign in the Naval Reserve (6 September), before receiving orders to the Advanced Training Group (ACTG), U.S. Pacific Fleet, for active duty, involving flying under instruction (17 September). Receiving an assignment to carrier Saratoga (CV-3), arriving in port at San Diego, Butler flew one of the 43 Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers attached to Saratoga’s Scouting Squadron Three (VS-3) and Bombing Squadron Three (VB-3).

After the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Saratoga immediately got underway for Hawaii. Arriving at Pearl on 15 December, she refueled and received assignment to Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher’s Task Force (TF) 14. Saratoga and the task force quickly made way for Wake Island the following day. Recalled on 23 December (the same day Wake fell to the Japanese), the task force returned to Pearl four days later before putting out for Midway Island to conduct patrol duties on 31 December.

On 11 January 1942, Saratoga steamed some 400 miles southwest of Oahu to join carrier Enterprise (CV-6), when at 1915 a torpedo fired by Japanese submarine I-6 (Lt. Cmdr. Inaba Michimune, commanding) struck the carrier port amidships and flooded three of her boiler rooms, killing six crewmen . Reaching Pearl two days later for temporary repairs, Saratoga steamed for Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Wash., on 9 February for permanent repairs. The carrier’s bomber squadron, VB-3, land-based until the spring of 1942, reported for temporary duty to Enterprise, due to heavy losses suffered by VS-6 in early raids against Japanese targets.

On 18 April 1942, 16 North American B-25 Mitchell bombers, led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, took off from Hornet (CV-8) to strike back at Japan. Ens. Butler piloted aircraft S-12, an SBD-3 Dauntless (BuNo 4617), with ARM3c David D. Berg as his radio-gunner, off Enterprise, searching for any forward deployed enemy ships that could radio back to Japan to give warning of the raiders. During the scouting mission, Ens. Butler engaged a 125-foot long Japanese patrol boat towing a smaller boat “painted white.” Attacking in two separate dives, Butler dropped two 100-pound bombs, both of “which were duds.” Striking the craft with a 500-pound bomb on the port side, Ens. Butler’s Dauntless received three hits from enemy fire. Disengaging, Butler noticed the smaller craft belching oil and smoke, estimating it later sank. The larger boat remained undamaged. Although the Halsey-Doolittle Raid failed to inflict great damage on the Japanese homeland, it quickly became a morale booster for Americans back home.

With Enterprise arriving too late to participate in the Battle of the Coral Sea (4–8 May 1942), she returned to Hawaii on 26 May. Ens. Butler’s dive-bomber squadron’s temporary duty to “The Big E” ended, and VB-3 received a transfer from Saratoga (then underway from the west coast to Hawaii) to Yorktown, replacing Scouting Five. The badly damaged Yorktown arrived at Pearl Harbor on 27 May, entering dry dock and receiving hurried repairs in just two days, allowing her to join Adm. Fletcher’s TF 17 underway on 30 May to intercept a Japanese carrier force headed for Midway Island.

Yorktown arrived off Midway on 2 June 1942, meeting up with TF 16 (including carriers Enterprise and Hornet), under Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, and immediately sending aircraft to search for the enemy ships. The Battle of Midway (4–7 June 1942) set in motion after a scouting U.S. Navy PBY aircraft reported sighting an enemy carrier task force on the morning of 4 June. While Enterprise and Hornet released their air groups at 0910 to find the Japanese carriers, Adm. Fletcher held Yorktown’s back. Finally, after a long wait, Ens. Butler launched in plane B-12, again with ARM3c Berg as his radio-gunner, in 16 VB-3 (Lt. Cmdr. Maxwell F. “Max” Leslie, commanding) off Yorktown at 1106, seeking to destroy the Japanese carriers. After a heroic attack by torpedo bombers of squadrons VT-8, VT-6, and VT-3 failed to strike any of the Japanese ships, Yorktown’s dive-bombers, arriving nearly simultaneously with those from Enterprise, which attacked Akagi and Kaga, launched a strike on carrier Sōryū.

Three bomb hits from Yorktown dive-bombers struck the enemy carrier. Ens. Butler, seeing explosions and fire engulf Sōryū, broke off his attack and targeted an enemy “battleship” (most likely a heavy cruiser). He and his wingman, Lt. (j.g.) Osborne B. Wiseman, claimed a direct hit on the ship’s stern, as well as a near miss. After their attack, the SBD-3 pilots withdrew to the northeast. Unable to land back on board Yorktown due to a successful attack by aircraft from carrier Hiryū (scoring three bomb hits), Ens. Butler and his fellow VB-3 pilots landed on board Enterprise to refuel and rearm.

After Lt. Samuel Adams, of VB-5 spotted an enemy carrier group on the afternoon of 4 June 1942, 10 dive-bombers from VB-6 (and 14 from VB-3), took off from Enterprise at 1730. The dive-bomber pilots eventually discovered Hiryū, the fourth and only surviving enemy carrier. Scouting Six aircraft attacked first, missing the enemy ship with several bombs. About a dozen Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 0 carrier fighters suddenly swarmed in amongst the slower Dauntless dive-bombers. At some point during the melee, the enemy CAP shot down Ens. Butler and radioman-gunner ARM3c David Berg. Also never seen again were Ens. Butler’s wingman, Lt. (j.g.) Wiseman and his rear-seat man, ARM2c Grant Ulysses Dawn.

Nine bombs from VB-3 and VB-6 struck Hiryū, with four of the 1,000-pounders being direct hits. Despite the loss of Butler and the others, the surviving pilots and crewmembers of VB-3 exacted vengeance for Yorktown and their lost comrades, while Hiryū became the fourth Japanese carrier sunk that day. Radioman-gunner ARM3c Berg received a Distinguished Flying Cross, while Ens. Butler posthumously received the Navy Cross award for his role in the overwhelming victory at Midway. The citation to Ens. Butler’s medal noted: “His gallant intrepidity and loyal devotion to the accomplishment of a vastly important objective contributed in large measure to the success achieved by our forces and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

(DE-339): displacement 1,350 tons; length 306'; beam 36'8", draft 9'5"; speed 24 knots; complement 186; armament 2 5-inch, 4 40-millimeter, 10 20-millimeter, 8 depth charge projectors, 2 depth charge stern racks, 1 depth charge projector (hedgehog), 3 21-inch torpedo tubes; class John C. Butler)

John C. Butler was laid down on 5 October 1943, at Orange, Texas, by Consolidated Steel Corp., Ltd.; sponsored by Mrs. Irene C. Butler, mother of Ens. Butler; and commissioned on 31 March 1944, Lt. Cmdr. John E. Pace, in command.

John C. Butler, being towed by the stern, shortly after completion, and prior to application of camouflage. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph BS-70488, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: John C. Butler, being towed by the stern, shortly after completion, and prior to application of camouflage. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph BS-70488, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

John C. Butler, starboard side, in camouflage, Boston, Mass., 29 May 1944. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph BS-132041, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: John C. Butler, starboard side, in camouflage, Boston, Mass., 29 May 1944. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph BS-132041, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

Port side view of John C. Butler, Boston, 29 May 1944; note unstowed depth charges on the main deck, aft. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph BS-132040, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: Port side view of John C. Butler, Boston, 29 May 1944; note unstowed depth charges on the main deck, aft. (U.S. Navy Bureau of Ships Photograph BS-132040, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

After conducting shakedown training off Bermuda (23 April-18 May 1944), the new escort ship departed Hampton Roads on 5 June for the Pacific. Steaming through the Panama Canal on 11 June, she arrived at Pearl Harbor on 26 June, engaging in convoy and training operations throughout July.

Departing Pearl on 9 August 1944, John C. Butler screened transports with the Third Fleet, bound for the invasion of the Palau Islands. On 14 August, she left the immediate screen of the troop transports to give anti-submarine protection to escort carriers providing air coverage to the same convoy, reaching Tulagi, in the Solomon Islands, on 24 August. The next day, she proceeded with two destroyers in company with escort carrier Fanshaw Bay (CVE-70), entering Seeadler Harbor at Manus Island on 28 August.

John C. Butler departed Seeadler Harbor alongside Fanshaw Bay on 10 September 1944, reaching Morotai Island, at the western tip of New Guinea. Desired as advance bases for the long-awaited move into the Philippines, John C. Butler provided antisubmarine and anti-aircraft protection for the supporting carriers providing air cover for the troops invading Morotai on 15 September. Ten days later, she paired with Raymond (DE-341) to act as an escort, arriving at Manus on 30 September for a brief replenishment and refit period.

John C. Butler formed a part of a task unit including Rear Adm. Ralph A. Ofstie’s escort carriers Kitkun Bay (CVE-71) and Gambier Bay (CVE-73), alongside escort ships Dennis (DE-405), Raymond, and Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413). Arriving off Leyte Island on 19 October, John C. Butler and the other ships of Rear Adm. Ofstie’s escort carrier unit joined Rear Adm. Thomas L. Sprague’s Escort Carrier Task Group (TG) 77.4; comprising three escort carrier units designated Task Unit (TU) 77.4.1 (Taffy 1), TU 77.4.2 (Taffy 2), and TU 77.4.3 (Taffy 3).

Taffy 1 included four escort carriers and seven escorts under Rear Adm. Thomas L. Sprague, operating to the southward, just off northern Mindanao Island. Taffy 2, comprising six escort carriers and seven escort vessels under Rear Adm. Felix B. Stump, took station off the entrance to Leyte Gulf. The six escort carriers and seven escort ships under Rear Adm. Clifton A. F. “Ziggy” Sprague (no relation to Thomas) operated to the northward off the island of Samar. Adm. Ofstie’s two escort carriers with John C. Butler and her three sister destroyer-escorts, formed a part of Taffy 3, augmenting Adm. Sprague’s flagship Fanshaw Bay and three other escort carriers guarded by destroyers Hoel (DD-533), Heerman (DD-532), and Johnston (DD-557).

During the ensuing Battle off Samar on 25 October 1944, Taffy 3 began the morning conducting battle stations per regular morning alert at 0532. The task unit’s carriers conducted flight operations, and at 0635, John C. Butler secured from general quarters. At 0647, the Officer of the Deck (OOD) sighted anti-aircraft fire on the horizon and reported to Lt. Cmdr. Pace. After changing course, Cmdr. Pace received a report that a Japanese fleet steamed only 15 miles away. For the next two-and-a-half hours, the task unit retired at best speed with the enemy force in pursuit, harassed by heavy gunfire from Japanese battleships, heavy and light cruisers, as well as destroyers. The enemy destroyers also made several torpedo attacks.

The escort carriers of Taffy 3, hidden in heavy smoke laid down by John C. Butler and other escort ships, managed to launch all aircraft. A rain squall provided further cover for a turn to the south, and at 0742, the destroyers Johnston, Hoel, Heerman, and escort ship Samuel B. Roberts made close-in attacks on Japanese cruisers and battleships, forcing the enemy to separate and zigzag, while U.S. carrier aircraft flew continuous sorties.

Soon after this first attack, John C. Butler turned from the carriers to launch against the enemy, before exchanging gunfire with a heavy cruiser. The destroyer escorts Raymond, Dennis, and John C. Butler kept up a continuous fire from 5-inch guns while dodging heavy-caliber fire until dangerously low on ammunition, returning to the carrier formation to provide smoke coverage. Despite the loss of hard-fighting escort carrier Gambier Bay; destroyers Johnston and Hoel; and escort ship Samuel B. Roberts, Vice Adm. Kurita Takeo gave the controversial order for the Japanese Center Force to “cease action” at 0900. The enemy unexpectedly disengaged and retired to the north.

Shortly after the ships of the Center Force retreated, kamikaze aircraft suddenly appeared over the U.S. task unit. After escort carrier St. Lo shot one of the enemy planes down, a second managed to sneak through and crash into her flight deck. The kamikazes bomb exploded on the port side of the flight deck, setting off a series of secondary explosions leading to her sinking. John C. Butler took on board 130 St. Lo survivors before accompanying Raymond to Seeadler Harbor, where wounded sailors received treatment. Taffy 3, including John C. Butler, received the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC) for its exemplary conduct during the Battle off Samar. Her commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. John E. Pace, a survivor of both the attack on Pearl Harbor and sinking of Lexington (CV-2) at the Battle of the Coral Sea, received the Navy Cross for his role in the fight.

After escorting the surviving escort carriers of Taffy 3 to Pearl Harbor, John C. Butler steamed back to Manus Island to prepare for the forthcoming liberation of Luzon. Moored at Seeadler Harbor from 1-7 November 1944, she underwent a routine upkeep period before getting underway for Pearl the next day, arriving there on the 18th. Attached to Rear Adm. Oftsie’s Lingayen Protective Group (TU 77.4.3), she escorted Kitkun Bay and Shamrock Bay (CVE-84) with destroyer escort O’Flaherty (DE-340). At 0700 on 30 November, John C. Butler got underway for training, commencing dry torpedo runs and target vessel firing.

On 5 December 1944, she made way at 0709 to screen carriers in TU 12.5.2, including Kitkun Bay, escort carrier Steamer Bay (CVE-87), and escort ship Edmonds (DE-406). After a day spent conducting gunnery exercises, the task unit got underway for Manus Island. The next day, an Eastern TBM-3 Avenger (BuNo 22880) from VC-91 off Kitkun Bay crashed into the sea. John C. Butler rescued one survivor, ARM3c T. J. Szpont. Despite an intensive search, Ens. Claggett H. Hawkins, the pilot, was not recovered. While picking up ARM3c Szpont, a heavy underwater explosion, believed caused by depth charges in the wrecked aircraft, caused some concern amongst the rescue crew.

At 1705 on 12 December 1944, Edmonds reported a sound contact, making a three depth-charge attack at 1722. She reported seeing an “unidentified shiny black object” surface and then submerge on her port quarter after her third attack. At 1830, John C. Butler proceeded to join Edmonds just as the destroyer reported sighting two torpedo wakes crossing her bow. Both ships proceeded to conduct a box search, but discontinued after ordered to rejoin the formation. At 2004, John C. Butler set a course to overtake the escort carriers. Arriving in Seeadler Harbor on 17 December, the destroyer received fuel from tanker Leopard (IX-122) at 1440.

While awaiting orders at Manus on 23 December 1944, crewmembers discovered the starboard depth charge rack was bent out of line by a garbage lighter, and beyond the repair of ship’s company to effect repairs. Getting underway at 0800, John C. Butler moored alongside Whitney (AD-4) for repairs to the depth charge rack. While repairs were ongoing, orders finally arrived for the escort ship to join TU 77.4.3, consisting of Kitkun Bay, Shamrock Bay, and O’Flaherty.

On 31 December 1944, John C. Butler departed Ulithi with her escort carrier group as a part of the covering force for transports and amphibious ships approaching Lingayen Gulf. As the invasion fleet moved through Philippines waters, enemy aircraft spotted the group. However, there were no Japanese air attacks until 30 minutes before sunset on 8 January 1945. Suddenly, six kamikazes roared in amongst the group, with John C. Butler shooting down three, while two turned back, leaving one pilot to climb 6,000 feet into the air before diving straight down into Adm. Ofstie’s flagship Kitkun Bay. Maneuvering almost clear out of the suicide plane’s path, the kamikaze caught Kitkun Bay in her port side at the waterline, exploding so close aboard as to open a hole some nine by twenty feet. Taken in tow by a fleet tug, Kitkun Bay steamed under her own power to join the escort group off Lingayen Gulf.

Screened by John C. Butler and other ships, the escort carriers claimed the destruction of 92 enemy planes by 17 January 1945, when orders arrived to detach and steam for Ulithi to stage for the invasion of Iwo Jima. Remaining off Iwo Jima with the escort carriers, John C. Butler supported the troops fighting inland until the capture of the island on 19 February 1945. Two days later she helped fight off a kamikaze attack, witnessing the sinking of escort carrier Bismarck Sea (CVE-95), while almost becoming the victim of an enemy torpedo bomber. After Japanese gunfire and torpedoes failed to strike her, John C. Butler got underway from Iwo Jima on 9 March for Ulithi, forming part of the escort for transport and amphibious ships bound for Okinawa.

John C. Butler, coming alongside the escort carrier Sargent Bay (CVE-83), 1 March 1945. Note her camouflage is now a two-colored scheme, with the dividing line parallel to the horizon and not the sheer of the hull. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-2640...
Caption: John C. Butler, coming alongside the escort carrier Sargent Bay (CVE-83), 1 March 1945. Note her camouflage is now a two-colored scheme, with the dividing line parallel to the horizon and not the sheer of the hull. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-264041, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

Departing Ulithi on 26 March 1945, John C. Butler joined the screen of Rear Adm. William D. Sample’s four escort carriers, Suwannee (CVE-27), Chenango (CVE-28), Santee (CVE-29), and Steamer Bay, to provide direct air support to troops on Okinawa and lend strategic support by conducting airstrikes on enemy installations in the Sani Shima Gunto. While Japanese aircraft seemed prevalent in the vicinity, none broke through the combat air patrol (CAP) of her carrier task unit while at sea.

Detached from the screen of escort carriers on 15 April 1945, John C. Butler underwent repairs at Kerama Retto before taking an isolated patrol station just to the north of Ie Shima. Remaining on the station for over a month, the crew of John C. Butler sprang into action on 20 May 1945. Alerted by radio warning of Japanese aircraft in the vicinity, crewmembers manned their battle stations. Eight to 10 enemy kamikazes, including Mitsubishi A6M Zeros (Zekes) and Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusas (Oscars), approached the escort ship intent on destroying it. Lt. Cmdr. Pace gave the order to open fire, and two of the suicide planes blew apart from ships gunfire before they had an opportunity to start diving on John C. Butler. A third kamikaze, already in flames, crashed close to the ship after clipping a radio antenna. A fourth aircraft, already afire from repeated hits, exploded as the pilot attempted to bank into the ship.

The remaining suicide plane, damaged by gunfire but continuing towards John C. Butler, sheared radar equipment from the mast before crashing into the sea close aboard, showering the decks with water, bits of wood, metal and pieces of the pilot’s clothing. A damaged Zeke broke off the attack when fighters from the Marine Corps CAP appeared in the area to protect the escort ship. John C. Butler’s gunners managed to shoot down four Zekes and one Oscar. Lt. Cmdr. Pace received the Silver Star medal for his actions on 20 May 1945.

With the last pockets of Japanese resistance eliminated on 21 June 1945, Okinawa officially was secured. Mopping up operations continued until the end of the month. John C. Butler returned to Okinawa on 4 July 1945, and spent the remainder of the war in convoy escort, principally between Saipan (21–29 August), Ulithi (1 September–10 October), Manus (1–18 November), and Pearl Harbor (19–22 November). Steaming to San Pedro, Calif., on 23 November 1945, she underwent inactivation overhaul before ordered placed out of commission on 26 June 1946, assigned to the San Diego Group of the Pacific Reserve Fleet.

With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, John C. Butler was recommissioned at San Diego on 27 December 1950, Lt. Cmdr. Marvin D. Jones in command. After shakedown training, John C. Butler received assignment to the supervision of the Commandant of the Eleventh Naval District for training naval reserves at sea.

On 16 January 1951, John C. Butler got underway for sea trials at 0816. Completing her ammunition on load at 1730, she received 13,020 gallons of Navy Special fuel oil before mooring at San Diego. Operating from Pyramid Cove, San Clemente Island, from 1–28 February, the escort ship conducted routine shipboard drills. During the month of March, John C. Butler participated in antisubmarine drills.

For the next several months, from March-July 1951, John C. Butler moored at her homeport of Long Beach Naval Station. On 14 August, she got underway for Fleet Sonar School, San Diego. Training in antisubmarine exercises, often alongside Goss (DE-444), she anchored off Treasure Island, before returning to her homeport. On 6 November, she stood out alongside Diachenko (APD-123), Begor (APD-127), and Norton Sound (AVM-1), for exercises in the operation area off Southern Ca., returning to her homeport on 16 November. She spent the rest of the year moored in her homeport.

Standing out for various short underway periods from January-April 1952, John C. Butler entered Dry dock Number One on 18 April. Two weeks later, she moved to Pier Three, before getting underway on 30 June for San Diego via Long Beach. At 0715 on 1 July, she made way into the operating area off San Diego for Fleet Sonar School exercises. Returning to her homeport on 10 July, she got underway with TU 98.20.1 on 27 July alongside George A. Johnson (DE-583), Thomas F. Nickel (DE 587), and Grady (DE-445), for Victoria, British Columbia. Arriving at Esquimalt Naval Shipyard, Victoria, on 1 August, she next made way for Seattle, Wash., on 7 August at 0905. Arriving at 1645 to Naval Supply Station, Seattle, John C. Butler remained in the area for four days, conducting operations in Puget Sound. Making way for Long Beach, she returned to her homeport at 0655 on 25 August.

John C. Butler stood out for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 1 September 1952. Arriving at Oahu on 5 September at 1138, she conducted operations off Hilo (Kuhio Bay) on 8 September. Making way for Long Beach on 10 September, she arrived at her homeport on 15 September. Just over a week later, on 23 September, the escort ship made way for Portland, Oregon, mooring there on 25 September for a port visit before returning to Southern California five days later.

From October-December 1952, John C. Butler conducted various exercises in the operating area off San Diego. On 5 January 1953, she steamed for Acapulco, Mexico, arriving three days later. Making way for Long Beach, she moored at Net Pier on 2 February. From 14–15 February, John C. Butler stood out for Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. Five days later, she made way for her homeport. From late February-late March, she conducted operations in the San Diego area, before getting underway again for Ensenada on 29 March.

The escort ship got underway for Pearl Harbor at 1625 on 7 April 1953. On board were naval reservists going to sea, several for the first time, in order to experience and learn about their ratings. Arriving in Hawaii on 11 April, John C. Butler stood out at 0958 to conduct at sea exercises. Six days later, on 17 April, she made way for Long Beach, arriving at 0721. On 2 May, John C. Butler steamed from San Diego to Seattle. The crew enjoyed a few days of liberty before the escort ship returned to San Diego Bay on 8 May. Later that month, the escort ship made way to Vancouver, British Columbia, on 25 May, mooring at Esquimalt before returning to Net Pier five days later.

Keeping up a rapid tempo of underway periods, John C. Butler steamed for Vancouver, on 1 June 1953. She next made way for Seattle on 5 June before steaming back for her homeport, mooring there on 15 June. A week later, the escort ship stood out for Balboa, Canal Zone, entering the area on 25 June. John C. Butler also made a port visit to Callao, Peru, mooring there at 1719. Operating alongside Weeden (DE-797), the two escort ships departed Callao on the Fourth of July for Manzanillo, Mexico. At 1501 on 10 July, both Weeden and John C. Butler departed Manzanillo in company with TU 31.1.9 en route to Long Beach. After spending the next two weeks at her homeport undergoing small repairs, John C. Butler stood out on 27 July for Vancouver, arriving two days later at 1538.

On 29 July 1953, John C. Butler made way for Seattle before returning to Southern Ca., on 7 August. From 20–25 August, the escort ship got underway for Honolulu, arriving at 0915 on 26 August. After a short liberty period, John C. Butler stood out on 29 August to return to her homeport at Long Beach, arriving there on 2 September. After another short upkeep period, the escort ship received orders to report to Fleet Sonar School from 16–29 September.

John C. Butler got underway on 4 October 1953, for Ensenada, Mexico. After conducting operations and training exercises, she returned to her homeport. After bringing on board naval reservists, the escort ship stood out for Hawaii on 8 November. Arriving at Pearl at 1325 on 12 November, she conducted exercises in the area off Oahu. The reservists trained in his rank or rating, stood watches, repaired and maintained equipment, conducted ship handling exercises, and learned antisubmarine and antiaircraft warfare maneuvers before returning to Long Beach on 23 November. John C. Butler remained in port during the month of December.

The crew celebrated the holidays on leave with their families while the ship remained in port. Ens. J. J. Corcoran composed the traditional New Year’s Day deck log entry on 1 January 1954:

A brand New Year and here I am

moored starboard side to the Cunningham.

At the Naval Station in old Long Beach,

New Year’s Eve and not a blonde in reach…

To all the Navy in the New Year,

Best wishes to all, Good Luck and Good Cheer.

Remaining at her homeport for an upkeep period until 24 February 1954, John C. Butler stood out the next day for Mazatlán, Mexico, arriving two days later at 1203. After a short liberty visit, she returned stateside, arriving on 5 March. Ten days later, on 15 March, the escort ship got underway for Pearl Harbor. Arriving at 0947 on 27 March, the crew enjoyed three days of liberty before John C. Butler got underway for California. After conducting training operations off the west coast during the first two weeks of April, John C. Butler anchored at Avalon, South Catalina Island, on 24 April.

John C. Butler returned to Fleet Sonar School, San Diego, on 5 May 1954. After a brief return to Long Beach, she steamed for Ensenada, Mexico, on 9 May. Receiving orders to make way for Portland on 25 May, the escort ship remained in the area for two days before standing out for her homeport on 4 June. Three weeks later, on 23 June, she got underway for Balboa, Panama. On 26 June, she briefly moored at Coco Solo Naval Station before standing out at 1334 in company with TU 31.1.9, en route to Havana, Cuba. After a port visit in Havana, John C. Butler made way for Cristobal, C.Z., on 5 July. A day later, she arrived at Rodman Naval Station, Balboa. Later that same day, at 1346, she stood out for Acapulco, Mexico. Returning to Southern Ca., on 16 July, the escort ship made way to Seattle on 26 July, and moored at the Naval Supply Depot four days later.

During the month of August 1954, John C. Butler made port visits to Vancouver (9 August), and Georgia Strait, Sandy Point, Wash., (11 August). A week later, she got underway back for her homeport at Long Beach. A return visit to Vancouver and Seattle in early September ended her underway period and port visits for the year. From October-December, John C. Butler remained moored in her homeport, with the exception of Fleet Sonar School training off San Diego from 1–10 December.

On 9 January 1955, John C. Butler stood out from her homeport and anchored at Wilson Cove, San Clemente. Getting underway for San Diego at 1025, she steamed for Acapulco, remaining in the area from 8–14 February. Steaming back to her homeport, she conducted exercises in the area before taking on fuel and supplies and making way for Hawaii at 1323 on 27 March. Mooring at Honolulu on 2 April, the crew enjoyed four days of liberty before getting underway at 0820 on 6 April. Arriving at Long Beach on 12 April, the escort ship spent the next two months moored at her homeport.

An intense training and underway schedule began during the first week of June 1955. From 1–7 June, John C. Butler made a port call to Portland, Oregon. After returning to her homeport, she stood out on 15 June for the Panama Canal Zone. From 23–26 June, she made port visits to Panama and Callao, Peru. On 5 July, the escort ship made a port visit to Lima, Peru, before arriving in the Canal Zone two days later. Getting underway again, she anchored off Acapulco on 11 July, before returning to Long Beach for refueling and resupply. On 26 July, John C. Butler stood out for Seattle, conducting exercises in the area until 6 August.

John C. Butler, 15 August 1955, photographed by Esquivel of Utility Squadron 7. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-680789, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)
Caption: John C. Butler, 15 August 1955, photographed by Esquivel of Utility Squadron 7. (U.S. Navy Photograph 80-G-680789, National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures Division, College Park, Md.)

After returning to her homeport two weeks later, she got underway for Ensenada, remaining there from 20–22 August 1955. After returning to her homeport, the escort ship steamed for Vancouver on 30 August, conducting exercises in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, before returning to the San Diego area in the first week of September.

After remaining moored at Long Beach until 30 September 1955, John C. Butler made way for San Pedro, entering Dry dock Number One at Todd Shipyard. The escort ship underwent a routine overhaul from 1 October 1955–3 January 1956. Underway from the shipyard on 3 January at 0838, John C. Butler commenced sea trials before proceeding to her homeport. After the completion of sea trials, the escort ship got underway for Acapulco on 26 February. Returning three days later to Southern Ca., the escort ship underwent a second yard period from 1 March–25 May.

Getting underway for weeklong training exercises from May-July 1956 in the San Diego operating area beginning on 26 May, John C. Butler stood out on 8 August for Seattle. On 20 August, she made way for Port Angeles, conducting training exercises until mooring at Vancouver on 24 August. Six days later, she stood out en route for Long Beach. From September-November, the escort ship conducted short training cruises off San Diego. On 25 November, John C. Butler got underway for Acapulco, making a port visit there from 1–6 December. Steaming back for her homeport, she returned at 0909 on 7 December, the fifteenth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

After the crew returned from holiday leave, John C. Butler seldom left her homeport except to conduct short underway training periods from January-July 1957. She made way on 23–26 July to Port Alberni, B.C., mooring at the Government Assembly Wharf from 26 July-1 August. Steaming for a port visit to Seattle on 2 August, John C. Butler stood out for training exercises in the area before anchoring off the coast from the 6th-10th. Departing Seattle on 11 August, she arrived back to her homeport five days later.

John C. Butler remained at Long Beach through September 1957. On 1 October, she stood out for Wilmington, Ca. Nearly a week later, on 9 October, tugs escorted her to Dry dock Number Two, Todd Shipyard, San Pedro. After a short dry dock period, the escort ship moored at Berth 129 in Los Angeles Harbor.

At 0920 on 18 December, her crew assembled on the fantail for decommissioning ceremonies. At 0930, Lt. Cmdr. Lester E. G. Setser, her commanding officer, ordered the colors and commissioning pennant hauled down. Placed in the U.S. Pacific Reserve Fleet, San Diego, on 18 December 1957, John C. Butler was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 June 1970.

Transferred for use as a target ship in the Walleye II tests, she departed Naval Station San Diego towed by Koka (ATA-185) on 2 December 1971. Due to high winds, heavy seas, and damage sustained during the warhead tests, the portion of ex-John C. Butler aft of frame 135 broke apart and sank in approximately 90 feet of water. Towing the remainder of the ship’s remaining hulk into deeper water, 75 pounds of C-4 explosive charges placed at two points in her bulkhead detonated, capsizing the rest of ex-John C. Butler.

John C. Butler received five battle stars for World War II service, and the Presidential Unit Citation for her part in the Battle off Samar.

Commanding Officers Date Assumed Command
Lt. Cmdr. John E. Pace 31 March 1944
Lt. Cmdr. Charles W. Jenkins 27 May 1945
Decommissioned 26 June 1946
Lt. Cmdr. Marvin D. Jones 27 December 1950
Lt. Cmdr. Robert B. Willhoite 16 February 1952
Lt. Cmdr. William J. Coleman 11 June 1954
Lt. Cmdr. Lester E. G. Setser 23 December 1955


Guy Joseph Nasuti
12 September 2019

Published: Thu Sep 12 15:54:45 EDT 2019