USS John C. Butler (DE-339) Destroyer Escort
The John C. Butler destroyer escort received five Battle Stars for her service in World War 2 and fought on in the Korean War to follow.
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The John C. Butler-class was laid down as Destroyer Escorts (DE) during World War 2 (1939-1945) and were originally to number 293 warships. However, 210 of the intended lot were cancelled while only 83 were actually completed including lead ship USS John C. Butler (DE-339). The "Butler" was laid down on October 5th, 1943 by Consolidated Steel Corporation and launched on November 12th of that year. She was formally commissioned for service in the United States Navy (USN) on March 31st, 1944 and went on to have a decades-long career that included both World War 2 and the Korean War (1950-1953).
USS John C. Butler (DE-339) was named after U.S. naval aviator John Clarence Butler (1921-1942), killed during the Battle of Midway in June of 1942.
Destroyer escorts fulfilled the primary role of convoy protection and fleet screening and proved more economical when compared to full-fledged destroyers (the necessity of war dictated quantity over capability at this point). The Butler-class was modestly-armed through a collection of weapons that included Dual-Purpose (DP) guns, Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns and sub-hunting depth charges. USS john C. Butler was herself outfitted with 2 x 5" (127mm) DP deck guns, 4 x 40mm Bofors AA guns, 10 x 20mm Oerlikon AA guns and 3 x 21" torpedo tubes. She also carried 8 x depth charge projectors, 2 x depth charge racks and 1 x "hedgehog" depth charge projector. With this armament suite, Butler could engage nearly all manner of enemy threat - whether they arrived by air, on the sea or under it.
USS John C. Butler's first notable actions were in the Battle of Leyte Gulf as part of the October 1944 Allied campaign to take back the Philippines. This included the Battle of Samar (October 25th) which pitted six American escort carriers, several destroyers and destroyer escorts against four Japanese battleships, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and some eleven destroyers. Kamikaze attacks were also part of the Japanese plan.
Beyond laying down a smoke screen, Butler attacked enemy warships with her torpedoes before engaging at shorter ranges with her deck guns. Much to the surprise of the Americans, the Japanese fleet began their retreat rather than risk more damage which protected the inbound Allied transports. Butler then remained on station to recover crew thrown into the water from the sinking of USS St. Lo, an escort carrier which took a kamikaze strike. The force returned to Pearl Harbor (with Butler escorting) and Butler made her way to Manus in mid-December. She was used to cover the landings at Luzon thereafter and, in January of 1945, her determined crew drove off a wave of kamikaze attacks. The vessel then took part in protecting the carrier force at Lingayen Gulf (South China Sea).
Her next contribution to the war effort was the campaign at Iwo Jima, part of the final push by the Allies en route to Tokyo. She went on to support the Okinawa amphibious landings where Butler was used as a screening vessel to protect the waves of ground forces coming ashore. Beyond this duty, she was used as fleet protection and in Search And Rescue (SAR) and Search And Destroy (SAD) sorties as necessary. She took damage from kamikaze attacks on May 20th, 1945 as six warplanes attacked her - her gunnery crews managing to down five of the assailants - her damage proved minimal so she remained in the fight.
Her final actions of World War 2 included convoy escort before her eventually return to the American West Coast. With the Grand War officially over by way of the Japanese surrender of August 1945, she was decommissioned from active service on June 26th, 1946.
Her days in retirement did not last long for the Butler was recommissioned on December 27th, 1950 for service in the Korean War and, as part of the 11th Naval District, she undertook training actions. With the war over in 1953, she was decommissioned for the second, and last, time on December 18th, 1957. Her stripped hulk was spent as a target in 1971.
During her storied wartime career, USS John C. Butler earned a total of five Battle Stars and her various awards included a Presidential unit Citation, a Navy Unit Commendation, and the World War II Victory Medal.