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[image ALT: A head‑and-shoulders photograph, three-quarters left, of a young man in his thirties: of an intelligent and idealistic appearance, with a cast of sadness or pensiveness to the eyes. He is clean-shaven and wears some kind of uniform tunic. He is John William Butts, the subject of this webpage.]

Major
John W. Butts

The preceding image, and the text that follows, are reproduced from (the report of the) Fifty-First Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 14th, 1920.

p59 John William Butts
No. 5236. Class of 1914.
Killed in airplane accident April 3, 1919, near Americus, Ga., aged 38 years.

On April 3, 1919, John William Butts, known to his friends throughout the Service as "Billie" Butts, was killed in an airplane accident at Souther Field, Americus, Georgia.

Butts was born September 26, 1890, at Austin, Texas, and while quite young moved with his family to Cisco. He graduated from the High School there and entered the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College with the Class of 1910.

He entered West Point in March, 1910, and graduated thirty‑one in his class on June 14, 1914.

p60 His commissioned service, though short, was very brilliant. Upon graduation he was assigned to the 3rd Cavalry and was on Border duty for a year. In the fall of 1915 he took the examination for the Air Service, and in December was ordered to Flying School at San Diego, California. Graduating in the spring of 1916, he was assigned to first Aero Squadron at Columbus as Pilot and served with the Punitive Expedition in this capacity.

During the war he had many important positions. As the Department Aviation Officer of the Eastern Department he helped greatly in Air Service recruiting in and about New York City. Leaving New York, he was ordered to Call Field, Wichita Falls, Texas, and from there to Love Field, Dallas, Texas, where he was Officer in Charge of Flying. His efforts there were highly successful and, because of his good record, he was ordered to Washington and assigned to the War College as Aviation Representative on the General Staff. He held this position until after the armistice, when, at his own request, he was ordered to Souther Field, as executive officer, serving there from the first part of January, 1919, until the day of his death.

Descending from a long line of military ancestors, Butts' record was one of which he and his friends may be justly proud. As a cadet, he was conspicuous for a military bearing and his general military efficiency. As an officer, he was highly successful; strong, efficient and generous, he won in every duty to which he was assigned, and came through them all with the satisfaction of a job well done and with the friendship of all who served with him and under him.

He was married to Miss Elsa Wagner of New Rochelle, New York, on February 3, 1917, and became the father of a girl on September 3, 1918. They were with him in Georgia at the time of his death.

His death was a sad blow to the Air Service and to the Army. Courageous and cool-headed, he was one of our best pilots, and did more than his share in proving to America that aviation is real, and that it is a great profession in which men deal daily with death, realizing its dangers, yet glowing with the satisfaction that they are giving to the world something worth while and something that will last forever.

A Friend.


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Page updated: 28 Jan 14