Ad Spot

Navy radioman Bill Butler holds vivid memories of year in Vietnam

Note: This article appeared in the Aug. 26 edition of the “Redstone Rocket.” This article was written by “Redstone Rocket” editor Skip Vaughn and reprinted by permission. (skip.vaughn@theredstonerocket.com)

MADISON – During his tour in Vietnam, Bill Butler met a famous American athlete assigned to his unit.

In 1966, Bill Butler was a 19-year-old radioman in Naval Support Activity in Chu Lai. Butler provided daily requisitions to his Navy unit’s soon-to-be-famous supply officer, Lieutenant Roger Staubach.

Butler got the future NFL Hall of Famer’s signature on paperwork. However, individuals could not use official Navy documents for private use, so Butler does not have Staubach’s autograph.

Butler hasn’t communicated with the Dallas Cowboys quarterback since leaving Chu Lai in 1967. When Butler left, Staubach was still there.

“He was nice. He was good. I liked him,” Butler said. “I never worked directly under him, but every day I saw him.”

Butler initially was assigned to Da Nang headquarters for his 11-month tour. Butler completed communications work in the two-story fortress building, “The White Elephant,” probably nicknamed for its size.

A mural of an elephant pack adorned the front gates of the heavily-fortified building. Butler worked 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. Butler remembers “long hours and stuck in the White Elephant … If there was a threat, the gates would be closed with a Marine tank unit guarding the perimeter.”

Eventually, Butler was promoted to seaman. He saw the most action during his first two weeks in Da Nang when he rode guard duty on transport trucks. “It’s just the idea of hearing gunfire and seeing flares going up all night long and riding on the back of a truck,” he said.

When he transferred to Chu Lai, he heard more gunfire and B-52s’ bombing runs. His two closest calls were a jeep accident that injured his head and a nighttime incident at sea when he was asked to jump from one boat to another. He swam underwater in pitch black with high wind and seas.

However, some experiences were good times in Vietnam. He saw comedienne Phyllis Diller in Da Nang. In addition, a radioman in Chu Lai was escaping fire when he slipped and fell, splitting his pants and losing his boots.

In Lynchburg, Va., Butler had joined the Navy Reserve in high school and entered active duty in June 1965. After six months of radioman training in Bainbridge, Md., he completed counterinsurgency training at Camp Coronado in San Diego, Calif.

Then at Camp Pendleton, he learned basic infantry tactics and weapons. His trip from the Philippines to Vietnam took about seven days by ship.

Returning home in March 1967, Butler saw antiwar protesters in Los Angeles. “Oh man, being in Vietnam and what you go through. You’re proud of what you’re doing. You have a sense of patriotism and mutual respect,” he said. “And then to get back to the States, everything changed.”

He left the Navy as Petty Officer Second Class, reenlisted in Navy Reserve and joined the Army in 1977. He retired from the Army in 1993 as a Master Sergeant.

“I’ve always been proud to be in the military and in Vietnam,” he said. “I enjoyed my military career and going all over the world with the Navy and the Army. I feel fortunate to have been in both.”

Butler worked for Mevatec Corporation and Radiance Technologies as a government property administrator. His wife, Sol Cha, died in 2004. Their son, James, served eight years in Army Reserve and lives in Madison.

Bill Butler, 74, enjoys military re-enactments with First Patriot Support Group. He and friend Bridget Liddle share a mutual interest in hiking.

Madison

Space Week takes Horizon students on aerospace, tech discoveries

Madison

City urges caution as paving progresses on Hughes Road

Bob Jones High School

Madison City Chess League forms new group for adults

Madison

Madison City Schools named best Alabama school district

Madison

Mercy Wolverton impressively masters hi-tech study, business

Madison

At Madison Street Festival, veterans to show fighter helicopter from Vietnam War

Madison

Local marching bands to be featured at “March on Madison” tonight

Madison

MSF’s Community Showcase promises array of talent

Madison

Brooms, mops in Lions Club sale to raise funds for vision projects

Harvest

Local musicians to jam at Madison Street Festival

Madison

Trash Pandas fall 4-2, Tennessee evens series

FRONT PAGE FEATURED

Athletic Hall Of Fame Accepting Nominations

Harvest

Railyard BBQ Brawl and Music Festival returns Oct. 29

Bob Jones High School

Tommy Overcash appointed to Madison Board of Education

Madison

Children vulnerable for troubled mental health, Cook says

Madison

Fast start leads Trash Pandas to 9-5 in playoff game 1 win

Harvest

Updating state’s 1901 Constitution on November ballot

James Clemens High School

Boynton champions languages with ‘A Seal of Biliteracy’

Madison

Jessica Penot to discuss ‘Haunted North Alabama’

Madison

MSF shows artistic influences at Artist Alley, Crafters Cove and Student Art Tent

Bob Jones High School

Bob Jones, James Clemens command National Merit totals for Alabama

Bob Jones High School

Coaches White and McGehee speak in ‘Sittin’ With the Supe’

Huntsville

Dr. Charles L. Karr named President of UAH

Madison

Trash Pandas clinch second half title with 5-2 win, playoffs start next week

x