THNMilitary History

Butler's Battlin'
Blue Bastards

While the German Ardennes offensive pushed forward
all around it, the 3rd Battalion of the 395th Infantry
Regiment stubbornly held its ground.

Interview by
Matthew Cappellini

Originally published in Military History June 96, Vol. 13 Issue 2, p38.

McClernand Butler - 3 K For Lieutenant Colonel McClernand Butler, serving America with distinction during wartime is a family legacy. Born on July 10, 1910, in Springfield, Illinois, Butler commanded the 3rd Battalion, 395th Infantry Regiment, 99th Division, at Hofen during the Battle of the Bulge. In so doing, he upheld a family tradition that spans several American conflicts.

One of his great-grandfathers, General John Alexander McClernand, commanded infantry during the Civil War. Having already had several horses shot from under him during the fighting, the general was again on horseback with an aide holding his horse's reins when a Rebel bullet severed the reins. "This is getting damned annoying," McClernand reportedly exclaimed.

the 99th Division Troops Fall Prisoner - 6 K
99th Division troops fall prisoner on December 16, 1944. [Click for larger image]

Butler's uncle, General Edward J. McClernand, fought in the Indian Wars, earning the Medal of Honor. Butler's father was a major in the Illinois National Guard and urged his son to become a guardsman when he was 16 years old.

In the early 1930s, McClernand Butler attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for a time. He returned to Illinois and in 1933 was commissioned a second lieutenant in the National Guard. On March 5, 1941, as the United States began to mobilize its forces for the possibility of war, Butler became a second lieutenant in the Regular Army.

395th Infantry Moving Supplies in the Snow - 4 K
Company F, 395th Infantry, February 6, 1945. [Click for larger image]

Promoted to lieutenant colonel on March 21, 1944, he would remain in the Army until January 14, 1946. Because of his exploits during World War II, the French army asked Butler to write a paper on battalion-size night attacks.

After the war, Butler and his friend Colonel G.B. Lahey formed an Illinois National Guard unit. Butler returned to Army service during the Korean War. Among his military awards are the Silver Star, a Distinguished Unit Citation, the French Croix de Guerre, the Belgian Fourragére, the Belgian Ordre de la Couronne, the Bronze Star Medal and the Oak Leaf Cluster.

For many years, Butler was an office manager for Illinois Bell in Ottawa. In retirement, he continues to live in Ottawa with his wife, Madge. Interviewed recently for Military History Magazine by Matthew Cappellini, Butler shared his memories of battalion command during the final six months of World War II.

395th Infantry Moving Supplies in the Snow - 4 K
27th Armored Infantry Battalion
and the 14th Armored Battalion march through Remagen on March 9, 1945. [Click for larger image]

Military History: You served with the Illinois National Guard in Springfield starting in 1933. Later, you served in Taylorville. You were still with the Guard, right?

Butler: Yes. But when that was over, I finally had to have a job. I got one with the telephone company as a salesman and went down to Alton, Illinois, to sell telephones. It's there that I met my wife. Picked her up on the depot platform and married her six weeks later. And I was sure I had all the answers in the world. Well, I didn't. Then I was transferred back up to Springfield. Then the war came along.

F U L L   T E X T
© 1996 PRIMEDIA History Group, a division of PRIMEDIA Special Interest Publications.