BUTLER, JAMES EDWARD
REMAINS IDENTIFIED 04 SEPT 97
CWO Jame Butler was finally laid to rest April 30, 2000 at a local cemetery in
Name: James Edward Butler
Rank/Branch: W1/US Army
Unit: Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 214th Aviation Battalion, 164th
Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade
Date of Birth: 13 June 1936 (Lillington NC)
Home City of Record: Buies Creek NC
Date of Loss: 20 March 1970
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 095900N 1062045E (XS475038)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Robert G. Cozart (remains returned)
REMARKS: IR SAYS BOTH CREWMEMBERS KILLED
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 from one or more of
the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.
SYNOPSIS: On March 20, 1970, Capt. Robert G. Cozart, pilot, and WO James E.
Butler departed Vinh Long, South Vietnam aboard an O1G (serial #51-12899) at
1016 hours on a visual reconnaissance mission over Vinh Binh Province with a
stop at the Province capitol of Phu Vinh. At 1028 hours, a radio
transmission was received from WO Butler advising the Team 72 Tactical
Operations Center that they were airborne and en route to Tra Vinh. This was
the last communication with the crew. The aircraft never landed at Tra Vinh.
Upon receiving notification that the aircraft was missing, a province-wide
search was initiated. All immediate search efforts were unsuccessful.
Vietnamese civilians, however, reported that an aircraft had been downed in
the vicinity of Tra Vinh. Local forces with U.S. advisors, U.S. troops,
coastal patrol boats and light aircraft conducted extensive search efforts
from March 20 through March 27. During the search efforts, one control
communications set and one control radio set were located, but were never
identified as positively being from Capt. Cozart's aircraft. However, they
were of the sort used on the O1G.
According to Butler's wife, a Vietnamese civilian had reported the crash,
prompting the search in the area. Another Vietnamese civilian report
indicated that the pilot of the plane (Cozart) had been killed in the crash
and the Viet Cong killed or wounded the other crewman (Butler) and either
took the bodies to cang Long Base area for display or threw them into the
river and dismantled the aircraft. Another Vietnamese civilian report
indicated that part of the plane was located but a September 21, 1970,
search was aborted due to booby traps. The tail section of the aircraft was
finally recovered and identified October 23, 1970.
The United States Government has classified both Cozart and Butler as
"Category 1," which means that there is certain evidence to indicate that
the enemy forces know the fate of the Americans. In the Peace agreement
signed in Paris in 1973, the Vietnamese agreed to release all American
prisoners of war and account for the missing. They have not done so. The
U.S. Government has named the return and accounting of Americans "highest
national priority", yet has dealt with the issue with less than "high
On August 1, 1989, the U.S. announced that remains returned by the
Vietnamese had been positively identified as those of Buster Cozart. It is
has been widely known for several years that the Vietnamese maintain a large
store of remains from which to select shipments to the U.S. when it is
politically favorable to do so. Buster Cozart - living or dead - was a
prisoner of war for nearly 20 years. Although the uncertainty his family has
had to endure is now at an end, they may never know how - or when - Buster
died. The fate of James E. Butler remained unknown until years later.
Monday, May 1, 2000
Friends, family bid farewell to Vietnam War casualty Butler
By Allison Williams
LILLINGTON -- James E. "Jimmy" Butler is home from the Vietnam War.
It has been a long trip -- 30 years and thousands of miles. Brothers,
sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews have since graduated from high school
and college, married, had children. They wondered what happened to Chief
Warrant Officer Jimmy Butler after his reconnaissance plane disappeared from
the sky on March 20, 1970. They waited for him to return from South Vietnam.
On Sunday afternoon -- the 25th anniversary of the end of the war -- they
lowered Butler's casket in the ground next to his father, Raymond Butler.
"It's going to be closure," said Patricia Butler, Jimmy Butler's
sister-in-law, before Sunday's funeral. "His remains will be at home.
Before, you just didn't know."
Butler's friends and family members came from North Carolina, South Carolina
and California to bury Butler and put years of unanswered questions to rest.
They held a service in Spring Hill United Methodist Church, Butler's home
church in the countryside about eight miles from Lillington.
At the funeral, Donald Spence recalled the 11,000 days without his cousin, a
man he called a hero.
Spence compared him to another hero, David, from the Bible.
Ethylene Shannon, Butler's aunt, read a poem found with his belongings in
Vietnam. "When tomorrow starts without me," she read, "don't think we're far
apart. For every time you think of me, I'm right here in your heart."
Mourners moved to a graveside service where soldiers saluted a casket draped
in an American flag, fired three shots in the air and presented Myrtie
Butler Norris, Jimmy Butler's mother, with a flag.
Several people gave Norris bracelets they have worn in her son's honor.
Wayne Paterson did not know Jimmy Butler, but he has worn a MIA bracelet
with his name on it for the past 15 years.
When he found out Butler's remains were being returned to North Carolina, "I
just broke down," he said. "He's home. Home is important to everybody."
Paterson is a member of Fayetteville's chapter of the Rolling Thunder, a
group dedicated to helping prisoners of war, servicemen missing in action
and their families. About 50 members from the Fayetteville, Wilmington and
Salisbury chapters rode motorcycles to Butler's funeral.
"It's a good day," said Darryl Schraeder, president of the Fayetteville
chapter. "It's a tough day, but it's a good day."
Since 1992, 501 probable sets of remains of soldiers, sailors, airmen and
Marines have been returned to the United States from Southeast Asia. Of
those 501 sets of remains, 239 have been confirmed to be those of missing
Those remains have been returned to their families, said Petty Officer 1st
Class Jeffrey McDowell, who works for the task force that is responsible for
repatriation of American remains from Vietnam.
Before 1992, another program repatriated 553 "boxes of human remains" from
Vietnam. But there is no hard data on the number of repatriated American
remains from that group that were returned to their families, McDowell said.
McDowell said scientific technology is advancing so the identification
process is much more reliable. But it is still "a slow and tedious process,"
Jimmy Butler grew up picking cotton and tobacco in the fields
of Harnett County. Before he could finish Buies Creek School, he joined the
Army to fight in the Korean War. When he came home after a parachute
accident, Butler went right back to high school even though he was much
older than any of the other students.
He was 6 feet 4 inches tall and had an air of command even when he did not
wear his military uniform, family and friends remembered. He was handsome.
He loved a good joke, fishing and fast cars.
"The best thing he enjoyed, though, was his flying," said Patricia Butler.
He earned a pilot's license and dusted crops in a small plane over the same
cotton and tobacco fields where he had once worked. One time, the herbicides
and pesticides he sprayed seeped into his skin. He almost died from
poisoning before doctors at Duke University Medical Center treated him.
Another time, a thunderstorm forced Butler to land on a rural highway. An
older couple later remembered the smiling man who waved at them as he taxied
from their field.
Jumping out of airplanes during the Korean War, the close calls as a pilot:
none of it scared him off flying. He dreamed of one day flying commercial
planes, his family said. Butler knew he could earn more flying experience in
He re-enlisted in the Army in 1968. He knew the chances of going to the
Vietnam War were good.
Carolyn Brown and Lillian Ennis ate dinner with Butler the night before he
left North Carolina for Vietnam. They were friends from school and from
working in the fields together.
"We sat up talking most of the night," Ennis said.
From Vietnam, Butler wrote letters to family and friends. He sent pictures
and tapes to his mother.
On the day his friends and family heard the news about Butler's missing
plane, Brown received a letter Butler had written days before he
disappeared. He was flying and happy, the letter reported.
After hearing the news, Ennis wore a MIA bracelet in honor of Butler.
"Because he was a friend and in support of what he was willing to do for
this country," she said. "He didn't have to go. It was something he believed
In 1978, his family learned that Butler was presumed dead. In 1997, the Army
identified his remains. This week, his brothers escorted Butler's coffin
from a military base in Hawaii.
On Sunday, he came home.
At the funeral, the Rev. Bobby Tyson stood behind Butler's casket and said,
"There's no place like home, and I know Jimmy is not in that box. He is with
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