Veteran of the Month: Jack Butler: A man of honor

By Milan Eagle Media

Several times during the conversation Jack said “Bombers won the war for us”.  Jack Butler was referring to the Willow Run Bomber Plant and WWII.

Jack Butler, and his twin sister Alice Allstetter, a retired Milan school teacher, were born December 7, 1918 in the house where he has lived his entire life. One wonders if his parents were surprised, after all Jack and Alice had an 18 year old sister and a 16 year old brother when they arrived into the world.    In 1872 his dad was born here as well; the farm has been in the family 159 years.

Years later in a dance hall at Wampler’s Lake near Clinton, MI, Jack met Margaret.  This would prove to be a love of a lifetime.  They married July 1, 1942 and were blessed to share 71 years together until she passed October 30, 2013.

Jack worked at the Rouge Plant and then at the Willow Run Bomber Plant, where he took x-rays of each plane part before it was installed.  Because his work was important at the bomber plant and the bombers were important to the military he was surprised to learn he wasn’t exempt and he received a draft notice.  On July 7, 1942, leaving Margaret, his bride of 6 days behind, he joined the Army. She would be doing her part, Margaret was one of the Rosie the Riveters at the Bomber Plant.

He went from Camp Custer in Battle Creek to Camp Robinson in Arkansas, to X-Ray training (for people this time) in Springfield, MO. to Colorado for 22 months where he had 12 techs working for him and there was training with 3,000 packed mules in the mountains.  While in Colorado he would take the bus (about 9 hours in winter) from Leadville to Denver and then take the train, Rock Island Rocket which transported troops for free, all night to Chicago.  He tried to make this trip every 4-6 weeks because Margaret would meet him in Chicago and they’d spend the weekend together.

When Jack was sent overseas, he left from New Jersey on the Queen Mary headed for England.  There were 26,000 troops on board for this 4 night journey and they alternated between the bed and the floor each night for sleeping.

As a Staff Sergeant in the Army at the 123rd General Hospital in Hereford England, a 1,500 bed hospital near Wales, he recalls the many times they woke them  up at 2 or 3 a.m. when the trains with wounded troops would come in from France.  Everyone would have to go do triage on the train, help load the wounded into waiting ambulances to be taken to the hospitals.  There were several hospitals depending on the medical needs of the patients, head wounds, broken bones, bullet wounds, chest wounds, his hospital got a lot of the overflow.  Imagine his surprise when he helped a wounded patient, Ed Gomer, a guy he’d gone to high school with in Milan.

Jack was in England approximately 18 months. Heading home on the Queen Elizabeth, it was their second day at sea when the bomb was dropped on Pearl Harbor. When the Queen Elizabeth docked in New York he was put on a train headed to Michigan.  He was discharged March 5, 1946.

Jack says his military experience was very good and he never saw any combat.  Once back in Milan he didn’t continue working in the medical field in x-ray because he said the pay wasn’t very good.  He went back to Ford Motor Company, then for about 5 years he had Butler’s Little Store on Dexter St.  After he sold the store he worked 6-7 years at Haskins Hardware and from there he worked about 20 years at Wicks Hardware until he retired.

He’s had a good life and been very blessed with his wife and family and good health.  His son, David, lives with him on the family farm.  He shared two special memories with me, both special watches.  One was a gift from Margaret, she purchased it for him at a jewelry store in Colorado when he was stationed there and the other was given to him for one of his anniversaries at Wicks Lumber.  Jack may be 95, but he’s a young 95.  Thank you Jack for serving our country and thank you for sharing you story with Milan.  The Milan Eagle honors Jack Butler!

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