Americans in Wartime Experience

D R Butler

Vietnam War

D.R. Butler. Born in Waxahachie, TX in 1934. D.R. was a helicopter pilot serving with the 1rst Calvary Division in Vietnam.

When D.R. was 5 years old, he decided that he wanted to be a pilot. When he told his father, his father said to him that “no colored man is gonna be a pilot.” In 1947, President Truman integrated the services and the door opened up for D.R. to be able to realize his dream. He Applied for flight school and was accepted. D.R. tells young people that you must have a dream or vision in order for it to come true.

D.R. entered training at Fort Benning and then he was off to Spencer Air Base in Georgia for flight school. After 3 months he was sent to Gary Air Force Base and then to Fort Rucker where he received his wings.

At the time D.R. received his wings, the Army had just undergone a reorganization. During this period, each army received an aviation company that would be assigned to every division. With each company were helicopters. As a result, D.R. was trained how to fly helicopters, specifically, the H-34 Choctaw. After 4 months of training, he was sent to Fort Hood and then to Germany. In 1962 and 63, he served in Korea.

After leaving Korea in 1963, D.R. was assigned to the 11th Air Assault (Test). He would take part in the test of the air mobile concept. The testing lasted 2 years, when in April of 1965 , the 11th Air Assault would become the 1rst Calvary Division and receive orders to head to Vietnam. This would be the first time that the air mobile concept would be tested in combat. D.R. was assigned to the 229th Aviation Battalion which would be immortalized in the movie “We Were Soldiers.”

After the Battle of la Drang, Hal Moore, depicted by Mel Gibson in the movie, was promoted to Colonial and became the brigade commander. Now a major, D.R. was assigned to be with him when he was in the field as a liaison of the helicopter unit. As a result, he got to know Col. Moore very well which D.R. said was very rewarding and a great honor.

After returning from Vietnam, D.R. had several assignments that would take him around the country. In December 1969, after being promoted to Lt. Col., D.R. was sent to the Pentagon as the deputy for army aviation. After several different assignments, he retired after a long and successful army career.

When asked to reflect on his career, D.R. says that it was an honor to have served. He said that he learned and achieved a lot and that he has no regrets.

After his career in the army, D.R. became an adjunct professor at George Mason University. He would also go on to become the associate athletic director for academics and intercollegiate athletics. D.R. Butler passed away in July 2021 at the age of 86. He had a positive influence on everyone he met. To spend time with him meant you became a better person.

During our interview with D.R. in 2011 he said, “You can’t do average, you’ve got to always do things faster, better and quicker, even though you won’t always get credit for it, because that will become part of you. At some point your excellence will win it.”

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The Americans in Wartime Experience explores the impact of war and conflict on America since WWI. It honors those who served in the military and on the home front and highlights the values they demonstrated in serving – duty, honor, and courage. It examines how periods of conflict have profoundly shaped American society. It educates visitors about the costs of war, both on a personal and social level. It challenges visitors to remember the service and sacrifices made by their fellow citizens to preserve and defend our freedoms. LEARN MORE

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