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A Hero in Our Midst -- Mac Butler's "Battlin' Blue Bastards"

During the recent past, much of our nation's attention has been on the victims and the heroes in New York and elsewhere. Once again, a tyrant has mistaken our in-family squabbles as a a sign of outward weakness and a lack of backbone. The following story is about a group of citizen-soldiers who went up against a disciplined, experienced, determined enemy and utterly defeated them — just as we are again.

McClernand Butler - 3 K
McClernand "Mac" Butler during WWII.

Madge Mattella Grimes, my first cousin once removed and the granddaughter of Luther Sanford Beasley and Ruth Matella Claggett, married McClernand "Mac" Butler (left). 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. For many years, Mac was an office manager for Illinois Bell in Ottawa, Illinois.

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. Promoted to lieutenant colonel on March 21, 1944, he would remain in the Army until January 14, 1946. Lieutenant Colonel McClernand Butler took command of the 3rd Battalion, 395th Infantry Regiment, 99th Division on February 1, 1944.

Without any combat experience, the 3rd Battalion became the first unit of the 99th Division to reach the front when it moved to Hofen, Germany, on November 9, 1944. Hofen was part of Germany's Siegfried Line, or West Wall. The battalion of about 1000 men held a 6,000-yard front from Monschau to Hofen toward Alzen. The 38th Cavalry Squadron stood on its left flank, and the other two battalions of the 395th Infantry held the right flank. The unit was outmanned by the Germans 6:1.

On December 16, 1944, a tremendous artillery barrage signaled the start of Adolf Hitler's final offensive. As the Ardennes Offensive—or as the press named it, the Battle of the Bulge—the Germans repeatedly tried to crack Hofen. German artillery rained down on his regiment's postion from a 350 degree angle, as the unit was nearly surrounded. Butler twice called in artillery fire on his men's own positions to drive the enemy back.

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The Cause of Liberty

The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.

(Cousin) Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775
Speech in the Virginia Convention