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Commander William Bowen Ault
SBD Dauntless Bureau Number 4679

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For many years, I wondered who was the crewman on my father's SBD Dauntless dive bomber during the Battle of the Coral Sea in May, 1942. None of the many books, articles and documents that I had read made any reference to him by name. Who was he? Where was he from? How old was he? What was his rank? Did he have a family? Where does one start to look for answers and information?

It was not until the spring of the year 2000, fifty-eight years after the Coral Sea battle that the mystery began to unfold. Through the wonders of the internet and e-mail, I found myself in contact with Vincent L. Anderson, a former U. S. Marine gunner, who was aboard the USS Lexington during the battle and survived both the battle and the sinking of that great ship. Vince, as he is known, presently serves as historian and Memorial Committee Chairman of the USS Lexington CV-2 Minutemen Club. It was he who informed me of the identity of the person who flew as radioman / gunner on my father¹s plane. That individual was ARM 1/ c William T. Butler, USN. Other than his service number, Vince had no further information on him. He suggested that I make inquiry with the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

I decided to enlist the help of my U.S. Senator John W. Warner who was currently chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and himself a former Navy enlisted man and Marine officer. In response to my request, Senator Warner initiated a personal inquiry to the National Personnel Records Center. This resulted in the official records contained in this book which were forwarded to me through his office in Washington, D. C.

A thorough reading of the many documents reveals an interesting sketch of William Thomas Bulter. I learned that he enlisted in the Navy on October 1, 1935 at the age of nineteen. He hailed from Brooklyn, New York, and was the only child of older parents. He served on continuous active duty until his death on May 8, 1942, just eight days shy of his twenty-sixth birthday. He was married briefly in 1941, to a woman nine years his senior who was not legally divorced from her previous husband. They lived together for only about ten days before he shipped out aboard the Lexington. There were no children born to this marriage.

In the back of the book, are a few personal, handwritten letters from William Butler's mother to Navy officials which reveal in emotionally poignant words her desperation, anxiety and despair, first in seeking information and after many months, learning of the fate of her only child. Josie and William Butler, the late middle aged parents of William Thomas Butler, experienced the great tragedy and profound loss that so many thousands of families came to know during WWII. Perhaps in it¹s wake, they found some consolation in knowing that their son performed his duty with heroic distinction in a most worthy and vital cause.

Ault's Legacy
Ault was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Navy Cross:
"For extraordinary heroism as Air Group Commander of the USS Lexington in action against Japanese forces in the Coral Sea May 7 and May 8, 1942. Commander Ault led the air attack in the face of severe antiaircraft barrage and heavy fighter opposition, which resulted in the complete destruction of one enemy carrier on May 7 and major damage to another on May 8. His failure to return from the latter encounter and his courageous conduct throughout the duration of these actions were an inspiration to the entire air group."

Ault Field
The US Navy field at Clover Valley on Whidbey Island was named in honor of Ault.

USS Ault
USS Ault (DD-698) was named for LCDR William Bowen Ault, air group commander for USS Lexington (CV-2). USS AULT was laid down at the Kearny yard, NJ of Federal Shipbuilding on November 15, 1943. Ault's widow christened the ship when launched the following March, and commissioned two months later. The ship went through her shake down in the Caribbean and then was transferred to the Pacific for combat operations, where the ship joined Task Group 38.2 and interrupt enemy bases in the South China Sea area to prevent the flow of aircraft from bases in Formosa and Indochina from joining the battle in the Philippines. On this mission, the ship suffered no losses aboard or her escorts.

In the winter and spring of 1945 the ship joined Task Force 58 and bombarded Iwo Jima and Okinawa airfields. For two months, DD-698 was under constant action against kamikaze attacks aimed at the carriers, destroying a half dozen enemy planes and rescuing survivors from the damaged USS BUNKER HILL (CV-17).

After pulling back to San Pedro Bay, the ship had been at sea continuously for eighty days. A month later, AULT participated in the final sweeps of the Japanese mainland. The ship was anchored near the USS Missouri (BB-63) to witness the formal Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.

Contact
Robert Bowen Ault (son)
Glen Allen, Virginia

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