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Butler and Cowart families collection

 Collection — Container: 15.0014 - Box 1
Identifier: 15.0014

Scope and Contents

This collection pertains to Thomas A. Butler, who served as a First Lieutenant in the 468th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) Battalion during World War II. Butler served in France and Germany from 1944-1945, receiving five battle stars and a bronze star medal. In the immediate months following the war, he was stationed at the Berchtesgaden Hof Hotel, which was adjacent to Hitler’s retreat at Obersalzberg, where he operated the Hotel as a retreat for Army officers. Butler maintained a detailed Service Record Book that includes his personal information, transfers, the locations he was deployed, the people he met, and military letters he received during and after the war. In aggregate, Butler’s collection includes: A U.S Military Service Record Book, including a personalized autographed photograph of General of the Air Force Henry (Hap) Arnold, one Berchtesgaden photo album created by Butler himself, Butler’s awarded and framed Bronze Star, and two artifacts retrieved from Germany: one Nazi Party armband and one stationary folder.


  • created: 1943-1950
  • Other: Majority of material found within 1945-1947
  • Other: Date acquired: 07/28/2015 by Dr. Marie E. Cowart


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Biographical or Historical Information

Thomas A. Butler was born on August 16, 1916, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Butler grew up in Miami, Florida where he spent his teenage years working at The Bath Club, a luxurious country club for Miami’s elite. Butler enlisted as a Private in the United States Army at Camp Blanding, Florida in January 1943 at the age of 26. Butler rose through the ranks to Second Lieutenant during basic training at Camp Wallace, Texas; Camp Davis, North Carolina; and Camp Haan, California.

Butler arrived in France at Utah Beach on August 28, 1944. After landing in Normandy, he experienced combat in Northern France, Belgium, and Luxembourg during the Battle of the Bulge, and in Germany. For his service, during the course of the war, he received a bronze star medal and five battle stars: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe. After the cessation of hostilities in May 1945, Butler’s talents and upbringing in the hospitality industry led to being presented with the unique task of operating the Berchtesgaden Hof Hotel in the Bavarian Alps, which he was transferred to in June 1945. The hotel, situated adjacent to Adolf Hitler’s personal winter retreat, was built in the 1930s and 1940s by the Nazi Government and was later transformed into a hotel for American Military Officers.

Now promoted to First Lieutenant, Butler spearheaded the effort to prepare for the reception of the general officers in July 1944. It was during this stay that Butler met most of the Army High Command. Butler’s masterful ability to provide an excellent stay for the Army Generals awarded him a letter of commendation and a personalized autographed photo from General of the Air Force Henry (Hap) Arnold. At Berchtesgaden, Butler befriended many of the German staff that worked for the hotel under Hitler. Butler was honorably discharged from active duty in the early months of 1946 and then joined the Reserves. He, however, maintained a strong relationship with those he met in Germany and would return annually, and sometimes biannually, with his wife Helen to visit the German Staff at the Berchtesgaden Hof. Butler moved to Tallahassee in 2003 and passed away on May 28, 2007.

James Bryant Cowart, Sr., brother-in-law to Thomas A. Butler, served in the U.S. Navy in both World War I and World War II. He was born on February 11, 1899 in Pinetta Florida in Madison County, and moved to Miami where he met his wife, Marie Butler, marrying in 1930. They had one child, James Bryant Cowart, Jr. who was born on October 2, 1936. Cowart Sr. served in WWI from September 1917 to January 1923 as a seaman. He entered the service at 18 years and two months and re-enlisted serving until June 9, 1925. He served on the USS Southard on June 10, 1921 as a Coxwain Mate. Later he served on the USS Rigel and the USS Omaha.

During Word War II, Cowart, Sr. re-entered the U.S. Navy on October 26, 1942 and served as a Boatswain Mate 2nd class. He served on the USS Belleau Wood, crossing the equator on September 1, 1943. After discharge, he worked in Miami, FL in a furniture store. He died in 1951 of a heart attack. His wife worked for Eastern Airlines and continued to live in Miami until her death at age 97 in 2011.


1 boxes

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Transferred from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience to FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives in July 2022.

Source of Acquisition

Dr. Marie Cowart, niece of Thomas A. Butler

Butler and Cowart families collection
Andrew Flaxman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US