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First Name: William

Last Name: Button

Birthplace: St. Louis, MO, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Robert

Date of Birth: 03 December 1895

Date of Death: 15 April 1921

Rank: Sergeant

Years Served: 1917-1921
William Robert Button

•  Occupation of Haiti (1915 - 1934)


William Robert Button
Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps
Medal of Honor Recipient

William Robert Button (3 December 1895 - 15 April 1921) was a Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in killing Charlemagne Masséna Péralte on 31 October - 1 November 1919. Péralte was a Haitian nationalist leader who opposed the U.S. invasion of his country in 1915. Leading guerrilla fighters called the Cacos, he posed such a challenge to the U.S. forces in Haiti that the occupying forces had to upgrade their presence in the country. Button later obtained the rank of Sergeant before dying at age 25 from malaria.

William Robert Button was born on 3 December 1895 in St. Louis, MO. After joining the U.S. Marine Corps, he was sent to fight in Haiti. Button was in command of a group of Gendarmerie near Grande Riviere, Republic of Haiti, on 31 October - 1 November 1919, when they engaged a group of Haitian bandits. By the end of fighting Charlemagne Masséna Péralte, the supreme bandit chief in the Republic of Haiti, had been killed and about 1200 of his followers had been killed, captured or disbursed.

For risking his life in battle he, along with Sergeant Herman H. Hanneken, was cited for bravery, and recommended for the U.S. military's highest decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor. The medal was approved by the Secretary of the Navy on 10 June 1920.

Medal of Honor

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to


For service as set forth in the following Citation:

For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in actual conflict with the enemy near GRANDE RIVIERE Republic of Haiti, on the night of 31 October - 1 November 1919, resulting in the death of Charlemagne Péralte, the supreme bandit chief in the Republic of Haiti, and the killing and capture and dispersal of about twelve hundred (1200) of his outlaw followers. Corporal William R. Button not only distinguished himself by his excellent judgment and leadership, but unhesitatingly exposed himself to great personal danger, when the slightest error would have forfeited not only his life but the lives of the detachments of Gendarmerie under his command. The successful termination of his mission will undoubtedly prove of untold value to the Republic of Haiti.

The Medal of Honor was presented to Corporal William R. Button by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Major General John A. Lejeune, at a ceremony in Washington, DC, on 1 July 1920. Second Lieutenant Herman H. Hanneken was also awarded his Medal of Honor at that ceremony.

After the ceremony, Button took a short furlough to his hometown of St. Louis before returning to Haiti.

Death and Burial

Sergeant William Robert Button died of pernicious malaria on 15 April 1921 at the Department Hospital in Cape Haitien, Haiti, at the age of 25. At the request of his father, his remains were returned to the United States and he is buried at Valhalla Cemetery in Saint Louis, MO. His grave can be found in Section 5S, Lot 66, Grave 1. The Marines he served with in the Gendarmerie d'Haiti donated money to place a bronze memorial tablet on his grave, and stated that any additional funds would be used to place flowers on his grave each Memorial Day.

Honoree ID: 1965   Created by: MHOH




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