Phillip Butler, PhD

Class of 1956
Inducted 2009


After completing high school, Phil Butler graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1961. He became a naval aviator in 1962, flying jets off aircraft carriers in combat during the Vietnam War. On April 20, 1965, his bombs malfunctioned, causing his A4C Skyhawk to explode. He survived the ejection and evaded the enemy for four days, but was captured and became a POW for 2,855 days—the eighth longest-held POW, enduring deplorable conditions and torturous treatment . Only 685 U.S. prisoners survived their ordeals, largely due to the support and encouragement from their fellow American prisoners, and a commitment to the Vietnam POW motto: “Return With Honor.” His military decorations include two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, two Legions of Merit, two Purple Hearts and the Medal of Valor from Oklahoma.

After his release in 1973, he spent eight months recovering and readjusting to normal life, then earned a masters and doctorate of philosophy from The University of California, San Diego. Phil completed his Navy career as an organizational development consultant and professor of management at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He retired from the Navy in 1981, and founded Camelot Enterprises, a consulting company working with corporations on team building, interpersonal skills, leadership development and strategic planning. Phil was able to use personal examples from his Navy education, his career, and his POW experiences as a motivational speaker and seminar leader. He continues to contribute—volunteering for community service organizations, serving on the board of directors for more than 20.

He exemplifies Live with Honor, defined as respect, commitment and service dedicated to peace and social justice, the environment, and improving quality of life for those less fortunate. Phil Butler’s life defines what it means to be a hero. His autobiography is “Three Lives of a Warrior.”