William Edmund Butterworth III (November 10, 1929 – February 12, 2019), better known by his pen name W. E. B. Griffin, was an American writer of military and detective fiction with 59 novels in seven series published under that name. Twenty-one of those books were co-written with his son, William E Butterworth IV. He also published under 11 other pseudonyms and three versions of his real name (W. E. Butterworth, William E. Butterworth, and William E. Butterworth III).
In Korea he first served as an official Army war correspondent with the 223rd Infantry Regiment, then as public information officer for U.S. X Corps, which included the 1st Marine Division. Griffin received the Combat Infantryman Badge for service at the front lines. His knowledge of combat and garrison life and his friendships with military personnel from different services would well serve his writing. Many of his books are dedicated to fallen comrades who died in Korea or later on in Vietnam or while serving with the international peacekeeping force dispatched during the Lebanese Civil War. Griffin was modest about his own service. He once told a Barnes & Noble interviewer:
My own military background is wholly undistinguished. I was a sergeant. What happened was that I was incredibly lucky in getting to be around some truly distinguished senior officers, sergeants, and spooks.
After the end of the Korean War, Griffin continued to work for the military in a civilian capacity as Chief of the Publications Division of the U.S. Army Signal Aviation Test & Support Activity at Fort Rucker, Alabama. After his first three novels proved successful, he left this job to pursue writing full-time. To date, he has 160 fiction and nonfiction works to his credit. He was well-known and respected in the literary world for his thrillers and crime novels.
His son William E. Butterworth IV (previously editor of Boys' Life, the magazine of the Boy Scouts of America) co-authored some of his books. Butterworth fils was a long-time editor who moved from assisting in editing his father's work to collaborator. As of July 2015, he has been co-author of sixteen Griffin books in five different novel series. He was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Mystery Writers Key West Fest.
Griffin's knowledge of military jargon and administrative writing style shows when fictional orders and dispatches are incorporated in his novels. Many of his characters must battle red tape and bureaucratic mix-ups, sometimes making humorous end-runs around the system.
Griffin was the co-founder of the William E. Colby Seminar on Intelligence, Military, and Diplomatic Affairs at Norwich University in Vermont, along with his friend, historian and Patton biographer Colonel Carlo D'Este. Griffin was a member of the Colby Circle, having participated in the William E. Colby Writers Symposium at Norwich University.
In 1950, Griffin married Emma Macalik Butterworth, a ballet dancer and the author of As the Waltz Was Ending, a memoir of her life growing up as a dancer in Vienna during World War II. They had a daughter (Patricia) and two sons (John S. II and William E. IV). The marriage ended in divorce in the 1990s.Emma died from lung cancer in 2003.
Griffin later married Maria del Pilar Menendez, whom he had met in Argentina. She died in 2018.
Griffin died in February 2019 from colorectal cancer at the age of 89.