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First Name: Richard

Last Name: Cowan

Birthplace: Lincoln, NE, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Wichita, KS
Middle Name: Eller

Date of Birth: 05 December 1922

Date of Death: 17 December 1944

Rank: Private First Class

Years Served: 1943 - 1944
Richard Eller Cowan

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Richard Eller Cowan
Private First Class, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Private First Class Richard Eller Cowan (5 December 1922 - 17 December 1944) was a U.S. Army soldier who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during World War II.

Cowan was born 5 December 1922 in Lincoln, NE, but grew up in Wichita, KS. After attending school in Wichita, he transferred from Friends University to Oberlin College in October 1942. His father, grandfather, and uncles were all graduates of Oberlin College, and his greatest wish was to be the third Cowan generation at Oberlin. He enlisted in the U.S. Army at Wichita.

On 17 December 1944, the second day of the Battle of the Bulge, Cowan was a Private First Class serving in M Company, 23rd Infantry, Second Infantry Division. The Battle of the Bulge was the last great German effort to split the Allied front and reach the English Channel. Cowan was a heavy machine gunner in a section attached to I Company near Krinkelter Wald, Belgium, and his heroic actions during the battle caused him to be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Company M, 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Krinkelter Wald, Belgium, 17 December 1944.

Citation: He was a heavy machine gunner in a section attached to Company I in the vicinity of Krinkelter Wald, Belgium, 17 December 1944, when that company was attacked by a numerically superior force of German infantry and tanks. The first 6 waves of hostile infantrymen were repulsed with heavy casualties, but a seventh drive with tanks killed or wounded all but 3 of his section, leaving Pvt. Cowan to man his gun, supported by only 15 to 20 riflemen of Company I. He maintained his position, holding off the Germans until the rest of the shattered force had set up a new line along a firebreak. Then, unaided, he moved his machinegun and ammunition to the second position. At the approach of a Royal Tiger tank, he held his fire until about 80 enemy infantrymen supporting the tank appeared at a distance of about 150 yards. His first burst killed or wounded about half of these infantrymen. His position was rocked by an 88mm. shell when the tank opened fire, but he continued to man his gun, pouring deadly fire into the Germans when they again advanced. He was barely missed by another shell. Fire from three machineguns and innumerable small arms struck all about him; an enemy rocket shook him badly, but did not drive him from his gun. Infiltration by the enemy had by this time made the position untenable, and the order was given to withdraw. Pvt. Cowan was the last man to leave, voluntarily covering the withdrawal of his remaining comrades. His heroic actions were entirely responsible for allowing the remaining men to retire successfully from the scene of their last-ditch stand.

President Harry S. Truman presented Cowan's Medal of Honor to his parents in a ceremony on the White House lawn, marking their son's heroic exploits in the Ardennes campaign. Cowan is the only known Oberlin College recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart

Death and Burial

Private First Class Richard Eller Cowan was killed in action on 17 December 1944. He is buried at Wichita Park Cemetery in Wichita, KS.

Honoree ID: 1343   Created by: MHOH




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