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First Name: James

Last Name: Rowe

Birthplace: McAllen, TX, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: McAllen, TX
Middle Name: Nicholas

Date of Birth: 08 February 1938

Date of Death: 21 April 1989

Rank: Colonel

Years Served: 1960 - 1989
James Nicholas Rowe

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1960

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


James Nicholas "Nick" Rowe
Colonel, U.S. Army

James Nicholas Rowe was born on 8 February 1938 in McAllen, TX, to Lee Delavan and Florence Survillo Rowe. He grew up in McAllen and graduated from McAllen High School in 1956 before leaving for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY.

Military Service

Rowe graduated from the Academy in 1960 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Field Artillery branch. In 1963, First Lieutenant Rowe was sent to the Republic of Vietnam and assigned as Executive Officer of Detachment A-23, 5th Special Forces Group, a 12-man "A-team." Located at Tan Phu in An Xuyen Province, A-23 organized and advised a Civilian Irregular Defense Group camp in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. On 29 October 1963, after only three months in country, Rowe was captured by Viet Cong elements along with Captain Humbert Roque "Rocky" Versace and Sergeant First Class Daniel L. Pitzer. Separated from his comrades, Rowe spent 62 months in captivity with only brief encounters with fellow American POWs. Rowe was held in the U Minh Forest, better known as the "Forest of Darkness," in extreme southern Vietnam. During most of his five years in captivity, Rowe was held in a cage. He managed to escape on 31 December 1968 when, after overpowering his guard, he was picked up by a UH-1 helicopter. Rowe was promoted to Major during captivity. In 1971, he authored the book, Five Years to Freedom, an account of his years as a prisoner of war. In 1974, he retired from the Army.

In 1981, Rowe was recalled to active duty as a Lieutenant Colonel to design and build a course based upon his experience as a POW. Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) is now a requirement for graduation from the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course. SERE is taught at the Colonel James "Nick" Rowe Training compound at Camp Mackall, NC. It is considered by many to be the most important advanced training in the special operations field. Navy, Air Force and Marine Special Operations personnel all attend variations of this course taught by their respective services. By 1987, Colonel Rowe was assigned as the Chief of the Army Division of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG), providing counter-insurgency training for the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Working closely with the Central Intelligence Agency and intelligence organizations of the Republic of the Philippines, he was involved in its nearly decade-long program to penetrate the communist New People's Army (NPA) insurgency that threatened to overthrow the Philippines' government.

By February 1989, Colonel Rowe had acquired intelligence information which indicated that the communists were planning a major terrorist act. He warned Washington that a high-profile figure was about to be assassinated and that he himself was second or third on the assassination list. At around 7:00 in the morning of 21 April 1989, as he was being driven to work at the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group headquarters in an armored limousine, Colonel Rowe's vehicle was hit by gunfire from a .45 caliber pistol and an M16 rifle near the corner of Tomas Morato Street and Timog Avenue in Quezon City. Twenty-one shots hit the vehicle; one round entered through an unarmored portion of the vehicle frame and struck Colonel Rowe in the head, killing him instantly. Rowe's driver, Joaquin Vinuya, was wounded. Years later, the New People's Army eventually claimed responsibility for his assassination. Two Filipinos were convicted by a Philippine court and sentenced to 16 years imprisonment for Rowe's assassination: Juanito T. Itaas as principal and Donato B. Continente as an accomplice. However, Continente was released in 1995 under a Philippine government amnesty program.


Rowe was a staunch conservative and a strong critic of George McGovern in the 1972 presidential campaign. He ran as a Republican for the office of Texas Comptroller in 1974 but was easily defeated by Democrat Bob Bullock in a strongly Democratic year because of the Watergate scandal. Bullock would receive 1,099,599 votes (71.6%) to Rowe's 419,657 (27.3%). A third party candidate earned the remaining 16,383 (1%) votes. Rowe did not run for office again and Bullock became a popular two-term Lieutenant Governor.


James "Nikki" Rowe High School and a major street in McAllen, TX, are named in his memory.

The JROTC Drill Teams (Rowe's Rifles, Rowe's Rangers) and Shooting Team (Rowe's Rangers) of McAllen High School were named in his honor before he died.

A training facility, Rowe Hall, at the US Army Intelligence Center and School, Fort Huachuca, AZ, was named in his honor.

Having been a member of the Order of DeMolay as a teenager, he was recognized with both the DeMolay Legion of Honor, the highest honor DeMolay confers, and was inducted into the International DeMolay Hall of Fame.

An Order of Knighthood priory of DeMolay International in the state of Florida was named in his memory.

The obstacle course on Camp MacKall, arguably the hardest obstacle course in the Army, is named the "Nasty Nick."

An office facility, the Rowe Building, of the Joint United States Military Assistance Group - Philippines, US Embassy, Manila, was named in his honor.

The Colonel James N. "Nick" Rowe Memorial, located in Veteran's Memorial Park in Union Beach, NJ, was dedicated on 9 October 2004, by friends, classmates from the West Point Class of 1960, and comrades-in-arms. Among attendees were Major General Ted Crowley (a classmate) and Ross Perot and Colonel Rowe's widow and children.


Rowe married Susan Rowe on 27 December 1969.

Death and Burial

Colonel James Nicholas Rowe died on 21 April 1989. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 3027   Created by: MHOH




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