PFC Richard Eller Cowan Name : Richard E Cowan
Rank : Private First Class
Regiment : 23rd Infantry Regiment
Division : 2nd Infantry Division
Entered Service from : Kansas
Date of Birth : 5 December 1922
Date of Death : 18 December 1944
Place of Death : Krinkelt (Belgium)
Before repatriation : Buried in Henri-Chapelle
Awards : Medal of Honor
Purple Heart

Richard Eller's Story ...

Richard Eller Cowan was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. Richard was the son of Ralph Ellis Cowan and Florence Athey Eller Cowan. Richard grew up with one older brother, Robert Duane Cowan and one younger brother, Charles Russell Cowan.

the Nebraska state Capitol in Lincoln

Dick (as he was known back home) attended Friends University in Wichita for two years, then Oberlin College for one year, after which--in spite of the siege of rheumatic fever that he suffered during his sophomore year--he managed after repeated attempts to be accepted into the army. He was shipped to France a month or two after D-Day of World War II.

Friends University in Wichita, Kansas

During his service Dick was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on December 17, 1944 near Krinkelt in Belgium. He received this award posthumously ... He was killed the following day by shrapnel while sleeping in a barn. Dick was buried at the cemetery of the First US Army, Henri-Chapelle in Belgium.

Lt.Col. Thomas Bourke at Richard Eller Cowan's grave in April of 1945

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PFC Richard Eller Cowan (KIA)


"He was a heavy machinegunner 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."

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In the snow near Krinkelt, Belgium

These days Richard Eller Cowan rests in Wichita cemetery, back home in Kansas ... He is remembered and honored by his hometown people, by Will Cavanagh, by Doug Sterner's website "Home of Heroes", by each and every visitor of the Wichita cemetery and the In-Honored-Glory website.


Richard Eller Cowan's final resting place at the cemetery of Wichita, Kansas

Special thanks to Will Cavanagh, to Doug Sterner and the Eller Chronicles
published May 15, 2006