A trip into the past...for a brother who died 25 years before I was born.
February 20th, 2010 by MOTHAX
SGT Richard E. Owens, died June 6, 1944. Member of the Band of Brothers, Easy Co, 2/506 PIR, 101 Airborne. I am consumed by the story of Richard E. Owens, SGT, Easy Company, 2/506 PIR. Absolutely consumed. I've spent the day calling folks when I am afraid of the phone, reading census reports, and just blindly contacting folks on the off chance that they can help. So, let me tell you what we now know, what we think, and what comes next. First, the background in case you haven't read the other post. A Salvation Army Captain in upstate NY found an original Purple Heart citation and framed picture of Richard E. Owen, a SGT who died on D-Day. I'm going to find a family member and get that Purple Heart and picture to them. I refuse to believe that this hero goes unremembered. I'm working with another guy on this, from the Pathfinder Historical Consultants. I want to share his nutshelling, since he did it better than I could. After the jump.
Owen was born in Sandborn, IN in 1913. His parents were Rev. George E. Owen and Nora. He appears to have an older brother George E. Jr. The family heritage is centered near Sandborn and incorporates Terra Haute, Vigo and Poland Indiana. There were too many Nora's and George's to make a final determination, and had they deceased prior to the mid-60s their information is less likely to come up. Nora may have deveased in Terra Haute in OCT 72. I believe that Owen served in the NG in Virginia. based on his ASN beginning with 203. He went into the 29th and then Ranger training. Was injured and after recovery assigned to E/506 101st. His enlistment document indicated that he went in in FEB 41. He was single at THAT time and had two years college and was working as a postal clerk. Sometime between 41 and 44 he was married. His wife was RUTH Virginia McCann. I believe that this is Ruth M. Milhollen, (who memorialized him at the WW2 Memorial) and she most probably remarried after the war. Her second husband was WK Milhollen who is also deceased. As a widow, Ruth Owen would have been the closest relative in matters regarding disposition of the remains as well as being recipient of any of his posthumous awards, rather than the mother or father. The human remains from plane 42-93095 were all interred at Jefferson Barracks in a common grave.OK, so that's the background. The reason this hits me so much is that Winchester, VA, where he enlisted is the home of my Battalion, the 3rd Battalion of the 116th Infantry, 29th ID (Light). So, this guy served in my unit. Did he know Thomas Dry Howie? Thomas Dry Howie was a Citadel grad and is known as the Major of St. Lo. Here is part of the story of Major Howie:
Major Howie took command of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry division on July 13, 1944. On July 17th, Major Howie was killed in action on the outskirts of St. Lo. The official report: Early on the morning of 16 July 1944, the 3rd Bn was directed to take MARTINVILLE; drive south and occupy Objective B, the highway leading into ST LO. The 3rd Bn CO, Major Thomas D. Howie, ordered his troops to attack with fixed bayonets and hand grenades to seize MARTINVILLE, reorganized and move south to Objective B. This mission was speedily and successfully accomplished. Following contact with the 2nd Bn, the 3rd Bn began to organize defensive positions and then shared rations and ammunition with the 2nd Bn...At 1015, 16 July 1944, the Commanding General, 29th Infantry Division ordered the 3rd Bn to proceed to Objective S. Immediately after a conference among the company commanders, Major Howie, CO 3rd Bn was killed by three successive mortar shells. (116th After Action Report) The next day St. Lo was taken from the Germans. Major Howie's flag-draped body was carried into the liberated town by his troops and placed on the steps of the St. Croix Church.Anyway, as I used to study in the library at the Citadel, there was a gigantic mural on the wall of Major Howie's body being taken into St Lo. When I moved to Virginia and found out that the 3/116 was located there, I joined. It just seemed something I had to do. Anyway, everything seems so serrendipitous that I can't drop the search even for a few seconds. Anyway, Brown Neck Gaitor of The Sniper and I served together in the 3/116, and he is as interested in history as I am. So today he drove to Winchester to help my search. He found an obituary for Ruth M. Milhollen which listed various survivors. Alas, every one of them turned out to be a dead end so far. We know that Richard and Ruth never had kids, and any relatives of hers would not be of his. So, I am ditching that side of the case. So, we are back to the parents, the Reverend and Mrs George E. Owen. I followed up as much I could on Nora's (or Nora Belle, as it is I believe) tie to Terre Haute. I contacted a man with the newspaper there, and he got excited about the search as well. And so, on Monday I am grabbing a car and heading to the Vigo County Public Library to search through any files I can to see if there were other children, or if that also is a dead end. If I fail there, I am getting back in the car and driving another few hours to Sandborn, which looks to be slightly more populated than my apartment, but not by much. If I have to walk around looking for Octogenarians and ask them if they knew anyone named Owen, so be it. Meanwhile, I am also looking for someone to search through the Virginia files for any additional info I can. I think one of our readers may be helping me with that. I don't know what we will find, but I want it all. I also contacted a friend in St. Louis, who this weekend will go and take pictures of the final resting place of Sgt Owen. Anyway, I will be out on Monday, so you might not hear much from me, but thought some folks might be interested. If anyone has any other bright ideas, please contact me by leaving a comment here with your email in the appropriate place. I'm finding this man's family. If none exists, his Purple Heart and picture will end up in a museum somewhere so that he is not forgotten. Widow's Obituary:
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