Commanding Officer 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
4th Infantry Division
John Dowdy was born in Telfair
County, Georgia, on February 28, 1918. In August of 1919 his
leaving his mother Eva to raise two boys on her own. Eva Dowdy left to train and work as a nurse and bought a farm
near Helena, Georgia, so her mother could live there, raise her own youngest boys and care for Eva's sons, Prescott and John.
John spent his childhood years on this farm, along with various uncles and aunts, who were not much older than him.
Like many American families of
the time, Eva, John and Prescott Dowdy were not much above the
and their life on the farm was basic, simple and honest. John Dowdy learned and lived a farm boy's life,
becoming physically strong through work on the farm, and mentally tough from an independent lifestyle.
John graduated from nearby
McRae-Helena High School in 1935. He entered Gordon Military
College and later
transferred to the University of Georgia where he became an officer in the US Army through the ROTC program.
Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 22nd US Infantry in 1939, John Dowdy served his entire military career with that Regiment.
An able and productive officer,
Dowdy was consistently promoted over the next few years, and as a
landed on Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, as Executive Officer of 2nd Battalion 22nd Infantry 4th Infantry Division.
On June 8, 1944 he was given
command of 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry, and took 1st Battalion
inland from the beach.
In heavy fighting his leadership was instrumental in capturing the battery forts of Azeville and Crisbecq.
He personally led the Battalion
in the fight for the Quineville ridge, moving through enemy fire
to direct tanks and infantrymen
to capture the ridge, paving the way for the drive to Cherbourg, and earning himself the Distinguished Service Cross.
In a three division assault upon Cherbourg itself, Dowdy and his Battalion held the extreme right flank, and though
seriously wounded, he remained in command during the battle until the German forces surrendered,
earning his first Silver Star Medal and Purple Heart.
While recovering from his wounds
in England Dowdy was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and when he
returned to the Regiment
in September 1944, he was again given command of 1st Battalion. He took 1st Battalion into Germany that September,
in the first penetration of the Siegfried Line, and captured a critical hill from the 2nd SS Panzer Division. While moving about
his Battalion's dug-in positions during an artillery barrage, he was struck by shrapnel and killed. His actions that day earned him
his second Silver Star and second Purple Heart.
Dowdy's good friend, Colonel
Earl W. Edwards recalled John Dowdy when Edwards wrote his
memoirs later in life.
His recollection of Dowdy began when the two of them attended an Army school together:
COMMUNICATION SCHOOL AT FT. BENNING
The school was
located at Ft. Benning near Columbus, Georgia. It was the home of
the Infantry School and this was to be
the first of several assignments there. The purpose of this course was to teach us how to set up wire and radio communication
networks in combat. John Dowdy and I were assigned cots next to each other in an open barracks. The course was interesting
and we enjoyed it. By the end of the time John and I had become the best of friends. In fact, looking back, he was probably
the best and most steadfast friend I ever had. He was a funny boy-most people didn't like him. He could be, and usually was,
short and rude in dealing with people and made little effort to get along. He was smart, aggressive, and , with a quick temper,
didn't suffer sorry behavior in others very well. One time McLean remonstrated with him to act nicer to people so they
would like him. Mac told me his reply was, " Everybody I want to like me already does and I don't give a damn about the rest."
Later in Europe
when I was suddenly given command of the second battalion just
before the D-Day landings John came to me
and asked if he could be my second in command. Of course, I asked for him and he was assigned as my Executive Officer.
He was a great help to me but, unfortunately, the first battalion commander became a casualty shortly after we landed and
John was assigned to command that battalion. He proved to be a great soldier and was highly thought of by all the officers
and enlisted men of the regiment. He was killed later in the war just after his battalion had taken part of the Siegfried Line.
John had just called me on the phone (I was now S-3 of the regiment) and said he needed to see me about a problem he had
and was on the way to the regimental Command Post. I had walked down to the entrance waiting for him when I received word
he had been killed. It was a blow, to me. I had known his mother well. She doted on John, he was her life, and she was a very
disturbed woman thereafter. She never was able to deal with his death. She worried over whether to bring his body home
after the war-she did and I attended his funeral along with some of his best friends. One time Mrs. Dowdy visited Mother
in Cruger to try to talk out her problem with her. This is, perhaps, a typical example of the kinds of tragedies a war brings
that few ever know anything about.
Regimental Chaplain Bill Boice
wrote of Dowdy: "One of the finest officers of the regiment,
Lt. Colonel John Dowdy had proved himself
an able officer in combat again and again. His personal care for the troops under his command, his knowledge of military tactics,
had saved lives and boosted morale."
Perhaps the best tribute to John Dowdy was written by the 22nd Regimental Commander, Colonel Buck Lanham,
in a personal letter to John's mother, Eva, when he wrote:
"....I have seen many officers and many men go down. Each one, no matter how humble, has been a blow and a personal loss to me.
But I say truthfully that never has a death so stunned me as that of John. And the Regiment shared that grief with me.
John was worshipped by his battalion; it was a form of hero worship, and John was a hero and died a hero,
in the true sense of that much abused word."
LTC John Dowdy was buried in the US Military Cemetery at Fosse, Belgium. For several years a Belgian family adopted the grave
and kept it well looked after, making sure it always had fresh flowers. On April 8, 1949 LTC Dowdys body was returned to the US
and he now rests in the Dowdy plot in Tifton, Georgia.
The Dowdy boys, Prescott on the left
and John on the right.
Photo taken approximately 1922-1923.
Family photo on Eva
Dowdy's farm in Helena, Georgia - 1924.
John is the little boy in front, with left arm raised. His grandmother, Nevada Ray Bryan , is wearing glasses and standing next to the baby.
She was called "Vada" or "Mama." As in many large farm families, the "uncles" (Fred and Manning) were about the same ages
as the "nephews" (Prescott and John).
with Lucille Brewer, Clyde Callahan, Vic Callahan, Eschol Bryan, Fred Bryan, Prescott Dowdy, Nevada Ray Bryan ("Mama"), Palmer Bryan (baby),
Belva Rawlins Bryan, John Dowdy, Mr. Brewer, Manning Bryan, Emma Brewer and Inez Brewer.
After growing up with a
pack of boys -- there were more than just these four -- John
didn't turn out to be the most tactful of people. His friend,
Lt. Col. "Lum" Edwards, Commander of 3rd Battalion 22nd Infantry and later Regimental S-3-- (who said John was "probably the best and
most steadfast friend I ever had") -- described him like this:
'He was a funny boy -- most people didn't like him. He could be, and usually was, short and rude in dealing with people and made little effort to get along.
He was smart, aggressive, and, with a quick temper, didn't suffer sorry behavior in others very well.
One time McLean remonstrated with him to act nicer to people so they would like him. Mac told me his reply was, 'Everybody I want to like me
already does and I don't give a damn about the rest.'"
A moot point once they got into combat. As Lum said, "He proved to be a great soldier and was highly thought of by all the officers
and enlisted men of the regiment."
John feeding the cow -- notice her bell -- in front of his grandmother.
John's cousin Karen writes:
"Such an American story -- who would guess that a little kid growing up in the boonies, with his overalls hanging down, would someday
rally his troops on a ridge in France, turn the tide of the battle, take the objective, and clear the way to Cherbourg?"
John Dowdy's mother Eva.
After the death of her husband Eva went to work as a nurse to support the family.
John Dowdy, May 28, 1935
The day after he graduated from High School
John's first girlfriend, Evelyn Judge.
She remembers his sweetness toward her,
and the hours they spent together reading poetry to each other,
"feeling the joy of just being in the same room with each other, talking about everything under the sun."
She was the niece of "Miss Cooksey," Eva Dowdy's nursing colleague and best friend.
Even after Evelyn and John "broke up" -- and she met and married her beloved Paul -- they remained friends.
John was like an extended family member to Evelyn, her aunt "Miss Cooksey," and her parents, the Judges.
Captain John Dowdy - at Camp Gordon, GA 1942
John Dowdy at Camp Gordon 1942
John Dowdy and Jack Kent in the field
Note the leggings worn by Dowdy.
John Dowdy at the Wheeler
Neatly pressed dress uniform
John Dowdy on the right, his brother
Prescott on the left.
Camp Gordon, GA, possibly 1943
The military cemetery at Fosse,
John Dowdy's grave is the cross immediately in front center, with flowers at its base.
John Dowdy's obituary, ready to be given to the newspaper.
A hand written note from Colonel Lum
Edwards, John Dowdy's former commanding officer in 2nd Battalion,
informing John's mother that he will attend the funeral services when her son's remains are brought over from Belgium
and interred at the cemetery in Tifton, Georgia. Note the 22nd Infantry letterhead.
Verse written in honor of Lieutenant
Colonel John Dowdy,
celebrating the fact that he was a son of the State of Georgia.
Eva Dowdy, John's mother, receives the
Silver Star Medal from Major General Raymond O. Barton,
honoring her son's heroic actions on the day he died. The presentation was made in Miami, Florida, March 1945.
Barton commanded the 4th Infantry Division during the time Dowdy served in it.
John Dowdy's original medals and dog tag.
John Dowdy's decorations which could be
verified by the 1st Battalion website.
He was also awarded the Belgian Fourragere.
John Dowdy's grave in Tifton, Georgia.
It is through the efforts of
John Dowdy's cousin, Karen Scott, that his story has been
and preserved. The 1st Battalion website is indebted to Ms. Scott for sharing the above material
and so much more. For more photos and information on the life of John Dowdy, visit Karen's
presentation about him by clicking on the following link:
Lt. Col John Dowdy
For more on John Dowdy's
military career click on the following link to go to his
page in our History & Battles section:
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