Richard Cowan (soldier)

Richard Cowan (soldier)

Infobox Military Person
name= Richard Eller Cowan

caption= Medal of Honor recipient
born= birth date|1922|12|5
died= death date and age|1944|12|17|1922|12|5
placeofbirth= Lincoln, Nebraska
placeofdeath= near Krinkelter Wald, Belgium
allegiance= United States of America
branch= United States Army
rank= Private First Class
unit= 23rd Infantry Regiment
battles= Battle of the Bulge
awards= Medal of Honor Purple Heart

Richard Eller Cowan (1922-1944) was a United States Army soldier during World War II, and a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor.


Cowan transferred from Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, his hometown, to the Oberlin College Class of 1946, 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. “Dick” Cowan was remembered by a friend, Homer Cooper, as "a sweet, calm, peaceful guy, not the Medal of Honor type."

At the time of his death, Cowan was a 22-year-old private first class in M Company, 23rd Infantry, Second Infantry Division. On December 17, 1944, the second day of the Battle of the Bulge, the last great German effort to split the Allied front and reach the English Channel, he was a heavy machine gunner attached to I Company near Krinkelter Wald, Belgium. The company was attacked by a superior force of Wehrmacht infantry and tanks. Cowan and his comrades repulsed the first six waves of attacking German infantry, but a seventh drive with tanks killed or wounded all but three of his section, leaving Dick to man his gun supported by only 15 or 20 riflemen. He stood his ground, holding off the Germans until the rest of his force could set up a new line behind him. Then, unaided, he moved his heavy weapon and ammunition to the second position. A King Tiger tank approached, but he held his fire until 80 or so supporting German infantry broke cover. His first burst of fire killed or wounded half of them. The tank fired its 88mm cannon, rocking his position. He continued to man his gun, pouring a deadly fire into the German ranks. Barely missed by another shell from the tank and fire from three German machine guns and a rocket, he stood by his gun. Finally, after he had killed an estimated one hundred of the enemy, his position became untenable. "Private Cowan was the last man to leave, voluntarily covering the withdrawal of his remaining comrades," his Medal of Honor citation reads. "His heroic actions were entirely responsible for allowing the remaining men to retire successfully from the scene of their last-ditch stand."

Cowan lifted the heavy gun on his back and escaped into the village of Krinkelt. Out of ammunition and too exhausted to carry the gun, he received permission to destroy it. He then picked up a rifle and joined other infantry in defending the town. He was killed by enemy fire the next day.

President Harry S. Truman gave 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.

ee also

*List of Medal of Honor recipients
*List of Medal of Honor recipients for World War II


*cite web
publisher = U.S. Army Center of Military History
title = Medal of Honor Recipients - World War II (A-F)
work = Medal of Honor Citations
date = July 16 2007
url =
accessdate = 2008-02-26
NAME = Cowan, Richard Eller
SHORT DESCRIPTION = World War II Medal of Honor recipient
DATE OF BIRTH = December 5, 1922
PLACE OF BIRTH = Lincoln, Nebraska
DATE OF DEATH = December 17, 1944
PLACE OF DEATH = near Krinkelter Wald, Belgium

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