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Thomas Dry Howie

Thomas Dry Howie

ž"...[J]ust in case your history books don't mention it, let me tell you what happened July 18, here at St. Lo.  We broke through the German lines finally when we took their little city. Up until that point, we couldn't get any of our men off the beaches. It was sort of sad, though, because we ruined this little town of St. Lo. We had to do it to get the Germans out. More American soldiers were killed here taking St. Lo, than were killed on the beaches.  A major named Tom Howie was the leader of the battalion that actually captured St. Lo. At least he was the leader of it until he was killed just outside town. After he died, his men picked him up and carried him into town and put him on a pile of stones that used to be the wall of this church. I guess there never was an American soldier who was more honored by what the people who loved him did for him after he died."

~Andy Rooney, CBS Correspondent~



Howie Monument

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia):

Thomas Dry Howie (April 12, 1908 – July 17, 1944) was an American army officer, killed during the Battle of Normandy during World War II, while trying to capture the French town of Saint-Lô. He is known as “The Major of St. Lo”.

Howie was born in Abbeville, South Carolina, and graduated in 1929 from The Citadel, where he was president of his class and a star halfback on the football team. He taught English and coached at Staunton Military Academy, then joined the Virginia National Guard.

Howie entered active duty with the 116th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. 29th Infantry Division in 1941, and landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day; a little more than a month later, on July 13, 1944, Major Howie was assigned to command the 3d Battalion. On July 16, the 3d Battalion used hand grenades and bayonets to break through the German lines and join the 2d Battalion, which was isolated and nearly out of food and ammunition. Howie left the 2nd Battalion to defend the position, reporting that they were “too cut up”, and planned to use the 3d Battalion alone to capture Saint-Lô. On the morning of July 17, Howie phoned Major General Charles Gerhardt, said “See you in St. Lo”, and issued orders for the attack. Shortly afterward, he was killed by shrapnel during a mortar attack. The next day, the 3d Battalion entered Saint-Lô, with Howie’s body on the hood of the lead jeep, at Gerhard’s request, so that Howie would be the first American to enter the town. The photo of Howie’s flag-draped body in the rubble of the St. Croix cathedral was widely circulated in the United States and became one of the most iconic images of the war; because of wartime security Howie’s name could not be revealed, so it was famed New York Times correspondent Drew Middleton who dubbed Howie “The Major of St. Lo”. 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney, then a reporter with the Stars and Stripes newspaper, witnessed the event and called it “one of the truly heartwarming and emotional scenes of a gruesome and frightful war”.

The town of Saint-Lô erected a monument to Howie. In 1956, Collier’s magazine printed a story, “The Major of St. Lo” by Cornelius Ryan; it was made into an episode of the TV show Cavalcade of America that was broadcast on June 5, 1956, with Peter Graves playing the part of Howie. The bell tower on the campus of The Citadel is named in Howie’s memory and a mural of his body being carried into St. Lo is one of a series on school history displayed in Daniel Library. Staunton Military Academy honored him by establishing a drill team called the Howie Rifles, which is now part of the Army ROTC detachment at Mary Baldwin College. Howie was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and the French Legion of Honor; he is buried at the Normandy American Cemetery. Howie’s story was prominently featured in the book Citizen Soldiers by renowned historian Stephen Ambrose; after having served as a script consultant on the movie Saving Private Ryan, he indicated that Howie was the model for the Tom Hanks character of Captain John Miller.

The Abbeville County Historical Society would like to thank Tige Howie for sharing the PowerPoint presentation that follows about Thomas Dry Howie.


The society would also like to recognize the work of Geoffrey Stetson who created and narrated the YouTube video that follows about Thomas Dry Howie.


To read about Thomas Dry Howie’s connection with Carillon and Tower at The Citadel College in Charleston, South Carolina, please click here.

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