FOWLER, THOMAS WELDON
FOWLER, THOMAS WELDON (1921–1944). Thomas Weldon Fowler, Medal of Honor recipient, was born on October 31, 1921, in Wichita Falls, Texas. He was the son of Austin H. and Mattie (Wilson) Fowler. As a youngster, Tom played in the school orchestra, belonged to the Latin Club, and to the DeMolay (a Masonic organization for young men). During the summers, Fowler, along with his four brothers, worked on one of the family’s two farms—one near Burkburnet and the other near Floydada, Texas. After graduating from Wichita Falls High School, he entered Texas A&M in September 1939.
During his time at College Station, Fowler majored in animal husbandry and selected the cavalry branch for his required military science training. During World War II, Texas A&M implemented an accelerated year-round program of study that consisted of three semesters and classes six days a week. As a senior, he served as a cadet captain and executive officer of the cavalry squadron. Fowler also courted his high school school sweetheart, Ann Oakes, and invited her to dances and football games in College Station. He graduated with a degree in animal husbandry in February 1943. After successfully completing the Armor branch of Officer Candidate School at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in May 1943, he was commissioned a second lieutenant. On May 12, he married Ann Oakes in Wichita Falls; son Thomas W. Fowler, Jr., was born in February 1944.
In October 1943 Fowler arrived in North Africa where he remained for a number of months. In February 1944 he was designated to Italy and the 191st Tank Battalion. On May 23, 1944, Lieutenant Fowler found himself in a desperate situation involving both armored and infantry forces near Carano, Italy. Assigned as a liaison officer to an infantry unit, Fowler, moving on foot ahead of his unit, witnessed two infantry platoons that were seriously disorganized in a German minefield. Although a tank officer, Fowler quickly took charge of the situation. On his own, he examined the ground and by his hands removed antipersonnel mines and cleared a seventy-five yard path. In individual squads, Lieutenant Fowler then took the infantrymen through the minefield. As the infantrymen moved forward, Fowler made a quick reconnaissance of enemy territory and searched for a path where tanks could be positioned. He then proceeded to direct tanks to a position where they could support the infantry. Leading the two platoons forward in the front, Fowler surprised a number of dug-in Germans that were then taken prisoner and sent to the rear. For those that resisted, Fowler threw hand grenades toward two dugouts and killed the defenders.
After Fowler led the two infantry platoons to their objective, they were attacked by German infantry and tanks, and the attack set fire to one of the American Sherman tanks. Under intense enemy fire, Fowler raced to the burning tank and sought to treat the wounded crew. He withdrew a short distance only after German tanks had overrun his position. Fowler then provided first aid to nine injured infantrymen in the face of hostile fire. For his actions, Lieutenant Fowler was recommended for the Medal of Honor. A few days later on June 3, 1944, Fowler was shot and killed by a German sniper while doing a personal reconnaissance for his tank platoon.
Maj. Gen. Ralph McPennel presented the Medal of Honor to Anne Fowler and her son, Thomas Fowler, Jr., in a ceremony at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, on November 11, 1944. Thomas Fowler was buried in the American military cemetery at Nettuano in 1944. In 1948 his remains were returned to the United States. Second Lt. Thomas Fowler was buried with military honors at Crestview Memorial Park in Wichita Falls on July 27, 1948.
In the years after his death, Thomas Weldon Fowler has been honored in many ways. In his hometown of Wichita Falls, an elementary school and the American Legion Post 169 are named in his honor. At Fort Knox, Kentucky, an Officer Candidate School barracks was named Fowler Hall. At Texas A&M University, a campus dormitory, Fowler Hall, was named to honor the military hero. Fowler’s original Medal of Honor is in a display case, along with memorabilia from his days at Texas A&M and military service, in the Sam Houston Sanders Corps of Cadets Center on campus.
Henry C. Dethloff with John A. Adams, Jr., Texas Aggies Go To War: In Service of Their Country (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2006). James R. Woodall, Texas Aggie Medals of Honor: Seven Heroes of World War II (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2010).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Henry Franklin Tribe, "Fowler, Thomas Weldon," accessed July 29, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffodp.
Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on November 20, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.