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Medal of Honor recipient to finally be honored in Wichita’s Veterans Memorial Park

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, March 28, 2013, at 8:27 a.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, at 3:32 p.m.

How to. . .

Buy a brick for the WWII Memorial

Less than 40 bricks are still available to be purchased for $100 and placed in the walkway surrounding the memorial at Veterans Memorial Park. The bricks honor WWII vets from the Wichita area and are engraved with their names, branch of service, theater of operation and dates of service. The nonprofit group that oversees the memorial uses the brick revenue for upkeep of the memorial.

To buy a brick: Send a check for $100 made payable to Operation Kilroy, P.O. Box 4754, Wichita, Ks. 67204.

For more information: Go to www.wichitaworldwariimemorial.com.

Kansas connections

Here is a list of other men with Kansas connections who have won the Medal of Honor:

Spanish-American War

• Samuel S. Triplett, Navy

Born: Cherokee

Place and date: Caimanera, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Dec. 14, 1898

Philippine Insurrection

• William Trembley, Kansas National Guard

Born: Johnson

Place and date: Calumpit, Luzon, Philippine Islands; April 27, 1899

• Frederick Funston, Kansas National Guard

Born: Springfield, Ohio, entered service at Iola

Place and date: Rio Grande de la Pampanga, Luzon, Philippine Islands; April 27, 1899

• Arthur M. Ferguson, Kansas National Guard

Born: Coffey County

Place and date: Near Porac, Luzon, Philippine Islands; Sept. 28, 1899

• Edward White, Kansas National Guard

Born: Seneca

Place and date: Calumpit, Luzon, Philippine Islands; April 27, 1899

• George Wallace, Army

Born: Fort Riley

Place and date: Tinuba, Luzon, Philippine Islands; March 4, 1900

• Joseph Henderson, Army

Born: Leavenworth

Place and date: Patian Island, Philippine Islands; July 2, 1909

Mexican Campaign

• Paul Frederick Foster, Navy

Born: Wichita

Place and date: Vera Cruz, Mexico; April 21-22, 1914

World War I

• George H. Mallon, Army

Born: Ogden

Place and date: In the Bois-de-Forges, France; Sept. 26, 1918

• George Robb, Army

Born : Assaria

Place and date: Near Sechault, France; Sept. 29-30, 1918

• John Henry Balch, Navy

Born: Edgerton

Place and date: Vierzy, France, and Somme-Py, France; July 19 and Oct. 5, 1918

• Erwin R. Bleckley, Army Air Corps

Born: Wichita

Place and date: Near Binarville, France; Oct. 6, 1918

• Harold I. Johnston, Army

Born: Kendall

Place and date: Near Pouilly, France; Nov. 9, 1918

World War II

• Donald Kirby Ross, Navy

Born: Beverly

Place and date: Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii; Dec. 7, 1941

• Harold William Bauer, Marine Corps

Born: Woodruff

Place and date: Guadalcanal; May 10-Nov. 14, 1942

• William Dean Hawkins, Marine Corps

Born: Fort Scott

Place and date : The battle of Tarawa; Nov. 20-21, 1943

• Walter D. Ehlers, Army

Born: Junction City

Place and date : Near Goville, France; June 9-10, 1944

• Thomas E. McCall, Army

Born: Burrton

Place and date: Near San Angelo, Italy; Jan. 22, 1944

• Grant Frederick Timmerman, Marine Corps

Born: Americus

Place and date: Saipan, Marianas Islands; July 8, 1944

• Willy F. James Jr., Army

Born: Kansas City, Kan.

Place and date: Near Lippoldsberg, Germany; April 7, 1945

• Richard Eller Cowan, Army

• Born: Lincoln, Neb., grew up in Wichita

• Place and date: Near Krinkelter Wald, Belgium; Dec. 17, 1944

Korean War

• Stanley Adams, Army

Born: DeSoto

Place and date: Near Sesim-ni, Korea; Feb. 4, 1951

Vietnam War

• William L. McGonagle, Navy

Born: Wichita

Place and date: International waters, Eastern Mediterranean; June 8-9, 1967

• Danny Petersen, Army

Born: Horton

Place and date: Tay Ninh Province, Republic of Vietnam; Jan. 9, 1970

Sources: Kansaspedia “Congressional Medal of Honor”; Kansas State Historical Society; www.HomeofHeroes/moh/state/ks.html.

About 1,500 bricks have been purchased to honor World War II veterans since their memorial was established at Veterans Memorial Park in 2011.

For the most part, family members gathered the information on their veteran and bought the bricks that were used to pay for the memorial and pave a walkway around it.

But Dick Cowan — the only Wichitan to receive the Medal of Honor during WWII — doesn’t have any family members still living in the area. He also doesn’t have a brick at memorial.

That will change Saturday when a brick honoring Cowan, who was killed in the war, will be quietly placed at the memorial.

Bob Rogers, a WWII vet and member of the war memorial’s board, realized Cowan had been overlooked as the spaces for bricks were being filled up. He was well aware of Cowan’s heroics because they both went to North High School.

“His brick really needed to be there with the rest,” Rogers said.

So about 11 a.m. he and Skip Ward, another board member, will go to the park northwest of downtown and along the Arkansas River’s east bank. The public is invited to join them in laying the brick.

“We like to think that there’s no World War II veteran any more important than the other,” Ward said. “But this gentleman is the only CMH winner at the World War II memorial, so it means a lot.

“We wanted to make damn sure that he had a position in that memorial.”

It’s also fitting that laying the brick will be done without much fanfare.

“He was always very quiet,” said Rogers, who was two years younger than Cowan.

Cowan, who was born in Lincoln, Neb., made straight A’s at North and attended Friends University. He was drafted by the Army in September 1943 and was soon fighting in Europe.

Dick Ayesh, a WWII vet, graduated with Cowan from North High in 1940. They also attended school together at McCormick Elementary and Allison Junior High.

“He was a great guy,” said Ayesh, 90. “We pulled funny little jokes on each other. I can still see his smiling face. He was a regular fella.”

On Dec. 17, 1944, Cowan was in Belgium when his company was attacked by an overwhelmingly superior force of German infantry and tanks, according to Cowan’s award citation.

Pfc. Cowan, a heavy machine gunner, almost single-handedly protected retreating U.S. troops during what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. He held his position despite being rocked by a shell fired by a German tank and repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire while killing or wounding about 40 German soldiers, the citation said.

“That doesn’t go with the Dick Cowan I grew up with,” Ayesh said. “He was quiet. But that just goes to show you what kind of a man he was. He was a common Joe who did uncommon things.”

Cowan wouldn’t see any fanfare for his heroics or in receiving the medal.

After surviving the attack, he and other soldiers went into a barn late that night on Dec. 17 to catch some sleep. A German tank fired a shell into the barn and killed Cowan.

He was less than two weeks past his 22nd birthday.

Cowan is buried along with other family members at Wichita Park Cemetery.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or at rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com.

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