John B. Dowdy, Jr. never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on February 28, 1918 in Georgia. His parents John and Eva were also both born in Georgia. His father died in 1919 at age 26, perhaps during the worldwide influenza epidemic. John had one older brother.
John entered the army on June 15, 1939 from being a graduate of the University of Georgia. He was a lieutenant before the war started and was promoted to captain and company commander, soon after the war started, in the 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Dvision. He was a major and the 2nd Battalion executive officer when he landed on Utah Beach during the second wave on D-Day. Two days later, when its commanding officer was wounded, John was put in command of the 1st Battalion.
In the next three weeks he led his men from one victory to another. When one engagement on June 15 resulted in the loss of all company officers and most of its non-coms, Major Dowdy assumed direct command and his men captured the objective. For this action he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. A week later his battalion held a position for six straight days, preventing the Germans from reinforcing Cherbourg. He was wounded in the right leg by German artillery shrapnel on the last day of the battle, but refused to be evacuated until the Germans surrendered. He was award the Silver Star and was sent back to England to recover.
On September 1, now Lt. Col. Dowdy returned to serve in the 22nd IR HQ staff. Three days later he was back in command of 1st Battalion. By September 14, the 22nd IR had breached the Siegfried Line. They were up against SS troops.
On September 16, 1944 the 1st Battalion took a critical hill that the SS was bound to take back. Lt. Col. Dowdy ordered everyone to dig in and then circulated about his men, making sure everything was set to repel an enemy attack. A violent German artillery and mortar attack was the heaviest ever experienced by the 22nd IR. The shelling wounded 35 men and killed eight others, including Lt. Col. Dowdy who was awarded another Silver Star for his leadership and bravery under fire.
In a letter to Lt. Col. Dowdy's mother, his commanding officer Colonel Buck Lanham wrote:
His grave is at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Tifton, Georgia. His mother lived to nearly her 101st birthday and died in 2000, a widow for 81 years.
Last year on this date I profiled Marlin Miller, 77th Infantry Division. You can read about Marlin here.
On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!
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