Fowler, Travis O. (654th)

Travis O. Fowler

Biography:  Travis Olan (Olen) Fowler was born on August 12, 1914 in Fayette County, Alabama. He was the son of Myrt David Fowler and Mary Whitley as indicated by his employee card from 1946. He attended local schools through the grammar level and later worked as a general farm laborer prior to the war. He was living in Bankston, AL, at the time.

Service Time:  Travis entered the service on October 11, 1940, at Fort McClellan, AL and after his basic training, was probably assigned to an Infantry unit to continue his training. He was ultimately assigned to the Reconnaissance Company of the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion. The 654th was formed from the provisional 4th Anti-tank Battalion and activated on December 15, 1941, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Both officers and enlisted personal from the Third Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, and Division Artillery, 4th Motorized Division under the command of Col. Stuart R. Cutler were used to create the original anti-tank unit.

The unit trained within the U.S. at a number of military facilities including Camp Gordon, GA, and Fort Slocum, New York. They boarded the USAT James Parker and sailed from the New York port on October 8, 1943, arriving in Liverpool, England, on the 18th.

They spent nine months doing additional training before being loaded on transports and sailing to France. They disembarked at Omaha Beach on July 11, 1944, with M10 tank destroyers.  The unit was committed to battle on July 12th near Fallot, France, and fought at Mortain in August. They then advanced across France toward Nancy and fought along the border, crossing the Saar River in early December.

The 654th was deployed to the Ardennes sector on December 21st and then shifted back south to the Metz, France, region in January, 1945.  They then returned to Belgium in February and converted to the M36 tank destroyer, participating in the offensive across the Roer River and then moved across the Rhine River on March 24th.  The unit advanced to Tangerhutte and remained there until taking on military government duties in early May. The 654th received credit for campaigns in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, the Ardennes and Central Europe.

On August 29, 1944, Pfc. Travis O. Fowler was awarded the Bronze Star for Heroic Service by Maj. Gen. Paul W. Baade of the 35th Infantry Division to which the unit was attached. The location of the ceremony was identified as an open pastureland, 3 miles west of Troyes, France. The ceremony was the first ever held by the battalion. Twenty-two enlisted men and one officer received awards. Travis was discharged on July 28, 1945.

After returning to the United States, Travis made his home in Cordova, Alabama, and found work with the St. Louis – San Francisco Railroad Company as a section laborer. On July 18, 1947, he married the former Geneva Justice who was the daughter of Raymond Oakley Justice and Martha Eunice Steele. The new couple would have two children, Robert born in 1948 and a daughter Pat.

Travis passed away on May 14, 1994 and was buried in the Highmound Baptist Church Cemetery in Snead, AL. I want to thank Find A Grave contributors Rocket 88, THR and Wanda Stewart for the use of the photos of Travis and his grave marker.