Rowell, Fred G. (804th)

Fred G. Rowell 1Fred G. Rowell

Biography:  Fred Galligher Rowell was born on August 17, 1912, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He was the son of Fred C. Rowell, a general surgeon, and Elizabeth Harper. The family moved to Roswell, New Mexico, where Fred would attend and graduate from Roswell High School.

Fred continued his education at Centre College of Danville, Kentucky, graduating in 1934. He then worked as an accountant.

The 1940 census identifies that Fred was married and applying his accountant skills at a refinery. Fred enlisted in the New Mexico National Guard (NMNG) on April 22, 1940, and on August 16th, he was extended recognition as a 2nd Lieutenant of Field Artillery starting earlier that year on June 30th. By November 10, 1940, he had been promoted to 1st Lieutenant.

Fred had married the former Bette Lou Allison, who was born in Westville, Oklahoma and was the daughter of Jones Bennett Allison and Effie Eugenie Richards. The new couple would make their home in Roswell and have a son, Fred Allison Rowell in 1942.

Service Time:  With the federalization of units in preparation of the war, Fred was promoted to 1st Lieutanant (Infantry) on January 6, 1941, in the Army U.S. He became a Captain on September 20th. We have no information on the time period between his National Guard service and when he was assigned to the 804th Tank Destroyer Battalion, but we do know that at some point he attended the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, the British War College in Manchester, England, the War Department General Staff School in Washington, D.C. and the General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. While assigned to the 804th and at the rank of Major, he served as Intelligence Security Officer, Intelligence Staff Officer, Executive Officer and ultimately as the Unit Commander. 

The 804th had been organized in January, 1942, at Camp San Luis Obispo, California. Training was conducted at March Field, where they served as airdrome security, the Desert Training Center and La Mesa, all in California. Next was a move to the Tank Destroyer Center at Camp Hood, Texas. At the end of July, that same year, they moved to Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, to stage for overseas movement, which began on August 6th with the unit arriving in Belfast, Ireland on the 17th.

More training ensued followed by a move to England in late November and on January 15th, 1943, they sailed from England, landing in Oran, Algeria on February 1st. While in North Africa, the 804th trained French troops on M10 tank destroyers but only battalion observers went to front. The unit arrived at Naples, Italy, on February 8, 1944, and then moved to the Gustav Line along the Garigliano River by March 9th.

The unit history states: 

The mission of the 88th Infantry Division, to which the Battalion was attached, was to break the Gustav Line and eventually to take Rome. To the Battalion then was given the job of aiding the Division Artillery in a softening-up process while the Infantry Regiments were preparing for the attack. Lt. Col. Purdy at this time was hospitalized and (Executive Officer) Major Fred G. Rowell also of Roswell, New Mexico, assumed command. Throughout the rest of March, April, and part of May, the big guns of the Battalion threw thousands of rounds of HE (High-Explosive) at the enemy positions, disrupting lines of communication, knocking out their fortifications and harassing them by day and night. Meanwhile Reconnaissance Company was busy patrolling the beaches and clearing mine fields.”  It was during the above actions that Fred was wounded on April 1st and would receive the Purple Heart in recogition of his injuries.

The unit entered Rome on June 4th and the now Lt. Col. Rowell:

“was then ordered to protect the left flank of the Division and was placed in command of a force composed of C and Reconnaissance Companies of the 804th, the 34th Division Reconnaissance Troop and the 91st Reconnaissance Troop. The force succeeded in beating off several attacking enemy forces, established road blocks at dangerous points and on the 10th of July entered and secured the town on Castiglioncello against enemy opposition. The 9th and 51st British AA regiments moved into support in that vicinity a day or two later, and together the unit’s advanced against strong enemy patrols and heavy mortar fire through Quereinella and Mt. Nero, entering Leghorn from the south at dawn of the 19th.”

C Company used their tank destroyers to carry the infantry into Livorno on July 18th, crossing the Arno River in September and supported attacks on the Gothic Line through October. The 804th broke into the Po River Valley in April 1945, and crossed the river on April 27th. Company C was part of column that linked up with U.S. Seventh Army troops in the Brenner Pass on May 5th.

Fred received credit for campaigns in Tunisia, Rome-Arno, North Appiennes and Po Valley. He was awarded the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action, Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, EAME Medal, American Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal, the WWII Victory Medal and the Italian Cross of Military Valor. He would have also shared in the unit’s award of the Groix De Guerre. He left active duty on December 20, 1946, at the Officers Separation Point, The Pentagon, Washington D.C., at the rank of Colonel.

Honorable Discharge

Fred returned to civilian life and to Roswell where he would join his father-in-law (J.B. Allison) as a co-owner of the Bielliner’s Jewelry Store. He became the Director of the Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Roswell School Board and in addition to his community service, he continued his military service as part of the New Mexico National Guard, Commanding the 515th Group and later the 111th Anti-Aircraft Brigade. He passed away on April 3, 1958, and was buried in the South Park Cemetery in Roswell, NM. Prior to his death, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General.

I want to thank Fred’s granddaughter Allison and family friend William Holloway for providing information used in the tribute.