February 11, 2003
of Saint Lo inducted into
Nearly 60 years after a German mortar blast ended his life, the man known as Major of Saint Lo was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame.
In a ceremony in Myrtle Beach today, the daughter of Major Thomas Dry Howie unveiled a portrait of the Abbeville native and Citadel alumnus who led his battalion to the outskirts of St. Lo in one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.
Howie was one of two people to be named to the Hall of Fame. The trustees of the organization also inducted General Jacob Edward Smart of Ridgeland as the living honoree. General Smart, a World War II hero who spent 11 months in a German prison camp, had a remarkable military career, culminating with a fourth star while he was Commander in Chief, U.S. Air Forces, Pacific during the Vietnam War.
In a tribute to Howie, Major General John S. Grinalds, president of The Citadel, recalled the dramatic story of how the 1929 graduate led his battalion across France toward the small farming town and strategic transportation hub that Hitler had ordered to be held at all costs.
"For 41 days these brave soldiers slogged across the terrain, measuring their gains foot by foot, fighting ditch by ditch, often firing at the enemy at point blank range to claim precious ground. The cost in human lives was staggering," Grinalds said.
As the Americans moved toward Saint Lo, Howie's Third Battalion had to detour to relieve the trapped Second Battalion that was cut-off a mile from the town. In a daring march, Howie led the his soldiers through German lines to help the Second Battalion, finding those soldiers exhausted and their ranks decimated by injuries.
He then received orders to take his men and press on to the town. The last phrase Howie uttered to his commanding general was "See you in Saint Lo."
According to other witnesses, Howie turned around to check on the safety of his men when a mortar shell exploded nearby, killing him. Major Howie had been so intent on taking Saint Lo that his men put his body on the hood of the leading jeep and carried it into the town as the battle ensued. They then placed his body, draped in an American flag, on the rubble of a church wall, making him the first soldier to enter Saint Lo.
Induction into the South Carolina Hall of Fame is the most recent of a series of tributes to Thomas Dry Howie.
The Thomas Dry Howie Carillon Tower on The Citadel campus has one of the largest Dutch bell installations in the Western Hemisphere. The Major Thomas D. Howie Memorial Monument stands in the town of Saint Lo, France. And in his hometown in Abbeville is a monument to him that reads, "Dead in France; Deathless in Fame."