The Major of St. Lo
April 12, 1908 - July 17, 1944
Howie Rifle Shoulder Patch
The Howie Rifles
was established in 1945 to perpetuate the ideals, leadership, and courage exemplified by Major Thomas Dry Howie
. Major Howie, for many years a member of the SMA Faculty, distinguished himself in the battle of "St. Lo", a major battle during the Normandy Invasion of World War II.
Once residing in the alcove of Kable Hall, the Howie bust pictured above honored the SMA teacher, coach, alumni secretary, and the Commander, U.S. Army 3rd Batallion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division. The 116th was the spearhead unit on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Homecoming for a Hero
The date of this photo is unknown and none of our alumni have been able to identify the two cadets standing guard at the alcove in Kable Hall. The uniforms suggest that the photo dates to the 1940’s, when the bust of Major Thomas D. Howie was first placed in the alcove. This picture will come to life on April 13, 2007
during the special twilight ceremony to return the bust to the alcove where it resided on display for three decades. Entitled “Homecoming for a Hero”, the event will include members of the Howie family, a representative of the 29th Division (in which Major Howie served) and a performance by the namesake VWIL Howie Rifles. Any SMA alumnus who can identify either the date of the photo or the cadet sentries should email that information to The Kablegram (firstname.lastname@example.org)
via mail to: SMA Alumni Association, P. O. Box 958, Woodrum Station, Staunton, Virginia 24402-0958. We thank Alberto Margarida, SMA ‘57 for forwarding the original postcard upon which this photo was printed, and we also express our sincere appreciation to Brig. Gen. Michael Bissell, VWIL Commandant, and to Mary Baldwin College for their generous offer to the SMA Alumni Association to return the Thomas D. Howie bust to Kable Hall.
Major Howie was mortally wounded on July 17, 1944, while leading an assault on the German-held town of St. Lo in Normandy, France. By every account the National Guardsman died a hero, struck in the back by shrapnel from a mortar while standing to check on his men. Just before his death, he had ordered the attack at Martinsville Ridge which led to the liberation of the City of St. Lo. His challenge to his troops was, "I'll see you in St. Lo!" After he fell, his troops entered the city and placed his flag-draped coffin in the ruins of St. Croix Church, wherefore in his nation's history, he is celebrated as "The Major of St. Lo".
Thomas D. Howie Memorial National Guard Armory
and 116th Regimental Museum
The citizens of St. Lo erected a memorial monument as a tribute to the sarifice made by their "Major of St. Lo" and his troops in liberating their city and have incorporated a duplicate copy of the Howie bust.
Major Thomas D. Howie Memorial Monument, St. Lo, France
Photograph courtesy Geoffrey H. Stetson, SMA '69
Photographs of two murals displayed in the Daniel Library at The Citadel
(Photos courtesy of John C. McGill, SMA '62)
Cadets were appointed to membership in the Howie Rifles
in recognition of their excellent performances in the areas of academic grades, military science, conduct, drill proficiency, and leadership.
This is a copy of the certificate an SMA cadet would receive
upon becoming a member of the Howie Rifles
Staunton Military Academy
This is to Certify that
possessing to a high degree, those soldierly qualities of
outstanding Leadership, worthy Conduct, Military Bearing, and Excellence in
Drill, as exemplified by "The Major of St. Lo,"
has been chosen for membership in
THE HOWIE RIFLES
created to honor Thomas Dry Howie, Major Infantry, United States Army
killed on the field of battle in France, July 1944
Given at Staunton, Virginia, this day of .
SENIOR ARMY INSTRUCTOR SUPERINTENDENT
The following is quoted from an CBS Morning News broadcast from Europe by correspondent Andy Rooney on a V-E Day anniversary. He mentioned no generals or heroes by name, except one -- Thomas Dry Howie, "The Major of St. Lo." In his words: "...Just in case your history books don't mention it, let me tell you what happened July 18, here at St. Lo. We broke through the German lines finally when we took their little city. Up until that point, we couldn't get any of our men off the beaches. It was sort of sad, though, because we ruined this little town of St. Lo. We had to do it to get the Germans out. More American soldiers were killed here taking St. Lo, than were killed on the beaches. A major named Tom Howie was the leader of the battalion that actually captured St. Lo. At least he was the leader of it until he was killed just outside town. After he died, his men picked him up and carried him into town and put him on a pile of stones that used to be the wall of this church. I guess there never was an American soldier who was more honored by what the people who loved him did for him after he died."
Thomas Dry Howie was from Abbeville, South Carolina. He attended the Citadel and graduated near the top of his class in 1929. Following graduation from the Citadel, Howie came to SMA where he was a brilliant teacher, particularly in English, which had been his major at the Citadel. He headed the Athletic Department and in the eight years he was head football coach, his teams won four military school state championships. He Left SMA when his Virginia National Guard unit was called up in 1941. Of course, there would be no return.
It is believed that historian Stephen Ambrose, author of the acclaimed book, "Citizen Soldier," and consultant on the movie, "Saving Private Ryan," based the character of the Captain, played by Tom Hanks, on Thomas Howie. The Ranger Unit to which the Captain was attached landed at Omaha Beach, where Howie's Battalion landed. The Captain in the movie had the same paternal nature with his men as had been attributed to Howie. Also, on point was the Captain's revelation to his men that he had coached and taught English in high school for 11 years before going to war.
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