Col. Glenn Joseph McGowan (U.S. Army Retired), 95, passed away
peacefully on March 29, 2001, at his home in Fairbanks, Alaska, from a
lengthy battle with a staph infection in his knee joint and "too many
He was born Feb. 12, 1909, in Carbondale, to Louis Michael and Mary
Mae (Russell) McGowan with a birth weight of 13.5 pounds. His father
worked 50 years for the Illinois Central Railroad.
Glenn grew up in a world of oil lamps with horse and buggy
transportation. His most memorable event of the 20th century was his
waving an American flag on Armistice Day in 1918, which spooked a team
of horses and caused a wagon loaded with milk cans to overturn. Their
first automobile was a French chain-driven Metz. The electrification of
Carbondale made kerosene lamps and the ice box a thing of the past.
As a youth, Glenn was very athletic. From age 13, he attended
Citizen Military Training Camp for five summers. He played on the
Illinois Interscholastic All-State Football and Basketball teams in high
school. In 1926, at a high school track meet, the "Red Head Flash" set
the national record for the 50-yard dash in 5.5 seconds.
Glenn attended college under football scholarships at the
University of Illinois at Urbana and DePaw University in Chicago. He
played football against former President Ronald Reagan, whom he
described as being "long-legged and easy to block."
He earned a bachelor's degree in business and administration and a
master's degree in education from Southern Illinois University
Glenn's 30-year military career was colorful and exciting. In 1931,
during the Great Depression, Glenn entered the military service in the
Reserve Corps as a private and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
From 1933 to 1939, he was ordered to active duty as a company officer
and company commander working for the Civilian Conservation Corps at
Isle Royal, Mich., Skokie Valley Lagoons in Chicago and Klamath Falls,
Ore. During this time he was promoted to first lieutenant.
In 1940 he served in the Second Armored Division as a company
commander under Col. George S. Patton and was promoted to captain. He
then served under Maj. William M. Miley as a member of the original
501st Army Parachute Battalion (currently deployed to Afghanistan from
Fort Richardson, Alaska) to become company commander of the 502nd
In 1942 Glenn was promoted to major and assigned to the Airborne
Command at Fort Bragg, He escorted British Prime Minister Sir Winston
Churchill during an airborne phase of a military demonstration and
Glenn served as the battalion
commander and regimental executive officer with the 511th "Hard Rock"
Airborne Infantry Regiment at Camp Toccoa, Ga.
In 1943 Glenn was promoted to lieutenant colonel and was
transferred to the 11th Airborne Division. In 1944 he became Assistant
Chief of Staff (G-1) in the 11th Airborne serving at Camp Mackall, N.C,
and Fort Polk, La., and in the South Pacific serving with Gen. Douglas
MacArthur in Australia, New Guinea, Leyte and Luzon in the Philippine
Glenn's proudest military accomplishment was his part in planning
the 11th Airborne rescue of over 2,100 men, women and children from
scheduled execution at the Japanese Los Banos Prison Camp south of
Manila. Secretary of State Colin Powell told West Point graduates, "I
doubt that any airborne unit in the world will ever be able to rival the
Los Banos prison raid. It is a textbook airborne operation for all ages
and all armies." That historic event was overshadowed by the press
coverage of the U.S. Marines raising the American flag over Iwo Jima on
Feb. 23, 1945.
In 1945, Glenn went on to serve as the commanding officer of
special troops at the parachute school at Fort Benning, Ga. In 1947, he
attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Glenn served as battalion commander of the 187th Parachute Infantry
Regiment during the allied occupation of Japan and at Fort Campbell,
Ky., where he was promoted to colonel.
Other military assignments included airborne advisor to
commander-in-chief of the Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk, Va.; military
attaché at the American Embassy in Rangoon, Burma; MAAG Observer in
Vietnam; Commander of the 508th Regimental Combat Team at Fort Benning,
Ga., and Fort Campbell, Ky.; commander of the 188th Parachute Infantry
Regiment; commander of Operation Good-Will in Panama; and chief of
support plans Branch at the headquarters of the U.S. European Command in
During his overseas military assignments, Glenn enjoyed golfing
partnerships with General Ne Win, who became the president of Burma and
the Duke of Windsor in Paris. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1961 as
the commanding officer of Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.
Glenn was awarded numerous military decorations, including the
Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star
with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal, Army Commendation Ribbon, War
Department Unit Citation, Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster,
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four campaign stars and one bronze
arrowhead, American Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal, Philippines
Liberation Ribbon with one
In 1948, Glenn met Capt. Rose Leona (Benjamin) Wagner serving as
Military Secretary to Lt. Gen. Robert Eichelberger and Lt. Gen. Walton
Walker in Yokohama, Japan, where they began a marriage that lasted 48
In 1961, Glenn moved his family to Riverside, Calif., where he was
able to achieve an earlier dream of becoming a school teacher. He taught
American government and coached the golf team at Riverside Polytechnic
high school for 10 years. He was an active member of the Victoria Club.
In 1971, Glenn and Rose moved to Mission Bay in San Diego. They
enjoyed many active years together at their home on Crown Point Drive
until Rose passed away in 1996. In 1997, Glenn moved to Fairbanks,
Alaska, to live with his son and family until his death.
Glenn is survived by his two daughters, Patricia Marie Meadors of
Jacksonville, Ala., and Glenda Jean Wheeler of San Diego, Calif.; one
son and daughter-in-law, Michael Glenn and Kathy McGowan of Fairbanks,
Alaska; eight grandchildren and two grandchildren-in-law, Dianna Lynn
and Brian Major of Gulf Shores, Ala., Paula Louise Meadors of
Jacksonville, Ala., Melissa McGowan and Robert Hostetler, Amy Elizabeth
Jones, Sarah Marie Wheeler and Brian Clifford Wheeler, all of San Diego,
Calif, Erin Rose McGowan and Kevin Michael McGowan, both of Fairbanks,
Alaska; five great-grandchildren, Zachary Scott and Corey Lee Caldwell,
both of Gulf Shores, Ala., and George Robert, Jonathan James and Joshua
Glenn Hostetler, all of San Diego, Calif; four cousins and three
cousins-in-law, Robert Franklin and Pat Russell of Redding, Calif.,
Joann and Ray Charles of Carbondale, Sidney Warren McGowan of
Carbondale, and Paul Patrick and Katie McGowan of Bartlett; one niece
and nephew-in-law, Elizabeth McGowan and Fabrizio Devetak of Wheaton;
and one sister-in-law, Crissie Ethel McGowan of Carbondale.
Glenn was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, Louis
Glenn has been cremated and his ashes will be buried with military
honors at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, 2004, next to his parents and
brother in Oakland Cemetery in Carbondale. Funeral arrangements will be
made by the Huffman-Harker Funeral Home in Carbondale.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the
charity of your choice.
As his old comrade-in=arms Gen. Douglas MacArthur once said, "Old
soldiers never die, they just fade away." Let us never forget the
unquestioned sacrifices these dedicated Americans made to ensure that we
are able to enjoy the freedoms we have today. Glenn was truly a member
of America's greatest generation.
[Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale, IL, 08 Aug 2004, Sun, Page 11]
[courtesy of "Maree"]
marker for Glenn j. McGowan in Oakland Cemetery, Carbondale (Jackson