Early Life and Becoming a Soldier

Being Wounded



Thomas Cowart was born in November 1925 in Mobile, Alabama. He grew up there in a poor family. He had three brothers and four sisters. The family moved several times. Cowart grew up mainly in a Catholic Boys Home. His father worked off and on because he drank too much. His father did maintain a garden which the family depended on for food. Cowart played sports in school, but in his junior year he and some friends decided not to wait to be drafted. When he turned 18, he enlisted in the Army. He graduated from high school after his service in the war. He was inducted in Fort McClellan [Annotator's Note: Fort McClellan, Alabama]. After completing his basic training at Fort Blanding [Annotator's Note: then Camp Blanding; now Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in Clay County, Florida]. Training was not that tough for Cowart. Army life was easy for him after the life in the Boys Home. He went to Fort Meade [Annotator's Note: Fort George G. Meade in in Anne Arundel County, Maryland], Maryland after completion of basic training and then was sent to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. He boarded the Queen Mary [Annotator's Note: RMS Queen Mary] in New York [Annotator's Note: New York, New York] in January 1945. The Queen Mary sailed without escort for Scotland because she was faster than the submarines. Cowart was then put on a train and transported to Southampton, England where he waited in the snow and rain for transport by an LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank] across the Channel [Annotator's Note: English Channel].


Thomas Cowart entered France as a replacement [Annotator's Note: for the 320th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division in early 1945]. He was sent into Belgium for the Battle of the Bulge [Annotator's Note: Battle of the Bulge or German Ardennes Counter Offensive, 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945]. Not entering combat during that time, he was sent next to Holland and remembers having his first shower in mainland Europe. His outfit was moving fast when they entered Germany. As they engaged the enemy, his outfit was moving toward Berlin [Annotator's Note: Berlin, Germany] across the Autobahn [Annotator's Note: German highway system that served as the inspiration for the United States interstate system]. In a small village, a kitchen was set up. Artillery fire came in on them when they crossed the Autobahn. Most of his movements in Europe were on foot. Cowart and his foxhole buddy found some clean linens in the village and thought they would have a comfortable sleep but orders changed that plan. They were told to clear out the rest of the houses. After about four or five were cleared, it was dark and Cowart was behind his friend the squad leader. Both the men were wounded by German machine gun fire. Most of the squad was wiped out. Cowart was knocked off his feet as he was wounded in the legs. He rolled over to a ditch but maintained consciousness. The Germans left and Cowart was sent to a field hospital and then he was transferred to Liege, Belgium where he received good medical attention. He luckily recovered from the wounds. His squad leader, from Pensacola [Annotator's Note: Pensacola, Florida], was not so fortunate. He was beaten up pretty bad. Many of Cowart's 12 man squad were killed or wounded.


Thomas Cowart was in the hospital in Liege, Belgium when the war ended [Annotator's Note: he had been wounded in combat]. He returned to his outfit [Annotator's Note: 320th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division] in Germany and was preparing to go to the war in the Pacific. The war ended there so his division was shipped back to the United States. He did not observe much of the destruction while in Germany. He went to the transfer camp Lucky Strike [Annotator's Note: one of the transit and rehabilitation camps in France named after popular cigarette brands; Lucky Strike was near Le Havre, France] and then to England for return to America on the Queen Mary [Annotator's Note: RMS Queen Mary]. It was an uncomfortable voyage with all the raucous goings on in the sleeping compartment he was in. He returned to New Jersey where he was sent home for a 30 day leave [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time]. After going back through several camps, he was discharged at Fort McPherson [Annotator's Note: near Atlanta, Georgia]. He would use the G.I. Bill for his high school diploma and business school. He got a job and was transferred to Florida. He took correspondence courses but kept getting promoted and time was not available to further his education. He retired out of Shreveport [Annotator's Note: Shreveport, Louisiana] with a package in 1969. His wife taught school until she retired and they moved back to Mobile [Annotator's Note: Mobile, Alabama]. The National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana] is enjoyable. He has been there three times. His family has attended with him. People today have an appreciation for what the veterans went through in the war. Cowart is a member of a club with some veterans that he refers to the ROMEO Club or Retired Old Men Eating Out. [Annotator's Note: Cowart chuckles.]

All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You may receive the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only the specific clips that you requested. Please contact the Museum at digitalcollections@nationalww2museum.org if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to four weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address.