NO. 17671 • 10 Sep 1927 - 7 Mar 1998
Died in Columbia, SC
Inurned in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA
Howard Savage Mitchell was born in Queens Village, Long Island, NY, to James Murray and Alta Anderson Mitchell. He grew up in Long Island, along with his brothers James Edisto and Francis William Mitchell. Just prior to Howard's birth, Howard's father, an ex?serviceman and aspiring young artist, had gone on board the liner Leviathon to receive the congratulations of GEN Pershing and Howard Savage, the commander of the American Legion, for winning the $ 1000 prize in the American Legion poster contest. James and Alta thereupon decided to name their son Howard Savage. Commander Savage was advised of this action and radioed back the following reply: "Deeply honored news your radio. Convey to Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell my best wishes and that I shall look forward to seeing my young namesake on my return." This naming continued the Mitchell family tradition of more than 200 years of service to the country, earning the family the title of "one family, seven wars" in the 4 Mar 1991 issue of Life magazine. That Howard would choose a military career was no surprise.
Howard was an honor student at Brooklyn Technical High School for three years (1941-44). For his final year of high school, he attended the Wooster Boys School in Danbury, CT, from which he graduated in 1945 as the class valedictorian. At Wooster he played varsity basketball, football, and baseball. Prior to receiving a principal appointment to the Military Academy by Congressman Henry Latham, Howard attended Tufts College in Medford, MA, in the Navy V5 program, and then the USMA Preparatory School at Ft. Benning, GA, graduating in June 1946.
Nicknamed "Mitch" by his Academy classmates and blessed with a keen mind and sense of humor, Howard adjusted well to cadet life. He served as the art editor of The Pointer for all four of his cadet years, and he was a member of the Art Club and the Cadet Chapel choir. Activities similar to these continued on after graduation, reflecting his lifelong passion for the finer things in life ? from Dixieland Jazz to painting still?lifes of his beloved Edisto Island, SC, where his parents were born and raised.
His first assignment after graduation was with the 33rd Infantry Division at Ft. Kobe, Panama Canal Zone. He returned to his hometown, Queens Village, to marry JoAn Thompson on 5 Aug 1951. They returned to Ft. Kobe, remaining there until 1953. Howard's next assignments were with the 101st Airborne Division, Ft. Jackson, SC (1954-55); duty as a rifle company commander with the 7th Infantry Division, Korea (1956-57), for which he was awarded a Commendation Medal; and service as an assistant professor of military science at DePaul University, Chicago (1958-61). It was during his assignment at DePaul that daughter Suzanne Mary and son Michael Murray became members of the Mitchell family.
In 1962, the family departed for Okinawa while Howard was serving with the First Special Forces Group (Green Berets) in Viet Nam as the "B" Team Commander (1962-64). While there he was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge. After graduating from the Army Command and General Staff College in 1965, he went to the US. Continental Army Command (CONARC) at Ft. Monroe, VA until 1966, where he received another Army Commendation Medal. He then was the assistant chief of staff, G-3, Headquarters, 2nd Infantry Division, Korea, until 1968, when he returned to Headquarters, CONARC. He earned the Meritorious Service Medal for his service there. In 1970, Howard went back to Viet Nam, this time serving as deputy, assistant chief of staff, G-3, Headquarters, XXIV Corps. The Bronze Star and Legion of Merit were awarded to him for this service. In 1971, he was the commander of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Division in Viet Nam, earning another Bronze Star and an Air Medal. From 1972 to 1973, Howard was assigned to the U.S. Combat Development Command, Ft. Belvoir, VA, receiving his third Army Commendation Medal. Also in 1973, the family gained another member, son Christopher Thomas. From 1973 to 1978, Howard was the Senior Advisor for the 218th Infantry Brigade of the SC National Guard, Newberry, SC. At the end of this tour, on his retirement on 1 Aug 1978, LTC Mitchell was awarded a second Legion of Merit. His other awards included the National Defense Medal, Senior Parachutist Badge, China and Viet Nam Parachutist Badges, the Viet Nam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Viet Nam Service Medal, the Viet Nam Campaign Medal, and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.
During retirement, Howard earned an MBA from the University of South Carolina. Unfortunately, in 1982, he suffered a massive stroke when he fell from the roof of his home in Columbia, SC. True to form, his first words in the hospital were, "Get that damn dog off of me!" The family boxer had been licking his face for several hours comforting Howard until his accident was discovered. He spent months recovering, eventually learning again to drive, swim, and pilot his motor boat on nearby Lake Murray. He enjoyed painting with a local artist, "Griff" and visiting his family and friends. In December 1997 he suffered another stroke and died a few months later at the VA Hospital in Columbia. Howard is survived by his beloved wife, JoAn, his daughter, two sons, and two grandsons.
Howard was proud to be a lifelong "grunt" and also proud of how his family has always been part of the military. In the 4 Mar 1991 issue of Life, he said, "I sometimes wonder how I got wrapped up in the Service. I went to the Academy and then just kept at it. It was my career. I guess old Francis Marion would be happy."
We are happy and proud to have had you as a husband, father, grandfather, and friend. Your achievements earned you the deepest respect of all who knew you. We miss you deeply.
- Daughter Suzanne Mitchell