William R. McDowell

NO. 17497  •  26 July 1927 - 9 April 1987

Interred in Bay Pines National Cemetery, Bay Pines, FL


WILLIAM ROBERT MCDOWELL was born in Ft. Worth, TX.  His mother, a teacher, raised Bill and his sister Nadine in Ada, OK, where Bill was an excellent student, particularly in math. In high school, he lettered in basketball and tennis. He also demonstrated a faculty that his classmates well remember as a very effective style of speaking. While only a sophomore at Ada High School, Bill got a job as an announcer at radio station KADA, broadcasting not only sports, but general news as well. He also was very active in the school debate program.

After graduating from high school, Bill enlisted in the Army Air Corps, where he served for eleven months before joining the West Point Class of '50. As a cadet, Bill played squash and tennis. He again capitalized on his rich Oklahoma voice by broadcasting athletic events, coaching other cadets in public speaking, and leading the debate teams for four years. In debate, he was the "closer," the man who summed up and drove the arguments home. He had hundreds of friends and was known for being able to talk himself into ‑ or out of ‑ anything. He also had a wry sense of humor. Reacting to a roommate's admiration for the poet Robert Frost, he turned in a review of Frost's Mending Wall entitled "Frost Heaves." He was a cadet lieutenant, second in command of his company.

Upon graduation, Bill was assigned to the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment, patroling the border with East Germany. A carefree bachelor, Bill led an active social life until he renewed his interest in tennis in 1951 and, on the court, met Esther Juhaz, a Hungarian emigre whom he married in Milan in 1952. He and Esther had two daughters.

The next significant step for Bill was flight school in 1956, followed by a tour with the XVIII Airborne Corps Aviation Detachment at Ft. Bragg during the heady days when the Army was beginning to experiment with air assault and air‑mobile concepts. He went to Korea in 1959, as executive officer of the Eighth Army Aviation Detachment.

Back in Europe in 1963, after finishing CGSC, Bill became aide‑de‑camp to GEN Creighton Abrams, then commanding V Corps, and moved to Washington, DC, in 1964 as Assistant Executive Officer to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. His next assignment, in 1966, was as commanding officer of the 4th Aviation Battalion, 4th Infantry Division. Bill joined the unit at Ft. Lewis and, shortly thereafter, the Division moved to Viet Nam. In combat in Viet Nam, he was awarded the Bronze Star, three Air Medals, and the Commendation Medal.

Bill was next assigned to the Pentagon. He and Esther had divorced by this time, and in 1968 Bill met Carol "Callie" Allen at the Bolling AFB Officers' Club. Although a Navy Department employee, Callie came from an Army family and, as she puts it, "I took one look and knew I had met the man I would always love." For the next year, Bill and Callie carried on a long‑distance romance during his assignment as a student at the Naval War College.

Upon graduation, Bill was again assigned to Viet Nam, this time as commanding officer of the 17th Aviation Group at Nha Trang. Again, he excelled in his command. Viet Nam was a war in which senior commanders often were personally involved, and Bill was no exception. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for rescuing two wounded U.S. advisors under enemy fire. He also was honored with two Legions of Merit and six Air Medals. Perhaps most importantly, while on R&R in Hawaii in March 1970, Bill McDowell married Callie Allen.

Next came three glorious years in Hawaii, with Bill in PACOM Headquarters. With five teenagers (Bill's two and Callie's three) in the house for visits and vacations, the McDowell household was a booming place! The Pentagon was next for Bill, and he continued his specialty of joint plans with three years in JCS J‑5 and one in OSD International Security Affairs. Bill's last Active Duty assignment was at USREDCOM at Tampa, where he was Chief of the Plans Division. He retired as a colonel in 1980.

In 1980, Bill and Callie took a long‑anticipated three-month trip to Europe, made all the more pleasant by Esther's family showing them many things they would never have seen on their own. But the U.S. was the only place for the McDowells, and they settled in Tampa. Bill played a lot of golf and worked on his classic cars, especially a 1952 right‑hand drive MG. He also became involved with an effort to build a military retirement community in the area. Unfortunately, just as this project was almost ready for action in 1985, Bill developed a lingering sore throat that all too soon was diagnosed as cancer. Bill was always convinced that he would lick his illness, but he died in April 1987 at McDill AFB.

Bill's classmates remember him with admiration and affection, as evident in the following excerpts. "The very model of a gentleman and someone you admire;" "a controlled, assured, confident man, ambitious but not overly so, smart;" "always the most gracious of hosts, the welcome mat was always out;" "knew that if I needed help, he would be there;" "quiet, reserved and of even disposition and considerable intellect."

But Callie McDowell sums Bill up best, saying, "Besides being a kind and loving husband, Bill was a wonderful father to his two girls and my three children. A day never passes that we don’t think of him and miss him. As the years pass, I thought it would get easier, but it never seems to."

We agree.

- Roommate Philo Hutcheson, family and classmates