by Steven V. Smith, ’84 – Chair, CAA History Committee
This article originally appeared in the Alumni News of The Citadel – Summer 2014. It is reprinted here in its entirety with the permission of the Citadel Alumni Association.
The observance of the 70th anniversary of the D Day landings in Normandy poignantly reminds us that those young men who embarked upon that great crusade and were fortunate enough to have survived are in their eighties and nineties now. Even as this article was written, The Citadel’s most decorated veteran of WWII, Colonel Theodore S. “Ted” Bell, class of ’42, recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, and two Bronze Stars, who fought with the 77th Infantry Division in the Pacific, passed away at the age of 93. We are fast approaching that point in time when memory will forever pass into history. It is incumbent upon we who are the recipients of the fruits of their sacrifice to take a few minutes to remember the exploits those who were there.
Of course, the exploits of Major Thomas D. Howie, class of 1929, “The Major of St. Lo”, commanding officer of 3/116th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division seventy years ago are, or at least should be familiar to alumni. Howie, serving as operations officer or S3 for the 116th Infantry Regiment landed with the third wave on OMAHA Beach at H+70, June 6, 1944. Five weeks later on July 17 during the operation to liberate St. Lo and four days after taking command of 3/116, he would lose his life in that attack on Martinsville ridge; an action for which he was awarded the Silver Star. His home town of Abbeville, South Carolina, St. Lo, France, and The Citadel all have memorials to his memory, “Dead in France, Deathless in Fame” his grave in the Normandy American Cemetery is one of the most visited in the cemetery. There are other alumni who are less well known or even remembered. What follows are a few of those stories.
Major Howie was not the first Citadel alumnus to land at OMAHA Beach. That distinction goes to Private First Class Thompson Gallety Dicks, class of 1944, assigned to A Company, 1/116th Infantry Regiment landing in the first wave on the Dog Green sector at H+1. Within ten minutes of landing, the murderous grazing and plunging machinegun and mortar fire rendered the unit combat ineffective with Dicks and over two thirds of his company, many from the town of Bedford, Virginia, dead or dying on that beach forever known to history as “Bloody Omaha.” Bedford Virginia is home to the National D Day Memorial. Thompson’s father, Colonel John Leon Dicks, class of 1918, had his son’s remains permanently interred in the Normandy American Cemetery. (more…)