It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the United States—an appropriate time to remember a particular soldier who lost his life in World War II.
For his family, details of Private Travis Fowler’s death have remained unclear for decades.
As a prisoner-of-war who had escaped—very likely from P.G. 59—in late 1943, Travis had evaded capture in Italy for months. Then, while attempting to cross the Allied lines, he was shot by a German sentry. He died 78 years ago this month. See “Travis Fowler—Nearly Home.”
When I wrote about Travis in January 2021, I had not been in contact with anyone from Travis’ family.
Four days ago, I received a note from his nephew, Jeff Fowler.
Jeff wrote, “Travis Fowler was my uncle. I am the son of Jessie D. Fowler. Until recently I did not know that Travis was a POW; today, thanks to you, I learned even more.”
Some information known to older relatives in the Fowler family may not have been passed down.
“I am a late addition to the Fowler lineage, as I was born in 1960,” Jeff explained. “Unfortunately, my uncles and aunts were of significant age by my birth and have since all passed.
“In my family home Uncle Travis’ portrait always hung in the family room. My dad and my Uncle Lewis were in the army at the same time as Uncle Travis. My dad was in the Aleutian Isles, Uncle Lewis in England, and Uncle Travis in Europe.
“My dad told me that a uniformed, armed soldier was assigned to casket duty around the clock as the unopened casket lay in the family room till interment in Providence Primitive Baptist Church (Sylvester, Georgia) cemetery. Dad said he believed the casket to be empty, as it was never opened to the family.
“As a kid I was told Travis was killed in a tank in Italy. To the best of my knowledge, my dad never knew that his brother was a POW—or perhaps he knew and never told me. I know we never watched Hogan’s Heroes, as my dad didn’t find the show humorous.
[Hogan’s Heroes was an American sitcom that ran for six seasons. The comedy concerned an American Air Force colonel and his comrades who were POWs in Germany during World War II.]
“Uncle Travis’ widow Eva remarried and was always treated as part of the family.
“I wrote the VA as a next of kin heir and requested copies of his military records to no avail. Thanks to you, I now know more than I ever knew before.”
Jeff sent me a scan of the photo that hung in his family home (above).
“To the best of my knowledge there are no other pictures of Uncle Travis,” he wrote.
As we honor scores of a fallen soldiers on this Memorial Day, I pause for a moment to remember the sacrifice of Travis Fowler—one beloved soldier who has never been forgotten by his family.