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and Place of Birth:
July 26, 1918 Emporia, Virginia
116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division US Army
European Theater of Operations
Rowell was born on the family farm in
VA, on July 26, 1918. The youngest
of five sisters and one brother, he was forced to quit school in the
9th grade to work the farm after the death of his father.
His brother helped but suffering from polio was unable to
take charge as Bill was forced to.
Baseball was his love and, as a speedy outfielder, started a
long career playing on amateur teams in the area at a young age.
He lied about his age and
joined the local National Guard unit when he was 16 years old.
He said the allure of $1.00 a week for meetings and $20.00
for two weeks at summer camp was too much to resist.
The unit was federalized for one year in February of 1941 and
saw training at Ft. Meade, Maryland
and the Carolina Maneuvers.
Hopes of returning home in February of 1942 were dashed with
the declaration of war after Pearl Harbor.
He sailed with the 29th
Division to England
in October 1942 to begin a rigid training program for almost two
years preparing for the invasion of Nazi controlled
1944 he joined the regimental baseball team, dubbed the
“Yankees”. Although a
dark horse team they were invited to the ETO World Series in London where they finished a perfect 27 - 0
season by winning the championship.
He was unable to contribute to the team’s tournament effort
due to a sprained ankle, but had a good season to that point.
(middle row, second from
left) with 116th Infantry Regiment Yankees in England 1943
Baseball was far from the
regiment’s thoughts the following year as the 116th led
the assault on Omaha
Three of the players were killed on the beach that morning
and it is believed that a fourth died also but has yet to be
additional men were seriously wounded.
Bill Rowell led his squad across the beach and inland before
being wounded eleven days later.
He returned to his unit in August and served until after V-E
Day. He was awarded the
Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
He returned to his wife and son in
and lived there until his death in July of 2004.
He loved baseball and continued to play with area
baseball and softball teams until he was in his mid-50’s.
Thanks to Bill Rowell's son, Billy Rowell for supplying this
wonderful biography and the portrait photograph.
August 16, 2009.
Copyright © 2009 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball
in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.