Fowler, Leonard O.

Leonard Orville Fowler was born October 27, 1914 in Jackson County, Alabama. His parents Felix Edward Fowler and Cora Lillian (Cagle) Fowler were both born in Alabama. His father worked as a carpenter. Leonard had two older sisters, three younger brothers, and three younger sisters. By 1930 the family was living in Huntsville, Alabama. When he registered for the draft in October 1940, Leonard was living with his parents in Huntsville and working for Southern Cotton and Oil Company.

He was inducted into the US Army on 28 May 1943 at Fort McClellan, Alabama and served in the 1896th Engineers Battalion (Aviation) as a Technician 4th grade (Tec4). The battalion was initially stationed in Elko, Virginia where it was tasked to build a fake airport, complete with a runway, landing lights and empty buildings, to serve as a decoy in the event of an attack by German bombers that never materialized. In March 1944, the 1896th was sent to the Pacific, where it built real airfields and supporting installations on New Guinea. In May 1944 the battalion was next sent to Biak, a small island northwest of New Guinea, where it built roads and a landing strip for Army bombers.

On 1 January 1945 the battalion and 2,500 tons of motor vehicles and gasoline in fifty gallon drums were loaded on board a transport ship, the SS Kyle Johnson, part of a large convoy headed for the Philippines. As the convoy approached Corregidor on the late afternoon of 12 January 1945, it was attacked by Japanese kamikaze aircraft. The Johnson was struck by one of the planes, which punched a huge hole in the starboard side and tore through internal bulkheads, igniting the barrels of gasoline stored below. The Johnson's crew bravely battled the fire and were able to save the ship, however 129 crewmembers and Army soldiers were killed and many more were wounded. Tec4 Fowler was badly burned in the conflagration and passed away three days later on 15 January 1945 and was buried at sea.

Leonard Orville Fowler is memorialized in Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville, Alabama; on the Tablets of the Missing in the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila, Philippines; and at the Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial. All three of his brothers served in WWII and survived the war.