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Private Leo J. Howe
Howe Gravemarker

By Krista Finstad Hanson

For the Times

The 36th Engineer Brigade was originally established on Oct. 1, 1922. During WWII, they reactivated for service on June 1, 1944 at Plattsburgh Barracks in New York as the 36th Engineer Regiment. It was nine companies that were trained in amphibious assault.

They were first sent to North Africa in 1942 and fought in Operation Torch in Algeria, French Morocco, and Tunisia.

They then fought at the Battle of Sicily and Operation Shingle in Anzio. They went on to fight in France in Operation Dragoon and the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe Campaigns.

Lafayette and Iowa county soldier, Private Leo J. Howe, served with Company B of the 36th Engineers. 

Leo James Howe was born on Sept. 15, 1914 in Lafayette County, Wisconsin. His parents were James M. and Isabelle “Belle” (Boyle) Howe.

From the 1920 U.S. Census, the Howe family lived in Willow Springs Township in Lafayette County. The household included father Jas., mother Belle, and children Leo and Paul. Father James was a farmer in general farming.

From the 1930 U.S. Census, the Howe family was still renting a farm in Willow Springs Township. The household was complete with the addition of son Morris J. (9). Father James was a farmer and son Leo was a laborer on the farm.

Father James Michael Howe died June 17, 1932.

On the 1940 U.S. Census, the “Hawe” (sic) family lived in Mineral Point Town in Iowa County, Wisconsin. The household included mother Belle widowed, and son Leo, son Paul and Maurice. The sons were all engaged in farming.

On Oct. 16, 1940, Leo James Howe registered for the WWII Draft in Milwaukee. He was living in Mineral Point in Iowa County. He registered at Willow Springs in Lafayette County, Wisconsin. His next of kin was his mother at RFD #4 in Mineral Point. His employer was “self.”

On June 13, 1942 Leo J. Howe enlisted for service in WWII. Howe was single, without dependents. He had one year of high school. His civilian occupation was “general farmers.” 

From the Aug. 8, 1942 The Capital Times notice titled “Four Soldiers Visit Mineral Point Homes,” the notice stated “Four local men in service visited their families here last weekend. They were Pvts. John Fleming, Ft. Custer, Mich.; Leo Howe, Vincent Cannon, and Joe Centte, Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.”

From the Dec. 30, 1942 Grant County Herald, a notice stated “Mrs. Belle Howe, Mineral Point, was notified Friday by the war department that her son, Private Leo Howe, 23, was killed in action, Nov. 11, in the North African campaign. Prior to his induction in June, the young man was employed as a truck driver for a Mineral Point oil company. He was a graduate of the Mineral Point high school. A brother, Maurice, is also a private in the service, stationed in California.”

The May 14, 1948 Wisconsin State Journal article titled “Bodies of 12 Madison Area War Dead Returned to U.S.” states “The bodies of 12 Madison area servicemen who were killed in North Africa battles of World War II have been returned to the U. S. aboard the U. S. army transport Barney Kirschbaum for burial in their home areas, the army announced today.” Included in this list was Pvt. Leo J. Howe with his mother Mrs. Belle Howe who was living in Darlington.

From the June 1, 1948 Wisconsin State Journal article titled “Pvt. Leo Howe,” the news from Darlington was “The body of Pvt. Leo Howe, son of Mrs. Belle Howe, Darlington, who was killed in Africa Nov. 11, 1942, will arrive here Friday for military funeral services.

Pvt. Howe entered military service June 13, 1942.

Survivors include his mother, and two brothers, Paul, Darlington, and Maurice, Rockford, Ill.

Mayor Paul McGettigan, members of the Darlington city council, and representatives of the Darlington and Mineral Point American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War post, will meet the train and furnish a military guard of honor at the Steil funeral home where the body will remain until services…

All business places in Darlington will close during the service. The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Bernard Doyle will officiate at services at Holy Rosary Catholic church. Burial will be in the church cemetery.”

Private Leo J. Howe was reburied in Holy Rosary cemetery in Darlington. He received the Purple Heart, awarded posthumously.

Thank you, Private Leo James Howe, for your service to and ultimate sacrifice for this country. We honor you and remember you.