Source: Sherman Publications

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Family of soldiers: Youngest of seven WWII veterans receives medal

by David Fleet

May 18, 2011

Standing from left, Dane Guisbert, Chuck Ellis and Don Kengerski of the Ortonville VFW Post 582. Seated is Ward Rowden, Sr., with his World War II Victory medal he received last week. Photo by David Fleet.
A Blue Star flag in the window—the symbol of a family member serving in the military.

For Pontiac residents Ernest and Hazel Rowden, the iconic display of dedication and service at their rural Oakland County home during the years of World War II was times seven.

According to newspaper reports, for almost five years during the early 1940s, all seven Rowden brothers were involved in active military. Five of the seven served in the South Pacific, one stayed in the United States and one served in Europe.

"All the boys were drafted into the service," said Beverly, wife of Ward Rowden, Sr., 83, the youngest of the seven brothers who served. "Even more remarkable, they all made it home."

On Tuesday, members of the Ortonville VFW Post 582 visited Ward, an Ortonville resident for more than 40 years, and presented him the World War II Victory Medal. The medal is awarded to United States military who served on active duty, or as a reservist, between Dec.7, 1941 and Dec. 31, 1946.

At 18-years-old, Ward was drafted and sailed from Fort Lawton, Wash. to Kyoto, Japan, where he was stationed until Sept.1947.

"Ward sailed over to Japan in a typhoon on a rusty old boat full of troops," Beverly said. "A year later, he returned on the same old boat."

During his tour in post-war Japan Ward was a Jeep driver for military generals and recalled orders to not eat the food due to possible contamination from radiation. He returned to Seattle in September 1947 and was discharged.

"Ward took a train from the west coast, but did not make it home to Pontiac for the group picture with the brothers,"said Beverly.

There were no reports of any injuries while the brothers were serving.

According to newspaper reports, Clarence Ward was an Army signalman stationed in Germany; Glynn, served in the Army, stationed in Manilla and in other areas of the South Pacific; Floyd also served in the Army as part of the signal corps in the United States; Orville, served with the Army Medical Corps in Burma; Lloyd (twin to Floyd) was in the Air Force and in the ground crew of the air corps in Guam; Clyde served with the Army in Japan; and Ward served in the Army in Kyoto, Japan after the war was over.

Beverly said that while the brothers were gone on duty, their father, Ernest, worked in the Fisher Body Plant in Pontiac while Hazel filled in at the Truck and Bus, also in Pontiac.

"While the boys were serving, Hazel stepped in and worked building military equipment," she said. "When they came home she gave her job back to her sons."

Ward moved to Ortonville in 1970 and retired from Fisher Body (Fiero plant) in 1987. He is a long-time member of the Christ Lutheran Church.