My great uncle Maynard L. Cowles was born in 1922 to Austin and Clara Cowles who owned a large, successful farm in southern Michigan. Maynard finished common school and was accepted to Michigan State University, following in the footsteps of his older brother Glenn and his older sister Florence who were both graduates of Michigan State. Breaking his mother's heart, Maynard decided to leave college to join the US Army Air Corp in January of 1943 to help with the war effort. In Texas, he went through school as an enlisted man before being appointed to Aviation Cadets.
By August of 1944, Maynard had graduated from cadet flying schools,
received his commission as 2nd Lieutenant, completed P-47 fighter school,
and was shipped overseas. On October 7th, 1944, he joined the 362nd Fighter
Group, 378th Fighter Squadron of the Ninth Air Force who were stationed
at Prosnes, France. On November 4th, 1944, the 362nd moved to Etain, France
(about 15 miles east of Verdun) where the fighter group stayed until April
of 1945. It was here that Maynard flew the Republic P47 Thunderbolt into
I have spoken with several individuals who were in Maynard's squadron and found out that unless you actually bunked with a fellow, you really didn't get to know the men around you. Len Burling told me that they "bunked six men to a tent and you got to know those guys pretty well but other than that, only faces and names." Cliff Saari said that Maynard was tall, (5'10"-6') friendly and soft spoken. Joseph Pilcher said that Maynard was"quite quiet." All of these men were pilots in the 378th Fighter Squadron, as well.
I have found references to Maynard in the book the group has published chronicling the history of the 362nd Fighter Group called "Mogin's Maulers." This book of 500 pages contains 1000 photos and gives excellent details into the 362nd. It may be purchased through John Baloga.
The following is an excerpt from the book, "Mogin's Maulers." It is an encounter report written by Maynard on the 21st of February, 1945 (ten days before he was killed in action), confirming an aerial victory claimed by Lt. William L. Burling:
"I was flying Yellow Two on Lt. Burling's wing. We were on an armed
recce just south of Frankfurt, Germany when an FW came into view at 12:00
o'clock going straight up. We dropped our bombs and belly tanks and gave
chase. Lieutenant Burling closed in on the FW-190 and shot pieces off his
tail in a tight turn to the right. The FW-190 then leveled out and Lieutenant
Burling started shooting and strikes were seen on the fuselage. The FW-190
started nearly straight down and exploded when it hit the ground. No chutes
were seen leaving the plane."
March 3rd, 1945 was the day that Maynard L. Cowles made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. It was mission #417 for the 378th and it was to be a bombing run on a railroad bridge in Irlich, Germany. The overcast weather conditions made things even more difficult. The following is an excerpt from "Mogin's Maulers":
Mission No. 417 - Sixteen ships were to go after Irlich RR bridge again led by Major Cline, but his compass went haywire and the Squadron wound up in the Bingen area. Little or no damage was done to Hitler's war machine.
The Missing in Action report filed by Lt. Eshbaugh as witness states:
While on a dive bombing mission in the Bingen, Germany area, we let down through the overcast to about 1,500 feet in search of a target. While flying northwest along the Rhine River we got intense heavy and light flak. My wingman and I (Firebrick blue 3 & 4) broke left of our Firebrick Blue flight leader. Blue Two (Lt. Cowles) broke to the right also trying to evade flak. I turned back to the right to see them but the flak was still heavy so I turned left again. I looked back over my shoulder and saw a big cloud of black smoke coming up from the ground. This was just north of Nord Ingelheim, about six miles west of Bingen, Germany. Lt. Cowles was not seen after this.
Only three more pilots from the 378th Fighter Squadron had to give up their lives before WWII finally ended.
Maynard's grave resides in the Lorraine American Cemetery at St. Avold, France, east of Metz, near the German border. The cemetery is owned and operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission. Their records show Mayard as having received the following decorations: Air Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters, and of course the Purple Heart. The Air Medal was issued for every aerial victory and/or every tenth sortie. The Oak Leaf Clusters denote subsequent awards of the Air Medal. 362nd records indicate that no kills were claimed by Maynard; therefore, he completed between 60 and 69 sorties (40-50 missions).
In my research, I have met some very helpful people from the 362nd. Foremost, I would like to give my thanks and appreciation to Chuck Mann of the 377th, without whom this page would have very little content. Len Burling, Clifford Saari and Joeseph Pilcher, all from the 378th, for taking time to talk to a total stranger on the phone. And my utmost thanks to Glenn Cowles, Jr. who astounded me by sending me Maynard's photos and decorations to use on this page.
God Bless all of you who served and Thank You. I will