Dakota Datebook

Cowan’s Escape

Saturday, November 15, 2008


History can be seen as one great tapestry; however, the significance of each thread should not be forgotten. In this month we honor our veterans, who, with each single thread, held fast the fiber of our country.

One soldier of particularly tough fiber was World War II flight officer Stephan Cowan. Cowan was a North Dakotan fighting on the Italian front. In July of 1943 Cowan’s plane was shot down and although it descended in flames, Cowan remained unscathed, landing in the Bay of Naples. However, after seven hours of floating, Cowan was captured. By September, as Nazi forces were retreating north with their prisoners of war, Cowan made an escape. As the prisoner’s train ascended a steep mountain pass, Cowan climbed through the railcar’s ventilator, escaped to the roof, and jumped from the moving train. Cowan amazingly survived with only an injured leg, but was forced to wait two weeks before he could began his six week trek toward British lines. On this day in November of 1943 Cowan reached his destination.

Hatton Free Press, January 16, 1944

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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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