Richard Merrill Rowell was born in Sonoma, Calif., 6 August 1916. Enlisted in the Naval Reserve 8 August 1939, he was commissioned ensign 20 August 1940. Reporting for duty as a fighter pilot to Lexington (CV-2) on 5 November 1940, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross for downing a Japanese plane 20 February 1942. During the Battle of the Coral Sea 7 to 8 May 1942, he won a gold star in lieu of a second Distinguished Flying Cross, before failing to return from his last mission.
(DE-403: dp 1,745 (f.); l. 306'; b. 36'7"; dr. 13'4"; s. 24 k.; cpl. 222; a. 2 5", 4 40mm., 10 20mm., 2 dct., 8 dcp. 1 dcp. (hh.), 3 21" tt.; cl. John C. Butler)
Richard M. Rowell (DE-403) was laid down 18 August 1943 by Brown Shipbuilding Co., Houston, Tex.; Iaunched 17 November 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Agnes M. Rowell; and commissioned 9 March 1944, Lt. Comdr. Harry A. Barnard, Jr., in command.
Following shakedown off Bermuda, Richard M. Rowell departed Boston 6 May 1944, and proceeded via the Panama Canal and San Diego to Pearl Harbor, arriving on the 31st. In July 1944 she escorted a convoy to Eniwetok, and screened escort carriers returning to Pearl Harbor. In August she protected a transport group on its voyage to Tulagi, Solomons, and screened escort carriers to Manus. In September she protected an air support task force during the landings on Morotai on the 15th, saving two pilots.
Richard M. Rowell rescued survivors from Shelton (DE-407), hit by a torpedo from Japanese submarine RO-41, on 3 October 1944. Later that day she sank Seawolf (SS-197) by mistake. She next screened a carrier group providing air support for the landings on Leyte, Philippine Islands, 20 October.
At the start of the Battle of Samar, 25 October, the destroyer escort operated in group "Taffy One." That day Taffy One was operating off Surigao Island about 130 miles south of Task Force 3, which received the main Japanese attack. Taffy One had just launched planes to the south to attack the Japanese retiring from the Battle of Surigao Strait, when attacked by six Japanese planes from Davao. This attack was the first intentional use of the Kamikaze suicide plane. Responding to this emergency, Richard M. Rowell rescued one survivor from Santee (CVE-29). Taffy One arrived too late to be of much assistance to Taffy Three, which bore the main Japanese attack, but she did fight off another kamikaze attack on the 26th, as Richard M. Rowell was attacking an enemy submarine. Returning to the carrier formation, she donated blood plasma from her own supply, and medical supplies from Petrof Bay (CVE-80) to Suwanee (CVE-27). On the 27th she escorted Santee (CVE-29) to Manus, and arrived at Pearl Harbor 19 November.
She joined antiair and antisubmarine patrols for the landings 9 January 1945 at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, Philippine Islands. After protecting underwater demolition drills at Ulithi in late January and early February, she guarded transports to Iwo Jima, and supported air units during the landings there 19 February. Departing Ulithi 21 March, she protected air units during the landings 1 April upon Okinawa, before returning to Guam 11 May. In July she patrolled in Leyte Gulf, Philippine Islands, and escorted Hoggatt Bay (CVE-75) to Ulithi, before escorting three transports to San Pedro Bay, Philippine Islands, in August. Following duty at Leyte Gulf and Okinawa in September, she proceeded via Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor to San Diego, arriving 6 November.
Decommissioned 2 July 1946, she remained in the Pacific Reserve Fleet until struck from the Navy list 30 June 1968.
Richard M. Rowell received six battle stars for World War II sevice.