Nick Rowe was born on February 8, 1938, in McAllen, Texas. He entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in June 1956 and graduated with a commission as a 2LT of Artillery on June 8, 1960. Rowe was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from August 1960 to May 1961, and during this time he completed Airborne School, Ranger School, and the Artillery Officer Basic Course. Lt Rowe next served with the 7th Special Forces Group and then the 5th Special Forces Group (SFG) of 1st Special Forces at Fort Bragg from May 1961 to July 1963. During this time he completed Language School at the Presidio of Monterey, California. Rowe went on TDY with the 5th SFG to the Republic of Vietnam in July 1963, and was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War by the Viet Cong on October 29, 1963. After spending 1,891 days in captivity, Maj Rowe escaped on December 31, 1968, and made his way to friendly forces. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and then served as an instructor with the Army Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, from June 1969 to September 1970. Rowe then went into Army Intelligence, serving at Fort Holabird, Maryland, from September 1970 to June 1971, and then with the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C., from June 1971 until he left active duty on February 1, 1974. Col Rowe returned to active duty on March 12, 1981, and served as Chief of the Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, until May 1985, when he was made Commander of the First Special Warfare Training Battalion at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, also at Fort Bragg. In May 1988 Col Rowe was assigned as the Chief of the Army Division of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group in the Philippines. He was assassinated by Communist guerrilas in Quezon City, a suburb of Manila, on April 21, 1989. Nick Rowe was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on May 2, 1989.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
Major James N. Rowe, Artillery, United States Army, distinguished himself by outstanding gallantry in action on 31 December 1968 while a prisoner of the Viet Cong in the U Minh Forest of South Vietnam. During the period 22 to 31 December 1968, after more than five years in Viet Cong prison camps, Major Rowe was forced by his captors to move at least twice daily to avoid friendly air strikes. On 31 December at approximately 0900 hours, two helicopter gunships began firing into an area approximately 300 meters from his location. The guard detail consisted of one Viet Cong cadreman and five guards, one of whom was assigned to remain with Major Rowe at all times. The guard detail, while monitoring a radio, learned that South Vietnamese infantrymen were searching the terrain nearby. Becoming frightened, the guard moved Major Rowe into a large field of reeds, hoping to evade the infantry force. Major Rowe realized that if he were to escape, he must first get away from some of his guards, so he tricked them into splitting into smaller groups in order to exfiltrate the area. Major Rowe persuaded his one remaining guard that they were being surrounded and kept him moving in a circle through the dense underbrush. While doing so, Major Rowe was able to remove the magazine from the weapon slung across his guard's back. Finding a club, he overpowered the guard, knocking him unconscious, seized his radio, and moved 200 meters into a grassy area. At great personal risk he quickly cleared a section and signaled one of the circling helicopters which landed and picked him up. His first action after rescue was to request permission to re-enter the area with combat troops and to continue the fight based upon his intimate knowledge of the area. Major Rowe's burning determination to escape, undiminished after five years of intimidation and deprivation, his clearheadedness in formulating an effective plan, and his audacity in executing it successfully, reflect the highest credit on his professionalism and extraordinary courage and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service.