Retired Army Col. Vern B. Dowell Jr., 56, a veteran of both World War II and the Korean conflict, died March 3 at Commonwealth doctors Hospital in Fairfax.

His last assignment from 1971 until his retirement in 1974 was in the office of the deputy chief of staff for personnel of the Army.

Born in Dodge city, Kan., Col. Dowell entered the Army in 1943 from Oklahoma Military Academy. he was sent to Europe in February, 1944, and was captured by the germans shortly after he went into combat in December.

Col. Dowell was liberated by the Russians four months later and returned to the American Army in Aug. 1945. He was sent back to the United States where he was hospitalized for a number of months.

He became a finance officer in 1948 and was sent to Japan a year later, then served for a year in Korea in 1950-51. After further duty in Japan, he attended Finance School at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Indiana, where he also was an instructor.

Col. Dowell saw duty in Germany and from 1960 to 1964 was president of the Army's Finance crops board in Washington.

After assignments at the Navy Post-graduate School in Monterey, Calif., McDill Air Force Base in Florida and the Tank and Automotive Command in Detroit, he returned to Washington in 1969 to serve with the criminal investigation division of the provost marshall general.

Col. Dowell held a bachelor's degree from Butler University and a master's degree from George Washington University in business administration.

His decorations include the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart.

He is survived by his wife, Margie Dowell, a son, Douglass, and two daughters, Beverly and Diana, all of the home in Fairfax; another son, Vern B. III, of Tampa, Fla.; another daughter Nancy Nichols, of Sterling Heights, Mich.; his father Vern B. Sr., and a sister, DOris Loughran, both of Tulsa, Okla, and three grandchildren.