John Elwood Cowden, 77, a retired Army colonel who spent most of his 30-year military career as an officer in the Army Transportation Corps, died May 21 of congestive heart failure at Inova Fairfax Hospital. He lived in Oakton.
His Army service took him to many bases in the United States, as well as to overseas postings in Germany, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. As an officer in the Transportation Corps, Col. Cowden managed truck units, depots and transportation battalions and also developed general transportation policies for the military.
He was born in Belmont, N.C., and received an associate's degree from Belmont Abbey College in his home town. After enlisting in the Army in 1945, he served in Italy during the waning days of World War II. He later received a bachelor's degree from Temple University and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania, both in Philadelphia.
After being stationed at several bases in the United States and Germany, Col. Cowden furthered his studies at the Army's transportation school at Fort Eustis, Va., in the 1950s. He was executive officer of the 25th Transportation Battalion in Korea and was later based at the Army's European headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany. In 1969, during the Vietnam War, he was executive officer at the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Saigon. One of his final assignments was as chief of the Transportation Management and Policy Division at the Pentagon.
Col. Cowden retired from the Army in 1975. Among his military honors were the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Services Commendation Medal and two awards of the Army Commendation Medal. He also received campaign medals for his wartime service, as well as decorations from the Republic of Vietnam.
After his military career, he spent 10 years in Nigeria, holding executive positions with Aeromaritime International Management and the Kellogg construction company.
Unwilling to give up his love of transportation in retirement, Col. Cowden was a dispatcher for the American Automobile Association office in Fair Oaks until 1995. He and his wife also owned an antiques store in Washington, Va., Ye Olde Tyme Shoppe, and enjoyed collecting and restoring antiques.
Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Joyce Cowden of Oakton; two children, Peter Cowden of Alexandria and Dawn Cullins of Oakton; and five granddaughters.