• From Buffalo Soldier to bandsman

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  • Born in Arkansas in 1914, Harry H. Hollowell grew up near Eureka in southeastern Kansas and graduated from Eureka High School in 1934. He developed an early interest in music and as a young man he attended music school in Wichita.
    At age 21, he enlisted as a private in the 10th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Leavenworth. He distinguished himself as a soldier and during his time with the Buffalo Soldiers he served as a troop clerk, recruiting sergeant and squadron sergeant major with the rank of staff sergeant.
    In addition to his official duties, Hollowell played trombone and directed the 10th Cavalry Provisional Band. In December 1940, he was reassigned with the rest of the 10th Cavalry to Fort Riley, Kan., where the Buffalo Soldiers and other cavalry regiments assembled to trained for war. The 1st Battalion commander, Maj. William O. Heacock, recognized Hollowell’s musical talent and arranged for him to attend the Army Music School.
    In January 1942, Staff Sgt. Hollowell reported to the school at Fort Myer, Va., for training as a bandmaster — he was one of the first African American soldiers to attend the course. Promoted to warrant officer junior grade in the Regular Army upon graduation on May 16, 1942, he was assigned as a band leader of the 45th Engineer General Service Regiment (Colored) Band in India and Burma working on the Ledo Road. Hollowell served in the regiment from July 1942 until March 1945. World War II must not have been all work and no play. On April 24, 1944, Hollowell was granted a copyright for a song titled “Your Love,” which was dedicated to his wife.
    After the war, Chief Warrant Officer Hollowell served in a succession of assignments in the continental United States from 1945-1949 as a band leader and commander of the 337th Army Services Forces Band at Camp Gordon Johnston, Fla.; the 196th Army Service Forces Band at Fort Benning, Ga.; the 25th Infantry Regiment Band, also at Fort Benning; and the 173rd Army Band at Fort Dix, N.J.
    In 1950, he was assigned overseas as the commander of, first, the 80th Army Band and then the 33rd Army Band in Mannheim, Germany. In December 1952, the 33rd, a “colored” band, was transferred to Heidelberg and under his leadership became one of the first integrated Army bands in Europe. The Army garrisoned occupied Germany by race — Mannheim was garrisoned by mostly black soldiers and Heidelberg by white. In those waning days of the segregated Army, he and his family lived in Mannheim but Hollowell worked 11 miles away in Heidelberg. In August 1953, he became the executive officer of the band when a more senior bandmaster was assigned to the 33rd. The 33rd Army Band is now the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus.
    Following a stateside assignment with the 330th and 437th Army Bands at Fort Carson, Colo., Chief Warrant Officer 3 Hollowell became the commander of the 29th Army Band in Okinawa and served from 1957 to 1960. Returning home, he commanded the 371st Army Band at Fort Leavenworth from 1960 to 1963.
    Page 2 of 2 - In May 1963, after completing the Military Assistance course in Arlington, Va., Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hollowell was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia, on a music exchange program and served as the band adviser to the Liberian armed forces.
    He returned to the United States and retired from the Army at Fort Hamilton, N.Y., on Aug. 31, 1964, with more than 28 years of service. Following retirement from the Army, Hollowell returned to Leavenworth and served as the civilian director of music programs at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks until retirement in 1986.
    Hollowell died in 2005 and is buried in the Leavenworth National Cemetery.
    Hollowell Court and Drive, in the Pottawatomie Village housing area, were dedicated in his honor on June 19, 2009. Ironically, for a soldier who spent his life with music, there was no band present at the dedication.
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