Howell "How" Maurice Forgy was born on January 18, 1908 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The son of mechanic Maurice Leon Forgy and his wife Clara Howell Forgy, he had one younger sister.
Apart from a few years spent in California, Howell grew up in Philadelphia. He graduated from West Philadelphia High School and then attended Muskingum College in Ohio. Standing over six feet and weighing around 200 pounds he was a top player for both his high school and college football teams. Wanting to serve in the ministry, he went to Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating in 1937. Ordained as a Presbyterian minister he pastored churches in Colorado and Kentucky over the next few years. In Kentucky he met the woman who would become his wife, Louise Morgan, when she sang in the church choir. He furthered his education at Murray State Teacher's College in Kentucky, and after graduation from there in 1940 he enlisted in the US Navy. He was commissioned in the Navy's Chaplain Corps in October of that year as a Lieutenant (junior grade). On December 7, 1941, Chaplain Forgy was stationed aboard the heavy cruiser USS New Orleans (CA-32), which was moored in Pearl Harbor undergoing turbine repairs. When the Japanese attacked, he helped crewmen break into the ammo lockers in order to arm the 5" deck guns. The ammunition hoists were inoperable as the ship had been taking power from the dock and that power had been knocked out by enemy fire, so the 50+ pound shells had to be carried topside to the guns. As the fighting continued Howell saw how tired the crewmen were getting but was barred by his non-combatant status from actively participating in keeping the guns firing. Instead he offered his moral support and encouragement by moving among the men patting backs and saying, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition."
Little did he know that his remark would inspire one of the most popular songs of WWII, "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" written by Frank Loesser. *Continued below*