Edward L. Rowny was born April 3, 1917 in Baltimore, Maryland. His father was a Polish immigrant and his mother a first-generation Polish American. In 1933 he entered Johns Hopkins University. In his junior year, the Kosciusko Foundation sent him to study at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. While there, he attended the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Alarmed by the goose-stepping Nazi and seeing that war was imminent, he applied for West Point.