Written Histories

 

LT. ROGER BOWMAN, USMCR PILOT

Nelson Klitzka, Intern

Roger Bowman of Duluth MN, enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1939, but got tired of waiting for orders and joined the Marines, training to fly Cubs and Stearman bi-planes, the famous “Yellow Perils”. Reflecting on this time, Roger was critical of the equipment saying, “That’s the kind of equipment we had back in those days, very inferior until war was declared”. He was later transferred to Jacksonville, FL where he earned his pilot’s wings. Roger remembers hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii over the radio at a Miami gas station while fixing a flat tire on his car. After the start of the war in the Pacific, Roger flew Florida coastal patrol in a Curtiss Helldiver, training in the use of torpedoes and searching for inflatable rafts that were launched from German U-boats. Trained as an instructor at Pensacola, Roger took advantage of an opportunity to return to Minnesota as a flight instructor. He lived with his wife in a Minneapolis garage apartment while training new pilots to fly in the frigid winter temperatures. Subsequently he was assigned to Cherry Point, NC where he flew B-25s and B-26s. He didn’t like flying the B-26 because of what he referred to as a "blind spot on the plane". He was then sent to the Florida Keys where he tested airplane armaments and at one point tested the B-25 mounted with 20mm cannons, but disliked the results saying, “The whole plane would shake violently when we fired them”.

From the Keys, Roger was transferred to Louisiana where he was one of a group of pilots testing the effectiveness of dropping torpedoes from bombers, an experiment that failed due to the erratic course of the torpedo when it was released into the water. From Louisiana he was sent to Arkansas, and worked at a “dilapidated” air base testing the effectiveness of wing-mounted rockets. While his wife was having their third child back in Minnesota, Roger was sent to California where he boarded an aircraft carrier destined for Hawaii. Once in Hawaii, Roger flew his B-25 to Midway where he flew a variety of patrol missions. At night Roger flew anti-shipping patrols, and spent his daytime hours wearing dark blue tinted goggles to acclimate his eyes for the night missions. These night missions in the Pacific required radio silence, which made it difficult to find Midway Island when returning from patrols and giving Roger at least one close call when he almost ran out of fuel. During the day he would fly cover for surfaced submarines coming into base, and watch for prowling Japanese submarines. Although he spent a lot of his free time on the beach and received good mail, supplies were always short due to the “Navy’s priority over the Marines”. Loneliness on Midway was a major issue as well, and during Roger’s time on Midway three men committed suicide. Roger believes that he was sent to Midway in preparation for the invasion of the Japanese mainland, and so was very happy to hear that the atomic bomb had ended the war.

Roger returned to the Duluth area after being discharged, where he started an aviation business, became manager of the Superior Wisconsin airport, and finally worked in real estate. Roger’s affinity for B-25's remains and he refers to them as “an unmistakable plane”