DEDICATED TO 97th
B-17 TAIL GUNNER
S/SGT. WILLIAM R. BOWERS
12th AF 97th
Material submitted by his great-nephew
Joe Mode [email@example.com]
Site edited and maintained by Doug Cook
Contacts from 97th
BG and 340th Squadron Welcome!
November 30, 2010
William Robert Bowers was the second of ten children born
to William Edgar Bowers and Jerusa Edith Grant. He
was born 1 July 1918
in Knoxville, Tennessee
and died on 8 November 1985
in Florida of
lung cancer. Uncle Robert had dark hair and brown eyes. He married Ann Marie Mashburn on 19 December 1945. On 19 July 2007 Uncle Carl told me that Robert ran
the #2 Trolley in Knoxville
and that’s where he met Ann. Her husband, who played baseball, had died of a
heart attack. Children from her first marriage were Vivian and Robby. Ann and
Robert then had Susie, BettyAnn, David, and Billy.
Robert adopted Vivian and Robby. Uncle Carl Bowers told me that, before the
war, Robert used to haul “corn liquor” in his truck and would park the truck on
the street in front of their house, which would make his dad so mad. In the
back of the truck he would have “fertilizer on top and corn liquor underneath.”
Robert used to deliver prescriptions for Coles Drug Store on a motorcycle and
put corn liquor in the saddlebags. Once he was on his motorcycle, crossing the Grainger Street Bridge,
and hit a patch of ice. “He laid that motorcycle down and busted all his corn
Robert was a Tail Gunner during W.W.II with the 340th
Bomb Squadron, 97th Bomb Group, 3rd Air Force. The 97th
BG was established on 28
January 1942 and activated on 3 February 1942. It moved to England
and was with the 8th Air Force between May and July 1942. In November
1942 it moved to the Mediterranean Theater and joined the 12th Air Force.
In November 1943, it moved to the 15th Air Force. The 97th BG was
inactivated in Italy
on 29 October 1945.
Uncle Art said Robert flew in a bomber called “Thunderbird”, which was named by
its crew. (Possibly Robert’s "Thunderbird"
#41-24437) Robert was wounded by shrapnel two or three times, lost a lung,
knocked unconscious, and had to be pulled out of the tail section by his feet.
He was stationed in England,
then North Africa, then Italy
and participated in the invasion of Africa, bombed Germany,
and destroyed oil fields in Romania.
He ran out of fuel and had to ditch in the desert as well as having two planes
shot out from under him. Robert’s daughter, Sue, said, “My daddy told us his
stories of being in Italy,
flying there, I believe he said from Germany on a bombing mission. He
said they stayed in Salerno
and went to the Isle of Capri. Robert had two brothers, Frank and Melvin, who
also served during WWII, another brother, Carl, who served during the Korean
War, brother, Arthur, who served in Korea
and Germany pulling occupation
duty, and a nephew, Jack Bowers, who was in Vietnam.
After the war he had an orange grove in Florida, but lost it to a freeze. I believe
Uncle Carl said that Robert had owned a gas station, but the health department
shut him down because they thought lung X-rays showed evidence of tuberculosis.
The dark spots were actually pieces of shrapnel from when he was wounded during
WWII. Robert told them this, but they didn’t listen. Uncle Art said of his
brother Robert that he was good at leather and woodworking. (Mom said that
Uncle Robert had married three times. By
his wife, Julie, they had a son, little Robert who died after an orange seed
lodged in his lung. They lived around 5th Avenue in Knoxville at the time)
R. Bowers before joining the service
advisery sent to Mr. William Bowers, 514 Seventh Ave., Knoxville,
Ft. Oglethorpe, GA,
July 8, 1942. William Robert Bowers, Serial # 34289151 has been accepted for active military
service. He has left this station en route to a reception center at FT. OGLETHORPE, GA. where he will remain for a short
time and then be sent to another station. As he will be in transit for the next
few days, it will be difficult for mail to reach him. It is therefore requested
that no attempt be made to communicate with him except in an emergency until
you receive further advice as to the address to which mail for him should be
savings bonds sent to his father during military training.
Post card (Poem entitled Hell
in Texas) sent from Alamagordo, New Mexico
on October 6, 1942
from Bob Bowers to Mr. Wm. E. Bowers, 514
7th Ave., Route 54, Knoxville, Tennessee.
I was glad to hear from you. I hope you are well. I am feeling O.K. after
my trip to old Mexico.
I bought whiskey there for eighty cents a quart. It cost me fifteen cents tax
to get it back across the border. Write and let me know if you received the
money order. Love Bob.
Sgt. W.R. Bowers A.S.N. 34289151
330th Bomb Group,
459th Bomb Sqd. Army Air Base. Alamagordo, New Mexico
Post card of Tower and Carved
Window, San Jose Second Mission sent from San Antonio, Texas on December 5,
1942 to Mrs. Wm. Bowers, 514 7th
Ave., Route-54, Knox, Tennessee.
I am feeling well. It is just like summer time down here in San Antonio, Texas.
It’s a swell place. Hope you are well.
S/sgt. W.A. Bowers.
Completion of Army Air Force
United States Army, Army Air Force.
Be it known that SERGEANT WILLIAM R. BOWERS, 34289151, unassigned, has
satisfactorily completed the course of instruction prescribed for AERIAL
GUNNERS, at the LAS VEGAS ARMY
In testimony whereof and by virtue of vested authority I do confer upon him
this DIPLOMA. Given at Las Vegas,
Nevada this Seventh day of
September in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and
forty-two. Curtis E Wood, Air Corps Echelon Commander. W.H. Endicott,
Captain, Air Corps Secretary.
Army of the United
States. To all who shall see these
presents, greeting: Know ye, that reposing special
trust and confidence in the fidelity and abilities of PRIVATE WILLIAM R.
BOWERS, 34289151, I do hereby appoint him SERGEANT (TEMPORARY) ARMY AIR FORCES UNASSIGNED on the SEVENTH day of
SEPTEMBER 1942. Given under my hand at LAS VEGAS ARMY
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA this SEVENTH day of SEPTEMBER in the
year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and FORTY-TWO
FOR THE COMMANDING OFFICER: Herbert W. Anderson, Colonel, Air Corps, Executive.
In WWII, Robert was with the 97th
BG, 340th BS as a tail gunner.
William “Robert” R Bowers (left) wear fight
suit made for sub-zero cold in a B-17 at high altitude
After training and being sent
overseas, Robert flew
in a B-17 bomber called “Thunderbird”, which was named by its
crew. Robert was wounded by shrapnel two or three times, lost a lung, knocked
unconscious, and had to be pulled out of the tail section by his feet. He was
stationed in England then
North Africa and participated in invasion of Africa, bombed Germany, and destroyed oil fields in Romania. He ran
out of fuel and had to ditch in the desert as well as having two planes shot
out from under him.
97th BG 340th Bomb Squadron B-17 “THUNDERBIRD”
S/Sgt William R. Bowers far right
R&R on the Isle of Capri
Tail Gunner S/Sgt William R. Bowers far right
Navigator Albert Betette 2nd right
is a letter that was found at Gillespie
Church recently regarding
2nd Timothy: 2-3. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus
A word to let you know that we have not forgotten you.
Written 17 December 1943 by Rev. J.K. Smith, pastor of Gillespie Avenue Baptist
Robert Bowers is at home now. He was wounded in North Africa, again in Sicily, and a third time in Italy. He was in the hospital in
several weeks, but is now at home for 30 days. Then he is to return to the
hospital in Palm Beach, Florida. He hopes to get strong enough to return
to his post in Europe. He has the distinction of being the first Knoxville boy to shoot down an enemy plane in North Africa. He has shot down three in all.
POSTAL TELEGRAPHS sent to William E. Bowers at 514 7th Avenue from
Washington D.C. on 25
May and 30 September 1943 state the following:
REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR SON
STAFF SARGEANT WILLIAM R. BOWERS WAS SLIGHTLY WOUNDED IN ACTION ON MAY FIVE-TWELVE
SEPTEMBER IN THE NORTH AFRICAN AREA.
REPORTS OF CONDITION EXPECTED EVERY FIFTEEN DAYS. YOU WILL BE ADVISED AS
REPORTS ARE RECEIVED. ADJUTANT GENERAL.
(Wounded twice, on May 5th and again on September 12, 1943)
Certificate-14 January 1944
The undersigned certifies that the medical records of Staff Sergeant William R.
Bowers, ASN 34289151, 340th Bomb
Squadron, 97th Bomb Group, Army Air Force, show that the above enlisted man
received a combat injury while on a bombing mission over Rome, Italy
on 12 September 1943.
Signed: Frederick P. Maibauer, Captain, M.C. Flight Surgeon Consultant. (A mission record, #169,
shows a bomb run on Frosinone A/D, Italy, 12
Sept. 1943. Flak moderate, very accurate. 11 air craft
suffered flak damage. Another landed at friendly field. Four men wounded: Lt
Connors, Bombardier ; Lt. Fountain, Navigator; Lt.
Hanson, Bombardier, SSgt Bower (Bowers) Tail Gunner).
S/Sgt. William R. Bowers (right) recovering
from flak wounds at a military hospital.
North 6th Avenue, Knoxville, Tenn. Highest Grade Achieved: 9th Grade.
Last year of Attendance: 1934. Major course of Study: Academic. Last School
Attended: Park Jr. High, Knoxville,
School: Gunnery School.
Course: Flexible Gunnery. Weeks or Hours: 6 weeks. Civilian Occupation: Machine
operator, knitting mill. Operated all types of machines in
dye department for 5 years. Last date of Employment: 17 June 1942.
Employer: Standard Knitting Mill. Military Specialties: Principle Duties:
Gunner in Air Force and Flying Instructor. Military Occupation: As gunner, had
charge of bomb loading; knowledge of all armament was necessary. Cal. 50 guns used. Final inspector of
guns. Instructor in complete cruise in aerial gunnery.
Cal. 50 guns. Final inspector of
guns. Date of Separation: 23 December 1944. Lt.
Charles R. Gibbs, 2d Lt., Separation Officer, Thayer
Section T, MaDill Field RTU (HB) 14 June
Subject: Recommendation for Flying
To: To whom it may concern.
1. S/Sgt. William R. Bowers, #34289151, has been known to the undersigned for
approximately three (3) months. During this time he has discharged his duties
as an armorer in a superior manner. He has taken
cheerfully and willingly all responsibilities and consistently has looked for
work beyond the actual scope of his duties. He further has shown leadership in
his handling of men assigned to him.
2. It is the opinion of the undersigned that S/Sgt. Bowers has all the
requisites to make a most capable flying officer and that his combat experience
will prove valuable in this office, both to himself and those with whom he will
come in contact. Thomas C. Hassett, 1st Lt., Ordnance
Dept. Acting Armament Officer.
Separation Qualification Record For: William R. Bowers, #34289151, Born: 1 July
1918. Date of Entry Into Active Service: 8 July
1942. Permanent Address:
S/Sgt. William R. Bowers returned from
overseas combat duty.
Note the S/Sgt stripes.
Left with his mother Jerusha Edith Grant Bowers.
Right with his sister Dora Katherine Bowers