DEDICATED TO 97th BG  340th BS




12th AF           97th BG 



340th Bomb Squadron


Material submitted by his great-nephew

Joe Mode []


Site edited and maintained by Doug Cook

Contacts from 97th BG and 340th Squadron Welcome!

Last Update 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 liquor.”


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)




William R. Bowers before joining the service


WAR DEPARTMENT advisery sent to Mr. William Bowers, 514 Seventh Ave., Knoxville, Tenn.

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 sent.


Defense 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.

Hello Dad,

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.

Dear Mom,

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.

Love Bob

   S/sgt. W.A. Bowers.

507th Bomb Sqd., Salina, Kansas.



Completion of Army Air Force training:


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 GUNNERY School. 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 GUNNERY SCHOOL, 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”  Crew

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



Following is a letter that was found at Gillespie Avenue Baptist Church recently regarding Robert:

2nd Timothy: 2-3. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

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 Church.
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 the U.S. 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:
(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.

Section T, MaDill Field RTU (HB) 14 June 1944.
Subject: Recommendation for Flying Cadet School.

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: 1503 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, Tennessee. Service 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 General Hospital, Nashville, Tennessee.


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 Davis