Of War and Love: The Joint Oral History of Raymond and Florence Bowers
Raymond Bowers Survived the Pearl Harbor Attack
After growing up and graduating from high school in eastern Pennsylvania, Raymond Bowers enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940, where he immediately pursued aircraft mechanics school. He was sent to the island of Oahu, Hawaii after completing his training and was assigned to Wheeler Field as his home base.
On December 7, 1941, Wheeler Field suffered two air attacks by the Japanese, the first dropping approximately 35 bombs on the hangars and then later a strafing run along the flight line. Bowers was not at Wheeler Field that morning. He was serving as crew chief for an aircraft located at Bellows Field on the other side of the island. Raymond recounted the events of that morning:
“I was out there about seven o’clock in the morning. At about 7:30, as I was preparing the preflight, I saw this aircraft come in from the ocean. It didn’t look proper to me, so I just watched it, and it was an airplane with a big red dot on the side, and right then is when he started shooting. He fired at all the aircraft that were there on the base, there were quite a few of them at the time. So I just lay flat on the ground, and he sprayed dust in my face. That’s how close he came.”
He continued that a short time later, “…a little squadron of Japanese fighters came back and started strafing the whole base…It was a fighter squadron that we were working with at the time, and they destroyed 71 of the fighters, they just destroyed the whole base.”
Bellows Field was also the site where the Japanese midget submarine HA-19, which is now on display at the National Museum of the Pacific War, was captured. Bowers was part of the crew that recovered the sub. Of the historic capture of the sub and its pilot Ensign Kazuo Sakamaki :
…So when we went out there to pull the sub in, we had a big piece of machinery that we could pull it in…He was the first prisoner of war that was captured. The two-man sub was brought in. We cleaned it up, took all the ammunition and everything out of it that was explosive, and the commanding general of Wheeler Field, which was my home base, said “We’re going to send the sub back to the States.” And he sent it back to the States so they could sell War Bonds to finance the war. And that’s where it went.
Raymond Bowers was based at Wheeler until the war ended and flew some photo reconnaissance missions on a B-24, one which resulted in his plane being shot down near Saipan.
Florence Bowers’ Service and a Whirlwind Romance
After the war ended, Raymond returned to the continental U.S. for separation at Fort Dix, New Jersey. And, that’s where the next big chapter of his life began. But first, meet Mrs. Bowers.
Florence Bowers was born and raised in a small Massachusetts town, and once out of high school, went into nurse’s training. After completing 18 months of the two-year course, she enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women’s Army Corps, WAC) and served two years. Of her enlistment, Florence said:
I joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps—this is one reason I stopped my training, I figured I could pick it up after I served my country. I wanted to serve the country first, they were crying for women to come in and help these men to leave and go to duty wherever they had to go, the European Theater or the Pacific Theater. they needed women, and they asked for women.
We had a choice of anywhere at that point…They gave me all kinds of tests—mental, physical. When they got through, they said, ‘We think you’d make a lovely recruiter.’ I wound up in New Jersey, the Newark Post Office, the recruiting office was in the basement. I had to speak on the radio, no TV then, talked to women about coming into the military, and I had scripts that I had to follow. I had to approach the schools and the colleges in this whole area and speak to the young ladies at the colleges…
While on duty in New York, Mrs. Bowers was asked to do some temporary duty at Fort Dix, New Jersey which involved processing separation papers for young men returning from duty. It was there, she met Raymond. She said, “When I saw him at the door I said, this is mine. This is my husband. I did. I asked him, he said he thought the same thing when he saw me behind the desk.”
The future Mr. and Mrs. Bowers were so smitten with each other that they were immediately inseparable. On the day after they met, they left for Massachusetts so Raymond could meet Florence’s family. They took the bus to New York City, then a train northbound. But, before they even got through Connecticut, they decided to disembark and find a place to get married.
By the time they reached Florence’s family home in Amesbury, MA, they were Mr. and Mrs. Bowers. You’ll have to read the Bowers’ oral history to get all the lovely details of a truly, whirlwind romance that lasted a lifetime.
Listen to the entire story in their own words here: