Doolittle's Raiders Last Surviving Pilot
Col. William Marsh "Bill" Bower, the last surviving pilot of
"Doolittle's Raiders" who bombed Japan in 1942, died 10 January 2011
at his home in south Boulder. He was 93 and "lived a completely full
life," said his son Jim Bower. "My dad was a hell of a guy," he
said. "He was a brave soul, a warrior. He was everybody's friend. He did
all kinds of volunteer work. He was an exceptional human being." Bill Bower
was hailed as a hero for his role in the United States' first air attack on
Japan following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He volunteered and
was chosen for the mission, which was planned and led by Lt. Col. James
"Jimmy" Doolittle. On April 18, 1942, 16 B25B Mitchell medium bombers
took off from the decks of the U.S.S. Hornet in the western Pacific Ocean.
Because landing planes of that size on the Hornet was impossible, the pilots
continued toward China after bombing their targets in Japan.
All but one of the aircraft, which landed in the Soviet Union, crashed in
China or were ditched at sea. Of the 80 crew members, 11 were either captured or
killed; the rest returned to the United States.
On his return, Bower married Lorraine Amman in 1942. Bower continued to
serve during World War II, assuming command of the 428th Bombardment Squadron
and joining Allied invasion forces in Africa. He remained there and in Italy
until September 1945. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role
in the raids. After the war, he worked as a planner and accident investigator
for the U.S. Air Force and served in the Arctic as commander of a U.S. Air Force
transport organization. He also served as commander at Dobbins Air Force Base in
Marietta, Ga. In 1966, he retired and moved with his wife and four children to
Boulder, where he was involved in the real estate and sporting goods businesses
for many years. His family described him as deeply involved in the community,
from volunteering with Second Harvest, Community Food Share and Meals on Wheels
to founding the Central Optimist Club to serving on city of Boulder committees.
His family described him as "the best outdoorsman," saying he was a
big-time fisherman who also enjoyed bird hunting and guiding hunters in the
Colorado mountains. He also enjoyed annual "Raider" reunions. Five
Raider crew members, including two co-pilots, survive him. But Bower was the
last living pilot.
Boulder's Bill Bower, one of Doolittle's Raiders, shows
off the crest used by the