- Jun 30, 2020
Jimersontown resident and Seneca Nation member Ralph Elliot Bowen, a sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, has been selected for induction into the New York State Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame.
Bowen, the last surviving World War II veteran from the Seneca Nation’s Allegany Territory, was an aerial gunner who fought in the European Campaign and helped liberate France and Europe from Nazi occupation.
“Just weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a young Ralph Bowen showed up at a U.S. Army recruiting office in Buffalo and enlisted,” said Sen. George M. Borrello in announcing the honor.
“He didn’t know what dangers awaited him, he only knew America needed his help in combating the forces of tyranny and oppression that were threatening the liberty of people around the world,” the senator said of Bowen. “Trained as an aerial gunner, he and members of his squadron had the dangerous mission of targeting factories, refineries, oil fields and other high-value assets despite challenging weather conditions and vast geographic distances.”
The young airman would begin his overseas tour in Tunisia, North Africa as a gunner aboard a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber. He was a member of the 15th Air Force’s 450th Bombardment Group, 723rd Bombardment Squadron, nicknamed “the Cottontails.”
The unit would fly west across the Tyrrhenian Sea, Corsica, and Sardinia to targets in France, northward over the Alps to Austria and Germany, and eastward over the Adriatic to the Balkans, Carpathian Mountains and Greece.
While flying combat missions in support of the invasion of Normandy and Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France, Bowen achieved the rank of sergeant. Approximately six months after Germany’s unconditional surrender, Bowen returned to the United States in November 1945 and be discharged at Fort Dix, N.J., concluding a tour of three years and 11 months.
He earned aerial gunner wings, the Distinguished Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four campaign or service stars, the World War II Victory Medal and the M-1 Rifle Marksman Badge.
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