Pearl Harbor Survivor Honored
When bombs rained over Pearl Harbor 61 years ago today, Marine Daniel Bowman Sr. didn’t have time to be afraid.
“You had a job to do,” he explained. “You didn’t have time to think of yourself.”
Now a Gardnerville resident, Bowman, 81, was a private in the 3rd Defense Battalion, Fleet Marine Force when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, dragging the United States into World War II.
That day, Bowman was planning a trip to Nanakuli Beach on the Hawaiian island of Oahu with four other Marines.
In his autobiography, titled “What a Life: an Autobiography of Daniel W. Bowman Sr., Major, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired,” Bowman wrote that he heard loud explosions while loading a reconnaissance truck with food and drinks for the trip to the beach.
A companion, Cpl. B.B. Davis, set them straight. Davis had been in Shanghai, China when the Japanese attacked the International Settlement and knew the sound of battle.
“We could see their planes diving down on our ships in the harbor although our view of the ships was blocked by the buildings between us and the harbor,” Bowman wrote in his autobiography. “We had a good view of their planes diving down on Hickam Field raining destruction not only on the planes on the airfield but also in the residential area where children were playing.
“It was devastating for us to see bombs being dropped on these innocent children. It was something I shall never forget as long as I live and I hope I never see it happen again. “
“It was baptism by fire,” Bowman said.
He and the other Marines ran to the storeroom after the first attack and broke off the lock to get the ammunition and machine guns. Ammunition in hand, he ran back to the barracks and got his 1903 Springfield rifle. Leaning against one of the buildings, he started firing at the Japanese aircraft.
The drill field on the base was strafed two or three times, Bowman remembered. Shrapnel was everywhere, including a piece Bowman estimated at 25 pounds that went through the roof of the barracks next to him, landing on the lower deck of the two-story structure. Despite the damage, Bowman knows of only three Marines who were injured in the barracks.
“The Lord kept us from being hit,” he said.
Bowman joined the Marine Corps in November 1939 and retired in October 1967. He achieved the rank of major. He also fought in Guadalcanal during World War II and served in the Korean War.
After retiring from military service, Bowman moved briefly to California and Arizona before settling in 1974 in Round Hill, Nev., at Lake Tahoe.
He moved to Gardnerville in 1993.
Bowman and wife, Bertha, have been married for 59 years. They have a son, Daniel Jr.
Bowman is a member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association #1 and is active in the Marine Corps League.
He and Bertha traveled to Honolulu on the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1991.
While there, he visited the Arizona Memorial Visitor Center and described the experience as very emotional.
“I knew many of the sailors from the USS Arizona who played “touch” football against our Marine Corps team,” he wrote in his autobiography.
Bowman and five other Pearl Harbor survivors will be honored by the Navy League of the United States at an awards dinner today at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks.
“I feel delighted that the Navy League is going out of their way to honor us,” Bowman said. “I appreciate it very much.”
Albert Moe, president of the group’s Reno Council, said the men are being recognized as a reminder to Americans of the sacrifices they made for their country.
“They are being honored for surviving the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and for the fact that they are still here to be honored,” Moe said.
Bowman and the other honorees, including Raymond Alley, Gerard Pelletier and Bill Roney, all of Gardnerville, will receive a plaque during the dinner and enjoy a night’s stay at the Nugget on the house.
Other survivors who will be honored are Carson City’s Howard Spreeman and Jack Harris of Graeagle, Calif.
This is the 7th year the Reno Council of the Navy League of the United States has hosted an awards dinner for Pearl Harbor survivors.
Bowman was also honored in June by the Navy League on the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Midway.
He received a Congressional Certificate of Recognition from Nevada Congressman Jim Gibbons and a medallion containing 24-carat gold with the inscription “June ’42 Battle of Midway.”
Bowman said he wrote his autobiography in 1998 for the benefit of his family and doesn’t want to profit financially from the book.
While writing, Bowman took a moment to reflect on his life and accomplishments.
“After 10 chapters, I read it and said to myself ‘What a life,'” he said. “That’s what I named the book.”
n Laura Brunzlick can be e-mailed at email@example.com