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Bruce Bowden

When I got out of high school I didn't have a clue so went to the Huntington School in Boston for a year before going on to Northeastern University. I went thru on their Co-op program and worked in Portland, ME for HP Hood & Sons off and on over the next few years studying plant mgmt. Somewhere around my third year Bob Stone and I applied for the Aviation Cadet program. In the Spring of 1951 with the draft board breathing down my back we got  letters from the AF instructing us to enlist if we wanted to get into flight school sooner. So on the 13th of June I signed up and was whisked away to Sampson AFB.

If you went in in January to Lackland you lucked out as I understand things at Sampson from Jan thru April were pretty miserable as they were just getting underway. As it were I froze my butt off in July, caught pneumonia and landed in the hospital for five weeks. Eventually I shipped out to Reese AFB (Lubbock, TX) where a dozen of us pre-cadets were assigned to crew the base B-25. I got fed up with that right off and got assigned to the flight line to crew T-6's which I would soon be flying.

Then the bomb! I got another letter down thru channels that since I had enlisted I would now be assigned to commence flight school some year and a half later. I flipped and took leave to Atlanta where Jody and I got married but kept it quiet. Cadets were required to be single. No sooner than I got back to Reese but there was another letter and this said to disregard the previous and in a month I was on my way to Marana AB north of Tucson. Learning to fly was about the most fun I ever had. After six months in the T-6, I went back to Reese for B-25 training and got my wings in Dec '52. Bob Stone went thru Valdosta and Vance. The three of us drove back to Waltham, MA for Christmas.

I was pipelined to Korea. Spent a month at Reese, off to Perrin for B-26 transition, off to Shaw for recon training and eventually was held at San Francisco as the war was coming to an end. I had left a very pregnant wife expecting to fly off my 35 missions and get a spot to 1st Lt but all that changed rapidly. By the time we actually stepped foot in Korea after being delayed further in Japan the war was over. My 35 missions got converted to a year tour and my spot to 1st went out the window. By the time I got home I had a ten month old baby girl. So much for the beginning!

I really enjoyed flying the old RB-26. When you got out on the end of the runway and ran those R-2800's up you knew you had a tiger by the tail. Instrument flying like night flying was a gasser. Of the three spotlights for the instrument panel invariably one would be out. Many times late at night I landed more by sound and feel which you develop about a bird after a while. Most of the approaches to Kimpo were GCA so it was really a piece of cake.

When I transitioned into the British designed RB-57 I thought that that was about the most fun aircraft to fly. Everything about it was so different and then later the RB-66 as my time built up I felt was more like flying a desk. The thrill just wasn't there.

Over the years I got time in all sorts of strange birds. I flew Hap Arnold's old C-54 between Eniwetok and Bikini, got some bent wing time in B-47's out at Tulsa-Douglas, flew T-birds all over Europe for five years, had a stint as an IP in Tweetie Birds and ended up in chopper's in Vietnam. Flying Rescue in Vietnam got me the DFC, The Bronze Star and 11 Air Medals to add to the collection. Still, the old RB-26 remains my favorite.

Jody and I had five children between 1953 and 1960. I retired as a Lt/Col in 1971 and moved back to Atlanta (Stone Mountain) where I became a partner in a tax and accounting firm. The continued separations of service life and starting up a new business with kids in college did a number on my marriage so Jody and I split. My second marriage which was more or less a convenience thing for Donna and it lasted ten great years.

By the time the 90's rolled around it was time to consider retiring and settling down again. Linda and I married and moved over here to Calabash, NC in 1995. We started traveling all over the States and Europe. The year the Towers came down Linda suffered a stroke which left her right side and speech paralyzed, so for nine years now I've become a 24/7 caregiver.

I've had a life long interest in trains and in particular modeling. For going on 25 years I've co-edited a modeling newsletter and written many construction articles for the Boston & Maine RR Historical society. I also do the Village newsletter where we live. So between the research, modeling and writing this is how I maintain my sanity these days. Also, my children who are the bright stars in my life have been very supportive over the years. They are scattered from Ft Lauderdale to Seattle and points in between with one daughter about 70 miles inland. I have three great grandsons in Dallas, so far.