Jimersontown resident and Seneca Nation member Ralph Elliot Bowen, a sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, was inducted into the New York State Senate’s Veterans’ Hall of Fame by Senator George M. Borrello Friday during a ceremony at the Seneca-Allegany Event Center on the Seneca Nation’s Allegany Territory.
Mr. Bowen, who turned 98 on August 8, is the last surviving World War II veteran from the Seneca Nation’s Allegany Territory. Mr. Bowen’s family and friends attended the ceremony Friday as did dignitaries including Seneca Nation President Rickey L. Armstrong, Sr.
Mr. Bowen fought in the European Campaign as an aerial gunner aboard a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber, serving from 1941 through 1945 to liberate France and Europe from Nazi occupation. He was a member of the 15th Air Force’s 450th Bombardment Group, 723rd Bombardment Squadron. The unit flew missions over France, Austria, Germany, the Balkans and Greece.
“I am honored to be able to recognize Ralph Bowen for his service during World War II,” Senator Borrello said. “He enlisted in the U.S. Army within weeks of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. When he walked into that U.S. Army recruiting office in Buffalo, he didn’t know what dangers he’d face or if he would ever return home. All he knew was that America needed his help and he was willing to risk his life for the sake of liberty and freedom.”
Trained as an aerial gunner, Mr. Bowen manned a .50-caliber machine gun on the side of his B-24 Liberator heavy bomber, fending off attacking German fighter planes. He protected his plane and his fellow airmen so they could complete their mission. The crew was tasked with bombing factories, refineries, oil fields and other high-value targets to break the Nazi’s will to fight.
President Armstrong said Mr. Bowen’s entire life has been one of service to his community whether as a five-term member of the Seneca Nation Tribal Council, a Seneca Nation Marshal, as a judge on the Nation’s Peacemakers Court and Surrogate Court or pastor of Red House Baptist Church.
“As the Seneca Nation president and a fellow armed-forces veteran and Seneca, I am honored to recognize the service and accomplishments of Ralph Bowen,” President Armstrong said.