The United States was already involved in World War II when Evans Bowman graduated Temple Hill High School in 1943. When he turned 18, he decided to enlist instead of waiting to be drafted, so he could choose to enter the Navy. His parents did not take it well.
“My dad stayed mad for months,” Bowman said.
His father, a World War I veteran, didn’t want to even take his son to the bus stop to leave for training. Bowman had to hitch a ride. He went to Louisville to be examined and was then shipped to the Great Lakes for training. In August, Bowman made his way to New York, where he was assigned to a 300-man crew on the destroyer USS Kendrick. Bowman had never been to the ocean before.
“The destroyer escorted all the big ships in convoy duty,” Bowman said.
At the beginning of September, the USS Kendrick began its four-day trip to the Mediterranean Sea. It arrived at the Rock of Gibraltar on Sept. 5 and immediately faced a surprise attack.
“Just at dusk, German torpedoes came and started hitting all the ships,” Bowman said.
The destroyer got hit, Bowman said, and the captain didn’t know what to do. Bowman was operating a machine gun on the side of the ship that was attacked.
“I was scared to death,” Bowman said. “I was praying and the guys with me were down on their knees praying. It was a terrible feeling.”
The captain managed to turn the ship away from the brunt of the attack and machine gunners on the USS Kendrick shot the planes down, but the fantail was badly damaged and one sailor was killed, Bowman said. After the attack, the ship and her crew docked in a North African port for repairs. It took until February just to patch the ship up enough to be towed across the Atlantic Ocean.
“They just put a leak-proof patch on it,” Bowman said.
The USS Kendrick’s crew spent those months in dry dock, watching the area get bombed every night and eating rice and beans.
“That’s my introduction to war,” Bowman said.
For the full story, read the Nov. 10 print or e-Edition of the Glasgow Daily Times.