|Blades, Delaware||Car inspector’s helper for the Reading Railroad|
|European||Company “F,” 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division|
|Military Occupational Specialty||Campaigns/Battles|
|745 (rifleman)||Normandy (including Battles of Saint-Lô and Mortain)|
Early Life & Family
Dallas Isaac Bowden was born in Blades, Delaware, on October 10, 1923. He was the son of Alfred Robinson Bowden (1881–1976) and Lillian Henderson Bowden (1893–1976). He had two older sisters, a younger sister, and a younger brother. It appears that he also had an older brother who died prior to his birth. His father worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Bowden was recorded on the census on April 5, 1930, living with his family in Blades. At the time of the next census, on May 11, 1940, Bowden was living with his family at 600 West Market Street in Blades. After graduating from Seaford High School in 1941, Bowden moved to Pennsylvania.
When he registered for the draft on June 30, 1942, Bowden was living at 1320 North Myrtlewood Street in Philadelphia and working for the Reading Railroad’s electric car shop at Wayne Junction. The registrar described him as standing about five feet, eight inches tall and weighing 147 lbs., with brown hair and blue eyes. In his statement to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission, Bowden’s father wrote that his son was a railroad car inspector’s helper.
Bowden was drafted in mid-1943. He was inducted into the U.S. Army in Philadelphia on June 10, 1943, going on active duty two weeks later at New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. He attended basic training at the Infantry Replacement Training Center at Camp Fannin, Texas, where he was stationed from June 29, 1943, through November 4, 1943.
Bowden’s father’s statement suggests that Private Bowden enrolled in the Army Specialized Training Program (A.S.T.P.), since the elder Bowden wrote that his son was stationed at Arkansas State College in November 1943 and Indiana University from December 1943 through February 1944. U.S. Army planners terminated A.S.T.P. in early 1944 due to projected manpower shortages. Bowden’s father wrote that in February 1944, Private Bowden moved to Camp Butner, North Carolina, where he joined Company “F,” 134th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division. His Military Occupational Specialty (M.O.S.) was 745, rifleman.
An article printed in the Wilmington Morning News on May 8, 1944, stated that Private Bowden had returned to Camp Butner after spending a furlough visiting his parents in Blades. (In fact, at the beginning of May, the 134th Infantry was in staging at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, preparing to go overseas.)
A roster of the 134th Infantry Regiment dated May 1, 1944, stated that Bowden was a member of 2nd Platoon, Company “F.” The 134th Infantry shipped out from the New York Port of Embarkation on May 12, 1944, arriving in the United Kingdom two weeks later. Private Bowden and most of the 134th Infantry boarded the British troop ship S.S. Empire Javelin at Plymouth, England, on July 3, 1944. They sailed for Normandy the following evening and disembarked at Omaha Beach in Normandy on July 5, 1944, just shy of a month into the invasion of France.
Combat in Normandy
In the thick hedgerow country of Normandy, crossroads cities and towns like Saint-Lô took on major strategic importance. The 134th Infantry went into action near Saint-Lô on July 15, 1944, launching an attack on Hill 122. 1st Battalion and Private Bowden’s 2nd Battalion led the assault, with 3rd Battalion in Reserve. The regimental after action report for the month stated: “The town of [L’Émélie] was captured late in the afternoon and elements of the Regiment succeeded in reaching Hill 122 after forcing the enemy to withdraw. Both assault battalions were heavily engaged at all times during the day.”
The following day, 2nd Battalion was in reserve while 1st and 3rd Battalions advanced, with the former capturing Hill 122. The regimental after action report continued:
At 0430 on 17 July 1944 the attack was renewed with all battalions advancing initially but after a gain of 400 yards the advance was halted by heavy artillery and small arms fire. All units were heavily engaged for the remainder of the day, but due to terrain features were unable to dislodge the enemy.
The advance continued on 18 July 1944 and a gain of 2,000 yards was made. Prior to dark the Regiment had succeeded in seizing the high ground 1,500 yards north of St. Lo[.]
Once Saint-Lô was secured on July 19, 1944, the regiment remained in defense of ruined city for the next eight days. Private Bowden was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge on July 23, 1944, per Special Orders No. 103, Headquarters 134th Infantry Regiment.
On July 25, 1944, the U.S. First Army launched Operation Cobra, at last beginning the breakout from Normandy. On July 27, 1944, Bowden and 30 other men in his company were promoted to private 1st class. That same day, the 134th Infantry resumed their advance against German positions to the south, approaching Torigni-sur-Vire at the end of the month. In early August 1944, the 134th continued their push to the Vire, crossing that river on August 2, 1944. The regiment continued to advance south until halting near La Métairie, northwest of the town of Vire, on August 4, 1944.
On August 6, 1944, the 35th Infantry Division transferred from the control of the V Corps of the U.S. First Army to the XX Corps of the U.S. Third Army. That evening, the 134th Infantry moved southwest to an assembly area at Louvigné-du-Désert. The original plan was for the 35th Infantry Division to continue the drive south with the Third Army. That night, however, the Germans launched a counterattack with the objective of retaking Avranches, splitting the First and Third Armies and shoring up the increasingly untenable German situation in Normandy. American resistance was fierce. The German counteroffensive made the most headway striking at the 30th Infantry Division at Mortain. Their attack overran the town and encircled 2nd Battalion of the 120th Infantry Regiment on Montjoie (Hill 314). American forces, supported by artillery fire (some of it directed by observers desperately clinging to Hill 314) and British tactical aircraft, halted the German advance.
In response to the German counterattack, on August 7, 1944, the 35th Infantry Division was effectively (later officially) transferred to VIII Corps control and dispatched to the Mortain area. The 134th Infantry Regiment moved northeast by truck to Les Loges-Marchis and then on toward Mortain. The 35th Infantry Division struck the southwestern side of the German salient, with the 134th Infantry Regiment after action report stating that “Enemy resistance was encountered at 2200 on August 7th.”
During subsequent days, the 134th Infantry endured heavy fighting south of Mortain. According to the Company “F” morning report on August 8, 1944, Private 1st Class Bowden’s company “jumped off at 0615 [hours.] Heavy enemy resistance all day[,] started off in Bn reserve and then passed through E & G Co[.]” The following day’s morning report stated that the company had come under “heavy Art[illery] & Mortar fire” and that the men had been “Cut off fr[om] rations since yesterday morning[.]”
In his book, Breakout and Pursuit, U.S. Army historian Martin Blumenson wrote:
General [Paul W.] Baade, the division commander, committed his reserve regiment on 9 August, and all three attacking abreast made liberal use of tank and artillery fire. […] Still Baade was not satisfied with the progress, and though he exerted pressure to get the division moving forward aggressively, it took the 35th Division four days and more than seven hundred casualties to cover eight miles.
On August 10, 1944, Company “F” launched another attack at 0815 hours and according to the company morning report “Pushed forward about 1000 yds[.] Resistance & heavy fire encountered all day[.]” A subsequent morning report stated that Private 1st Class Bowden and six other enlisted men went missing in action on August 10, 1944. A subsequent morning report confirmed that all seven men had been killed that day.
Finally, on August 12, 1944, the 35th Infantry Division broke through to link up with the surviving defenders on Hill 314. The German counterattack had failed. That same day, Private 1st Class Bowden was buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery St. James, France. He was subsequently awarded the Purple Heart. After the war, his family requested that his body remain overseas in a military cemetery. He was reburied in the permanent cemetery there, now known as the Brittany American Cemetery (Plot L, Row 1, Grave 9).
Private 1st Class Bowden is honored on the Seaford Veterans Memorial and at Veterans Memorial Park in New Castle, Delaware.
In an article printed in The Salisbury Times on December 15, 1948, Ed Nichols wrote about Private 1st Class Bowden’s younger brother:
Al Bowden, Seaford High’s all-state tackle is weighing scholarship offers from the University of Virginia, Penn State and the University of Delaware. […]
Al has practically breathed and eaten football since early childhood. His brother, Dallas Bowden, gave him a toy football to gnaw on when only five years old, and showed him the fundamentals of the game. Young Bowden plays every game imbued with the spirit of his brother, who was killed in France during the 3rd Army’s invasion of Europe.
Alfred Thomas Bowden, Sr. (1931–1986) played football at Penn State University before returning to Delaware and working for Conrail.
Although his draft card gave Bowden’s place of birth as Seaford, the birth card on file in the Delaware Public Archives, Pennsylvania bonus paperwork, and his father’s statement to the State of Delaware Public Archives stated that Bowden was born on the other side of the Nanticoke River in Blades.
The census recorded on May 6, 1910, listed Alfred R. Bowden and Lillian C. Bowden living in Sussex County with their first child, two-month-old Dallas C. Bowden. I have been unable to locate any further records for this child. Presumably, he died at a young age.
Hill 314 or Hill 317?
Most sources refer to Montjoie as Hill 314 but some call it Hill 317. Hills were labeled by their heights in meters. The discrepancy is because contemporary maps label two high points on Montjoie: 314 to the west, closer to the town of Mortain, and 317 further east. Interestingly, modern maps give those elevations as 312 and 322 meters respectively.
Location of Death
Curiously, Bowden’s burial report listed his place of death as “Buois, France.” That may refer to the town of Buais. However, that was well south of where the 134th Infantry Regiment was in combat that day. According to the morning reports, Company “F” headquarters that day was at approximately 48° 36’ 25” North, 0° 57’ 32” West, in the vicinity of Le Tertre, about three miles south of Mortain. However, he may have been killed in combat to the east of there.
Bowden’s father’s statement to the State of Delaware Public Archives Commission was dated May 5, 1944, but included events that occurred months later. Presumably, the statement was actually completed on that same date in 1945 or 1946. There were also events he labeled as occurring in 1943 which context makes clear actually occurred in 1944.
Special thanks to Cindy Lyons Taylor and Jim Bowden for providing photos and documents and to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of their photo. Thanks also go out to Pitou Jean Paul for his assistance in deciphering place names misspelled in contemporary reports and reconstructing the battle for Mortain.
“Alfred T. Bowden Sr.” The Morning News, August 27, 1986. Pg. B7. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/109356739/alfred-t-bowden-sr-obit/
Atkinson, Rick. The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944–1945. Picador, 2013.
Blumenson, Martin. United States Army in World War II European Theater of Operations: Breakout and Pursuit. Originally published in 1961, republished by the Center of Military History, United States Army, 1993. https://history.army.mil/html/books/007/7-5-1/CMH_Pub_7-5-1_fixed.pdf
Bowden, Alfred. Dallas Isaac Bowden Individual Military Service Record, c. May 5, 1945. Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/17788/rec/1
“Bowden, Dallas Isaac.” Birth Records. Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GY36-7D6
Company “F,” 134th Infantry Regiment roster, May 1, 1944. 134th Infantry Regiment website. http://www.coulthart.com/134/roster-134-f-company/roster-134-f-1944-5-1.pdf
Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531895_00322
Miltonberger, Butler B. “Report of Action Against The Enemy.” Headquarters 134th Infantry Regiment, August 3, 1944. http://www.coulthart.com/134/aa%20report%208%203%2044.pdf
Miltonberger, Butler B. “Report of Action Against the Enemy.” Headquarters 134th Infantry Regiment, September 1, 1944. http://www.coulthart.com/134/aa%20report%209%201%2044.pdf
Morning Reports for Company “F,” 134th Infantry Regiment. July 1944 – August 1944. U.S. Army Morning Reports, c. 1912–1946. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri. http://www.coulthart.com/134/mr-f-company/mr-134-f-1944-7-3.pdf, http://www.coulthart.com/134/mr-f-company/mr-134-f-1944-7-27.pdf, http://www.coulthart.com/134/mr-f-company/mr-134-f-1944-8-8.pdf, http://www.coulthart.com/134/mr-f-company/mr-134-f-1944-8-9.pdf, http://www.coulthart.com/134/mr-f-company/mr-134-f-1944-8-10.pdf, http://www.coulthart.com/134/mr-f-company/mr-134-f-1944-8-16.pdf, http://www.coulthart.com/134/mr-f-company/mr-134-f-1944-8-21.pdf
Nichols, Ed. “College Grid Scouts Find Real Prospect in Bowden at Seaford.” The Salisbury Times, December 15, 1948. Pg. 9. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/109355289/al-bowden-football/
“One Delaware Soldier Killed; Three Missing.” Journal-Every Evening, September 9, 1944. Pg. 1 and 16. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/109357311/dallas-bowden-kia/
“Pfc. Dallas Isaac Bowden.” Find a Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56352846/dallas-isaac-bowden
Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00547-00517
Stanton, Shelby L. World War II Order of Battle: An Encyclopedic Reference to U.S. Army Ground Forces from Battalion through Division 1939–1946. Revised ed. Stackpole Books, 2006.
Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910. Record Group 29, Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7884/images/31111_4327434-00416
“With the Service Men And the Auxiliaries.” Wilmington Morning News, May 8, 1944. Pg. 14. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/109358777/bowden-furlough/
World War II Army Enlistment Records. Record Group 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives at College Park, Maryland. https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=33784814&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=4241826
World War II Veterans Compensation Applications. Record Group 19, Series 19.92, Records of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/3147/images/41226_622204_0845-01530
WWII Draft Registration Cards for Pennsylvania, 10/16/1940–3/31/1947. Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System. National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44033_10_00032-01701
Last updated on November 18, 2022
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