Pilots can fly in to Portage County Airport in Ravenna, Ohio, on June 8; run in a race; and attend the dedication of the William Marsh Bower Center, which will pay tribute to Col. William Marsh “Bill” Bower, who was the last surviving pilot in command of World War II’s Doolittle Tokyo Raiders and a Ravenna native.
The Portage County Airport Flying 5K Run starts at 10:30 a.m., and the 1-mile Memorial Walk begins at 11:30 a.m. Both events will start and finish at the Portage Flight Center hangar. Winners in the men’s and women’s divisions of the 5K race will receive helicopter rides.
The East Central Ohio Pilots Association will host a safety seminar with FAA Wings credit. The Rise Above educational program—the traveling exhibit of the Commemorative Air Force’s Red Tail Squadron, which seeks to inspire youth through the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen—will be on hand; a multiscreen multimedia presentation will be shown in the traveling theater. In addition, pilots from local EAA Chapter 118 will offer Young Eagles flights from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Other activities include a catered lunch for Bower Center donors at 12:30 p.m.; beverages and a variety of local food will be available all day. A Classic Car Cruise-in runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Bower was born Feb. 13, 1917, in Ravenna. He attended Hiram College and Kent State University from 1934 to 1936 and served with the Ohio National Guard 107th Cavalry from 1934 to 1938, graduating from the Army Air Force Flying School in 1940. Selected for Jimmy Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo, Bower piloted B-25 No. 12 off the USS Hornet’s flight deck on April 18, 1942. Following the raid, he served in Africa and Italy.
After the war Bower was a planner and accident investigator for the U.S. Air Force and later served as commander of Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Ga. He retired in 1966 and moved with his family to Boulder, Colo., where he was deeply involved in his community until his death on Jan. 10, 2011, at the age of 93.
Hailed as a hero for his role in the United States’ first air attack on Japan following the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor, Bower always said that the true heroes are the men who stick by and raise their families. He enjoyed fishing on the Rio Grande—joined, on occasion, by Doolittle and his fellow Raiders. Bower greatly enjoyed the annual Raider reunions, held every year since 1947 except 1955 and 1966, and was asked to play “Taps” at Doolittle’s memorial service in 1993.
Bower will be recognized when the Bower Center is dedicated at noon. There will be full honors, including a planned flyover, and members of the Bower family are expected to attend. The Bower Center has been recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.