For most service members in World War II, the weapons of choice were rifles, machine guns and bombs. David Bowman preferred different weapons — things like hammers, nails, screws and saws.
Born in 1920, the Indianapolis native worked for his father who owned the Home Lumber and Supply Company Corps, which was near downtown. Little did he realize as he started working for his father that he would soon be using wood for supporting the war effort in North Africa.
Bowman was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps in October of 1943. Following his training as a utilities technician, he departed in May of 1944 for the China-Burma-India theater of war and was assigned to the 319th Troop Carrier Squadron, which came under the 1st Air Commando Unit. Bowman spent most of his duty time serving at Hay Army Airfield in French Morocco, Africa.
A master craftsman, Bowman was soon building portable latrine boxes, mess tables and other support items for forward operating bases. He even built wheelchairs for injured service members.
The construction was often done with the most rudimentary of equipment and materials. He remembers building bamboo huts for officer quarters.
“We had to use crowbars to dig holes for setting the posts”, he told his son, Matt.
There were other challenges as well. Most of the building blueprints used inches and feet measurements. But the materials he received were in metric units.
His most important creation was the design of communication control towers used in setting up advance bases in combat zones. Bowman designed the towers to be erected by four men in just 1.5 hours.
Especially noteworthy was Bowman’s ability to salvage parts from wrecked gliders to fully assemble and outfit the control towers. Once built, the towers were used to support the sophisticated high frequency direction finder equipment that guided planes to airfields.