Colonel William Bower
was a homegrown hero who thrilled his native Ravenna -- and Portage County as a whole -- with his role in the April 1942 raid on the Japanese capital as one of General James Doolittle's Tokyo Raiders.
Bower volunteered to pilot a B-25 bomber during the daring raid on the heart of the Japanese empire just four months after the devastation of Pearl Harbor. The raid was an enormous boost to American morale and signaled this nation's determination to wage war all the way to the Emperor of Japan's doorstep.
Colonel Bower was a humble man who was reluctant to seek attention and shunned personal accolades. His attitude was that he had simply done his job -- done what needed to be done to win the war -- and any "glory" he had earned was secondary. In that respect, he was a smalltown hero right out of a Hollywood movie.
The Ravenna native was 93 years old when he died in 2011, the last surviving pilot of Doolittle's Raid. He continued his career in the Air Force following World War II and eventually retired to Colorado, but he never forgot his hometown or Portage County.
It's good to know that Portage County has not forgotten this war hero. The Colonel William Marsh Bower Center will be dedicated in June at the Portage County Airport in Shalersville to honor Bower's heroism and raise interest in aviation.
The center will include an informational display on Colonel Bower and the raid on Tokyo, highlighting his role in Doolittle's Raid as well as its importance in the overall context of World War II.
The dedication program, set for June 8, will include a 5-K run, a one-mile memorial walk in honor of all U.S. military veterans, displays of classic airplanes, a fly-in and other activities.
Colonel Bower was a member of what has come to be called "The Greatest Generation," the men and women who put their lives aside to serve this nation during World War II and, upon their return, did their part to aid in its recovery and prosperity. As time takes its toll on that generation, their valiant efforts deserve to be memorialized.
We are pleased that Colonel Bower's heroism wil be remembered. Dedication of the center at the Portage County Airport is a fitting tribute to this heroic aviator.