William Marsh “Bill” Bower, among the famed pilots who bombed Japan in 1942, died on Monday in his Boulder home surrounded by friends and family. Bower, called a hero for his part in the first aerial assault on Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was 93 years old, reports the Daily Camera. Of the 80 “Doolittle Tokyo Raiders” crew members involved in the U.S. response, which was launched from the decks of the U.S.S. Hornet, 11 were either captured or killed, but not Bower, who returned to assume command of the 428th Bombardment Squadron to join the Allied invasion forces in Africa. He won a Distinguished Flying Cross for his service.
After retiring in Boulder, he volunteered with Second Harvest Community Food Shares and Meals on Wheels, organized chapters of Trout Unlimited, and founded the Central Optimist Club. He had participated in Raider reunions every year since 1947 (with the exceptions of 1955 and 1966) and was the last living pilot. Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Jim Sheeler wrote about Bower for the Rocky Mountain News in 2004, chronicling the raids: “Ten thousand feet in the air, the 25-year-old pilot stood near the open escape hatch of his sputtering B-25 bomber, watching the last of his crew’s parachutes fade into the darkness and pelting rain. He was alone.”