|Biography*||2 Jul 1993 ||The following was preserved by Mrs. Eleanor (Culpepper) Willingham:|
ALVA MANLY BOWEN, JR.
I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 24, 1925, to Alva M. Bowen and Julia Culpepper Bowen. Dad was teaching in Georgia to "pay back" the state for his scholarship to the University of South Carolina. Mother, a graduate in music from GSCW at Milledgeville, made music of all kinds a part of our lives. When I was born they were living in a cottage on the grounds of "Wren's Nest", home of writer, Joel Chandler Harris. Because of this connection the Uncle Remus stories were read to me more than would ordinarily have been the case even for a young Southern boy of the times.
My parents moved to Lagrange, Georgia, at the end of that school year because of Dad's transfer from Boys High in Atlanta to Lagrange High Where he taught math and coached the girls basketball team. My sister, Sarah Louise (Sally), was born the following April. Dad had the first commercially produced radio in the county, a gift of the grateful parents of one of the girls he helped graduate from Lagrange High. This exposure to the high tech of the day had a lasting effect on my life.
We moved to Newnan, Georgia, in 1929 where Dad became Principal of Newnan High while also continuing to teach math and coach the girls basketball team. Dad became an elder in the Presbyterian Church and Mother sang in the choir and did women's work there. We children found ourselves at Church whenever the doors were open. Dad was active in the Kiwanis Club while Mother served in a book club called the Reading Circle.
Dad's brother, Uncle Bob, coached football at Russell High in East Point where he and Aunt Ann lived with their three sons. Mother's parents, the James Wesley Culpeppers, lived in Fayetteville, Georgia, not far away, with two unmarried daughters, Aunts Mae and Kate (who later married Everett Greer). Their oldest daughter, Louise (Sister), married to Dean Murphy, also lived in Fayetteville with their three sons and a daughter. Although travel was difficult in the days before every family had an automobile, we saw enough of our cousins to develop powerful, positive, relationships.
I attended the Newnan public schools and graduated from high school in 1942. Dad taught me sophomore algebra. I played on the football and basketball teams, learned to play the guitar and trumpet and was president of the Hi-Y Club.
In 1940 Dad left Newnan High and took a position as administrator of the free textbook program for the Georgia Department of Education. He also became the local agent for the Federal Housing Administration and was instrumental in financing numerous homes built in Coweta County until building materials shortages of World War II curtailed the program.
Watching my parents make ends meet on salaries paid for Dad's occupations during the depression of the 1930s shaped my life in countless ways. And among the strongest and most persistent influences carried into adulthood from my upbringing in our Georgia community, have been my Christian faith, my love of family and a tradition of service.
"Mr. Sid" (Congressman A. Sidney Camp), whom I had known as a neighbor, appointed me to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. I passed the entrance exams in February before graduating from high school. I reported to the Academy on July 13, 1942 and was sworn into the Navy as a member of the class of 1946 on July 15th. This wartime class completed an accelerated course to graduate a year early on June 6, 1945. Upon graduation I was commissioned Ensign in the Naval Reserve instead of the customary Regular Navy commission because of poor eyesight that had developed in my second year at the Academy. With World War II still ongoing, I was immediately ordered to active duty and assigned to a minesweeper in the Pacific after spending the summer of 1945 indoctrinating the new plebe class (of 1949) at the Academy.
After sweeping mines in China and Korea, and mothballing the minesweeper in the Philippines, I returned to the States in May, 1946, for duty mothballing other minesweepers as part of the post-World War II draw-down of the Navy.
Along with the rest of my generation, I was proud of the American achievement in World War II, felt we were obligated to build a better world on the ashes of the old empires and had confidence in our ability to do it. In July 1946, I accepted a commission in the regular Navy, with a waiver for poor eyesight, and committed myself to a Navy career.
Gladys Delavan Rawlins (Delly) of Annapolis, Maryland, and I were married on January 4, 1947, at the Naval Academy Chapel. Our daughter, Julia Culpepper, was born at National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, June 14, 1950. Our son, Gerald Manly, was born at Key West Naval Hospital January 11, 1952. Five grandchildren have been born to Gerry (1993). We were a typical Navy family in which Delly bore total responsibility for raising the children and managing the family affairs while I was away on sea duty (over half the time while the children were small.) She met these responsibilities with elan, and also handled with grace and poise the increasingly demanding social responsibilities of a senior Naval Officer's wife as my career progressed.
After the minesweepers my sea duty as a junior officer was in destroyers. As a senior Officer I was chief engineer of an aircraft carrier and commanded a minesweeper and a cruiser in the Atlantic Fleet and two destroyers in the Pacific Fleet during the Vietnam War. Shore assignments included two years at the Fleet Sonar School, Key West, two years on the faculty of Duke University (as NROTC instructor in weapons), three years as a manpower manager at the Bureau of Naval Personnel, and three years as a fiscal planner in the Pentagon. I attended the National War College in Washington, D.C. and received a Masters degree in International Relations from the George Washington University in 1970.
The cold war encompassed my entire Navy Career. The Navy's role was to provide fleets in the Mediterranean and the Western Pacific, and at hot spots whenever and wherever occurring. I was serving in the Mediterranean for the birth of modern Israel, the origin of the Marshall Plan and the Berlin Airlift (which siphoned off all our fuel so we had to anchor the Sixth Fleet till it was over). My aircraft carrier, in the western Pacific, flew the first U.S. armed reconnaissance sorties of the Vietnam War.
Although I had "missed" World War II while attending the Naval Academy, and participated only remotely in the Korean War because I was serving in the Atlantic while the war went on in the Western Pacific, I participated fully in the Naval aspects of the Vietnam war. On the aircraft carrier I was a member of the ship's strike planning board, helping plan the aircraft sorties over Laos and North Vietnam. As skipper of a destroyer stationed in the Tonkin Gulf to rescue downed aviators, I controlled Naval and Air Force aircraft operating over enemy territory and came to understand, better than I ever had before, the importance of knowing friend from foe, and most significant in Vietnam, how non-participants flying through the area complicate making that distinction with assurance. Later, as the officer charged with knowing, disseminating and enforcing for an Admiral the rules, set in Washington, under which our forces could engage the enemy, I as the last link in the chain of command from the White House to the pilot in the cockpit or the Skipper assigned a shore bombardment mission. Still later, on shore duty in Washington, I dealt with dissident takeovers of Naval ROTC buildings on college campuses, helped design the equipment that would someday give the on-scene commander the ability to solve the identification problem highlighted for me in the Tonkin Gulf, and supervised the assembly of the mine-warfare force that finally brought the North Vietnamese to the conference table. For service in Vietnam I received a Bronze Star medal, With Combat "V". A Legion of Merit Medal was awarded for my assignment in the Pentagon.
My combat experiences were mostly positive (losing good friends, especially promising young ones, to enemy action wasn't). But losing the war and the manner in which we lost it had a negative effect on my life. After the 1960s my confidence in American ability to make a better world was severely shaken, and my certainty that democracy would survive was challenged. Although both of our children completed college, and Gerry went on to obtain his law degree, the unrest of the "sixties" deprived our children of their carefree teen years and us, their parents, of the satisfaction of seeing them happily launched into adulthood. Their generation's joyless transition to independence was in stark contrast to the confidence and hope we had felt in the late 1940s.
My last Navy assignment was Director of the Surface Warfare Plans and Programs Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in the Pentagon. In that capacity I supervised development of the Post- Vietnam plan for the Navy's surface forces.
I retired as a Captain on July 1, 1975 after serving 30 years as a Naval Officer (18 years at sea). Our Navy family had lived in Orange, Texas, Pensacola and Key West, Florida, Durham, North Carolina, Norfolk, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Newport, Rhode Island, San Diego, California and Bremerton, Washington. We did not live overseas, but when the children were in College Delly was finally able to follow the ship while the cruiser I commanded made a four month South American and a six month Mediterranean cruise.
After retirement from the Navy, I served as Specialist in National Defense and International Politics for the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, performing policy analysis for House and Senate committees responsible for the armed forces and U.S. foreign policy. My duties mainly concerned national security issues such as arms control, the military balance, maritime policy and the size and shape of the Navy, and foreign policy affecting East Asia and Latin America, my specialty regions. While I worked for the Congress they funded the plan for Navy surface forces, developed before my retirement. So I had the satisfaction of watching the plan turn into the ships and weapons systems that performed well during the war against Iraq, which was a plus. And the Senate approved the treaty that gave away the Panama Canal, which was a minus in my view. Delly was able to accompany me to Japan while I visited there as a guest of the Japanese Government to lecture on American defense policy.
The years on capitol hill restored my faith in our American form of government. Despite the foibles, the inadequacies and even the venality of some members of our National Legislature, and corresponding defects in our governmental bureaucracy, the system works wonderfully well. Outcomes of our governmental process really do reflect the balancing of interests among our diverse citizenry. I learned to accept that the outcome won't always seem right to me and to make the best of it.
In 1978 we settled in Annapolis, Maryland, in the house where Delly grew up. Renewing an interest I had as a midshipman, I became active in the Naval Academy sailing program, serving as a volunteer coach for the midshipman's ocean racing team. Part of coaching at the academy was acquiring a Coast Guard skipper's license. We bought our own yacht and raced it locally for five years. And we joined friends for some long distance coastal cruising from the Chesapeake, to New England and on the intra-coastal waterway to Florida. Delly's coming home to Annapolis involved her in her mother's "Booklovers Club" of which she became the first "second generation" member. Their activities are very reminiscent of my Mother's Reading Circle. We attend the Naval Academy Chapel, sitting in the same pews I occupied as a Midshipman.
On May 1, 1987, I retired from the Library of Congress. After 45 years of government service giving up active policy-making was difficult but it seemed time for the next generation to have their turn. I felt I had adequately repaid our country for my privilege of attending the Naval Academy. And it was time to begin to seriously develop our skills as grandparents.
Watching from the sidelines the end of the Soviet Union, the ups and downs of the Arab-Israeli peace process, our punishment of Iraq for invading Kuwait and our inept humanitarian (peacekeeping or nation- building?) Military missions to places that don't seem to have much bearing on our national well-being reminds me that national security is not something we achieve and can then turn our attention to other pressing goals but must be tended carefully at all times, like the navigation of a ship. Since the job is never done, it was sensible to pass the torch to the next generation. I don't always like what they are doing, but I'm awfully glad not to be responsible any more.
To ease the transition to inactivity I took a volunteer position as Executive Director of the U.S. Naval Sailing Association, headquartered in Annapolis. The Association has branches in most Navy towns around the country, and at our overseas bases, that promote recreational sailing and small boat operation for Navy personnel and their dependents. This activity was compatible with my other volunteer activity, coaching the Naval Academy sailing team. I accepted emeritus status from both these activities in July, 1993, as they were interfering with my "retirement."
Grandparenting has led to acquisition of a "fleet" of 3 small sailboats and an outboard-powered runabout for water skiing, fishing and what have you. Long distance cruising stimulated my obtaining a ham radio license. But ham radio has turned out to be a hobby for its own sake. Now there is finally enough time for this and to mess around in boats in local waters, to help Delly research and write her Booklovers Club paper for the year and to enjoy the many cultural activities sponsored by the Academy and St. Johns College Annapolis's other institution of higher learning. And while we have our health we may travel a bit when Annapolis weather turns too hot or too cold or when invited to sail as navigator or cook on a cruise in a younger friend's yacht. Most importantly, we can almost always say "Yes", when a grandchild wants to come to Annapolis to visit.2
|Obituary*||13 Apr 2012 ||Mr. Alva Manly "Al" Bowen Jr., 86, Capt. U.S. Navy Ret., of Annapolis, Maryland, died Dec. 14, 2011, at Ginger Cove Health Center, of cancer.|
He was born Feb. 24, 1925, in a small cottage in author Joel Chandler Harris' backyard in Atlanta, GA. He was educated in the Newnan, Georgia, public schools and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with the Class of 1946 -- a three-year class that graduated in June 1945. He attended National War College and GWU, receiving an MS in International Affairs. His Navy career was from 1945-1975.
Highlights include command of minesweepers, destroyers, and a cruiser; chief engineer of an aircraft carrier; five deployments of five months or more to the Mediterranean, four to West Pacific, three of these were during the Vietnam War; NITAS Eleven - Politico-military circumnavigation of South America while CO of the flagship USS Harry E. Yarnell; exercised Naval Base use agreements with South American countries; office of the Secretary of the Navy Surface Missile Systems Project manager -- Human Factors Engineer for Aegis; weapons system development and program manager for weapons personnel in the Bureau of Naval Personnel; and office of the Chief of Naval Operations-Director of Surface Warfare Programs and Plans.
At the CNO level, oversaw mining of North Vietnam's harbors, and subsequent minesweeping operations. Directed planning for the post Vietnam War makeover of our surface Navy. Awards include Bronze Star (V) and Legion of Merit.
In his 12-year civilian career he was a specialist in international politics and national security with the Congressional Research Service of Library of Congress -- Deputy Director of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division -- and conducted policy research for congressional offices and committees on the defense budget, arms control, Panama Canal Treaty, Philippine bases and negotiations, and other foreign policy issues related to East Asia or Latin America.
He was a member of NPC, U.S. Naval Institute, Lost Patrol, Navy Sailing Association(s), and Military Order of the Carabou. He enjoyed offshore and local yacht racing, and was an offshore sailing coach with Naval Academy Sailing Squadron (20 years). He also enjoyed ham radio and writing.
He was preceded in death in December 2006 by his wife, Delavan Rawlins (Delly), whom he married in 1947.
Surviving are his daughter, Julia Toney; son, Gerry Bowen; 5 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.
Donations may be made to Ginger Cove Foundation or Hospice of the Chesapeake.
A memorial service will be held at the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012, at 11 a.m. Inurnment will follow in the columbarium.
Arrangements by John M. Taylor Funeral Home.