Title: Army Sergeant, Vietnam War; Purple Heart recipient
Birthdate: January 14, 1943
Death Date: February 9, 1966
Plot Location: Section E, Range 5, Lot 4, northeast part

Screenshot (3130)

Secane, Pennsylvania is an unincorporated appendage of Upper Darby Township in Delaware County. It’s a small bedroom community known mostly for its commuter rail station, and is connected by a thin strip of land to the rest of the township several miles to the north. It was named after the Lenape chief who sold the land to William Penn in 1683, and saw its most rapid growth after World War II.

The Bowman family moved to Edgemore Road in Secane where a cluster of post-war homes had just been built in a new style that defined the times: each home had an attached single-car garage. Like many other Philadelphians, they were attracted to the burgeoning middle-class suburbs.

John’s father worked with his father at a bakery in the city before joining the Navy during the war. After settling in Secane he had a 30-year career as a machinist for Boeing Vertol, the military helicopter manufacturing plant in nearby Ridley Park.

John III was the eldest son, followed by two more boys and two girls. He graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1961 and his graduation photo is shown above. He didn’t choose military service right away but when he did in August, 1963, he became part of the 101st Airborne Division. The “Screaming Eagles” were best known as the paratroopers who made a night drop over Normandy just before D-Day in 1944. 

John wasn’t a paratrooper but was assigned to the 502nd Infantry which was one of the units deployed to Vietnam in the summer of 1965. By then he was a sergeant, but just six months later he was killed by small arms fire somewhere in the Central Highlands. His family was notified that he would receive the Purple Heart posthumously.

The tragedy was compounded by the fact that John’s 15-year-old brother, Bill,  had died a little more than a year earlier. He accidentally shot himself on December 10, 1964. His name was inscribed on the family stone beneath his grandfather’s name, John D Bowman, Sr. and his great-grandfather, David.

After John’s body was brought home, the family had his name placed on the side of the stone, as shown at right. It was another 40 years before his parents died, and since they had retired to Cape May Court House, New Jersey, they were buried there.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

Support the Friends of Mount Moriah

Help us in our mission to restore and maintain the beautiful Mount Moriah Cemetery by donating to our cause or volunteering at one of our clean-up events.