Marine Corps legend passes: Leathernecks mourn loss of Iwo Jima, Chosin veteran
Submitted by: MCB Hawaii
Story Identification Number: 2003718165043
Story by Sgt. Joseph Lee

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii(07/18/2003) -- When Lt. Gen. Alpha L. Bowser Jr. visited San Diego in 1967, one of the first things he did was call a groomer for his dog, who'd been shipped there by plane.

He rifled through the Yellow Pages and phoned one in Pacific Beach.

"Name please?" asked the girl at the groomer's.

"Mine or the dog's?" asked the general.

"Yours," she said.

"Bowser," he replied.

Such was the wit of this kind and generous man.

On July 13, the Marine Corps and our nation lost this icon.

An outstanding war fighter, leader of Marines and a long-standing member of the base community, retired Lt. Gen. Alpha L. Bowser Jr., passed away leaving local and Marine Corps communities to remember and honor the life of this great hero.

Born Aug. 21, 1910, at Crafton, Pa., Bowser graduated from high school there in 1928. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy that year, and was commissioned a Marine second lieutenant upon graduation, June 2, 1932.

Known around the schoolhouse as "Alph," or "Al," his professors noted his joy for harmonizing with his fellow midshipmen, and enjoyed his "very pleasant tenor voice."

"His chief weakness is an interesting habit of bringing some record that has caught his fancy around to his friends' rooms, saying, 'Listen, boys, get a load of this number - it's absolutely the smoothest trumpet solo you've ever heard!'

"Al has been blessed with a cheerful outlook on life and a congenial disposition. He is a straightforward, hardworking friend and will surely leave his mark on his associates."

The young lieutenant was about to embark on a career that would not only leave a mark, but a lasting impression on his associates - the Marines.

Lieutenant Bowser completed basic school at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in June 1933, and later saw duty on the USS Texas. In July 1934, he was assigned to the 1st Marine Brigade, Quantico, Va. He served there until July 1935, when he was promoted to first lieutenant.

First Lt. Bowser then entered the Army Field Artillery School, Fort Sill, Okla., and upon completing the course in June 1936, returned to Quantico. In June 1937, he joined the Marine Detachment on the USS Nevada. He was promoted to captain in October 1938.

Detached from the USS Nevada in January 1939, Capt. Bowser was transferred to San Diego. He served on the 2nd Brigade Staff and commanded artillery batteries there until June 1940, when he returned to Quantico to serve as an artillery instructor for two years. He was promoted to major in May 1942.

In July 1942, Maj. Bowser joined the 3d Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, N.C., serving initially as commanding officer, 2nd Bn., 12th Marines, and later as assistant G-3. He moved with his unit to San Diego that October, and sailed for the Pacific area in January 1943. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in March 1943.

Lieutenant Col. Bowser served as an observer during the New Georgia operation in August 1943, and as assistant G-3 and G-3 of the 3rd Marine Division during the Bougainville operation in November and December 1943.

For heroic achievement in the latter assignment, he was awarded his first Bronze Star Medal.

In February 1944, Lt. Col. Bowser was given command of the 3rd 105mm Howitzer Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. He was awarded a second Bronze Star Medal for outstanding service in this capacity during the recapture of Guam, and his first Legion of Merit with Combat "V" during the Iwo Jima campaign.

Following his return to the United States in May 1945, Lt. Col. Bowser was stationed at Headquarters Marine Corps as chief, Records Branch, Personnel Department, until May 1946. He then served for three years on the staff of the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico. He was promoted to colonel in August 1949.

That September, Col. Bowser joined the staff of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, in Honolulu, Hawaii, as assistant G-3 and naval gunfire officer. He served in this capacity until July 1950, when he was ordered to Korea.

There he served as assistant chief of staff, G-3, 1st Marine Division. For outstanding service during the Inchon-Seoul and Chosin Reservoir actions, respectively, he was awarded a second and third Legion of Merit with Combat "V".

After his return from Korea in May, 1951, Col. Bowser served at Camp Pendleton, Calif., as assistant chief of staff, G-3, of the MCB, until February, 1952, when he became chief of staff of the 3rd Marine Division. In July, 1952, he was ordered to Paris, France, where he served until July, 1954 as staff officer, Plans Branch, and senior Marine officer, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers, Europe (SHAPE). On his return to Washington, he entered the National War College in August 1954, completing the course in June 1955.

Transferred to San Diego that July, Col. Bowser began a year's duty on the staff of Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, as assistant chief of staff for Troop Operations and Training, and Force Marine Officer. In August 1956, he assumed command of the Recruit Training Command, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. He was promoted to brigadier general in September 1956.

General Bowser served in San Diego until June, 1958, when he became assistant division commander, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton.

In January 1959, he was assigned as commanding general, MCB Twentynine Palms, Calif. While serving in this capacity, he was promoted to major general in July 1960.

In October 1960, Gen. Bowser was transferred to Headquarters Marine Corps where he served as assistant chief of staff, G-1, and later as deputy chief of staff, Plans and Programs.

Upon his detachment in July 1963, he served for two years as commanding general, MCB Camp Lejeune.

Nominated for three-star rank by President Lyndon B. Johnson in March, 1965, Gen. Bowser began his last active duty assignment as commanding general, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, with headquarters at Norfolk, Va., in July, 1965. For service in this capacity from July 1, 1965, until his retirement in June 30, 1967, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

Lieutenant Gen. Bowser's mark has been left on his Marine associates throughout the globe and his career, and continues to inspire readers of the Marine Corps Gazette. Bowser established the Gazette's "Fifty Year Club" back in 1989 to honor authors who have written significantly to the professional journal of U.S. Marines over a span of 50 years.

The Lodge at Kaneohe (a temporary lodging facility aboard MCB Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay) remains as a tribute and dedication to his life and career.

(Editor's Note: Information for this article was obtained from the Nov. 19, 1983, edition of the San Diego Union Tribune, and also from the Historical Branch, Headquarters Marine Corps.)

According to U.S. Naval Academy sources, when the young Lieutenant Alpha "Alph" Lyons Bowser entered the academy, "he had left behind him in Crafton [Pennsylvania] an enviable record in athletics, dramatics and music." He was described as "blessed with a cheerful outlook on life and a congenial disposition."
Photo by: Official U.S.M.C. Photo

Mr. Issac Howard points to a Marine private pictured on page 1 of the July 26, 1918, edition of The Stars and Stripes, when he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the eventual General of the Armies, Gen. John Pershing. Howard donated this World War I (covering 1918-1919) collection of the newspaper to then Brig. Gen. Alpha "Alph" Lyons Bowser in 1960 in Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Photo by: Official U.S.M.C. Photo



May He Rest In Peace......