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Raymond J. Bowman wurde am 2. April 1924 in Rochester, US-Bundesstaat New York, geboren. Seine Großeltern John und Marguerite Bowman waren in den 1880er Jahren aus Deutschland emigriert. Sein Vater Georg wurde in den USA geboren und arbeitete als Straßenbahnschaffner. Rays Mutter Florence wurde in Kanada geboren, ihre Eltern Henry und Mary Ann Ward emigrierten – ebenfalls in den 1880er Jahren – aus England. Ray war das fünfte Kind seiner Eltern und hatte vier Schwestern und zwei Brüder.

Ray war gerade einmal sieben Jahre alt, als sein Vater an Tuberkulose starb, woraufhin seine Familie sehr zu kämpfen hatte. Die drei ältesten Kinder im Alter von 18, 16 und 14 Jahren leisteten Ganztagsarbeit, um ihre Familie zu unterstützen.

Als Ray in der High School war, arbeitete er nebenher in einem Kino, was ihm ein Taschengeld einbrachte. Es machte ihm Spaß, in seiner Freizeit mit seiner Mutter im Garten zu arbeiten und mit seinem Hund Tippy, einem Cocker Spaniel, herumzutollen.

Ray vor seinem Elternhaus, 1942
Ray vor seinem Elternhaus, 1942

Als Ray im Alter von 19 Jahren gerade die High School abgeschlossen hatte, wurde er unmittelbar darauf am 21. Juni 1943 zum Militär einberufen. Seine ersten Briefe aus dem Grundausbildungslager klangen durchaus heiter und humorvoll. Die Briefe, die er später von Übersee schickte, waren kurz und enthielten keine Scherze mehr. Es war ihm verboten weder zu schreiben, wo er sich befand, noch was er zu tun hatte, sodass er bloß übermittelte, dass es ihm soweit gutging und er nach Dingen zu Hause fragte.

Ray wurde am 18. April 1945 auf einem Balkon des Mehrfamilienhauses in der heutigen Jahnallee 61 in Leipzig getötet, gerade gut zwei Wochen nach seinem 21. Geburtstag. Der Kriegsfotograf Robert Capa begleitete gerade Rays Einheit, und die Bilder, die Ray noch lebend sowie tödlich getroffen und sterbend zeigen, wurden später als „Last Man to Die“-Fotographien berühmt.

Ray wurde zunächst in Frankfurt/Main begraben. Es dauerte drei Jahre, bis er in die USA übergeführt werden konnte, wo er im Dezember 1948 in seiner Heimatstadt zur Ruhe gelegt wurde.

Text: Joan Frost, Nichte von Raymond J. Bowman / Charlotte, North Carolina
Übersetzung: Ulf-Dietrich Braumann
Fotorestaurierung durch Digital Media Class of Westside High School, Houston, Texas.
Mit freundlicher Genehmigung von Raymond J. Bowmans Schwester Marguerite und ihrem Sohn Gary, seiner Nichte Joan und seinen Neffen Raymond.

Ray in uniform
Ray in Uniform, 1943

My uncle, Raymond J. Bowman, was born April 2, 1924, in Rochester, New York, to George and Florence Bowman. His father, born in the United States, worked as a conductor on a street car. Raymond’s grandparents, John and Marguerite Bowman, emigrated from Germany in the 1880’s. Raymond’s mother, Florence, was born in Canada to Henry and Mary Ann Ward. Henry and Mary Ann emigrated from England in the 1880’s. There were a total of 4 girls and 3 boys in the Bowman family, with Ray being the 5th child.

In 1931 when Ray was only 7 years old, his father died of Tuberculosis. The family struggled after his death. Besides receiving welfare checks, Ray’s mother took jobs cleaning people’s homes and the three oldest children, Marguerite (age 18), Martin (age 16), and Doris (age 14) brought in money from their full‐time jobs. The remaining children, Mildred (12), Ray (7), Ruth (5), and William (born 5 days after father’s death), were at school or at home.

When Ray was in high school he got a job working in a movie theater which helped bring in a little extra money. He enjoyed working out in the garden with his mother in his spare time. He also had a dog he loved, a black cocker spaniel, that he named Tippy.

When he graduated from high school in 1943, he was drafted right into the army. His mother started taking lots of pictures, especially of Ray’s dog, Tippy, and sending them to him. My mother, Doris, one of Ray’s older sisters, saved some of the letters that he wrote to her. His first few letters from training camp were cheerful and showed he had quite a sense of humor. He told of how he learned to use rifles and machine guns. This was his first experience with guns of any kind. He said that the rifles were very easy to use and he didn’t understand how anyone could miss the target. He wrote that he got a Sharpshooter Medal. His new found skill was probably the reason he was in the infantry. In one letter he wondered if he would get to come home before being sent overseas. He ended up not being able to go home so his mother and a couple of his sisters went to New York and saw him before he shipped out.

The letters he sent from overseas were quite short and there was no more joking. He wasn’t allowed to tell where he was or what job he had to do, so he mostly just said he was doing okay and asked about things at home. He thought a lot about home and wished he could be back there.

Ray was killed on the balcony of the Jahnallee apartment building in Leipzig, Germany, on April 18, 1945. Robert Capa, a wartime photographer, happened to be with Ray’s unit at the time and his photographs of Ray just before and just after being shot and killed became famous.

A letter was sent to Ray’s mother notifying her of his death. Since no one from the army delivered the news of Ray’s death in person, his mother did not believe he was dead. Ray’s older brother, Martin, wrote a letter to the commanding officer of Ray’s unit asking what happened but was only told by that office that the family should buy the May 14, 1945 issue of LIFE magazine. When the family saw the pictures in the magazine, they noticed the initial pin,”RB”, on the shirt and knew it was Ray. The initial pin was a pin that Ray had made in high school and was very proud of it.

After seeing the pictures, Ray’s mother contacted Senator Keating, of New York, and asked if he could get copies of the pictures. The Senator secured copies of the original pictures without the faces blurred and the family then knew, without a doubt, that it was Ray.

Ray was initially buried in Frankfurt, Germany. The army gave Ray’s mother the option of leaving his body in Germany or bringing it home. She told them she would like him brought home. It took three years but his body was finally laid to rest in his home town, Rochester, New York in December, 1948.

He is still survived by his oldest sibling, Marguerite, who will turn 100 years old in November and is still living in Rochester, New York.

JOAN FAULKNOR FROST, RAYMOND’S NIECE
Pictures courtesy of Marguerite, her son, Gary, my cousin, Ray, and myself
Picture restoration by the Digital Media Class of Westside High School, Houston, Texas