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"I felt a call to my country first of all. Well, not first of all. First, I think you might say, I felt God leading me in that direction." (Video Interview, 14:48)

   Curtis R. Bowers
Collection image
Curtis Bowers [2009]
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Army
Unit: 101st Airborne Division
Service Location: Korea; Japan; Germany; Vietnam
Rank: Colonel
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After a two-year stint in the early 1950s as an enlisted man, Curtis Bowers became an Army chaplain in 1961. Attached to the 101st Airborne, he served a harrowing tour of duty in Vietnam in the mid 1960s, standing by his men in battle, tending to the dying, writing condolence letters to families. He even won a Silver Star for his bravery in trying to rescue men under fire. For Bowers in Vietnam, "Sunday was not Sunday." He held services any day or the week, any time there was a lull in the action.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (12 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (73 min.)
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»Vietnam War: Looking Back, Part 3
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (12 items)
Why he went back into the military in 1961. (00:55) Going to Vietnam as part of a secret operation; four chaplains on the ship, one Catholic (the boss) and three Protestants; mood of the men anticipating battle. (01:58) First arriving in country; teaching a soldier not to sleep on guard. (01:49)
Finding the Viet Cong, looking for battles; first enemy encounter; encountering a soldier who told Bowers that he had found Christ; several days later he was killed; writing to his wife, whom Bowers knew, to comfort her. (02:15) Encounter with a Catholic Viet Cong propaganda unit during fire fight. (02:05) First encounter in combat; holding soldier as he died; ministering to another soldier with a book who wanted to be baptized; chaplain assistant story: Bowers saved his life and he became a Christian; Chinook helicopter they were to be on went down with Catholic priest and his assistant. (04:10)
Trying to identify with men, becoming Christians under fire. (00:41) Winning hearts and minds of populace; soldiers are not just warriors. (00:37) Soldiers being around orphanages and missionaries; interactions with persecuted Montagnards. (00:54)
Losing soldiers story; going with a battalion, not realizing what would happen; U.S. soldiers' bayonet charge; offered a weapon to go out to tend to wounded; retrieving men; helicopter coming in to rescue; his lieutenant, Jim Gardner, was killed and received Medal of Honor; Bowers received Silver Star. (04:31) Pinned down; called in air strike; finding a North Vietnamese captain's belt, looking into his wallet, seeing pictures of his family there. (01:08) Chaplain's tools, cross, communion in the field; holding services as often as possible. (01:55)

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  October 26, 2011
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