A self-described country boy from Missouri says World War II took him from home and changed his life.
World War II veteran Wilburn Rowden left Maries County in early 1943 for basic training at the Palmer House Hotel in Miami Beach. He says it was quite a difference from his home, which such luxuries as running water and a coal-fired furnace. Rowden learned Morse code as a radio operator and joined the 452nd Bomb Group in the state of Washington.
He traveled to Great Britain on the Queen Elizabeth to join his 10-man crew and get acquainted with a new B17-G. After being assured that the first mission would be a breeze, Rowden’s crew returned to base with seven holes in the plane from anti-aircraft guns. Later, Rowden’s plane took a hit that brought it down.
Though he landed successfully, Rowden took shrapnel in this arms and legs. He couldn’t walk and became a prisoner of war. The Germans first shipped him to an East Prussian POW camp, then moved him a couple of more times as the Russians closed in as the war neared its end. April 26th, 1945 was one of the greatest days of Rowden’s life. The Allies liberated the camp.
Rowden returned home and joined the Missouri National Guard where he spent the next 35 years of his life. He says he is proud to have served his country.